Sunday, January 13, 2008

What Can Your BAH Buy You?

Buying with BAH

“We want to buy a house, and we’re probably going to use our VA loan. Can you tell us how much we can afford? We’d like to keep our payments below our BAH.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard young military couples (and a few singles) tell me this. It’s a good goal, but I have to tell you that, depending on your expectations for a home, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish this goal. Don’t get me wrong, it does happen, but it usually takes some re-prioritizing and perhaps settling a little.

Allow me to explain…..

The Basic Allowance for Housing was put in place to pay rent for military service members who either can not or choose not to live in military housing. That’s right, I said rent. BAH was not designed to allow military personnel to purchase a home without taking any money out of their regular pay.

Also, different paygrades are given enough BAH to rent a home that is specific to the lifestyle that the military imagines that particular paygrade to have. For example, an E-3 with dependents are given enough to rent a two-bedroom apartment. An E-5 with dependents is given enough to rent a two or three bedroom townhouse. An E-7 should get enough to rent a single family home.

The same generalization applies to Officers and Warrant Officers too. The lower paygrades will have enough to rent attached family homes, while the higher paygrades will have enough to rent a single family home.

And remember, that is to rent a house, not to buy. Right now in Kitsap County, you can rent more hosue than you can buy for the same amount of money. In other words, you can afford to rent a nicer house than you can afford to buy.

With all that said, if you expect to buy a house and not pay more than your BAH, you will not be buying your dream home right away. Compromises will have to be made. And yes, you will probably end up taking money out of your pocket, as it were.

It all depends on what you are looking for, and what you can give up and what you absolutely can’t live without.

Sit down with your lender and your real estate agent and decide what you are willing and able to pay, and what you expect to get for the money. Do this before you start looking at houses – it will save you a lot of heartache.

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