This post is sponsored by PCSCashback.com. All opinions and work are mine.
I’m not proud of it.
When John and I went to close on our home– our very first home purchase, ever!– I almost passed out as the real estate agent slid the contract across the very large, very wide table. Little black spots spread in front of my vision.
It was a lot of money. In fact, I had never spent so much money–or gotten a loan for so much money– in my life. The little nest egg that we had been saving so carefully for was about to fly the coop. All of that time and effort. All of that work. All of our choices had led us to this point.
Just a few signatures and we would be homeowners.
If I could do it without keeling over.
John, on the other hand, was cool and collected (as he always is), excited for all of the possibilities that owning a home would bring. He read through the contract and signed and dated each place where he was supposed to. Then it was my turn.
What if we had made a gigantic mistake? I picked up the pen and breathed deeply.
Every year, roughly one-third of military families find themselves with orders, PCSing to a new location–usually one they’ve never been to before. There’s so much to be done in such a short period of time. It can be overwhelming even to the most seasoned among us. Looming most heavily in many military couples’ minds: the purchase of a new home under time constraints.
Maybe you are finding yourself in that spot this year. If you are getting ready to PCS and are looking at your options for home-buying, I’ve got six mistakes you can steer clear of on your new adventure:
I don’t need to tell you that PCSing is stressful and emotional. You live the life. You’ve been there. Even the most even-keeled family can feel adrift and worried during the move, especially when housing options are scarce. Sometimes there’s a penchant to buy the first thing that is available, no matter the asking price or the condition of the house. (When you see it in print, it looks absolutely reckless. But fear and panic are real and can make completely rational people do things they otherwise might not.)
Buying a house sight unseen, without thinking through the consequences of the state of the house, or without negotiating a price is a recipe for a lot of financial frustrations– not only during the purchase, but after when you’re fixing the house up or trying to sell it again. Slowing down and examining your options during your home search can potentially save you thousands of dollars.
2. Using any ol’ agent
You used a veteran-owned company for your lawn care. A military spouse accountant does your taxes. You shop the stores nearby that have military discounts. So…why aren’t you using a real estate agent that understands the military community? It is helpful if your real estate agent understands military culture, but it is crucial that they know every in and out of the VA Loan, if you’re using it to purchase your house. Here’s the thing: not every house qualifies for the VA Loan. You don’t want to waste your precious time during a PCS looking at houses, only to find out that they don’t fit the requirements you need them to.
3. Forgetting to budget for extra costs
Closing costs are a part of the home-buying process. But they can come as a shock if you’re not budgeting and prepared for them. Speak with your buyer’s agent and your bank about the kinds of fees you’ll see. They’ll be able to give you figures–at least ballpark ones– and an idea of what to expect, specific to your situation. And yes, you should do this if you’re using the VA Loan, too.
Do you know if you’re eligible for the VA Home Loan? Do you know that you can use this benefit multiple times… even if you haven’t paid off one of the mortgages yet? Do you know what rights and benefits you have with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act? Are you aware of the tax benefits and write-offs you might have with the purchase of a new home? What’s the estimated property tax for the home you have in your sights?
There are so many things to keep track of when buying a home. But the truth is, the more research you do and the more you surround yourselves with people who can help answer your questions and guide you, the better choices and experience you’re going to have. You don’t need to know the answers to all of those questions now, but when you get ready to closing on the house, not knowing might end up costing you a ton of cash. (And why spend money when you don’t have to?)
5. Going it alone
And while we’re talking about research and surrounding yourself with great people, let’s talk about buyer’s agents. When John and I bought our home, we opted to use a buyer’s agent. It was the first time either of us had bought property and we wanted to have a professional advocate. A buyer’s agent can help you find a home (which is especially helpful when you’re on the other side of the country), negotiate with the seller, recommend professionals you might need like plumbers, inspectors, and lawyers (again, super helpful if you’re not familiar with the area), and navigate issues and complications that might arise. The best part? You don’t pay for a buyer’s agent. (Seriously!)
6. Missing rebates and discounts
If you’re not looking for extra ways to save during your home purchase, you’re probably missing out on them. There may be incentives for home-buyers in your area, depending on your situation and circumstances. A little extra work could pay off… and every little bit helps when you’re making a huge purchase, right?
So, now what?
That’s a whole lot of no’s and don’t-do-this’s. And a lot to keep track of. That’s why it’s so crucial to have professionals you trust working alongside you each step of the way. Their expertise can make a world of difference and help you avoid each one of these problem areas.
Enter: PCSCashback.com, a team of licensed real estate agents who want to make home-buying and -selling a lot easier and hassle-free for military families.
When you work with PCSCashback.com (which is free for you to use, by the way), they will work on your behalf to find you a legitimate, local real estate agent in your area. They vet every single agent and look to match you based on your needs and circumstances, with an eye and understanding toward what military families experience during PCSing and the buying and selling process. There’s no obligation for you to use the real estate agents that PCSCashback.com recommends for you. However, if you do and you purchase or sell a house with them, you’ll get a cash rebate based on the price of the home.
You might remember that USAA used to have a referral program like this. John and I actually used it when we bought our home. We did it specifically because of the promised rebate. What we didn’t realize was how important having a buyer’s agent would be to helping us with the whole home-buying process. And, hey, that chunk of cash we got upon closing was wonderful too!
USAA does not have this referral program anymore– they don’t offer help finding a buyer’s agent and they no longer offer rebates, either. When USAA ended their program last year, PCSCashback.com stepped into that void to continue offering these services to military families. (And the rebate, too!)
It’s a win-win, win-win-win-win.