Moving can be stressful, but moving as a military family presents its own unique set of challenges. Orders for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to a new duty station or base can be both exciting and overwhelming. In this article, you’ll find financial guidance on how to manage a PCS move, including PCS travel entitlements, housing considerations, and relevant mortgage options.
First: Research PCS entitlements
The military provides various benefits to help ease the financial burden of a PCS move. Servicemembers may receive allowances for travel, lodging, and meals during the move. In some cases, the military may pay for the shipment and storage of household goods. PCS support services can also include counseling and financial planning to help you and your family transition to your new duty station.
It's important to note that these entitlements can vary based on rank, dependents, and other factors. If you have specific needs or circumstances, you may be eligible for additional entitlements. For example, if you have a family member with special needs, you may be eligible for additional allowances. To determine your specific entitlements, contact your local transportation office.
Consider a personally procured move (PPM)
What is a personally procured move? If you prefer to take control of your move, you can opt for a PPM. That means you can either hire your own moving company or move your belongings yourself and receive reimbursement from the military. You can compare costs and choose the best option between movers, rental trucks, and containers.
A PPM can give you greater flexibility and control over your move, but it may also involve more work and responsibility on your part. If you’re PCSing from Hawaii to the mainland or vice versa, a PPM may not be feasible. Visit Plan My Move to create a custom PCS checklist and PCS moving tips based on your location and individual needs.
Decide whether to buy or rent
Once you receive your PCS orders, it's time to start thinking about housing in your new location. Will you rent or buy? The answer will depend on your family’s needs, financial situation, and how long you plan to stay in the new location. Here are some considerations:
- Renting may be a better choice if you are unsure about your long-term plans, don't have enough savings for a down payment, or don't want the responsibilities of homeownership.
- Buying a house is probably right for you if you’re financially ready and want to experience the many benefits of homeownership, even if there’s a chance you’ll move in the future.
Explore mortgage options
If you decide to buy a home, there are several types of mortgages to choose from. While conventional and fixed-rate mortgages are an option, many military families prone to PCS transfers enjoy the benefits of VA loans and adjustable rates.
- A VA loan is a great option for military families, as it requires a low – and sometimes no – down payment and offers competitive interest rates. It can also be easier to qualify for this loan if you have a lower credit rating.
- An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) may be a good choice if you plan to move again in a few years. ARM benefits typically include lower interest rates and lower monthly payments for the first few years of the loan. You can choose to sell, refinance, or keep the loan when the fixed period ends.
Find local housing experts
Finding a mortgage lender and real estate agent who understand PCSing in the military can be challenging, but including these individuals in your PCS support network is invaluable. Look for professionals who have experience working with military families and understand the PCS process. These experts can help in multiple ways:
- A local real estate agent can provide you with valuable insights into the local housing market, help you find homes that meet your needs, and negotiate on your behalf. Military organizations in your new area can recommend a list of real estate agents for you to interview.
- A mortgage lender who specializes in serving military families can help you understand your financing options, determine your eligibility for VA loans, and guide you through the loan application process. Be sure to ask potential lenders about their expertise in this area, rather than simply shopping for the lowest rate.
A PCS move can be a stressful time, but with the right planning, support, and information, you can make the process easier. Be sure to understand your PCS entitlements, consider a PPM if it fits your needs, and explore your housing and mortgage options. Working with a local real estate agent and mortgage lender who understand the unique needs of military families can also be invaluable.
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