When it comes to military life, there are a variety of challenges military families face during a transition period. Being posted to a new location can be nerve-wracking and stressful, no matter if it’s the first move with the military or your tenth. It is easy to become overwhelmed before you even get going. Just the acronyms can cause one’s pulse to speed up: IRP, HHT, COS Date, DF&E, ILM&M, DIT, and RHU.
You may be wondering where to even begin planning your move. If your answer is your HHT (house hunting trip), look no farther, because we have answers to your questions. Your HHT could be considered the most crucial step in your journey because you are deciding on your new home. Until your next posting, that is.
Whether you are buying or have been offered an RHU (residential housing unit), we have you covered with tips and advice to ensure your HHT is as productive as possible.
What is an HHT?
According to the office of the Director General Compensation and Benefits, which works directly with the relocation policies, an HHT is designed to secure accommodation at the new place of duty on terms that will facilitate, as much as possible, a door-to-door move in order to minimize the number of days of interim lodgings, meals, and miscellaneous expenses (ILM&M), and reduce storage in transit costs.
Members and their families can look at options on where they want to establish their new residence and discuss with local real estate agents to decide on what the best neighbourhood or area of the city is for their family.
On Your HHT
On your HHT you can, if time permits, explore your new neighbourhood and community to get a better feel of the environment. Spending time in the community allows you to locate the schools, banks, shopping centers, doctors’ offices, and Military Family Resource Centres.
The results of an HHT may also dictate if the member will need to request a change of the change of strength (COS) date to better facilitate the move.
Although HHTs are a great way to get to know your new posting location, sometimes it’s difficult to schedule them due to operational reasons. If that is the case, the office of the Director General Compensation and Benefits offers a few alternatives:
- A spouse can go on an HHT alone to secure accommodation at a new place of duty for the member and the family.
- An HHT can also be conducted after the COS date, or after arriving at the new place of duty. If this happens, the member would move to the new location alone, find temporary accommodations (usually on base), and when appropriate conduct the HHT to find more permanent accommodation for the family.
- A member could choose to go to the new location under an unaccompanied status. This will result in an Imposed Restriction (IR) posting, which are intended for a short period of time as an option to mitigate potential conflict between military service and family obligations
For more information on relocation policies within the CAF, you can visit here.
On top of all the other factors when the active member receives a posting message, one question you need to consider is are you applying for an RHU or buying? Jan Ayres, military Veteran and Real Estate Agent in Ottawa for the last 13 years, highly suggests doing research to find the right realtor for you.
“When you are looking for a realtor, ask questions. Before you agree to work with them, find out if they are familiar with the military,” notes Ayres. Getting recommendations from friends or other military members will also be beneficial in narrowing down your list of realtors.
Ayres says if you are looking to rent at your new location, do some research to see if renting is indeed the better option. In her experience, she has noted that as long as you buy within the average value of the area, and buy in a high turnover area, you will be able to sell when you need to move in the future. “This is the advice that I give to everyone. If you’re able to purchase a home, you have the down payment, and you’ve been pre-approved, then I would suggest that you buy,” explained Ayers.
Janet Burghgraef, a realtor with Royal LePage in Trenton, ON, notes although HHTs can be scary, realtors can pick up a lot of the leg work for military families before they visit the area. “We can send links for the area, do the mapping to show highlights of the area if someone has not been here before,” says Burghgraef. “Setting a client up on automated search is a great way to narrow down the list of possible properties to view before making a decision.”
Pre-Approval: Do you need it?
Yes. Do not waste your time, a realtor’s time, or the government’s money if you have not been pre-approved for a mortgage before you leave on your HHT. Typically, you are required to be pre-approved for a mortgage before you even plan an HHT. Ayres stresses that going on the internet and using a pre-approval calculator won’t necessarily give you an accurate assessment of what you can afford.
Both Ayres and Burghgraef suggest using mortgage brokers. Keep in mind that each time a check is done on your credit to confirm you qualify for a mortgage and for how much, it affects your credit negatively. “Every time they do a credit check it costs you a few points (three points) off your score,” says Ayres. The benefit of a mortgage broker is the fact the broker only does one credit check, and then shops around for the best mortgage for you.
Search for a Home
Once you receive your pre-approval, realtors are then able to start the housing search for you, building a list of homes based on your price range, wants, and needs. Usually, realtors use MLS, the multiple listing service, so their clients can see photos and all the necessary information regarding prospective houses.
Tips for a productive HHT
- Make sure you account for extra fees when it comes to closing the house purchase: lawyer fees, hydro fees, heat hookup, closing costs, taxes, and more. When you are aware, there may be additional costs you are prepared and not surprised at the end of the process.
- While you are on your HHT, when you are waiting for an offer to be accepted or if you have extra time, visit potential schools and doctors, and explore what will be your new community for the foreseeable future.
- Burghgraef suggests eliminating distractions. Although it can be great to have the whole family on an HHT making a decision together, finding childcare during viewings or for the duration of the HHT can be beneficial and time-saving in the long run.
- Ayres says when looking at getting preapproval, don’t just look at the rate. Look for cancellation policies and portability. BMO offers zero penalties for military families who need to break their mortgage.
Moving to an RHU?
If you are considering moving in to an RHU, also known as a PMQ (Permanent Married Quarters or Private Married Quarters) at your new location, keep in mind they are offered to members based on priority and availability. Although HHTs are not authorized if a member and family choose to accept an offer on a PMQ, the military personnel can schedule a DIT (destination inspection trip). A DIT includes three days and three nights at the new location for the member or spouse to see their accommodations and check out their new community: look for employment, look at schools, find childcare and so on.
For more information, make sure you consult with the local MFRC. Usually they have relocation packages which will feature information on the new community, including programs and services that are offered at the centre. They may also have employment services or let you know where to go.