Buying a house when you're in the military is stressful. While finding and moving into a new home can be exciting, the process can be stressful and overwhelming, especially on short notice.
Luckily, military families benefit from access to additional resources and some special perks to ease their next permanent change of station (PCS).
Military buyers also get access to VA loans, which are powerful programs that can help you buy a house with no down payment, no private mortgage insurance (PMI) and relaxed credit requirements.
If you're buying or selling a house while in the military, we recommend getting a good real estate agent in the local area. We recommend our friends at Clever. Clever operates nationwide and can match you with top local agents who can help sell your house for $3,000 or just 1%. And if you're a military home buyer, you can get 0.5% cash back at closing in 42 states!
Here is a list of resources compiled for anyone who is selling or buying a house in the military.
Relocation Assistance Program
The Relocation Assistance Program provides support to service members and their families. It includes planning assistance, counseling, referrals and education on how to maximize the benefits of a move.
Relocation professionals can help answer questions about housing, transportation, household goods, education and even topics such as employment and children’s adjustments.
Financial Planning for Military Home Buyers and Sellers
Moves can be expensive, but luckily there are a number of free financial planning resources available for service members and their families.
- Personal Finance Management Program: Financial guidance and budget planning services provided on your base. They typically offer classes, seminars, one-on-one counseling and additional information to educate service members and their families about consumer rights and financial stability.
- Finance Office: Another service provided at your installation. This office can help you plan for the unexpected expenses of moving and determine what relocation benefits you might be eligible for.
- Military OneSource Financial Counseling: Military OneSource is a free tool that provides counseling and information on a variety of subjects including financial counseling covering housing questions. On their website you can connect with experts through phone, live chat or secure video chat to learn about financial information and resources.
VA Loans for Home Buyers
Service members can qualify for a VA loan, which lets you buy a home with zero money down and no private mortgage insurance.
While interest rates on VA loans tend to be comparable to other mortgages, fees are sometimes higher. In particular, the VA funding fee is required. This fee changes depending on a few factors, but if it's your first VA loan and you are putting less than 5% down, the VA funding fee is 2.3%.
If you're buying a house and are in the military, ask a real estate agent about what loans might be best for your situation. VA loan requirements may preclude you from certain home purchases, so it's a good idea to work with an agent about what homes you should consider.
If you're ready to buy a house, Clever can help. Clever can match you with several top-performing, local agents who can help you find the home of your dreams and get you 0.5% cash back at closing. On a $400,000 house, that's $2,000 back in your pocket!
For service members who are struggling with mortgage payments, you can learn about government programs to help with loan repayment at makinghomeaffordable.gov. You can also find a housing counselor approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or by calling 888-995-HOPE.
Special Tax Rules for Home Sale Profits
If you sell your home for a profit after renting it out, there are special tax rules that can allow you to minimize or avoid the capital gains tax. In order to claim the tax-free profit (up to $250,000 of that profit for singles or $500,000 if you’re married filing jointly), you must have owned the home for at least two years and lived in that home for at least two of the last five years.
The two years of living there doesn’t have to be in sequence. See IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide for details.
Legal Assistance for Buyers and Sellers
The legal assistance office at base can help with many situations where you may need legal advice or help completing legal documents, such as contracts and lease review, notary services and more.
Military OneSource also provides free legal aid.
Housing Options for Military Buyers and Sellers
There are a variety of resources that give military families information about their new location and housing and rental options, as well as other data such as cost of living.
- Housing Office: To begin the process of finding a place to live in your new location and to explore housing options, you should contact the housing office on your installation.
- Plan My Move: Plan My Move is a Department of Defense relocation tool that allows you to research real estate prices and trends, as well as compare the cost of living and other statistics between communities.
- HOMES.mil: HOMES.mil is a service designed to connect service members and their families with community housing rental listings located near U.S. military bases. Note: You can also list your own rental properties!
The above are only a selection of some of the valuable resources available to veterans and active members of the military. While you can do a lot of research yourself, a good agent who is familiar with the problems that military members face when buying or selling a home goes a long way.
Clever has military veterans on staff who understand the difficulties that service members face. Clever is a free agent-matching service, so there's no hassle or obligation to continue if you can't find an agent you love.
Clever operates in every single state pre-negotiates low listing fees of $3,000 or 1%. That means you can save THOUSANDS when going with a Clever partner agent instead of a traditional agent who charges 2.5-3%. And if you're buying a house, you can get up to 0.5% cash back at closing just for using a Clever agent!
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