Active Duty: Buy a House Now or Wait?

A lot of active duty service members (and their families) struggle over whether or not to buy a home while they are still serving - and with good reason. When you’re on active duty, you can be transferred at any time to any place.

But should you buy now, or is it best to wait until you're no longer in active service? After all, the last thing you or your spouse needs to deal with is figuring out what to do with the house you’ve just bought. 

Should You Buy a House? Decisions, Decisions

At the same time, buying a house while you’re actively serving does offer a number of benefits like lower rates and the fact that you’re bringing in a higher salary than you would in a civilian sector job. Not to mention that having a house you own waiting for you when you are sent home or when you retire can help add some stability to an otherwise variable environment.

When you don’t know from one week to the next whether or not you have to pack up and move again, knowing that - at the very least - you have a home waiting for you in a few years can add some comfort.

But what if, like Robert Sanders, you (or your active duty spouse) is offered a terrific job in the civilian sector that is nowhere near the house you have waiting?

One of the reasons that many active duty service people rush to buy homes is that they think they are only eligible for VA loans while they are actively serving. This isn’t true! Many lenders will offer VA loan rates to even retired service people as long as they have the proper documentation proving their service. This is true whether you’re working with a traditional bank or an online lender like

Buying a House: Should You Wait Until You Retire?

Really, it makes more sense to wait until active duty life is done. That way, you can buy where you want to live instead of where you feel like you have to live. You can give yourself and your family time to adjust to being together all the time (what a great problem to have, huh?) and you can make sure that you’ve got a job in place that will pay you enough money to handle a mortgage.

It’s a sad and unfortunate truth that, even with your military benefits and pension (if you’re retiring), it can be hard to make ends meet once you’ve returned to civilian life. Part of this is because it can take a while to get your VA benefits activated (there’s a terrible backlog across the country right now). Another reason this is true is that civilian jobs, on average, pay less than their military counterparts (yes, even if it is the exact same job).

According to the Huffington Post, military families make up the largest percentage of people who require the help of food assistance programs to put food on their tables. You might not be able to afford a house outright. You might have to take advantage of the HUD offerings in your chosen city or work with one of your city’s veterans programs to help you and your family secure housing.

What’s important is that you take your time and don't lose hope. Isn’t it worth renting for a few more months or even a year if it means that you can set up your home in a stable and responsible manner? Remember: you’re all civilians now. You don’t have to rush to make decisions anymore!


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