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When Andy and I decided that we would rent a house at our new duty station, we quickly began making a list of our “must haves” and “nice to haves” in a rental home. This is far from our dream “forever home” wish list, because what we need now is not what we want later! This post actually comes at a perfect time, because we’re currently in the middle of our house hunt here in Iowa! Hopefully I will have better news about our house hunt to share later in the week when permissive TDY ends, but for now here’s our criteria during the house hunt. (And yes, I feel like we are in an episode of House Hunters every time we do a walk-through!)
As a Criminal Justice major in college, I am well-versed at reading crime maps and data. That being said, after doing plenty of research on Mason City, Andy and I both concluded we did not want to live in an unsafe area. If we don’t feel comfortable taking our dog on a walk around the neighborhood, we don’t want to live there.
At least 2 bedrooms.
Ideally we would like another 3 bed, 2 bath house, but we agreed we could downsize to a 2 bedroom if absolutely necessary. We need at least a 2 bedroom house so I can have a home office, since I will most likely have to work remotely from home.
A bathroom on each floor, or at the very least, the main floor.
I didn’t even know this was a thing until we started looking at rental houses, but some older homes only have one bathroom in the entire house, which is usually located upstairs. We found a home we really liked and wanted to rent, but the sole bathroom was upstairs. Given that 3 of my family members have mobility issues, we passed on that particular house for that one reason. If it’s a 2 story house, I would prefer a bathroom upstairs as well. Lord knows I don’t want to break my neck trying to get down the stairs in the middle of the night. At the very least, we would like the bathroom and one bedroom to be on the same floor as the living room for when we have guests over.
In Mason City itself.
When I posted on a north Iowa real estate Facebook page, I got many replies to look at a house in this-or-that town. Some were 30 minutes away, while others were over an hour away. Since Andy and I do not have kids, we don’t need to be in a good school district like many of the families who choose to commute. After speaking with other Recruiting families, they highly recommended living as close to the recruiting center you’ve been assigned– and even USAREC itself encourages this. Recruiting can be a highly demanding job requiring long hours, working 6 to 7 days a week, and being on call 24/7 (should any of your future soldiers need to contact you.) We didn’t want to cut into our precious family time by having a long commute.
Additionally, Mason City is the “big city” for the entirety of north Iowa. It’s still too small for my liking, but I would rather be in Mason City with its few amenities than somewhere even smaller, with less amenities. We’ve tossed around the idea of possibly looking at Clear Lake houses, since it’s only 15 minutes west of Mason City.
Must allow pets.
This is an issue for us that I honestly didn’t expect. We found a few houses that we liked and that met our criteria, but the landlords were not interested in renting to us because we have both a cat and a “large” dog. We sure were spoiled by living on post at Fort Knox, where having pets is the norm. Someone asked me if we were willing to get rid of either our dog or cat (or both) and the answer is a solid no.
I know that there are bad apples in every bunch, but ideally we would like landlords who understand our lifestyle…. or at the very least, respect it.
Obviously, we want a house we can afford. Because we are focused on paying off debt, and we live off only Andy’s income, we don’t want to rent a house that is above BAH. Since we will have to pay utilities ourselves, we lowered our monthly rental budget to account for paying utilities within BAH as well.
Nice to Haves:
Iowa winters can be rough, so we would like a 2 car attached garage to keep both of our vehicles in. If we can’t get that, then we want to put remote starts in both of our cars. Actually, I think we both plan to get remote starts either way 😉
A big, fenced-in yard.
Since Lily likes to go out approximately 75 times a day, and I have no desire to take her out on a leash once winter hits, we would like a fenced-in yard so she can roam freely. At minimum, if it doesn’t currently have a fence, we would need permission from the landlords to put up a fence. (Andy was a professional fencer before he joined the Army as an Engineer, so it would look good!)
A third bedroom and second bathroom.
With us living so far from family, we are expecting overnight guests. We would like a third bedroom, to function solely as a guest bedroom, and a second bathroom so we won’t have to share our bathroom with guests. (It’s always a little awkward when you’re a guest in someone’s home and their one bathroom is currently occupied!)
Since we have pets, we would rather sweep our floors daily than vacuum them. Our Fort Knox home had linoleum or tile throughout the entire home, minus the 3 bedrooms, which had carpet. We loved that because we could close the bedroom doors before we left and didn’t have to worry about the pets on the carpet.
My childhood home, which I lived in for 15 years, was two-story. It was a pain walking up and down the stairs, especially when I was doing laundry. Maybe I’m getting old and cranky or maybe my family history of arthritis is beginning to set in, but I feel more pain in my knees and ankles when I walk up stairs than I probably should.
What is on your home “must have” and “nice to have” list?