If you didn’t already know, there’s a large military presence in our area. Tampa is home to MacDill Air Force Base, which abuts the Tampa Bay. Approximately 15,000 personnel, mostly military, work at the base. That number doesn’t reflect the family members that live with service members. While the base does provide housing, for several reasons military members and their families sometimes choose or are forced to live off base. The question for most of these families becomes “Should I rent or should I buy?” Just like civilians trying to answer this question, it’s not a black and white decision.
Where are you headed?
As a norm, military members are moved around every few years. If your orders are for a short period of time (under a year), renting a home will probably be the best course of action. If your tour is a standard three year time frame you have more flexibility. Many military families with school aged children worry about being forced to move houses mid-tour because the landlord wishes to sell or raises the rent higher than the family can afford. Buying a home would relieve that worry. Real estate should be considered a long term investment, though. If you are reassigned to another duty station in the future, you’ll need to have a plan to deal with the property you’re leaving behind.
What do the numbers look like?
There is a rising trend in self-sufficiency from renters of single-family, privately owned houses. Renters are expected to maintain the landscaping and make small repairs. You should consider if you’re willing to put forth money, time, and effort into someone else’s property. Additional points to consider are your financial position to shoulder the burden of larger repairs and maintenance that come with home ownership and your financial readiness compared to the market’s demand. There are also several markets that are reaching a tipping point where it is becoming less expensive to rent than to buy.
Renting can give you the luxury of “test driving” an area without committing further than the length of your lease. If you find that the area suits not just your immediate needs and wants but also your future plans, buying may be an option you want to explore further.
There are more factors that can go into your decision to rent or buy a home as a military member. A thorough understanding of the local market can go a long way and we suggest you speak with a licensed Realtor before you make any decision.