If you own your home and it's going to be empty while you're deployed, you might want to consider renting it out or having someone live there while you're gone. Having your home occupied can help deter break-ins, keep it maintained and, if you rent it, pay the mortgage.
Here are your options: rent it, hire a house sitter or ask a friend or family member to stay there while you're deployed. The following information should help you find the right person to live in your house while you're gone.
What to do before you rent your home
There are certain steps you may want to take before you rent your home:
- Visit your installation's legal assistance office. The legal staff will explain your rights and responsibilities as a property owner and can help you write a leasing or rental application and lease. Locate your installation's legal assistance office through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
- Check with your homeowners association. If your property has a home owners association, or HOA, find out if there are restrictions on having renters and what access your renters will have to the association's amenities.
- Get a fair rental price. Check to see how much homeowners charge for rent on similar properties in your area.
- Check with your insurance company about insurance while renting out your home. They may have different prices or different procedures when you have renters.
- Consider hiring a property manager. Property managers can help you find appropriate renters, collect rent for you and make sure your home is maintained while you're gone for a fee (usually a percentage of the rental price).
- Be sure to work out the details and get everything in writing.
How to find a tenant or house sitter
You have several resources to help you find someone to live in your home while you're away:
- Installation housing office — Your housing office can include your property in the rental listings that it provides service members.
- Network of friends and family — Ask if they know anyone who needs a place to live or is willing to move out of their own place to stay temporarily at yours.
- Realtor — Call around to realtors in your area to find one willing to list your property as a short-term rental.
- Local or installation newspaper — Advertise in your local newspaper in the rentals section of the classified ads.
- Online — Post an ad on reputable local websites.
- Installation bulletin board — You can sometimes post your listing on a bulletin board on base. Check with your housing office to find out if they allow it.
Before you settle on a tenant or house sitter
If you hire a house sitter, take steps to make sure you get the right person:
- Run a credit check. Even if you're not charging rent, you want to make sure the person living in your home will pay utility bills while you're away, especially if you keep the utilities in your name. If you do rent out your home, have the rent directly deposited into your account.
- Ask for references, and check them out. Call the references on the application to find out if the person you're considering is responsible and trustworthy.
Prepare your home before you leave
You'll want to have everything in order and maintained before you leave your home in the care of another person. Be sure to:
- Schedule routine maintenance. Set up appointments for routine maintenance of appliances and other home equipment. You may have to preschedule appointments and arrange for your home's occupant to let in the repair company. Arrange for yard care, if necessary. If you don't already have a home warranty, this might be the ideal time to get one. A home warranty gives you peace of mind that your major appliances are repaired or replaced for a nominal service charge (by paying a monthly fee).
- Clean out your refrigerator and cabinets. Remove any food that could spoil or attract household pests.
- Put valuables out of sight. Move expensive items away from windows or store them outside your home, and put your jewelry in a safe deposit box.
- Talk to a family member, a neighbor or a trusted friend. Let them know who'll be living in your home and ask them to keep an eye on it for you, if possible.
- Notify the homeowners association, if applicable.
- Arrange with the post office to forward your mail.
Before you hand over your property to a tenant or house sitter
On the day your tenant or house sitter moves in, you should conduct a walk-through of the property, if possible. To avoid later disputes, have the person verify and sign off on the condition of the property, noting any existing damage. If you can't be present on move-in day, ask a trusted friend or your property manager to act on your behalf. At this time, you'll want to give the tenant or sitter everything he or she will need, including:
- Extra keys to the house — You may need to make an extra set since you'll want to have a set with you and give one to a trusted friend to check on your home or be there for maintenance personnel, if necessary.
- Your contact information — Include your email address since this may be the easiest way to reach you at times.
- Emergency contact information — This includes numbers for the person the tenant should contact in case of an emergency and numbers to local fire and police in case there is a break-in, fire or other emergency.
- Important phone numbers — This includes phone numbers for your veterinarian, plumber, electrician and security service, if you use one.
- Written instructions — Leave instructions for how to use alarms, the gas or electricity, and other household equipment. Additionally, leave your Wi-Fi password and instructions for caring for your plants, lawn and pets if you have them.
- Demonstrations — Demonstrate how to use appliances and electronic equipment (TV, computer, etc.).
Finally, consider your timing. If you're moving upon return, you may consider selling your home instead.
Remember, don't wait until the last minute to work out the details; you'll be busy getting ready for deployment.