Moving to Hawaii with the Military? Live on Base Housing, Rent or Buy?

ALOHA! You’ve got orders and are getting ready to PCS to Hawaii! It’s such an exciting time but can also be a bit overwhelming to try to figure out where to live when you arrive. Deciding if you should live on a military base, rent, or purchase a home depends on your lifestyle and financial situation. There are pros and cons to each and here is some information to help you make the decision that’s right for you.

Base Housing

Upon arriving in Hawaii,  you’ll need to check in with the housing office at the base you’re assigned to. Here, you will find information regarding the vacancy rate and wait time to obtain housing. Your BAH (basic allowance for housing) will be used entirely for military housing.

Base housing is great for convenience. If you hate long commutes to work, this might be the best choice for you. Hawaii is a beautiful place to live but Oahu’s traffic is no secret. I would advise you to understand the rush hour traffic patterns before making a decision on where you would like to live on the island. See if the commute is something you can see yourself doing every day. 

Almost everything you need is on base. Schools, medical clinics, post office, gas stations, commissary, library, bank, fitness centers, and PX/BX are found on most of the bases on Oahu. They also allow pets, no security deposit is required, and housing maintenance is always available. 

Renting Off Base

Military housing is not always right for everyone. Many people like to live off base to get away from work or to experience Hawaii life. They may choose to live closer to the beach or town because it suits their lifestyle. Others may be on a waiting list for base housing and are forced to rent until housing becomes available to them.

When you decide to rent off base, you will get a significant amount of BAH. The amount will depend on your pay grade and whether or not you have dependents. Rent and utilities are high in Hawaii, and BAH will help to offset the hight cost of renting.  If you decide to rent, be sure your lease includes a military clause that allows you to be released from the lease in the event you unexpectedly get orders to PCS earlier than anticipated. Use this calculator to find out what your BAH is.

Buying a Home

Many military members decide that they want to buy a home in Hawaii. Some want to invest their BAH instead of losing it to base housing or paying off their landlord’s mortgage. Some members close to retirement may plan to retire in Hawaii and want to purchase a home while they are still on active duty. This way they can get the most from their BAH. 

You will have sticker shock when you start the house hunting process, as the median home prices are high compared to the mainland. However, don’t let that deter you from making an investment. According to the Honolulu Board of Realtors, the average price of a single-family home in 1987 was $190,200. Currently, the median sales price is $751,000. No one has a crystal ball to tell you what your house will be worth in the future, but historically the housing market has almost doubled every 10-15 years! The housing market is still very strong on Oahu because of the shortage of inventory. Prices vary on different areas of the island, so it’s a good idea to visit all of the areas of the island before making your decision on where you would like to live.

You can use your VA Loan benefit to purchase your new home. On Oahu, the limit is set at $721,000. You can buy a home with zero down to cover a loan up to $721,050. One requirement of using the VA loan is that you must live in your new residence for at least one year from the closing date. You should also plan to have approximately 2% of the loan amount to pay for taxes, fees, closing costs, appraisal, and home inspection.

The decision to purchase a home is also based on your personal finances. There are many mortgage lenders on the island that can help you determine what type of loan is affordable and right for you. It’s good to know that if you use your VA loan benefit, you can negotiate the closing costs with your lender. Interest rates are still low presently, but it is always a good idea to shop around to see which lender has the best rates. When you purchase your own home, you also have the benefit of deducting the amount you’ve paid in mortgage interest from your taxes. You will pay less on your income tax, which can amount to big savings!

Need More Information?

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or would like more information on real estate opportunities. My husband retired from the Army after 28 years of service, and I understand the hardships and challenges the military members and their families face during their moves and would love to help you!

Whether you decide to rent, buy or live on base, just remember you are living in Hawaii!  Take time to enjoy this beautiful island and all that it has to offer. Make the best of your time here and enjoy your Hawaii Life!

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willim cochran

February 14, 2019

I would like to know how much is the rent or buying an apartment on base as a military retiree would be.

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