How-to Choose a Home Sight-Unseen

Happy Military Monday!  If you’re new here at See Mox Run: I try to get a post out on most Mondays with essential advice that I’ve learned during our time in the service.

Today’s topic:  Selecting a Home Sight-Unseen.

But first things first!:

FITNESS
Jay and I were out the door at our usual 6am.  We did an ab workout that was very similar to this one, except we utilized each other and our brother-in-law to do more partner-based workouts, which is way more fun. :)

tommy abs

Jay & Tommy rockin’ the leg swings.

These leg swings are tooouugh!  They’re so good though; I always jump on the opportunity to do them when I have a workout buddy.

I’m 97.65% sure that I will be sore tomorrow.

FOOD
Breakfast was a quick breakfast bar.  These have been a common go-to since our Energy Bar Experiment.

IMG_20140115_075128_621

Chewy, protein goodness.

MILITARY MONDAY
Okay, now to the topic at hand:  Selecting a Home Sight-Unseen.

Our first military move was after Jason graduated Officer Candidate School.  He had to immediately report to TBS (The Basic School) for six months of training in Quantico, VA, located 40 minutes south of D.C.  His finding us a place to live was almost unfeasible, as he was so busy training.  Picking out the place that we would call home for six months was up to me… and I was 800 miles away.

I quickly set about to scouring apartment.com and other listing sites to rental units in the area.  There were so many unknowns…  Is this apartment close to base?  What is the commute like?  Is this house in a safe part of town?  Rent is how much in metro D.C.??  Not to mention that all I had to go off was the world wide web.

Here is where I would have killed for a step-by-step how-to on how to find a place to live in Quantico.  There aren’t any good resources out there.  I looked.  I just wanted some input, some info as to what I was getting us into!

So breathe easy, military spouse.  Here’s the play-by-play:

military7

  • Do your homework

Your service member is most likely very busy with his/her training.  As in our case, Jason was putting 100% of his energy into graduating the rigorous Officer program; even though he was local, he didn’t have time house hunt.*  Not to mention that he didn’t have a vehicle.

Living on-base wasn’t much of an option, since there is usually a long waitlist for on-base housing, and we were only slotted to be at Quantico for six months anyway.  I knew that Jason would be spending long days on base, so my first priority in finding a place was its proximity to the base gate.

An important note:  military installations are usually very large, with multiple gates/entrances.  As in the case with Quantico, the main gate was actually 20 minutes away from the gate that Jason ended up using everyday for TBS training.

quantico map

Click on map for larger, clearer quality image.

All of base is made up of the grey area.  What many spouses did was find homes nearest to the main side of base, (point A), and ended up renting places in Triangle or Dumfries…  But TBS training was actually on the south side of base, (yellow star)!  The drive from main side to south side was actually a 20 minute commute!

After diligent research of various rental homes and apartment complexes located near the south gate, (yellow star), I ranked them in order of most desirable to least desirable.  I used components such as 1) distance from gate, 2) quality of apartment/house, 3) monthly rent rates, and 4) reviews from current and former tenants.  This involved several hours on apartment.com and making a few phone calls to leasing offices.  At the end of the day, I gathered as much information as I could without physically being there.

  • Set up your house/apartment tours and maximize your available time

So a big stressor for me was the limited amount of time we had to actually look at these places.  We had two economical options: 1) I was flying out to Quantico two weeks before moving day to attend Jason’s Graduation & Commissioning Ceremony.  I recognized this to be an opportunity to physically look at prospect living spaces and possibly sign a lease.  (Note: military families have the legal right to end a lease agreement early with written military orders.  However, this needs to be done within 30 days of those orders, otherwise the landlord doesn’t have to honor it!) 

I knew however that this was going to be a busy time with family and that they wouldn’t want to spend half their time there house hunting… so I knew I had to be efficient and maximize our allotted time to visit places as much as possible.

Option #2 involved spending our first couple days of arrival to Quantico looking at places.  I really wanted to avoid this option because this could potentially be costly and stressful.  Whether we did a DITY move (will explain what a DITY is in another post) or a military HHG move, it would still involve staying at a hotel our first couple nights, extending our U-Haul rental to keep our stuff in it, or even having our stuff moved into a temporary storage unit… just to have it moved out again.

Either way, I knew to set up “visit day” as well as possible.

I chose the top 3 apartments/houses from my ranking system that I described earlier.  I called the leasing office/landlord of each one and set up an appointment to tour/look at the home.  I google mapped the distance between each place and how long it would take to drive to each one.  After a few phone calls and emails, I was able to set up three tours within a 3-hour slot I had allotted from an afternoon in Quantico.  I figured that our family could either go out to eat while Jason and I checked out each place, or they could tag along if they were interested.  (They had opted to tag along!)

apt fam2

  • Have everything that you might need ready

When looking at places, I had brought along a notebook and folder full of everything we could possibly need to pick a place and sign a lease that day.  (The sooner we signed, the less days we were “homeless” upon arrival in Quantico with all our stuff!)  It had all the specs of each apartment complex, location and directions to each one, a list of questions I had (What utilities are included in rent? How may military tenants do you have? Any move-in specials or military discounts? Etc.), and a folder of potentially necessary items:  check book, military IDs/orders, nearby locations of where to get a money-order, references, application, potential down payment or deposit, credit record, etc.  We ended up only needing a couple of those things, but since we were 800 miles away from home, I made sure I came prepared!

  • Re-rank and make a decision!

After looking at the three places, we sat down over dinner and reranked our choices.  It turns out, our number 2 apartment ended up being much nicer/modern looking than our original number 1, and had a fabulous move-in discount to boot!

With that, we called apartment complex #2 and stopped back in to sign a rental agreement.  Operation find-a-home, done!

first lease

Dropping off the money order and our first month’s rent!

apt fam1

Celebratory dessert and coffee.

quantico map

We ended up living in Aqua Terrace Apartments in Stafford, Virginia, 5 minutes from the south gate and 1 minute from I-95. (The red heart on the map).  We loved it!

And that was that.

I can share other apartments and homes where other families lived that were perfect for TBS.  If you have any questions regarding finding a place to live on base, feel free to ask!  (You can find out how to contact me on the Contact Page).

*Some spouses were able to do all the research from home and have their service member check out the apartments during their “liberty,” (free time).  That’s helpful, but not an option for a lot of spouses who’s service members didn’t have a vehicle on base or a whole lot of free time.

Next on the list for Military Mondays:  How to tackle a military move!

Past Military Monday posts:
Dear Military Spouse: (My #1 Advice for You)
Know Your Rank
Military

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4 responses to “How-to Choose a Home Sight-Unseen

  1. Pingback: Who Is St. Patrick, Anyway? | See Mox Run·

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  4. Pingback: Pre-deployment/Separation Do’s & Don’ts | See Mox Run·

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