Understanding Military Tenants, the PCS Process & How to Minimize Military Rental Vacancies
For military families, the permanent change of station (PCS) process is time consuming and often jarring. They might not have time to learn about their new area before moving, often a move across the country or perhaps the world. As a result, their knowledge of the new duty station, the city and the neighborhood may be very limited. Aside from providing a much needed home for military families, landlords/property managers can ease the moving pains by understanding a potential tenant’s PCS timeline. Start your relationship on the right foot by knowing what military families go through and offering your expertise on the local area you know so well.
Military members can receive orders for a PCS at any time. From six months to just a few short weeks, orders can come down for a family at a moment’s notice. Service members and their families will often begin searching for homes before receiving official orders if they are given indications of their next assignment. However, they will be unable to schedule their move or commit to a move in until orders are in hand. Property managers and landlords are well advised to start showing the property immediately upon receiving word that current tenants must move, to secure new tenants with a minimal vacancy. All lease agreements should include a clause that tenants must keep the property in exceptionally clean showing condition when the landlord is showing the property to new prospective renters.
Once official orders are issued, the dates for pack out and loading are set using a computer system that assigns moves to the various companies contracted by the Department of Defense. It can take 48 hours or more for that date to be confirmed and can be changed with little notice to the service member. Some families opt to coordinate their move themselves to maintain more control over the timing, which requires more out of pocket investment.
Service members usually begin their home search long distance via the Internet: exploring neighborhoods, schools and local amenities. Some will decide to finalize a lease agreement before arriving at their new duty station to hit the ground running when they arrive. Others will use their pre-move research to make a short list of preferred homes to visit in person on arrival. With either option, it is essential that your properties are available to review online with thorough, informational listings on a military-focused rental listing service like AHRN.com. Extensive photos are a great way to make long-distance prospects feel more confident about your rental unit, especially when combined with links or information about the high quality of the neighborhood, schools, local amenities, etc. Lastly, responsiveness is a must, given the quick time horizons that military families operate within.
Because military members have very little time allotted before they have to report for their new duty, they need to finish the home search and move in as promptly as possible. They may choose to live in temporary lodging before they move into a more permanent home, which can easily range from a few days to one month. Service members will be busy in-processing to their new duty station and integrating into their new job, and anything the property manager can do to help make their rental unit an easy option will lead to fast filling of the unit.
While making their housing decisions and getting settled, the primary challenge facing service members and their families is discovering the network of services needed to make a home. From utilities to grocery stores and restaurants, traffic patterns and nearby attractions, military families could use your insight into the local area. By providing this kind of information at some point during the rental marketing and application process, you help to ease the pain of transition and become a trusted advisor for the military community.
At each stage, clear and effective communication lays a foundation for a productive, positive working relationship. A relationship with the more permanent officers of the base will mean instant referrals to inbound personnel, which in turn can mean minimal or no vacancies for your rental unit.