Neighborhood Comparison Guide

PCS’ing is overwhelming enough without the added stress of finding an ideal neighborhood to live in. Sure, you might only end up staying at your next duty station for a couple years, but a couple years can be a long time if you live in a neighborhood you hate.

To help alleviate the burden of finding the perfect neighborhood, we’ve created a Neighborhood Comparison Guide. You can click here to download the entire thing, which includes handy graphics and a comparison chart you can print out.

But if you’re crunched for time and just want the five minute overview, check out our tips below for finding the perfect neighborhood at your next duty station.

Download Neighborhood Comparison Kit

  • Neighborhood Comparison Worksheet
  • Pattern of Life
  • School Scope

No. 1 – Start with Neighborhoods

Starting with neighborhoods seems like a no-brainer, but it’s the best way to help narrow down your search for homes. Begin your hunt by considering what neighborhoods you’re most interested in. You can do this by:
  1. Using Google Maps
  2. Searching for homes in specific neighborhoods on Zillow
  3. Checking out NextDoor to discover the community vibe in neighborhoods you like
  4. Reaching out to local friends or family members for suggestions
  5. Using social media (like Facebook groups) to learn more about what the “locals” have to say about specific neighborhoods

We recommend you use our chart to help define what builds the character of each of your favorite neighborhoods.

No. 2 – Consider Commute Times

In case you haven’t noticed, here at MILLIE we’re all about commute times. When deciding on a neighborhood, make sure to factor in how long it will take your spouse to get to work every day, and yourself if you plan to work in the area. We recommend the following tools for calculating commute times from your selected neighborhoods:

  1. Use the Google Maps traffic tool (don’t forget to enter the time of day you/your spouse will be traveling!)
  2. Ask a local friend or family member who regularly makes that commute or one similar
  3. Check out MILLIE’s commute tables to discover average commute times from various areas around base (we’ve already done most of the leg work for you!)

No. 3 – Look for Available Houses

Once you’ve found a couple neighborhoods you like, start looking for available homes. As you begin your search, we recommend you keep a few things in mind:

  1. Be open-minded
  2. Embrace the housing styles in the area
  3. Look for a house you can afford with your BAH
  4. Only look for homes within your price range
  5. Carefully compare off base living options with those on base (and be prepared the on base options are sometimes better!)

Pro tip:

Costs can vary greatly between neighborhoods. In some places your BAH may get you far more than it does on the installation, but be sure you’re including utilities in your costs in order to make an apples to apples comparison.

No. 4 – Seriously Consider Crime

Crime is obviously a very important aspect to consider when looking for a neighborhood. But if you’re looking for a home across the country, checking out the neighborhood yourself probably isn’t an option. But don’t fear! Here are a couple ways you can do a virtual crime check up:

  1. Visit Family Watchdog to find sex offenders in your area
  2. Reach out to your local friends or family members to learn about areas to avoid
  3. Check out AreaVibes to get detailed crime information
  4. Call the local sheriff or police department to inquire about crime in specific neighborhoods
  5. Check out our Neighborhood Guides to get detailed information on areas around your duty station

No. 5 – Don’t Forget About Schools

Education is a top priority for families with school-aged children. When searching for your next neighborhood, use the following tips to discover where the best schools are for your kids:

  1. GreatSchools.org is a great palce to start your reserach process
  2. Reach out to your installation’s School Liaison Officer – they oftentimes have the best information on schools for military kids
  3. Reach out to local Facebook groups to get an idea of where everyone sends their kids and why
  4. Ask a local friend or family member about where they send their kids to school and why they like it (or don’t like it!)
  5. Check out MILLIE’s School Scope toolkit for a full rundown of how to choose the right school for your kid(s).

No. 6 – Search For Local Amenities

What’s the first question military spouses ask when they get orders to a new duty station? How close is the nearest Target? All joking aside, when choosing a new neighborhood it’s important to take amenities into account. We recommend you:

  • Write out a list of all the activities your family does in the average week
  • Map out those activities in relation to your favorite neighborhoods
  • Locate the nearest grocery store (for quick trips or when the commissary isn’t open)
  • Look for nearby dentist offices for yourself and your kids (your spouse will most likely go on base)
  • Search out other important amenities like Target, Chipotle, yoga studios, parks, and find out how close they are to your favorite neighborhoods
  • Check out our Pattern of Life activity in the full download to help you figure out where you’ll be visiting most frequently and how far it is from your favorite neighborhoods

No. 7 – Think About Community

This is something that can be a little harder to discover when looking for the perfect neighborhood, but it is important. Before deciding on a specific area, try to find out if your neighborhood is made up of military families, retirees, young families, biker gangs, or established professionals. The type of community in your neighborhood can be the difference between living there and thriving there.

Download Neighborhood Comparison Kit

  • Neighborhood Comparison Worksheet
  • Pattern of Life
  • School Scope