A Military Move to DC: Buy or Rent?
Making a military move to DC? Read on…
Perhaps no other group moves more than the members of the United States armed forces. American service personnel tend to move every two to three years, sometimes even more often! With each move, they face big decisions on where to live….base housing or off base? If the latter, rent or own…low maintenance condo or a detached home with a yard?
Any lengthy military career likely includes a tour in the DC metro area. These housing decisions are even more complicated in our region. Rents are steep, as are real estate prices. The DC area has a very transient workforce. So does it make more sense to rent or buy if you’re making a military move to DC? As with most big decisions, it depends on many factors. Allow us to break it down for you.
Your Financial Situation
If your finances are in great shape, you have good credit, and you have sufficient funds for an earnest money deposit, downpayment (if needed) and closing costs, buying makes great sense when making a military move to DC.
If you are moving up in your career and making more money, the tax benefits of homeownership can’t be beat.
Are you eligible for a VA Loan? If so, it is perhaps the single best way to achieve homeownership. Its no downpayment option and relatively relaxed prequalification process has helped countless service members become property owners (learn more about using your VA home loan benefit here).
So if you are financially able, buying a home for your time in the DC area is a great option. More on why below…
Length of Your DC Tour
If you are staying in the DC area for two years or less, renting may make sense — unless it is an “up” market or your intention is to rent out the property long-term.
In our area, it typically takes several years to recoup the funds spent buying a home. Check out this fabulous calculator to see at what point buying becomes the cheaper option at your price point, geographic area, mortgage etc.
Your Desire to be a Landlord
This is a big one. Not everyone is cut out to be a landlord. If you think you’d like to buy and subsequently rent out a home, ask yourself these important questions:
- Are you comfortable having other people live in your property?
- Are you willing and able to look for new tenants potentially every year?
- Do you want to get texts and calls every time there is an issue with the home?
- Or are you willing to hire a property manager?
If any of these issues are deal-breakers, you should probably plan to be the renter vs. the landlord.
Your Desire to Maintain a Home
Again, ask yourself some important questions:
- Are you handy around the house?
- Do you enjoy home doing improvements and maintenance?
- How much spare time will you have while in DC with the military?
- Will you travel often or deploy during your time in DC?
If you know you are not the handiest person or if you are going have limited spare time while in the DC area, renting will likely make more sense for you.
The Local Economy & Workforce
Before making the final decision to buy, look at some “big picture” factors as well, such as the local economy.
Here in the DC area, we are very fortunate in that we have a fairly strong local economy. A significant percentage of the local workforce enjoys stable government (federal, state, or local) work (38% in DC, 27% in VA, and 26% in Maryland – click here for all of these 2010 Gallup stats).
The DC population is also quite transient. For example, an analysis by DC’s Office of Revenue showed that just 25 percent of the residents who joined DC’s tax rolls in 2004 remained in 2012. The Washington Post reports that the average one-year mobility rate in our region was 14.2 percent (between 2008-2010), two percentage points higher than the national rate. The highest rates in our area were in Arlington and Alexandria — one of every five households moved every year in these cities.
In addition to the Pentagon, the DC area is also home to several large military bases, several of which are expanding due to base closures elsewhere.
The bottom line? The DC market is an excellent one to be a landlord!
The National Economy and Interest Rate Trends
Before making the buy vs. rent decision when making a military move to DC, be sure to take a look at the national economic outlook, especially interest rate trends. Their direction should definitely be a factor in any rent vs buy decision. Ask a lender or trusted financial advisor for guidance if needed.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Moving a military move to the DC area can be quite overwhelming, even for seasoned movers. Be sure to do your homework when deciding to buy or rent in the DC area. Many factors will affect what decision makes the most sense for you.
Want to talk it through? Please reach out! We are always happy to talk through your options and what makes most sense for you. We’ve helped many service members and their families find just the right home for their military move to DC.
If you need a primer on living in a certain part of the DC area, take advantage of one of our complimentary neighborhood tours. Our team has lived and worked in every corner of the DC market and can introduce you to the area the neighborhoods that will work best for you.
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