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Are you looking to sell your home quickly due to military relocation? Here is how you can

Updated: Aug 1, 2021

Raise your hand if this military move sounds like you: You’ve only just settled into a well-regarded community and a house you love when you receive cross-country PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders.

Cue stress and frustration as your family scrambles to adjust and you face a daunting realization: On top of everything else, you’ll need to sell this house on deadline.

Even if you have the luxury of a few months to report to the new station, the timeline doesn’t leave much wiggle room in the typical 70 days it takes to sell a house from list to close.

Complicating matters is that your spouse didn’t return from a deployment in time to help with packing, clean up, or crunching the finances. Add kids and a pet into the chaos and you’re in over your head.

This type of scenario plays out annually for an estimated 420,000 to 500,000 military families, who will move every two to three years on average.

With this guide, our goal is to help you craft a real estate plan to avoid much of the anxiety and unknowns of selling the house under the strain and urgency of a PCS.

Make a decision: How will you sell this house?

After the hard orders appear, your mind races. You attempt to organize all of the house chores to prepare for photos and showings.

Slow. It. Down. Before you whip yourself into a frenzy packing and calling up your friend Joe who happens to be a part-time Realtor, take a hard look at your options for selling this home.

In 2019, most sellers (89%) sold their home with the help of a real estate agent. But you’re not “most sellers.”

Most sellers don’t have a date circled on a set of orders determining when they need to be at their next duty station. Most sellers aren’t dizzy from the déjà vu of moving at least once every three years.

You need to fast-track the typical home-selling experience, and you need someone who understands your unique needs as a military home-seller.

So, take a step back to evaluate your next move, which might be:

Hire an agent with a military-friendly skill set

One option is to funnel your nervous PCS energy into finding an experienced professional who will listen to your biggest worries and create an action plan you can trust.

The best time to contact a Realtor can be anywhere from three to six months before your house goes on the market. Chances are you’re already in that window and shouldn’t wait any longer to hire someone.

As plenty of local Realtors would gladly accept your business, you’ll need to discern who’s the right person for the job. We recommend focusing on the following attributes:

Sells homes faster than average

When hiring an agent, military sellers should focus on a key stat in the agent’s track record: days on market (DOM).

Every city has an average days on market which refers to how quickly properties go from active to under contract (i.e., how long it takes for properties to attract an offer).

Don’t be afraid to ask your agent: What’s your typical DOM, and how does it compare to the area average?

You can find the average days on market for your city with a quick glance at your city’s page. If the agent’s DOM is lower than what’s typical for your city, that’s a good sign that they have a strong network and solid marketing chops to find a buyer quickly.

If not, consider it a red flag.

Keep in mind, days on market is not the total time it takes to sell a home. You also have to factor in the closing period, which can take around 45 additional days.

Special designations, like military-relocation specialist

Military members regularly seek recommendations from neighbors and friends for superstar agents, and referrals are a strong start.

But back to that unique situation you’re in: Moving for a PCS, which carries specific logistical and emotional challenges.

You will benefit from an agent who’s all in on this task and who’s familiar with your circumstances. In that sense, an agent with a special designation like Military Relocation Professional (MRP) can grant peace of mind.

The MRP is a certification the National Association of Realtors created to educate agents about specific real estate challenges military clients encounter.

There’s a good chance an agent with MRP behind their name is either a veteran or military spouse, which heightens their knowledge of everyday military life, including tricky global time zone differences and last-minute schedule changes.

Veteran and military spouse agents sympathize with the heartache and disappointment that surfaces when a move is unexpected or unwanted. On the flip side, they’ll also understand your excitement and eagerness to leave a military town that wasn’t the assignment of your dreams.

Even if your agent is not directly military-affiliated, he or she has worked through the MRP program and chosen to specialize in this group of sellers to make sure they’re connecting with their needs, which are often different from the needs of civilians.

Overwhelmed by where to start your agent search?

An agent who sells homes at lightning speed, but also understands the ins and outs of PCS? It may feel like you’re looking for a “unicorn” of a Realtor.

Speed things up with a cash buyer.

Let’s say you do the math on the traditional selling timeline, factor in the hassles of staging the home and keeping it presentable for showings, and realize you just don’t have the time or energy for this whole dog and pony show, period.

There is another option. You could opt to sell your house off market — for cash. In this scenario, sellers are normally offered far more flexibility with timelines and faster closing dates, which comes in handy when unexpected orders, especially OCONUS, (outside the contiguous United States) arrive with minimal prep time in advance.

Selling for cash? Sounds a bit fishy

Cash buyers aren’t all one and the same. Some will purchase your home with the intention of renting it out. Others will renovate and flip it to turn a profit.

Depending on your home’s condition, price point, and location, your home will be a more desirable purchase to certain cash buyers over others.

Most real estate buyers have a specific “buy box” they use with parameters as to which types of properties are most valuable to them. That means what your home is “worth” will vary, even among buyers who can pay all-cash. But almost all cash buyers prefer to purchase homes off-market and because they don’t need financing (or an appraisal to appease the lender), can offer a streamlined experience for sellers.

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