Thursday, April 17, 2008

Should we move into base housing?

When Mr. Dimes and I moved to California, we put our names on the base housing list at our command. We were told the wait time would likely be from three to five months, depending on who else moved in or opted out. Well, we hadn't given it a lot of thought but after a few weeks here we're trying to decide whether or not we should move when the time comes. It's a complicated decision, with a lot of pros and cons. Here are some of the factors that matter:
  • A dramatically reduced commute. Right now my husband is driving 40 miles per day in a round trip commute, much of it along dubious roads. Moving to base would reduce the round trip to about ten miles. This would reduce his gasoline expenditure considerably and also reduce his risk of being on the road during periods of dense fog, driving rain, or blinding dust storms.
  • Monthly rent and utility expenses would be at the exact level of BAH. Currently we're paying less out of pocket for rent, but water, electric, and gas bring the total above our BAH. Living in base housing would provide a cap, which will be helpful during the high energy use summer months.
  • We would probably use the commissary more. Right now, with the commissary being 20 miles away and open limited hours, my husband tends to run to a local grocery store which is a lot more expensive than the commissary would be. I try and use the commissary, but the savings don't necessarily offset the gas and time expense of going there.
  • We would be living in an actual house instead of an apartment, and I'm pretty sure it's not going to be a duplex. They recently renovated/rebuilt all the housing on the base, so it's in pretty good shape, not your standard prefab double-wide layout. It is also probably bigger than our current accommodations. Also there is more freedom to do your own repairs and not be accountable to a landlord.
  • We just moved! Moving again is going to be a hassle, even if we don't have to pay for it out of pocket. However, it won't be as major of an upheaval as when we moved here from VA. I can probably haul a lot of my own stuff (like my kitchenwares) which would save mover time and effort as well as unpacking hassle. We'll also have to forward mail again, cancel/move utilities, update insurance and drivers licenses as well as addresses on everything else, which we just did six weeks ago.
  • The financial consequences of breaking our lease will be moderate. After reading the lease agreement, the consequence will be one month's rent (the time between notification and move out) plus a $1000 early termination fee. We'd also have to pay for any damages (there are NONE) and a carpet cleaning. Total consequences would probably be as high as $2000-2500, though theoretically we'll recoup that within a year in gasoline and housing cost savings.
  • While my husband's gasoline costs will drop, mine will most likely rise, as I'll be the one with a longer commute. However, if I work as a tax preparer, that will only be on a seasonal, part-time basis. Also, unless we switch churches, it'll still be a 40 mile round trip every Sunday.
  • We'll have to deal with lawn care. Most of the yard is maintained by the base, but a section of it is the service member's responsibility. We've never had to deal with a yard before.
  • Less quiet. The base is noisy. Much noisier than where we currently live. I'm used to it somewhat, but it's been a nice break from the racket. I'll be sad to hear all the noise again.
  • Less diversity. When you live on a base, everyone else who lives on the base is military. Everyone goes through pretty much the same thing, and tales of people being all up in your business are commonplace, though I'm not sure how true they are.
So we're torn. Luckily we haven't gotten a solid offer yet, but we're trying to figure out what to do if we do.

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