Military Housing vs. Living Off Base: Making the Decision

Fri, Jan 15, 2016 @ 08:01 AM Danielle Keech Renting/Buying a Home

You and I both know what happens when our active duty spouse receives Permanent Change of Station orders.

We panic. A little.

Those orders mean it's time to say goodbye to friends, make new friends, quit our current jobs, find a new job, pull our kids out of school, enroll them in a different one, uproot our home, and settle into another.

As military spouses, we rely on our homes. They consist of everything we've acquired over the years to make each house we live in feel like a home. That's why it's so important to us that we find suitable housing each time we receive those orders to move. That is why we panic--a little.

When searching for a new house, we have two obvious options as active duty military families. We can either live in base housing or live off base. The options are simple; however, there are details of each option that require further consideration.

Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for your next home.

Military Housing Perks

1. Everything is covered. When you live on base, your utilities and rent are automatically deducted each month. You don't have to fuss over deposits or setting up services in the surrounding area, although you'll need to set up Internet, cable, etc. on your own.

2. Close community. The military community is known for being welcoming. There is something special about meeting people that you may otherwise have had nothing in common with other than military life uniting you. In addition, if you're wanting to remain part of the community but lack the time to attend events or volunteer, living in the community allows you to stay in the loop, so to speak.

3. Proximity. Living in a house on base puts you in close proximity to everything you need: commissary, base exchange, health clinic/hospital, gym, lawyer, chapel, counseling, mechanic, and gas. You are also close to your spouse's work, which is always a bonus in our book!

Military Housing Drawbacks

1. Little privacy. The military community is small. A military housing community is even smaller. It can seem like everyone knows everyone and everyone knows what everyone is doing. Living in such a small community may begin to feel claustrophobic for an introvert after some time. It can be wonderful, but it can also become very isolating from any community outside.

2. Limited housing options. Many military installations are old, which means many of the housing options on base are also old. If not recently updated, you could end up living in a less than ideal home. Don't misunderstand me, any housing you would live in on base is up to code and would certainly be pleasant enough to live in, I simply mean that your desired amenities may not be a possibility when choosing to live on base.

3. Disconnection from local community. When you live on base and everything you need is within a small community around you, it becomes more difficult to be a part of the community outside of base. When you grocery shop, work, and go to church on base, you may isolate yourself from life outside of the military.

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Living Off Base Perks

1. Independence from military life. Living off base gives you some distance from the military community. It doesn't take away your option to participate in activities on base, but it gives you the opportunity to have local neighbors and make relationships with people that you may not have otherwise met.

2. Opportunity to save money. Base housing generally takes all your housing allowance. If you choose to find a place off the installation, it's possible that you may find a home well within your BAH that makes it possible to pocket some of that allowance and save it for a rainy day. We generally try to find a place well enough within our allowance so that we can cover our utilities and Internet bills without dipping into the rest of our income.

3. More housing options. Not only do you get to choose which part of town suits your needs best, but you can choose an apartment, townhouse, house, yard, if you want a community pool or gym, and so on. Living off base most definitely broadens your housing possibilities.

Living Off Base Drawbacks

1. Independent utilities and services. Unlike living on base, which includes your necessities, living off base requires you to set up service to your home independently. This may mean deposits and bills outside of your housing each month. More importantly, this also means remembering to cancel services when you receive orders to move.

2. Longer commute for your spouse. My husband's favorite part of living on base was the one-mile commute he made to work each day. When you choose to live off base, you'll likely be sacrificing a short commute time.

3. Dealing with landlords. Base housing is usually through a privatized housing company with expectations laid out and routine from years of experience. When you live off base, aside from apartment complexes, you'll have a more personal one-on-one reltionship with your landlord. Sometimes this is good; sometimes this is bad. Whether they are overbearing or fail to communicate and fix issues within the home, a bad landlord can make your rental time miserable. It's a risk you take when you choose to live off base.

No matter where you choose to live, you'll have both good and bad sides to your experience. No matter your experience, remember to make the most of you circumstances and share what you've learned with the rest of us!

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