Find Your Perfect Military Rental with These Pro Tips
It inevitably happens, every year...rumor starts before actual orders go out. And in that period of time between rumor about where the military will likely be sending you, and the long wait before you actually have orders, panic begins to set in as you try to find a home from afar so your family doesn’t end up homeless.
Military renters have a soft place in my heart, because they may not get treated with the same level of attention, time, or respect that a home buyer does. And I always say it is harder for a military renter to find a home for several reasons: you're operating under much shorter time constraints, you're usually focused on a very specific area that you have targeted from far away (based primarily on online school ratings), and you can’t make renovations to the house.
You just have to live with the ugly wallpaper or Formica counters. It becomes more about providing shelter for your family in a location that will hopefully maximize the time you can spend together instead of sitting in a car commuting.
There is a bright side, however, when you understand that you are usually the most preferred demographic for landlords!
I get calls often from civilian landlords because they know I specialize in working with military, and that’s what they want. Your income is easily verified and reliable, you are often owners of your own investment properties so you leave it in better condition than you found it, and they expect good behavior. But there are still some tips that can make your life easier.
Real Estate Professionals Love Military Renters
Surprise! Real estate professionals who are eager to work with renters do exist, and they can provide a huge service and relief - the most important and least known fact is that they are free to you. Typically, the landlord offers a commission for a pro to represent you, so why wouldn’t you choose the best? This is especially helpful when you may have to pick a home and sign a lease without even visiting the town. Armed with technology, they can even provide property tours by FaceTime, Skype, or video and they usually know the most important things that you don’t, like potential problems in a home or that in DC metro we measure commutes by minutes instead of miles. The one exception is that some landlords who list their homes “by owner” may not be cooperating with Realtors, but you or your agent can ask them.
Understand the Military Clause
In most places, the “military clause” is standard in the lease (at least when the lease is one created and approved by a Realtor association versus a homeowner or an attorney), but look for it before you sign. You can read more about military clauses here, as it's important to understand and follow procedures if you need to use it.
Don't Sign a Lease Before You Have Orders
I know it gets scary, as time is ticking away and you are so sure you will have orders, but resist the urge to sign any lease until you have your actual orders, even if a landlord is willing to allow it. You may be surprised how often orders change from expectations last minute. If you are committed to a lease there can be all kinds of penalties or at minimum the financial inconvenience of your money tied up in security deposits and first month’s rent on one house when you need to now pivot and apply them to a different home and state.
Finding a Rental with Pets
Yes, finding a rental home with Fido can be challenging, especially if Fido has additional furry family members. And don’t even get me started on the topic of breed restrictions. We've had great success securing homes for clients with Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, even giant 140-lb. mastiffs by submitting the most adorable letters and/or photographs with the rental application packages. And if you have a different kind of pet like rabbit, hamster, or fish, don’t rule out homes that say "no pets" in their listings. Call and ask about a specific home you are considering.
Making an Offer Less than Asking Price
One thing that surprises me the most in real estate is that home buyers always want to offer less than the list price, but renters don’t even think of it. You can offer less than asking price, especially if you can move in so that it won’t sit vacant or ask if they offer a military discount. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no, so why not? Just be sure to ask nicely.
Timing Is Everything!
And a hint for timing, at least in my market, homes are usually listed 2-4 weeks before their availability dates. It’s not likely you will find a landlord of a home you love now willing to wait 6 months for you to arrive and begin a lease, so pay attention to vacancy dates when calling. Bottom line: don’t worry too much if you are needing a home in June, and there is nothing you can find online in February that you like!