Renting a Home Sight Unseen - USAA Member Community


I’m sure you have been there…

• You are in receipt of PCS Orders across the country
• Homes are going fast and you don’t want to miss opportunities
• You consider renting a home sight unseen

Don’t do it! Okay, try not to do it.

This scenario plays out in the minds of thousands of military families each year. I have heard the stories of families that have taken the ‘sight-unseen’ risk and not experienced problems. However, I have also heard stories that were horrific.

Think about it. You are considering renting a home based on written words and pictures without the benefit of actually experiencing the house or the neighborhood in person. A majority of the time, those words and pictures are accurate. What happens if you rent a home sight unseen where the words are exaggerated and the pictures don’t reflect reality?

Sometimes hidden problems with a house can only be discovered by opening sink cabinets, smelling the air, or bumping your head in an odd height shower.

So what options do you have when you feel like you must lock down a home, in that perfect school district, sight unseen?

• Plan a House Hunting Trip – It might be unaffordable for the entire family to go, but you might be able to pull it off with one adult. When we PCS’d from Germany back to the states we orchestrated a house hunting trip with the aid of family (helping with kids) and MAC flights. My wife Sharon made the trip and found a home that our family enjoyed for several years. It was a neat return trip to Europe flying back in an Air Force tanker while also refueling some fighters crossing the Atlantic. I’m still not sure if getting stranded in Spain for a few days was a hassle or welcomed delay!

• Live Video Streaming - Enlist the help of someone at your new duty station to do a live video walk-through. This could be someone you know from a past duty station, a unit sponsor, or a local real estate agent for a negotiated fee. I have seen advertisements at some bases where military spouses have started businesses to provide this service. Using a tool like FaceTime takes the pressure off the person doing the walk-through. You can determine if the pictures in the advertisement represent what you are seeing in the video stream. The ability to direct the movement of the camera also lets you see everywhere you want to see.

• Ask the property owner to send specific pictures – Most advertisements allow a limited number of images. Pictures of every room and the entire perimeter of a property are rarely available within an online advertisement. This does not mean that you cannot ask for more pictures. Respond to the advertisement and ask for the pictures you want to see. If the advertiser is not responsive it could be that you are better off moving to your next choice.
Many Military Families enter rental contracts each year without the benefit of an onsite inspection. The ideas listed above are basic options to consider. Clearly a house hunting trip is your most prudent option. What other strategies have you personally used when faced with the pressure to rent sight unseen?

About the blogger:
Dave Gran is a retired Marine and President of MilitaryByOwner Advertising which he co-founded with his wife Sharon in 2000.



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Briana Hartzell USAA

Thanks for this great advice Dave!

Angela Caban USAA

Great read, will share along with others!