Yesterday, I started my search for a house in Gulfport, Mississippi, where I am planning to move in July. My husband is stationed there and will be returning from Kuwait in August. Ideally, I will have found a place for us to live and will be completely moved in and set up by the time he gets home. Once there, I will also be setting up a home office so that I can continue work with my firm from Gulfport. I will write more about setting up a home office in another post.
Even though I hadn’t officially started my house search before yesterday, my husband had started sending me listings from Craigslist a couple of weeks ago. The houses were gorgeous, but I decided to wait a while before seriously pursuing property. At that time, although a few of the listings excited me, I was powerless to take any action. It was too far out for me to make a commitment and I was not prepared to travel to Mississippi at that time to see any of the properties. So, my excitement was futile. I decided to just wait until the beginning of May to begin my search.
I will also plan to travel to Gulfport at the end of May or the beginning of June to look at properties. By the first part of June, I might be ready to make a commitment. I might even decide to move a little earlier if the right place comes along.
If you are planning to find housing in an place where you’ve never lived, here are some things you can do to stay on track. This may be especially useful for my fellow military families who are moving to the next duty station in an unfamiliar area.
Visit Before You Start Considering Property
If it is at all possible, I would definitely recommend visiting the place to which you intend to move before you start looking for a place to live. You will get a much better feel for how it will be living there, if you’ve seen it for yourself. You can also plan to visit different communities in search of one suited to your interests and budget.
I have only been to Mississippi one time in my life and that was back in February of this year when I went to visit my husband right before he deployed to Kuwait. It was supposed to just be a visit to spend some time and say our goodbyes.
Luckily, with limited things to do in Mississippi, we kind of planned on the fly to drive around in search of desirable communities for living. At the time, we thought we might want to try and buy a house (well, really it was me that wanted to consider it) so we were actually looking at new houses for sale. But, we ended up finding a couple of really nice communities and these became our target communities. I will look at these and other comparable communities when trying to find a home.
While in Mississippi, my husband and I were also fortunate to have had a waitress in a restaurant that lived in the same area and was able to tell us which areas to stay away from. She had bought her house right before Katrina hit and was able to offer us some great insight into living in that area.
Property Listing Websites: Craigslist, Military by Owner
If you intend to find your own housing, as opposed to going with a real estate agent, websites offering real estate listings are a great and convenient tool.
Yesterday, I started with Craigslist (Craigslist.com) and Military by Owner (Militarybyowner.com). On both of these websites, you can specify a state and an area for finding property, as well as other criteria such as the number of bedrooms and rental price range.
Once I found a property I liked, I sent an email inquiring about whether the property was still available and whether it would be shown. In some cases, I requested additional information, such as a street address or community designation and more photos.
Since it is important to my husband to be only a short distance from the base, I also used Google Maps to determine the location of a particular house and its proximity to the base. Google Maps has a great satellite feature that allows you to view the street where a house is located.
Plan to Go and See Properties After You Have Made Some Selections
If it is possible, plan a second trip right before it is time for you to move to go and see the properties you have selected. You will definitely want to do a walk-thru of the property to look for defects and things that were not represented or were not represented accurately in the property listing. These things will be red flags that you will need to use to weight and rank your selections.
In case you are not able to see the property yourself, maybe you can make other arrangements if you have family or friends in the area. Recently a work colleague of mine moved to Washington state. Since he wasn’t able to travel out there to see properties for himself, he got a friend to go and look at the properties instead. It is always a good idea to have someone’s eyes on the property, someone that you trust, before you make any commitment.
I will continue to search for properties over the next couple of weeks and will then plan a trip to Gulfport to see these properties for myself. Even though my husband will not be home to visit with me, he will participate in the selection through the internet and by email. He will be able to see the properties online and we can discuss our options on the phone.
Have you ever had to move to a place where you have never lived or even visited? How did you find a place?
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