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    Military families have a lot of choices when it comes to where to live. They can, of course, live on base among other military members. Or, if they prefer, they can choose to rent or buy a property in the surrounding community.

    Both of these options can be good if you’re looking for some separation between your work and home life. They can also be beneficial if you want to be near certain schools, close to a spouse’s workplace, or near friends and family in the area.

    But which route is the best one to take? Should you rent or buy your off-base housing? And how do you decide?

    Let’s look at it from both angles

    Pros and cons of buying for military families

    There are obviously a lot of advantages to buying your off-base home. First off, you’ll own it. You can paint it, decorate it, and customize it as much as you want, and you don’t have a landlord or property manager to tell you otherwise. 

    If you stay long enough, you also have the chance to build up equity in the property — and that can mean valuable profits when it comes times to sell.

    Still, there are definitely downsides to purchasing a property over renting. For one, it takes longer. Even if you find a home immediately, the closing process usually takes at least a month. Depending on how quick your PCS orders are, this could be a difficult timeline to work with.

    Buying can also make it hard on the back-end. If you receive PCS orders down the line, you’ll need significant time and patience to sell your property. If it doesn’t sell fast enough, you might be forced to rent it out (and become a landlord) once you change stations.


    • You have full control of your property.
    • You may get valuable tax write-offs.
    • You may make a profit once you sell the property.
    • You have the chance to build equity, which you can tap later on.


    • Your home search may be rushed if your PCS orders are immediate.
    • It may be harder to move quickly if you receive a change of station.
    • You may have a hard time making your money back if you move too soon.

    Pros and cons of renting for military families

    Renting has its ups and downs, too. One of the best things about it is that you can move extremely fast if you need to. All it takes is a quick application, and you can usually move into a new apartment within a week or two. If you’re on a tight timeline with your PCS, this can be extremely helpful.

    Additionally, renting also comes with less work. You’re not responsible for maintenance of the property, and your landlord handles all repairs. It’s a nice perk if you’re busy with work and other to-dos.

    On the flip side, renting comes with less control and flexibility. You can’t customize the property, you can’t make upgrades or paint it like you want, and you’re generally at the mercy of your landlord. You also don’t build any equity in the property, so you won’t make money off it once you move (nor will you make any of that rent back!)


    • It’s easy to move again if you receive a change of station.
    • There’s less upkeep and maintenance required.
    • Finding and moving into your new place will likely go faster.
    • You may have fewer up-front costs.


    • You have less control over the property.
    • You can’t customize your home to your needs.
    • You won’t build equity in your property.
    • You may need to break your lease if you receive a quick PCS. This could come with costly fees and penalties.

    What to consider

    All in all, the best choice really depends on your unique situation, budget, and the market you’re moving to.

    You’ll want to take into account things like:

    • Your PCS orders. How long are you going to be stationed in the city?
    • The likelihood you could be moved again. How often do you change stations or get deployed? 
    • Home prices and mortgage rates. Is buying a home affordable where you’re stationed?
    • Your BAH. Would rent or a mortgage payment allow you to make the best use of your housing allowance?
    • Your individual needs as a family. Do you need good schools for your kids? A place with a yard for your pets and children?
    • Your budget. What can you afford? If you roll them into your VA loan balance, do you have the cash to cover the higher payment?

    Are you weighing the pros and cons of buying vs. renting? Worried about the costs? A VA loan could help make your home purchase more affordable. With no down payments and the option to roll your closing costs into your monthly payments, VA loans can make buying a house the easy option. Get in touch to learn more today.

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