Military Families: 10 Things to Know Before Your PCS Move to the D.C. Metro Area
Is your family preparing for a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to the D.C. area? While every location is unique in its own way, that can be especially true for this bustling Metro area and its surrounding suburbs. Here are 10 facts to help give you a feel for the area before you arrive.
1. It's expensive. OK, if you've just left Hawaii or San Diego, you might not get sticker-shock; but, if you've come from just about anywhere else in the country, that's one of the first things you'll notice. The home prices are higher and so is daycare. And, the standard of living is also high - people like to spend money on nice things and luxuries like a dog-walker. So, how do you cope? Well, the good news is that the BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) for our area is pretty awesome - most can afford to purchase a great home. However, for better and worse, other perks of the area like restaurants, gyms, high-end daycares and more are also more expensive, so be prepared to budget for your priorities.
2. Traffic can be pretty rough. It's not L.A. bad, but with D.C. being such a tremendous hub for jobs, lots of people live here and are moving here every day. So, the roads can be a challenge during the hours of 7 and 9:30 a.m. and between 4 and 6:30 p.m. There are ways to avoid the traffic, such as by leaving earlier or staying later, or commuting by Metro rail or bus, or of course carpooling. A typical commute is about an hour long - any less of a commute will likely mean a smaller or more pricey home. So, if you want a larger home, be ready to accept a lengthier commute.
3. Things move pretty quickly here. Want to buy or rent a home? Get your ducks in a row ahead of time so that you can be ready to act. Especially during the summer, homes go quickly - so if you find something you love, pounce on it. If you need daycare, start doing your research early on because some daycare centers are booked a year out or more. Other good things to know - people drive pretty quickly when there's no traffic (especially in Maryland). They also like to keep quite busy - reading, socializing, exercising - and so do their kids. If you enjoy a fast pace, you'll fit right in! If not, not to worry - your people are here, too. Try a local Facebook moms group or adult social group to find your people.
4. A lot of families opt for townhomes. Many military families expect that they'll be purchasing a single-family home and aren't even considering town homes; but, given that townhomes tend to be more affordable, that's what many opt for. Townhomes often offer the same amount of space as single-family homes here and can also provide a bit of private yard space. They also tend to be more updated because the housing stock for townhomes in this area was developed after many of the single-family homes. And because they were built more recently, they tend to be in planned communities, which means you'll see more strollers, dogs, pools, and other amenities that military families often seek.
5. Schools in Maryland and Virginia tend to be rated quite high. Close proximity to D.C. and highly-ranked schools are often the primary focuses of house-hunters here; even if folks don't have kids, there tends to be better resale prospects in better school districts. The area tends to attract people with advanced degrees, and those people often want their kids in the very best schools. Luckily, there are a lot of highly-ranked schools here. Here's one source for school rankings. And, here's one more.
6. There are some stark differences between Virginia and Maryland. And, if you would like to know what those differences are, just ask someone from Maryland and someone from Northern Virginia (colloquially "NoVa") - they'll be happy to spend an hour or two advocating the merits of each! There are plenty of blogs and even a Yelp page dedicated to such debates. I'll quickly touch on a few things that just need to be said. Your overall tax burden tends to be lower in Virginia, but home prices can be higher, so that's sometimes a wash, Yet, Maryland does provide more human services, so I guess you get what you pay for. Bethesda = Arlington in terms of culture, food options, education, demographics and home prices. Maryland overall tends to be a bit more blue while NoVa tends to lean more to the right politically. You'll know you're in Arlington when you start to see people running; Arlington is full of elite runners. You can buy wine at the grocery store in NoVa, but you can't in Maryland (big win for NoVa). That said, Maryland trumps NoVa when it comes to skilled driving and venues for eating All You Can Eat Crabs. There are amazing colleges, crossfit boxes and kickball leagues in both states. At the end of the day, it will probably come down to what commute makes the most sense for you.
7. A local lender is best. If you are considering buying a home, be sure to talk to a local real estate agent about the very best lenders that do VA loans in this area. We at Saydam Properties have strong opinions on USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union based on our experience. Which lender you use could be the difference between having an offer accepted and having one rejected. We will explain more at our first meeting with you. 8. Using an agent who has military experience matters. As an Army brat, I moved eight times before high school. That combined with having been a military wife, I am well aware of the impact - both positive and negative - that relocating has on a family. It's always an adventure, and our team knows that you want to get acclimated as quickly as possible. You also don't want to add more stress onto your move, which is why our team provides expert knowledge - including successfully assisting members of our military with VA loans - and white-glove service to you every step of the way. We want to make your transition as easy as possible.
9. There's so much to love. People here hail from all across the country and all over the world. This means that we are able to take advantage of a wealth of cultures, foods, and languages. Name a cuisine, and you're bound to find it here. Do you like to get outside and enjoy nature? It's super green here - we've got endless trails, walking paths, forests and farms. You're never too far from a winery, mountains or the beach! And, of course, we've got professional sports teams that provide great entertainment from Baltimore to D.C.
10. Saydam Properties Group is here for you. Whether you're looking to buy a home in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, we can help you get a better sense of areas that might appeal to you. We will help you get pre-approved with the best lenders in town. If you can't get here in time to view homes, we will FaceTime you at various properties. We will answer the phone when you call late into the night. We understand your challenges and we are honored to serve you - America's best!