top of page

Military Moving Season

Every summer, thousands of military personnel and their families are on the move. And they need housing. Here are some tips maximize the opportunity when selling your home.

Every year, the Department of Defense PCSs (military acronym for transfer to another location, officially, Permanent Change of Station) tens of thousands of service members and their families. More than half of these moves occur during the summer months, between Mid-May until the end of August, called "On Cycle" moves. With these moves comes a flurry of shifting home needs. In cities surrounding major military installations such as Camp Pendleton, you have about as many Marines moving as you have coming. This creates both a supply and demand: those leaving need to sell, and those coming need to buy. If you are one of these movers, or if you're looking to sell during this peak season, here are a few tips:

  1. List Early

  2. List on Military-Friendly Sites

  3. Know the BAH Rates

  4. Use High Quality Media

  5. Use an Agent Familiar with the Military


1. List Early

Many people are hesitant to list their homes early. This might be due to the challenges in showing a home while it's still occupied by tenants, or if it is your own home, maybe you're not ready to list it. Buyers and prospective renters can see through the clutter of boxes and unfinished projects, and are more concerned with locating their next home. Don't be too late to the game by waiting until it is the right time for you to list, but the wrong for buyers.

Here are a few ways to maximize your listing term while still fitting into your timeline:

Showings by Appointment Only - Many people are concerned about listing their home before it is "ready." They think that in order to get the top dollar, everything needs to be pristine and move-in ready: no clutter, new carpet, fresh paint, etc. While I would normally agree with these thoughts, their benefits must be weighed against the timing of the market. Since the summer months are when the most buyers are looking to purchase, if you wait until the end of the summer, you may have cut off a large portion of the market. Instead, list the property, clearly state in the listing (or have your agent make it clear) when the property is available, and agree to allow showings by appointment only to minimize traffic.

Longer Escrow Periods - The "standard" escrow period in San Diego is 30-45 days. Unless a buyer is paying all cash and is waiving all contingencies, this period is necessary to ensure all the i's get dotted and the t's get crossed. By extending the escrow period to 45-60 days, you can list earlier, go under contract sooner, and move out at the best time for you.

Lease Back - Another option is to do what's called a leaseback, where the seller essentially becomes the renter for a given amount of time after closing until they move out. This option is good when you're moving timeline is fluid, and when you're looking to purchase another home and need the proceeds from the sale of one home to put down on the second home. The timeline can be tailored to meet your needs, but keep in mind that depending on the buyers' financing options, the maximum period may be limited. My recommendation is to stretch out the escrow period

2. List on Military-Friendly Websites

Especially for renters, many military personnel tend to be seasoned movers and often find homes on their own. In addition to listing your home on the MLS, which will tie into a number of popular online services, such as Redfin and Zillow, use Facebook, Craigslist, and the NextDoor app to find leads. If you're using an agent, ask them what their plans are to use these sites. Ask them if they will be sponsoring ads, and if they are reaching out to specific groups on Facebook. You're probably not Facebook friends with the person who is going to buy your house. You can hope that within the 3 degrees or so of separation we all "enjoy" thanks to Facebook that someone might repost your listing and find you a buyer, but this is also unlikely. Where Facebook has real strengths as a real estate listing platform is in groups, and when marketing to military movers, posting your listing on a Facebook group is a great way to boost visibility and to actually reach potential buyers. For military movers, look for the local spouse club pages. You may have to request access to post on the page, but if you're offering real estate for sale or lease near a military base, they'll likely be willing to post you listing.

3. Know the BAH Rates

In order to capture the incoming demand for housing, it's important to understand the current BAH rates in your area. BAH stands for Bachelor Assistance Housing, and it is the amount of money, in addition to a service members' salary, that the government pays them basically for not living on base. While it is not the "end all be all," for many it serves as an important budget constraint.

For current BAH Rates in California and elsewhere, check here

There are a couple things to note when looking at the BAH rates. First, there are more people at the lower ranks than there are at the higher ranks. Second, most personnel E-1 though E-3 will live on base. Third, most military personnel living off-base will have dependents.

If you're looking to rent out your house, there's no conversion necessary: look at what military personnel get paid in your area, and price accordingly. If you're selling, you'll have to use a mortgage calculator (there's a bunch of them out there, just Google it) to see what a particular sales price equals in a monthly payment.

4. Use High-Quality Media

Many military movers will have limited or possibly no time to actually come and look at properties. In order to get the right people into your home, it's therefore vital to have high-quality and comprehensive photos and other media. If you're listing your property with a Realtor, discuss with them what kind of media they'll be using. At the least they should be taking property photos with a high quality camera and ensuring that the photos are clear and well-lit. Ideally, they should be getting the help of a professional real estate photographer. For about $150 they'll provide high-quality photos that really highlight the property. A major plus would be a video walk through and/or a virtual tour using a 360 camera or something comparable. If you're listing the house yourself, pay the $150 and hire a photographer. If your property is going to be an enduring rental, I recommend paying a little more and getting additional pictures that you can have ready to show potential leads and that you'll be able to reuse for years.

5. Use an Agent Familiar with the Military

From VA Loans to the Service Member Civil Relief Act, there are major benefits and protections provided to our service members. If you're not well-versed on this stuff, it makes sense to have an agent who is.

VA loans are amazing. They not only provide qualifying service members with zero-down home loans, but they also tend to come at lower interest rates than conventional loans or other loans with zero-down provisions. The availability of the VA loan provides many service members and veterans with the ability to purchase a home when they might not otherwise have the funds to do it. That being said, there are some provisions in VA loans that might scare off home-sellers if they didn't understand how they work.


I am a realtor with Three Lagoons Realty, focusing on the coastal cities in North County San Diego. As a Marine and Oceanside resident, I really want to help our Marines find homes here in North County San Diego, and I offer Military Discounts to all active duty service members, reservists, and veterans. I ask that if you like the information that I have provided, drop me a line or sign up for my newsletter!

Gregory Butler

California Real Estate Salesperson

CA BRE: 01962445

Three Lagoons Realty

Megan Schenck, Broker

CA BRE: 01735296


bottom of page