Fort Lee offers home, sweet home

HOUSING

There are a number of clichés that relates to being at home. “Home is where the heart is” and “Home, is where the military sends you” are definitely two of the more popular quips. In any event, a home should be where you want to spend most of your free time - sleeping, eating or just relaxing with family. But, finding that place, especially in a strange setting, can be trying.

When you first arrive at Fort Lee, take advantage of the numerous guest house rooms on post that provide excellent temporary lodging to Soldiers with or without family members. Referred to as “billeting,” there are minimal room charges (much less than an average hotel room), which vary depending on rank. Advance reservations can be made by calling (804) 734-6699 or toll-free at (800) 403-8533. These rooms are also available to Department of Defense civilian employees.

If you have brought your pet with you, you will need to make arrangements to board it at one of the off-post kennels. For those who can’t bear to be separated from their pets, be aware there is a limited number of hotels and motels in the local area that accept pets, so it is best to make arrangements as soon as possible. If you choose to stay in an off-post hotel because of your pets, this expense may not be reimbursable. For more details, you can call Fort Lee Lodging at the number above.

All residents of Fort Lee with large dogs must fence their back yard at their own expense. Required fence heights vary according to breed. Due to the potential for abuse and exposure to disease from wild animals, no animal may be kept outside on a chain. More details are available from the Fort Lee Housing Division, (804) 765-1960.

For those looking for more permanent living quarters, the area is rich in housing choices. From family housing on post to luxury apartments to buying a home, newcomers are not limited in their options.

Currently, Fort Lee is in the process of renovating and replacing many of the various categories of housing and billeting on post, so some categories may have limited availability.

Single permanent-party service members new to Fort Lee should call (804) 765-1978. Eight bachelor officer quarters (with two-bedroom apartments) and two senior enlisted quarters are available. These personnel have the option of residing on or off post. BOQs and SEQs are furnished. Single permanent-party Soldiers in the grades of E-4 and below are normally housed in the installation’s barracks, Buildings P-8401 and P-8402.

About 1,200 family housing units are available on Fort Lee, ranging in size from two to five bedrooms. Of these, about 900 units are designated for enlisted personnel while the remaining is designated for officers. There are also some family housing units specifically set aside for junior enlisted personnel (private to private first class).

Availability of on-post housing will be reduced in the next couple of years as the multi-unit Madison Park and Jefferson Terrace housing areas are demolished and replaced with modern duplex units.

Not only is on-post housing convenient and rent-free to the resident, each housing area has a mayor, dedicated cyclic maintenance mechanic, sponsorship unit and housing agent who serve as focal points for resident concerns and provide assistance as needed.

The typical time on the waiting list for on-base family housing is between 12 – 18 months. This wait depends on rank and bedroom requirements. For those who prefer to live in the community, the family housing office has listings of apartment complexes, homes for rent and area realtors, as well as area maps and community information. Servicemembers MUST sign in at Fort Lee before they can be added to the appropriate quarter’s waiting list. For more information about these options, call the housing office at (804) 765-1960.

Factors like schools, commutes, access to shopping and overall desirability make all the difference when it comes time to decide on the neighborhood where you’ll make your home.

The housing office has a computer area set up to make the relocation process smoother with access to area real estate professionals. Any of the local brokerages can provide information about the region and find a match for your price range.

Potential buyers need to know what they’re looking for and how much they can spend before they start their search. New arrivals planning to purchase their first home should get pre-qualified with a mortgage lender right away.

Next, buyers should consider whether they want to move into an existing home or build a new one. Though many people relish the sensation of living in a brand-new residence, existing homes, on average, are less expensive and come with more finished amenities. Older homes are more likely to have decks, fences, landscaping and lawns, which means the new occupants don’t have to take the time and money to put those things in themselves. Time and energy may then go into exploring your new community, rather than the rake, tiller, hammer and nails.

Still, some homeowners enjoy doing the upkeep work. But, in most cases, the decision to buy or build becomes much more subjective: whether the “right” existing home lies in the “right” location. Some buyers may identify an established neighborhood as the one in which they want to live and that means they’ll have to choose from listed homes or wait until others become available.

Families always have to keep the kids in mind, and that often makes the location decision more critical. Does the prospective neighborhood offer plenty of playmates, playgrounds and a community center? Is it safe? And what about the school system? Many buyers base their decisions on the quality of area schools.

In many ways, shopping for homes isn’t very different from shopping for cars: Everyone fears picking out a lemon. Although recent laws require real estate agents to disclose any known defects in a property, buyers must still be careful. A home inspection prior to closing is a good way to protect yourself from future surprises.

It is also a good idea to visit the local police station and ask them about the crime rate for the neighborhood you are thinking of buying in.

Several home-buying options available to both buyers and sellers may help ease the chore of finding the right roof under which to rest your head. In a buyer agency, the buyer signs an agreement with the agent. It basically says the agent represents the buyer instead of the seller. A seller agency, in contrast, means the agency works for the seller. Finally, with a dual agency, the staff represents both the buyer and the seller.