Property Management Blog

Relocating to San Diego: Should You Rent Or Buy While on Active Duty

Bob Preston - Friday, May 19, 2023
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Housing can be a challenge for members of the military and their families. When you’re on active duty, you’re moving around a lot. PCS orders can come in even after you feel you’ve settled into a place and managed to establish a home. 

When you’re relocating to San Diego on active duty, you’ll have to decide whether you want to buy a home or rent one. There are pros and cons to each choice, and ultimately the decision will come down to your personal financial status and what you plan to do with the property, even after you’ve moved on from San Diego to another assignment. 

Reasons You Might Buy a San Diego Home

Some people simply prefer to be homeowners. If that’s you, buying will definitely be the best option. You’ll need some money to enter the San Diego real estate market, so consider selling the home you currently own before you buy property in our area. Prices are high, but so are home values.

Buying also makes sense if:

  • You think you’ll want to stay or return to San Diego. This is an ideal retirement destination for many people, including former military. If you buy a home now, as you’re preparing to come into town, you’ll always have a place to live if you decide you want to return here when you retire from the military. 

  • You are financially stable and will easily qualify for a mortgage. You have a lot to think about when you’re moving to San Diego for your military career; running around to gather documentation and talk to experts while you’re trying to get a home loan is going to take up valuable time and resources. Use your VA loan if you haven’t already, and if you’re planning to buy through a conventional lender, make sure you have all the paperwork and proof of income that you know you’ll need before you can even view properties and make offers. Double-check that your credit is in good shape and think about what you’ll need for a down payment.

  • You have the time to maintain your home and the interest in doing it. One of the benefits to renting is that you don’t have to worry about finding a plumber when there’s a leak. You aren’t financially responsible for the broken appliance or the deteriorating roof. Buy a home when you’re excited about the landscaping and you can’t wait to paint. 

  • You’re interested in being a real estate investor. Buying a home when you move to San Diego makes sense for a lot of reasons. But, what about when you leave San Diego? If you’re going to sell as soon as you’re shipped out again, buying may not make any sense to you. But, if you hold onto that home that you purchased and you rent it out to tenants for the years that you won’t need it, you can hold onto a valuable asset for many years to come. That leads you to great ROI in the long term. You’ll also collect consistent and recurring rental income. 

Buying a San Diego home is a good investment. It also gives you a place to live that’s all your own while you’re living and working here. You can add any personal touches or renovations that you’d like, and you’ll have a valuable investment that can provide income potential if you move out of San Diego and rent out your home. 

Reasons to Rent a San Diego Home

Buying isn’t your only option. Many members of the military are more comfortable renting, because they know they are called to move around a lot in pursuit of their military career. Renting is flexible and easy; you don’t have to worry about what you’ll do with your house when you’re called to serve elsewhere. You won’t have to worry about how to finance the home and maintain it. 

Here’s why many members of the military and their families choose to rent when they move to San Diego:

  • Low-maintenance living. It’s nice not to have to worry about the repairs and maintenance that come with home ownership. When you rent your home, you can rely on your landlord or property manager to take care of hiring vendors and managing maintenance needs. Your job is simply to report the problem and to try and take care of the home as best you can.

  • You get more flexibility. Maybe you love that you get to move around a lot while on active duty. If you don’t want a major attachment like a house, renting your home makes more sense. You’ll be able to leave at the end of your lease term. Even if you receive PCS orders in the middle of the lease, you have legal protections in place that will allow you to break the lease early so you can move on. 

  • You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Rental rates are high in San Diego, so you should budget for a housing payment that meets the market. However, buying a home requires a down payment and a budget for closing costs. When you rent, you can plan to pay a security deposit and the monthly rent. That’s often more manageable for people who are relocating to San Diego. 

  • You can experiment with different neighborhoods and property types. You’re not locked into anything when you rent. Sign a one-year lease and then stay where you are if you love it, or move on to a different area of San Diego or a different type of rental home after the lease ends. 

Whether you decide to buy a home or rent one, moving to San Diego gives you a lot of options. The market is competitive, whether we’re talking about the sales market or the rental market. Make sure you take some time to get to know the areas and what you’re likely to spend. Work with a professional real estate agent or a property manager, depending on whether you’re buying or renting. We can help you navigate the process and make a good decision. 

renting a homeIf you’d like some help deciding what to do, or you need some help locating the perfect home in San Diego, we’re happy to serve as a resource for you. Please contact us at North County Property Group. 


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