Military personnel being transferred from the Washington area to Strategic Air Command headquarters in Omaha should not despair. Joan O'Reilly, relocation director for 20th Century Realtors there, says she can "find you a house in the poshest area of town for $142,000."
For that price, one can expect to get plenty of amenities, large lots and perhaps a view of a golf course in a city where the average home sales price today is only $67,000.
But if your orders ship you to Hawaii, you are going to have to shell out $184,000 just to get the average-priced home in a state where reasonable rental properties and apartments are hard to find, according to Lee Turner, president of Aloha Relocation Service Inc.
Turner and O'Reilly were in Washington last weekend for a seminar for military personnel living in the Virginia suburbs who are facing transfers this spring. The military personnel were given a preview of housing markets from Hawaii to Tampa, Fla., from Dayton, Ohio, to San Diego and many places in between. More than 150 people attended sessions in the Springfield and Tysons Corner areas sponsored by Long & Foster Realtors. Most people said they were surprised at the low prices elsewhere.
A few weeks ago, several hundred residents facing similar transfers attended a relocation fair sponsored by Mount Vernon Realty Inc. at its relocation center near Landmark Shopping Center. They saw videos of areas that might become their next homes and received information packages about community services and available homes in different areas, according to Jenny Cooper, vice president and director of relocation for Mount Vernon.
Real estate companies in areas with heavy concentrations of military personnel are increasingly hosting similar events where agents can build profitable working relationships with one another. At the same time, such events give those who may be moving information about a community and direct contact with a real estate professional that they otherwise might not get, according to industry leaders.
The events are profitable for realty companies because a sale resulting from a contact means the company hosting the event may get 20 percent of the eventual sales commission as part of a referral fee, according to relocation counselors.
Washington-area agents carry the message about suburban and in-city housing to relocation events near military bases in the United States and installations and embassies all over the world, according to Jackie Grunawalt of Mount Vernon.
When they go, they carry what Cooper sees as the bad news of moving to Washington -- the high prices of houses. To get anything with three bedrooms and two baths for $100,000, you have to go beyond the Capital Beltway, most agents said.
For those awaiting reassignment, here is a sample of housing prices near some major military bases: In Dayton, near Wright-Paterson Air Force Base, the average three-bedroom, two-bath home is selling for $85,000, but agent Candy Prystaloski said she can find a suitable house in the $16,000-to-$25,000 range if necessary. In Tampa, where sunshine and orange groves are considered built-in bonuses with a house, the average price for a three-bedroom detached house is about $72,000. In San Antonio, some relatively new four-bedroom homes still sell for about $80,000, and more luxurious models are available anywhere from $130,000 and up, according to real estate agent Bobbi Bryant.