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Rent vs Own: Housing in the Military

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Four years ago, we owned our own home as civilians. My husband was out of the Marines, we’d moved back to our hometown, and felt like we were ready to buy.

Two years later with the housing market crash and dead end jobs, we realized it was a very poor choice. We didn’t like where we lived, and we were stuck in a home worth more we could put it on the market for. It took 6 very stressful months, moving away and paying double rent, then finally selling to make us realize what a huge investment a home really was. Time and money. And especially time was something we lacked as new parents who worked.

When Sam joined the Army a year later, we were renting. We moved to El Paso and after a year of also renting here, considered again buying a home. Prices were good, houses were nice in our area, and we’d settled in enough to think maybe we could make it work.

After many serious talks, we realized how much better we were monetarily, emotionally, and mentally with not having a huge mortgage looming over us. We live in a home I love where if something broke, it really isn’t our problem, and within a week it’s fixed. With a toddler and pets, any mess that is made we clean but don’t stress about it like we would in our own place. We have our own backyard and take care of the home like it’s ours, but the underlying relief for us both is, “We can leave at anytime.”

Now with a few months until we relocate to a new duty station, I am so thankful we chose this option again. Unlike a mortgage, renting allows us to break a lease and go when orders come in. We don’t have to stress about moving and finding someone to rent or buy our home here. We both get to enjoy living in a new place, soaking up the culture, and then leaving without any financial ties. I thought about my children not having a “from childhood” home, but then realized in my life, the homes I love and remember the very most were all rentals. And it was the memories of family in them, not the house itself, that made that time so special.

One of the main reasons I was thrilled Sam joined the Army again was because I knew we would move a lot, and I enjoy that. But making it easier on us all is the key to being able to enjoy it even more.

We decided that when we are done having children and they are out of the toddler years, when we are in a place we will be long term (4+ years), and we know an area really well, we will buy again. I’m excited for that day, but love the freedom that renting allows us as a couple with young children and a busy life.

So what did you choose? Were you happy with your decision to rent or buy a home/apartment?