4 Things I Learned While Househunting after Military Retirement
You know, you’d think after decades of military service, all the years of dreaming about where we’d finally settle down, we’d just breeze right into retired life and not look back. Ha!
Like most things military service related, this latest transition was a big unknown to us, exciting, and a bit scary. And while I’ve spent a good amount of my time pinning “dream home” ideas on my Pinterest boards, and even though we’re already homeowners of a house that’s been occupied by renters for many years, this latest home purchase taught me a lot. More lessons about managing expectations, figuring out a new normal, and adjusting.
I suppose we were lucky because we’ve known for years that we’d settle back in San Antonio. We’d half-seriously batted around the idea of full-time RV living (I think my hubs more serious about it than me at this point), read all the articles about best cities for veterans and so forth, but for us, it was always going to be coming back to Military City USA.
Still, even though we had that hurdle complete, finding the exact area we'd live was quite a process. If you’re also going through the transition after military retirement too, I wonder if you can relate to any of these?
I have commitment issues.
I was surprised by how hard it was for me to make the decision to pull the trigger on home buying. After viewing dozens of homes, we went back and viewed a few houses not twice, but several times. I had to remind myself which one had the to-die-for kitchen but too-small backyard and which one had the empty lot across the street. (You think you won’t forget, but you will.) And even when we narrowed it down to our final two, I had a very hard time just saying yes to the house. It seemed so very...final.
Here’s the thing: as retirement approaches, everyone talks to you about your Forever Home. They say well-meaning things like,
Won’t it be wonderful to be in your Forever Home?
I bet you just can’t wait to settle down Forever!
*Gulp* Hearing it in those terms is terrifying to someone who’s been a nomad for the better part of 30 years. In the past decade alone, we've lived in seven different houses while moving with the military. I've become accustomed to overlooking weird quirks of homes or knowing any issue we had with the house, neighbors, etc. would be short-lived. So yes, while it’s wonderful to think of settling down, it's also…not. When my husband reminded me that we may choose to move on again in a few years if we want, it took some of the pressure off the home buying decision.
It’s a little scary.
We’ve lived in military housing for a good long time now, actually almost 20 years. Regardless of where it’s located, this ultimate in gated communities—base housing—has a certain familiarity for us.
I know that life. Needing to keep my ID card handy to drive back onto base to my house after a shopping jaunt, living 5 minutes from the commissary, exchange, or base pool—that’s all been our norm. And while it’s wonderful to have some privacy and get out of the fishbowl, it’s also a bit strange. We’ll get there, but for now it still feels a little klunky.
Referrals are important.
If you’re home buying after retirement, I’d highly highly recommend you ask friends for a referral to a Realtor. I’m going to give you a caveat here. We had people coming out of the woodwork who ‘knew a Realtor’ in our area. That’s not what I mean. We ended up going with an agent a friend had recently used to buy a home. He specializes in military moves, works by referral only, and we came to find out another acquaintance had also personally used his services.
He was a dream to work with, went to bat for us several times with the home seller’s agent, and helped us more than we could have anticipated as far as knowing local builders (good ones and which ones to steer away from), what was going on with specific neighborhood future developments, and helping us find exactly what we were looking for.
You learn to compromise.
Back to Pinterest—see a theme here? Though I’d pinned all the Joanna Gaines-esque white farm kitchens, there were some non-negotiables we had when looking for a home, and kitchen cabinet color simply didn't make that cut, since that's something that could be updated or changed later. For us, it was location, lot size, proximity to neighbors, and features that would be either impossible or difficult to change later like bedroom and closet sizes. You’ll have your own list. Just make sure you’re not making purely cosmetic decisions when it comes to your forever home (no, I did not just say that!).
Whether you’re coming up to retirement or already in the throes of it like we are, here’s to a happy transition! I'd love to hear your home buying experience after retirement or military separation.
For more home buying help, I recommend MilitaryByOwner's free series of home buying ebooks, especially for military families!
About Me: As a milspouse of nearly 30 years, I'm also now the mom of an active duty son. We've been through what many military families go through: years of separation due to deployments and TDYs, frequent relocations, separation from extended family, hoping we're doing right in raising our military kids...all of it.
We've been stationed all over the world, including several overseas assignments, and I know what it is to start over and over and OVER again.
I can look back now and recognize one thing I wish I'd known as a young military spouse...that I wasn't alone. That the experiences we faced were common to other military families and I wasn't crazy! It took me some time to realize that.
I hope I can be that person for you--the one to let you know you're not alone and to whisper, "You've got this!" during the hard times. I'm here to tell you that you can not only survive military spouse life, but thrive and create your own wonderful life.
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