From Base Housing to Homeownership: A San Diego Military Guide - Article Banner

For many service members, the transition from base housing to homeownership represents a significant step towards achieving what we know as the American Dream. San Diego, home to numerous military installations, provides ample opportunities for military personnel to invest in a home. 

However, navigating the San Diego real estate market requires careful planning and consideration of several key factors. At Chase Pacific, we are happy to work with members of the military all the time. Whether they’re looking for a rental home, trying to buy, or even renting out a home they’ve bought in San Diego when they’re transferred elsewhere, they count on our experience, our understanding of their situation, and our ability to achieve the best possible outcomes. 

Because we have so much experience working with the military, we decided to put together a brief guide for anyone who needs essential information and tips on buying a home in San Diego. We’re here to help you understand the current trends in the market and to show you the importance of working with a knowledgeable real estate agent.

Let’s get you off of base housing and into your own home.

Navigating the San Diego Real Estate Market

The San Diego real estate market is, like many cities in California, competitive, with relatively high demand for homes and a limited supply. It’s also pricey. Home values continue to rise, with the latest data from the San Diego Association of Realtors showing a median price of $760,000 for a single-family home.

However, San Diego’s unique mix of military personnel creates a vibrant community with a strong foundation and support network for service members. In addition, housing benefits like the VA Home Loan program provide financial advantages that can reduce typical homeownership barriers and costs.

To better understand the market’s complexities, service members would do well to conduct research, attend local housing seminars, and consult with real estate professionals who specialize in working with military families. Educate yourself as much as you possibly can when you decide to buy a home. The more prepared you are when you enter the market, the more likely you are to have a good experience.

Setting a Budget for Your San Diego Home

Before diving into the world of homeownership, it is crucial to determine an affordable and realistic budget. Several factors affect a service member’s budget, including:

  • Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
  • VA Home Loan eligibility
  • Down payment
  • Closing Costs
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Home maintenance costs

Review your monthly expenses and estimate the maximum amount you can comfortably spend on a mortgage without compromising your financial stability. Also, consider reaching out to a financial planner or housing counselor with experience in working with military budgets.

Exploring Neighborhoods Close to Base

San Diego’s diverse neighborhoods offer an array of lifestyle choices and attractions catering to various preferences. When searching for a home near base, consider factors such as:

  • Commute time to the base
  • School districts
  • Safety and crime rates
  • Proximity to recreational facilities
  • Shopping, dining, and entertainment options
  • Access to public transportation

Popular neighborhoods for military families in San Diego include:

  • Mira Mesa
  • Santee
  • Chula Vista
  • Tierrasanta
  • Poway

Each community offers its unique blend of amenities catering to specific needs, so assess what aspects matter most to you and your family before settling on a particular area.

Getting Your Financing in Order

Unless you have a nice chunk of cash that you’re willing to use to finance your home purchase, you’ll need to think about financing. Many service members benefit from VA Home Loans, which provide numerous advantages such as:

  • No down payment requirements
  • No mortgage insurance
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Flexible credit requirements

To qualify for a VA Home Loan, service members must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) online or by submitting a VA Form 26-1880. The COE verifies to lenders that you meet the necessary service requirements for the loan.

It’s essential to shop around for mortgage lenders who have experience working with VA Home Loans. Obtaining quotes from multiple lenders can help ensure you receive the best terms and interest rates.

Benefits of VA Home Loans

VA Home Loans come with a plethora of benefits specifically designed to assist service members in achieving their dream of homeownership. One of the most significant advantages is the ability to purchase a home with no down payment, a relief for many military families that might be saving for this substantial expense. VA loans also do not require mortgage insurance, a monthly expense that is typically required for other types of loans with less than a 20% down payment, helping to reduce the overall cost of the mortgage.

You’ll also find that VA Home Loans offer competitive interest rates that are often lower than conventional mortgage rates. The Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees a portion of each VA loan, reducing the risk for lenders and often leading to more favorable terms.

There’s also a bit of flexibility when it comes to credit requirements. While applicants still need to demonstrate responsible credit use, the guidelines tend to be more forgiving compared to traditional loans. In addition, the program also provides assistance to service members struggling to make their mortgage payments, offering financial counseling and intervention to prevent foreclosure.

You’ll also be happy to hear that VA Home Loans are reusable. You can use your VA loan benefits again if you pay off your loan in full, making it a valuable resource if you’re hoping to refinance or purchase a different home in the future.

The Value of a Real Estate Agent Who Specializes in Military Members

Selecting the right real estate agent is crucial in finding a suitable home while minimizing stress and potential pitfalls. Look for agents who specialize in helping members of the military find homes. 

Working with a military-specific real estate agent can greatly enhance the home buying experience for service members. Agents like us are intimately familiar with the unique circumstances and requirements of military life. We understand the ins and outs of VA loans, military benefits, and BAH rates, which allows us to provide tailored advice and guidance. We are here to accommodate you and your unique needs.

Finding a home near a base can also involve considerations not typically relevant in civilian house-hunting, such as the base’s commute time, the base’s amenities, and the proximity to other military families. Military-specific agents like us are proficient in navigating these considerations, and we can help find homes that meet all of a service member’s criteria.

Furthermore, we are sensitive to the challenges that military families face, such as frequent relocations and the stress of managing a home purchase from afar. Our expertise can help streamline the home buying process, making it as efficient and stress-free as possible. For service members who already have plenty to manage, this specialized support can be invaluable.

Importance of Home Inspections

Home InspectionHome inspections are a fundamental part of the home buying process. They provide an in-depth assessment of the property’s condition, identifying any potential issues or repairs that may be needed. For service members using VA Home Loans, a home inspection is not mandatory but is highly recommended.

One of the key benefits of a home inspection is that it can uncover hidden problems that may not be immediately evident upon a casual walk-through of the property. These could include structural defects, plumbing or electrical issues, roof damage, or HVAC system problems.

Having this information before closing the deal is crucial as it enables you to negotiate necessary repairs with the seller, adjust the offer price, or even reconsider the purchase if the issues are extensive. This is particularly important for service members who may not have the additional resources or time to address significant property issues.

You want to have a realistic picture of potential future maintenance costs. This can be of significant advantage in budget planning, especially for military families who have to carefully manage their expenses.

Finally, a home inspection provides a detailed insight into the safety of the home. For military families who may be deployed for long periods, knowing that their families are in a safe and well-maintained home can offer invaluable peace of mind.

We can recommend a certified and experienced home inspector to ensure a thorough and accurate assessment of the property. A quality home inspection is an investment that can save service members significant time, money, and stress in the long run.

At Chase Pacific, we are here to simplify the process of moving from base housing to homeownership. We know there’s a lot to consider, from getting qualified for your VA loan to identifying the neighborhood you want to live in to choosing a home. 

We can make it a lot simpler. Count on our resources, our technology, and our experience in the San Diego real estate market. We work with a lot of first-time buyers and members of the military who have decided to call San Diego home. When you’re thinking about buying, contact us at Chase Pacific Property Management and Real Estate Services.