Moving to a new area is always challenging and time consuming—even when it’s a planned relocation. Imagine, then, being ordered at random to relocate you and your family. This is a reality for members of the armed forces who receive PCS Orders —Permanent Change of Station. A PCS can feel overwhelming: Suddenly there are a dozen details to iron out, from finding a new home to registering your kids at new schools. Not only do you need to make smart decisions, but you have to make them fast. Here are a few tips for how to do just that:
PCS Orders Tip #1: Read your rights
Check out the “Customer Bill of Rights” from the DoD Personal Property Program. This will help you understand your rights and responsibilities during the move, and what you can do regarding your entitlements.
Helpful hint: You have the right to request that the mover unpack and reassemble items on the day of delivery!
PCS Orders Tip #2: Get pre-approved
Most agents will have you get prequalified for a mortgage, but this is not the same as getting pre-approved by your bank for a mortgage. Getting pre-qualified simply provides you with an estimate of about what size home loan you can afford. Pre-approval takes a bit longer, and approves you for a specific amount, so there’s no question about what you can afford. Gather the following paperwork:
- W2’s and tax returns for proof of income
- Bank statements for proof of savings
- Gift letter(s) for proof of any amounts gifted from family or friends
- Credit score
PCS Orders Tip #3: Be flexible
Although you might have your heart set on a specific moving date—maybe you want to get moved in before the start of your kids’ year at a new school—It’s important to be open to a wider time frame. Chances are that you won’t get the date your heart was set on, but it may open up other opportunities—like more time to move, or a home that isn’t on the market yet.
PCS Orders Tip #4: If you own a home…
Consider the following:
- How much equity do you have in your home?
- Can you sell the home for close to what you paid for it?
- How quickly can you sell your home?
A realtor can run comps in the area to help determine your listing price and how long (realistically) it will take to sell your house. If possible, opt for a shorter mortgage. This will allow you to build equity quickly, which is helpful if you think you’ll need to move again in a few years. Keep in mind, though, that the higher mortgage payment might affect how much house you can afford.
Helpful hint: If you’re in a home for several years before receiving your next PCS, establish emergency savings and equity in the home early.
PCS Orders Tip #5: Family first
It’s never convenient to pick up and move a family, especially when there are young kids involved. If you rent a home or own a home in your new location, you would be paying for two homes. Better (and less expensive options):
- Have your spouse and kids live with a local friend or relative until the school year ends, or for another move convenient time.
- Move your entire family together to the new location
- Request to live in the barracks, and qualify as a geographic bachelor
PCS Orders Tip #6: Consider renting (temporarily)
Renting a home can be a great temporary solution that will give you time to find a permanent new home in your new city. Talk to your Real Estate agent about comparing the benefits of each, and looking at potential rental homes.
Also consider renting out the home you own until it sells. This can provide extra income to help pay the mortgage until the house sells. It can also make selling your home easier—an empty house takes longer to sell and typically sells for 7-10% less. [Read about the benefits of home staging here].
A few questions to ask yourself:
If you rent, would the monthly cost cover your mortgage payment?
If you move away after renting your home, can you afford to hire a property manager to handle renters and any issues that arise with the home?
[Read: Buy vs. Rent for more information on how to make the best decision.]
PCS Orders Tip #7: Slim down before the move
A long-distance move is usually priced by how much space your belongings take up in a truck, so ditch those items in your home you never use. Who knows…you might make a pretty penny off that couch from college on Craigslist. Otherwise, consider donating items you don’t have space for to charity.
PCS Orders Tip #8: Work with a partner you trust
Finding the right real estate agent is always important, but never is it more so than when you have been given PCS orders and need to move quickly. A Realtor who understands the process is invaluable, and can provide peace of mind. When you trust your agent, it’s easier to let them view and vet potential new homes for you.
As a former member of the military, Tommy understands the complexities involved in military moves. We take pride in serving those who serve our country. Contact us online today or give us a call at (702) 768-1115.