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Navigating Real Estate as a Military Family

You get that new neighbor down the street, and the first thing you ask them while making introductions is typically, “What brought you to the area?” A common response, especially in Pensacola, is the military. That is what lead my family and I to Pensacola and to The Zimmern Team. Have you ever wondered how military members can support themselves through these changes in duty stations? Fun fact, not the military.


Yes, during a change of duty station, the military will pay for your move, but they do not pay for the deposits constantly coming out of pocket to secure that rental. Or the first and last month’s rent, and let’s not even talk about having a pet. Trust me, I have been down this very road several times myself as a military spouse.

My husband started his military career in 2010 and we have had our fair share of PCSing (permanent change of station). Our most recent one being across the country from California to Pensacola. We have rented multiple times, and we lost money in the process due to all those deposits we never saw again at no fault of our own! It was so frustrating that we finally had the discussion about buying a home opposed to renting. That exact conversation was our introduction to obtaining wealth while my husband and I still had full-time jobs.

The next question I often hear is “How did you get to navigate real estate while in the military?” Believe it or not, it can be simple. Military members receive a basic house allowance (BAH) for their specific duty station. This allowance is determined by the median market rents and average local utility costs. Make this work in your favor.

Funds can be tight, especially when moving, but using your BAH to your advantage is where you can start to build your wealth and real estate portfolio. There are multiple scenarios we will take a look at down the road, but the first thing to remember is military members qualify for a VA loan, which has no down payment.

The second thing to remember is to find a home to purchase that gives you a mortgage around your BAH. Once you have closed on your home, your mortgage stays the same and BAH never goes down. In fact, it can only increase based on those median rents/utilities, time in, promotions, etc.

Fast forward to three years later to right when you finally feel settled and then you get the news. You have another PCS. My third piece of advice is, don’t sell that home and rent it out instead. As renters know, it actually costs more to rent than it does to purchase, and this is where you build your wealth.

Buying and renting out previous homes in these duty stations is not only going to give you passive income, but an opportunity to create a sustainable cash flow stream. A cash flow stream that can easily pay for all those unexpected costs associated with moving and some ‘fun money’ to explore your new home and community with. 

As a military spouse of over 13 years, I understand the incomparable resilience of military families. I am actively involved in my husband’s duty stations and possess a profound understanding of military timeframes, challenges during a primary change of station, and the chaos that comes with frequent moves across the world.

I would be honored to assist your family in navigating the intricacies of converting primary residences into rental properties during PCS moves. Teaching individuals and military families to recognize homeownership as a crucial building block in growing their wealth has lead me to a real estate career I am passionate about. A career where I am empowering my clients to make life’s important moves with confidence.

Kim Rutherford

Residential Real Estate

The Zimmern Team

Kim Rutherford is a part of our Community Real Estate Voices, brought to by The Zimmern Team. The Zimmern Team Powered by Keller Williams Realty Gulf Coast is a team of experienced, licensed real estate agents serving the residential and commercial real estate needs of the Gulf Coast.