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WHEN MILITARY FAMILIES CAN’T SELL THEIR HOUSE?

By Joe and Deb - VR SAM on 3/6/2014

You have had orders for several months, put your house on the market, and it hasn’t sold! This is not a new problem, but more military families are facing this very stressful situation in this soft housing market. I have been there more than once during my career. While there is no definitive answer to this dilemma, we will offer some strategies to consider for dealing with the issue.

You have had orders for several months, put your house on the market, and it hasn’t sold! This is not a new problem, but more military families are facing this very stressful situation in this soft housing market. I have been there more than once during my career. While there is no definitive answer to this dilemma, we will offer some strategies to consider for dealing with the issue.

 

First, let’s deal with the psychological and emotional impact of the issue. This type of financial strain can cause serious stress in your marriage, in you work, and in every aspect of your life. Don’t hesitate to make sure your family gets counseling from an appropriate professional! Most military installations offer this service...use it!

 

Getting past the anger and denial is the first important step. Once you clearly state and accept the problem for what it is, you will be free to develop strategies and select the best option for your family. Notice, I didn’t say a “good option”...all of them are likely to come with pain. We strongly encourage you to state the problem precisely in writing and then write down the full spectrum of possible options. Before you begin, take just a few moments with your spouse to write down the five most positive things in your life. Stay focused on the positive and consider them every day! Of course, this approach can apply to any number of stressful situations, not just selling a home.

 

OK, let’s look at the options. You may generate more but here are some starters. After each one, list the pros and cons of each. These will vary with personal circumstances.

 

  • Drop your price – this may mean you need to come to settlement with money. Make sure you understand the total of settlement costs and realtor fees and whether you have the cash to cover it. You may discuss a reduced commission rate with your listing agent to mitigate the pain. Now there is a real reluctance to sell a house for less than you paid and a greater reluctance to bring money to settlement as the seller. I get that! But you MUST consider every month’s payment that the house sits vacant as part of the cost. If this becomes your best option...just do it...get on with it, and most importantly, don’t blame yourself!

 

  • Consider the renting your home out. Do your homework on the rental market. Know what monthly rents it will bear then consider your cash flow circumstances. It could be that you are in a cash postitive situation, and if so, great! If not, make sure you consider the depreciation and other write offs applicable to rentals by consulting a tax professional. Run a credit check and verify income for prospective renters. Call their previous landlord if possible to check their payment history. Do your due diligence for renters...making a mistake here can cost a lot of money. You can list your property on www.moresam.net (FREE), www.militarybyowner.com (nominal fee), or craigs list (free).

 

 

  • Leave you family behind until the house sells and do the geo-bachelor thing. I personally have done this and really dislike the concept of separating families, but it is an option. You should consider the additional costs of geo-baching, such as a BOQ/BEQ room or apartment, etc. And consider the bigger cost of the strain of your family living apart.

 

  • Leave the service! If you are retirement eligible and have adequate employment opportunities in your current city, this may be a very plausible alternative. Is the next promotion really worth the financial cost and / or strain on your family? Even if you aren’t retirement eligible, you must consider this option, especially if you live in an area where employment opportunities abound. By the way, as a veteran you have skills that are very desirable to the private sector...and you probably have a veteran’s preference in federal service. Go to www.usajobs.com to check out federal service in your area.

 

  • Default on your payments. Obviously I left this for last because I firmly believe this is almost always a very bad alternative. As a US military member you probably have a clearance...this can jeopardize that clearance. As one of America’s finest, you undoubtedly have your personal pride...don’t give that up! There is a huge cost to defaults / bankruptcies that can follow you for years, to include a possible IRS bill for the forgiven debt at the end of the year!

 

None of the options are pleasant to be sure. I was in this situation no less than three times during my 25 years of service and can totally empathize with service members struggling with this issue.

 

The above options merely treat the symptoms of a systematic problem with the Military Families PCS benefits…or lack thereof! If you have read our articles in the past, you know that VR SAM® strongly supports PARITY for service members with other Federal employees. We believe that YOU, the “citizen / defender on the pointy end of the spear,” should enjoy home ownership benefits similar to your Fellow Federal Employees! CAREER military personnel should have a “guaranteed buyout program” and reimbursement for settlement costs as do some other federal employees. We believe YOU should make this case to:

  • Your Chain of Command

  • Your Home of Record Senator and Representative

  • Your Fellow Service Members

  • Your Non-profit affiliations (VFW, MOAA, American Legion, etc.)

  • Help VR SAM® help Military Families. Document your personal situation on http://vrsam.conforums.com/ under the Military Homeowner Safety Net Thread

 

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