Chances are, if you’re PCSing anytime soon – you’ve already seen a deluge of headlines regarding the challenges of the current housing market, both in attempting to buy a home and finding a great rental home.
But fear not; though the rental and home-buying markets may be fierce, we military spouses are the textbook-example of creativity to meet tough challenges.
First, Get Ready to Strike Fast
Like many homes being listed for sale, rental homes are going under contract within hours of being advertised. Finding the perfect rental home won’t matter much, if you aren’t ready to strike quickly and prepared to submit an application.
Get a head start on the competition by creating an online, shareable folder containing key financial and personnel documents. Google Drive and Dropbox are both excellent options, and are free.
Make sure to include:
- A recent credit report
- Most recent W-2 tax statements, the current month’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), and if applicable, spouse’s pay stubs, and/or 1099 tax forms
- A rental/homeownership resume. It could be a simple Word doc, or an Excel sheet, but be sure to include:
- Names and ages of those who will occupy the home,
- Addresses where you have lived, whether you owned or rented, duration of residency, and the reason for leaving,
- A reference for each address is also helpful, include: Name, contact info, and your relation to the reference (friend, neighbor, landlord, etc.),
- Any information regarding pets, and proof of current vaccinations,
- Prepare a generic email template to send to a potential leasing agent, or landlord. Then, once you find a strong contender that you’re interested in – simply copy your pre-made template into an email, adding the listing agent’s contact info, the rental property you’d like to apply for, and a link to your online folder containing your key application documents.
In a smoking-hot market, having the above information at your fingertips could mean the difference in applying first, or twentieth, in a very long line of applicants.
Then, Narrow the Elusive Search for “Good” Rental Areas
Help others help you faster – by nailing down your top priorities for a rental. Asking for help finding a “good” rental, won’t get you very far. Define “good”?
The definition of good will largely depend on what your own needs and desires are in finding the best housing fit for your family.
Maybe finding a top-rated school is the first priority, or finding a walkable city-center with lots of shops and restaurants nearby is your must-have. Have dogs and want a large yard, with bonus points for parks and trails nearby? Or just want the shortest commute to work possible?
In today’s lightning-fast housing markets, the quicker you figure out what the top priorities are for your family, the faster you can start narrowing the search for your ideal neighborhoods.
Mine These Hidden Gems for Rental Leads
You’ve had the hard conversations and stacked, and re-stacked, your priorities. Asking for input from other military families, is a good start, such as:
- Military-specific PCS sites, like GoMillie, or PCSGrades to find reviews from military families on areas that they’ve loved,
- Your gaining installation’s spouses’ Facebook page, to ask what neighborhoods have worked well, for those who share some of your family’s top priorities (good schools, parks, best apartments, etc.).
If you haven’t yet heard of it, AHRN.com, can also be a fantastic site to snap up a rental – as many of the homes advertised for rent on the site are also owned by military families themselves. With listings at over 500 military installations, there is a good shot that someone will be advertising their home, at your gaining installation.
Additionally, with 2020 being a year of lockdowns and non-existent vacations, many property owners who would’ve realized income in the last year, did not. Short-term rentals, vacation rental homes, and crash-pads might just be the perfect fit for someone looking to snag a long-term rental, and an owner who could use a steady-stream of income.
Scour: AirBNB, Booking.com (for vacation homes), HomeToGo, and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) for leads.
Find a home that has no booking, (or very little over the next month or two) – and pitch the owner to see if they would be interested in a longer lease (versus the ‘by-night’, rack rate for the property). Turnover and cleaning are the largest costs for vacation properties, so there’s a good chance that you might be able to negotiate the perfect deal, and create a win-win for both yourself – and an owner who’d appreciate steady rent.
With these creative tips – you’ll be in the perfect rental home, and in that oh-so-familiar sea of cardboard boxes in no time!