I know you're not supposed to compare another's life to your own ... but I sometimes can't help it. I'm immeasurably jealous of all of my married friends that are not attached to a servicemember. Most of them are either a) in the home-buying phase or b) have purchased their own home.
With all the moving around that my husband and I are very likely going to be doing over the next 12 years, it doesn't make sense (right now) to be purchasing our own home. From our perspective, it just doesn't make much sense to buy a home if we're not going to be there longer than 5 years, and from what we've witnessed: the real estate market can be a little hostile if you're attempting to sell. It's just not a stress we're ready to deal with if we have to PCS on short notice.
We do know that we want to drop anchor in the SoCal region of California, that much is clear. It's an expensive neck of the woods, so we're definitely planning to utilize the VA Loan in some form or another, whether it be for the $50k downpayment or the loan itself. In the SoCal area, pending credit and other factors .. the loan maxes out at roughly $800k (but don't quote me on it, I may have read the data incorrectly), but because of high property taxes etc, we're looking to spend well under what we're approved for. I'd be willing to buy a less-expensive home and make the upgrades and customizations myself over a period of time. (Although, honestly ... when looking at these homes, even if it's just online like Drew and I do ... it's so easy to forget to ask the pertinent questions: how old is the roof? The AC unit? the hot water heater? I tend to get lost in granite counter tops, appliance upgrades and hardwood floors and forget to think about the questions that I wouldn't normally think to ask).
The "right time" to buy a house is definitely not the same for everyone. I believe it's the right time when you, the prospective homeowner, believe it's time to buy. It's always going to depend on the specific market and the specific situation. For us, the fact that SoCal is generally expensive ... makes it more important for us to pursue homes when the market is on the low-end in certain areas, but it definitely doesn't mean we'll rush into it right away. Simply moving back to the San Diego area may not be the indicator that it's the "right time" for us personally ... who knows what kind of credit card debt etc we'll have accrued in the transition periods. However, we are going to approach the VA to get pre-approved and go from there when the time is right for us.
In the meantime?
We dream about double paned windows. (Seriously. You take that for granted until you end up in a rental unit that doesn't have them. Our heating bill is getting ridiculous.)
We dream about our own yard.
We dream about having our own personal space that we don't have to share.
And we sure as hell dream about NOT living next to a freeway or major road!
But to make our dreams a reality, it may mean scaling things down a bit and being willing to live in less-expensive neighborhoods in San Diego county. Or it may mean being willing to spend the same $400k or so, and only being able to afford a condo in San Marcos. It's going to mean weighing the pros and cons... can I handle the heat if it means owning a home versus a condo? Or do I really and truly desire to live in the exclusive neighborhoods? If that's the case ... we need to be okay with not being able to afford some of the upgrades and definitely being okay with not being able to afford the square footage of a single-family home.
We want our own home so badly.
We want to get out of renting, and put the same $$ toward something tangible.
But for the forseeable future, it may not be the best time. Our compromise is probably going to be living in base housing if it becomes available for the next couple of years.