Like the rest of the country, the Greater Fort Knox Region is experiencing housing market conditions that have made the traditional summer moving season especially challenging on Soldiers and their families. You’ve likely heard the same story:
- Limited inventory = higher asking prices.
- Buyers are making offers above asking prices to get a contract.
- If they can find a home, military families may be paying a mortgage above the prescribed Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate for the region.
- Some military families are buying and renting homes outside the designated Military Housing Area (MHA) which can often be in a higher priced market; and almost always means a longer commute.
- Rental properties are also in high demand with limited availability.
- Builders working to respond to demand are facing labor and supply shortages as well as skyrocketing material prices which are pushing sale and rental fees up even more.
- Some military families are exceeding the allowable 10 days of Temporary Lodging Expenses (TLE) to cover hotel costs they incur during their move.
When we asked our local partners at the Heart of Kentucky Association of Realtors (HKAR) how things were trending, they indicated these conditions are here to stay for the foreseeable future, at least until material costs start to come down.
Fort Knox Housing
In addition to these market factors, Fort Knox’s on-post housing is at nearly 95 percent capacity, making the demand for off-post housing even higher. That means keeping the lines of communication open between post leadership and the community is even more critical. Our Army partners on Fort Knox have been terrific about sharing where the greatest needs are. Currently, that’s three- and four-bedroom homes for senior enlisted and junior officers in a price range that is at or near the BAH rate. Meeting those parameters is not easy. Fortunately, construction of 64 additional homes on post will soon be underway. The market certainly needs more inventory, and the new home construction on post is welcome news, but it does not alleviate the immediate challenge military families face.
Army Responds to Challenges
Army leaders at both the department and installation levels recognize the challenges and have taken steps to help military families.
- There is greater flexibility on report dates (up to 30 days early or 20 days late).
- Military personnel divisions have the authority to defer arrivals up to 60 days (but no later than Nov. 10).
- Once a Soldier’s 10 days of TLE are expended, hotels on post are offering a daily rate based on the monthly BAH rate. (e.g., if a family stays in lodging for 30 days, the total cost won’t exceed their BAH).
- As needed, the Army is working with off post hotels and other short-term temporary housing providers to see if similar arrangements can be made based on the BAH rate.
- At installations like Fort Knox, the post leadership is looking to adjust the MHA to include additional communities where Soldiers are now living. This may positively impact BAH rates which are evaluated and adjusted annually based upon rental and utility rates in the MHA.
Advice from Local Experts
We also asked local experts at the HKAR what else they would recommend to families moving into the market. HKAR board chair and local Realtor, Mike Thomas, offered up these three key pieces of advice:
- Begin looking as soon as you get your orders. Military families have always been proactive, often buying or signing lease agreements after virtual tours. “Given how quickly rental properties are filled and homes sell, we are urging families to reach out to us as soon as possible to begin your search,” said Thomas. He also added that leveraging the expertise and knowledge of a local Realtor in this environment is especially valuable. “We know the market. We know when houses are about to come on the market. We can be your eyes and ears,” Thomas said.
- Get prequalified. Being prequalified has always been a best practice, but according to Thomas it is an absolute showstopper if you don’t have it. Sellers aren’t going to entertain an offer with someone who isn’t prequalified for financing. They have too many other offers and aren’t going to wait.
- Use a local lender. Thomas said large national and international banks are great, but when it’s a matter of getting a clear picture of the status of a loan, it’s much easier for realtors to check in with local lenders with whom they have worked for years. The local lenders know everyone involved in the process personally and can help move things along in ways they simply can’t at larger banks. Having that sort of visibility is key.
There is no doubt the current environment makes it very challenging on all home buyers and renters. At KRDA, we are focused on the military family and what we as a community can do to help ease their transition. That is why we also created a website dedicated to supporting their transition. The site, greaterfortknox.com, is a one-stop virtual location for military families relocating to the area. It features local communities, and the resources military families need in making the move here, including finding local realtors. It won’t solve all of the challenges families are facing, but it is one additional thing we can do to help, especially in these trying times.
Are there innovative solutions you are seeing in your community? We’d love to hear them and learn from them.
Brig. Gen. (Ret) Jim Iacocca
President / CEO
Knox Regional Development Alliance
Knox Regional Development Alliance