PCS season is on the horizon and thousands of military families are being alerted to orders to their next home. But once that relocation checklist is in hand, there are so many decisions to make about housing, including what to do with your current dwelling.
By the time you get your orders, you may have a lot of time to try and sell your home, or just a few weeks—it’s the nature of the beast. When you’re short on time, should you try and sell your house or rent it out? It depends on your situation, and the real estate market in your area. For many, it makes more sense to rent out their homes — they can build equity in the house while the military takes you anywhere and everywhere, and you never know if you may move back to the same duty station.
If you’ve never rented out your home before, here are a few tips to help you get started:
While many real estate companies offer rental services to help rent out your home — usually charging about half of your first month’s rent — there are other, cheaper ways to market your home yourself. Sites including militarybyowner.com, zillow.com and rentals.com offer relatively inexpensive ways to show your house to the most available eyes. We rented out our military homes over the years with little problem using these sites, which offer you the chance to upload photos and personal descriptions of your house.
And don’t forget about the DoD’s Automated Housing Referral Network. It offers the service for free! And while you can rent out your home to anyone, we have enjoyed the added peace of mind in renting out to military personnel over the years — you seem to understand each other, and there is more recourse if things go sour.
To be honest, we have had much better luck with our renters than with our property management over the years. But if you are trying to lease out your place from afar, or if you just feel better having a management company oversee everything, be sure to get references and CHECK THEM OUT. And try to find a company that is used to dealing with military owners and renters so your rental agreement will benefit both parties. Property management services can cost a certain percentage of the monthly rental amount or a set fee (usually about $100-200 a month).
Very important: get EVERYTHING in writing. If you want the tenants to water and mow the lawn a set number of times per month, put it in writing. A better thing to do is to hire a lawn service and “include” the cost in the rental amount. That way, you know it is being cared for properly and many times, your renters are happy to not have the extra work, so it can be a good marketing tool.
Do it yourself
On our last rental, we did everything ourselves. You can find and download legal rental agreements to use on sites, including Zillow. Do have a set amount for maintenance—$50-75—under which the tenant is responsible for routine maintenance such as changing light bulbs or air filters. If you need to make any repairs while tenants are living there, be sure to keep the receipts — you can deduct such expenses from your taxes!
Also, decide if you will allow pets and if so, what kind. Pet deposits usually range from $100 up to $500, and can be cumulative or per pet. Make sure to get the type and ages of each pet living in the household. This protects you from your tenants deciding to add a new puppy or two to their family while living in your house.
How to set your price? One good way is to take a look at your local BAH rates and the going rate for renting a home similar to yours. You can check out the rental sites and see what others are asking.
You also can price your house competitively by asking about $50-100 less per month than similar homes. Your home will appear in more searches, which are usually narrowed by asking price. The more eyes that see your home, the quicker you will rent it.
One final thought
Be sure to put some money aside to cover unexpected expenses (New furnace? Busted pipe?). Plus, make sure to save a month or two of your mortgage payment in case it takes long to find your next tenant. Renting out your home can seem more intimidating than it needs to be. With the right research and frame of mind, you can have a pleasant landlord experience.
AmeriForce Media is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business founded in 1999. The company utilizes talent from the military community to produce print and digital offerings that inform, entertain, and support today’s warfighters and their families.
Its flagship products, Military Families Magazine and Reserve & National Guard Magazine, are delivered direct to active-duty and reserve component units across the globe. In 2020, AFM partnered with the Military Influencer Conference to create a new publication called the Military Influencer Magazine.