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When we first received word about our PCS back in March, many people suggested we buy a house. After all, since Andy would be a recruiter, we would be living “in the civilian world” so why not use that chance to buy a home? It was a relatively quick and simple discussion between Andy and me that we wouldn’t buy a house unless we were stationed in an area we would potentially like to live in long-term. Knowing the odds of getting an assignment on our wish list were slim to none, we talked about the reasons we didn’t want to buy a house.
I know “to buy or not to buy” is a controversial topic in military circles, but I just wanted to share reasons why home-buying was not for us right now. In the future, if some of the below reasons change, we may consider buying a home. But for now, this is why we chose not to buy.
We’re currently living off one income.
Since I had to leave my job due to the PCS, it meant we were back to living on one income. Money is once again tight. We didn’t like the idea of being locked into a house if we potentially need to downsize due to financial reasons.
We want to be debt-free.
Whether you consider a home “good debt” or “bad debt”, to us, debt is debt. That is money we owe someone else. Since we’re working to pay off all of our debts, we didn’t want to once again have to borrow from someone else.
We didn’t want to run the risk of not selling our home before the next PCS, or selling too soon.
Selling a home for a PCS is tricky, from what I have seen through my friends’ experiences. Sometimes, you can’t sell before you leave that duty station, meaning you have to pay a mortgage or rent on two houses at once. We already knew that would not be financially feasible since we do live off one meager E-5 income (see point #1.) Other times, you’re fortunate enough to find a buyer, but that requires you to move out of your house sooner than your PCS date. I’ve heard of people living in a hotel for 30 days prior to their PCS because the new buyers wanted to be in their home ASAP.
We don’t want to be long-distance landlords, or worse, can’t find tenants at all.
Like I mentioned above, if you can’t sell prior to your PCS, you will then be stuck paying on a home you aren’t living in. Most people try to find tenants to live in their home, but that can be tricky. I have seen first-hand experience with rental real estate, as my family owned and rented property to others for the first 19 years of my life. Towards the end of that time, I remember helping to clean up houses that tenants had destroyed. One was ruined so horrifically I swore I would never be a landlord myself. We lived in the same town, in one case right next door, to these tenants and they ruined our houses. What would happen if we lived across the country or across the world from them?
We don’t want the responsibility of maintaining the home.
If something in the home breaks and needs to be repaired, we didn’t want to be responsible to both oversee its repair and fund said repair.
We don’t want to be “underwater” on a house.
I know this doesn’t happen to all home buyers, so consider this “worst case scenario”, but it’s still a scenario we considered. What happens if we can’t sell the house, we can’t rent out the house, and can’t afford to make the mortgage payments while still living our lives? We’ve seen people we love dearly on the verge of foreclosure because they can’t afford to make their house payments anymore and we don’t want that to happen to us.
We won’t be in the area for 5 or more years.
Experts say you need to live in a home for 5 years before you will make a profit when you resell. Our recruiting duty term is only 3 years, so we would lose money when it’s time to resell.
The type of house we need is not the type of house a buyer would want.
I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan. Dave made, and then lost, and then made his money again all in real estate. One of the tips Dave gives about buying a home, whether you plan to make it an investment property or your own personal home, is to buy a house with “good bones.” For example, you may not have children, but most homeowners do, and they want to be in a good school district, which means you should buy in a good school district. Most homeowners in the typical American suburbs want a larger home, so a cute little bungalow that would be a good fit for Andy and me is not a good fit for a family. We don’t see a need to buy a home that is larger than we need– which means larger utility bills and more house to clean– just so we can resell it later.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that we’re being sent to rural Mason City, Iowa. Our thoughts on buying a house went from “no” to “definitely no” when we learned our new duty station.
We don’t want to live in Iowa long-term.
Even though Andy’s departure from the military is a long ways off, we’ve talked about settling in Kentucky, Tennessee, or Arizona. In fact, we honestly thought we would be assigned Arizona for Recruiting duty. The only reason we discussed buying a house is because we thought we would be moving somewhere we wanted to live long-term. We both hate winter, and winters in Iowa are rough (and my husband lived in Iowa for a few years, so he has first-hand experience.) Long story short, we will not be moving back to rural Iowa when our time there is up.
The economy in Mason City is not one we’re comfortable with.
There are a number of reasons why we believe this, but I don’t want to go into too much detail on my blog since that would alienate me from any potential friends in Iowa. 🙂 Simply put, we think rural northern Iowa is a good place as an Army Recruiter, but not so much for real estate investments or our post-military careers.
Again, I know some military families who buy a home, love home ownership, and can make a profit when they resell. That’s great! You do you. But for us, it wasn’t worth the potential risks. These are just a few of the reasons why we chose to not buy at this particular stage in our lives and at this particular duty assignment.
Did you buy or rent at your duty station?
Why or why not?