Get Your PCS Priorities in Order with This House-Hunting Checklist

Three apartment towers arranged around a central drive
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District, is finalizing construction of three family housing towers on Camp Humphreys, South Korea. Pictured are Towers 4 through 6 completed in 2019. Just five years later, USACE plans to turn over the final three, bringing the total available on the installation to 12. (Rachel Napolitan/U.S. Army)

Whether you're embarking on a permanent change-of-station (PCS) move or just moving across town, the first step in moving is finding a new home -- except that's not actually the first step.

The first step is identifying your priorities to help you find that home.

Military families have so many things to consider when renting or buying a house. Before you even start house shopping, take a moment to rank the following factors. If you have a partner, do it together. You can eliminate a whole bunch of options simply by identifying your priorities. While it seems as though eliminating options would be bad, it actually frees you up to focus on the things that really matter to you.

Ask yourself these questions:


How much money do you want to spend on housing? Be sure to include not only the rent or mortgage payment but also the other costs of housing. This includes utilities, taxes, extra fees, upkeep, etc. If you are buying, do a lot of research into everything you will be paying. (Pro tip: It's a lot more than your mortgage.) If you are renting, find out what's included and what's not included in your rent.


What are the non-negotiable parameters of a commute? Are you willing to drive 30 minutes? An hour? Do you want to be able to bike to work or use public transportation?

Housing Type

Do you want an apartment vs. townhouse vs. single-family home?


Do you need a home that allows pets? Do you have multiple pets or any type of pet that might be harder to find a home for?


Obviously, we all want to live somewhere safe. But what feels "safe" is going to mean different things to different people and even in different areas. If you're in an apartment, do you want a secure building? Are there parts of town you don't want to live in?

Quality of Housing

Quality means different things to different people. I'm a "well-built-is-essential, but-outdated-is-fine" kinda girl. My sister wants everything to be up to date. Neither of us is wrong, just different. What is your preference?

Outdoor Space

Do you want or need outdoor space? Does it need to be grass, or is a patio or balcony enough? Does it need to be fenced, or can it be shared with other people?


What amenities do you want near your home or in your building? Do you want a swimming pool or a park? In-unit washer and dryer?

Size of Housing

How much space do you want -- and how much space do you actually need? Is the number of bedrooms negotiable? Could you go smaller, or are you willing to go larger?


Do you care whether you can walk to things? What things -- public transportation, groceries, library, restaurants, doctor's offices, etc.?


Do you need dedicated parking, a driveway or a garage? How many spaces? Are you willing to pay for parking?

What Else?

Do you have any other house-related desires, such as a first-floor bedroom and bath or an open floor plan?

Realistic Expectations

Keep in mind that in many markets, you may get only one or two of your wants. In other markets, you may be able to find more. Knowing the type of market you're shopping in will help you have realistic expectations about what's possible. Not sure about the housing market where you are moving? Local-area military social media groups can be a goldmine of information.

How do realistic expectations help? Well, let's say you think you'll be able to get your whole wish list, but you're going to a market where you'll be lucky to get three things. You might pass over a whole bunch of "good-enough" properties looking for something that doesn't exist.

On the flip side, maybe you're going to a market where anything is possible. If you settle on the first "good-enough" house, you may miss out on so much more.

Thinking about your priorities before you start house hunting can save time and energy. It will also help you focus on what really matters!

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