PCSing to the Emerald Coast of Florida


 

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Congratulations! for receiving PCS orders to the Emerald Coast of Florida, home to the following military bases:  

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PCSing can be exciting adventure but also a chaotic process- I know this process very well with 13 PCS moves during my service in the US Army. Relocating to a new duty station allows you to see parts of the country and live in a new city with new people. However, uprooting from familiar places and people is never easy, and can be stressful for anybody, but even more difficult for service members and their families when they uproot their entire life in such a short amount of time. Moving a big change for everyone in the family, especially for the children. They must deal with saying goodbye to friends, family, and the comfort of home, their world turned upside down.

Once PCS orders are received, you and your family will make significant changes. Not only do you have to find a new home in your new location, but you need to go through the process of taking care of selling or renting out your current home and in such a short period of time. Hopefully, with all the moving parts your family is dealing with, you can find a few minutes to relax and do a little research about the town/city/neighborhood and exploring what things there are to do there. The purpose of this site is to help you conquer the stress that a military relocation brings by providing you with as much information possible about your new duty station here on the Emerald Coast of Florida. If you have any questions that may not be covered here, please contact me anytime 24/7 (850-830-9894), and I will promptly provide you with the answers you seek. 



RESOURCES & TIPS


It is never too soon to prepare for your move as soon as you get your PCS orders, there are decisions, planning to be done and actions to take. Here are some helpful resources, guides and advice (The toolkit includes processing overview, PCSing with pets, Entitlements Estimate, PCS Budget, PCSing with Family and Kids, Moving and Document Checklists, Home Inventory and Guide to Buying and Selling):


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INTRODUCTION TO THE EMERALD COAST

This area is one of the best places to be stationed! Not only is it military friendly, but it isn’t like your typical military community, this area is also a favorite tourist destination. Many military service members, including myself, and their families fall in love with the area while they are stationed here. When they retire or transition out of the military they stay or move back here, if located elsewhere. Good Morning America declared this area to be one of the top 10 most beautiful places in America!


The Emerald Coast is known for its breathtaking beaches covered in sugar white sand and emerald color water. See for yourself how beautiful our beaches are in real time from your current location, with these live cam coverage of various sections of our beaches. Don’t be surprised if you spot Dolphins, as plenty of them call the Gulf waters home:


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COMMUNITY DEMOGRAPHICS AND STATISTICS:

Ideally, you will want to immediately start researching all the aspects of your new base as soon as you receive your PCS orders. Important things to consider is the community the neighborhoods, proximity from the base and how much time you want to dedicate to commuting. You will want to know the crime statistics, housing availability and local amenities and activities. If you have children, you will want to know the ratings of the schools that your child(ren) will attend.


The Community for the military service members stationed at these duty stations, consists of the following three counties and the cities within them surrounded by the military bases. Follow the links to learn more in-depth information about each of them. Another valuable source of information is through Military Advisor.


OKALOOSA COUNTY


Niceville

Destin

Mary Esther

Fort Walton Beach

Valparaiso

Crestview

Shalimar

WALTON COUNTY


Miramar Beach

Freeport

DeFuniak Springs

SANTA ROSA COUNTY


Navarre





LOCAL AMENITIES AND RECREATION


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There are plenty of fun things to do here on the Emerald Coast. A simple Google search will produce an abundance of results. Click on the picture above or the link in the title for a comprehensive list and links to each web site.

  • Gulfarium- located on Okaloosa Island, it is our version of a sea aquarium. 
  • Fishing- There are plenty of locations for fishing. On Okaloosa Island, there is a boardwalk where people fish off of. In Destin there are multiple locations who offer charter boat trips for deep sea fishing.
  • Big Kahuna- Family fun water park located off of Hwy. 98 in Destin. 
  • Golfing- Multiple golf courses in the area. The most popular ones are Sandestin Golf Resort and Kelly Plantation. 
  • Boating and Jet Skis- many places offer Boat and Jet Ski rentals. However, the Destin Army Recreation Area may be of interest to you and your family. They offer various boat and water sport rentals, lodging and camp grounds for all active duty and retired military personnel and their families. 
  • The Vortex Springs- in Ponce de Leon has fresh water diving, swimming and camping.

DRIVER’S LICENSE, CAR REGISTRATION AND INSURANCE

Locations for License and Registration Office in Okaloosa CountyWalton County and Santa Rosa County.  

People who move to Florida from out of state, have 30 days to obtain a Florida driver's license, if employed here, or enroll their children in school, this does not apply to military service members and their family members if they have a valid out-of-state driver license.  However, if you want to apply for a homestead exemption, (explained below), you will need to obtain a Florida's driver's license. 

Veterans can have a special designation on their driver's license by showing form DD-214 and verifying honorable discharge from active duty. Veterans with 100% disability are eligible for a driver's license at no cost, as well as no fee for the veteran designation. A VA identification indicating 100% total and permanent service-connected disability is required. Further details and forms can be obtained here.

Non-resident military personnel stationed here are not required to register their vehicle(s) in Florida, providing they possess a valid license plate from their home state. Non-resident military service members that choose to obtain a Florida license plate may request to waive the initial registration fees by filing a HSMV 82002 Application.

All vehicles located in the state of Florida are required to have Florida Insurance. If an active-duty military resident of Florida is stationed out of state or the country and their vehicle is not located in the state, a military insurance exemptionmay permit the insurance requirement be waived by completing and submitting a Military Insurance Exemption Affidavit.

Vehicle registration options and forms are available online at the Okaloosa County Tax Collector'sweb site. 

HOUSING

Housing options that you may be considering are buying a home, renting off base or living on base. This is the most stressful process for anyone PCSing, I will review all of your options in this section and will do everything within my power to help this transition move smoothly for you and your family.  

RENTING IN BASE HOUSING VS. RENTING OFF BASE

There may be benefits and drawbacks to consider with renting from base housing or renting in the civilian rental market off base can be determined after determining your BAH and utilizing the mortgage calculator provided above. This will provide you with a better understanding of the costs of renting on or off base vs. purchasing your own home. Most of us have probably chosen to live on base at one time or another. Back in the day, most of us thought it was “free housing,” after all, that’s what we were told, right? You didn’t have to write a rent check or pay for utilities, so it felt like it was free living. Of course it wasn’t, but it probably was the most convenient housing option, which is why many of us chose to live on base.

As with other rental considerations, base housing has restrictions on pets, if you have more that two pets, base housing may not be an option. Depending on your family's timeline and the status of the waiting list for base housing, it may be determined that this avenue isn't an option. Your monthly rent on base is determined by pay and allowances. You may pay hundreds of dollars more per month on the exact same home as your neighbor due to your rank and dependent status. 


Eglin & Duke Field

Contact number is: (850) 882-4533, on-base housing is (850)-613-5050 and unaccompanied housing is (850) 882-5153. Eglin and Hurlburt housing is privately owned and operated by Corvias, LLC. Eglin has 2,359 military family housing units, with several units are currently being renovated. There is a waiting list for all base family housing categories. One dormitory is also being renovated.   

Hurlburt & 7th Special Forces Group

Hurlburt Housing can be reached at (850) 884-7505, privatized housing (850) 344-0220, and unaccompanied housing (850) 884-3188. With 7th Special Forces, you find out during in-processing. Hurlburt Field has 380 family housing units located on the main base, and across Hwy. 98. The family housing wait time varies according to category of assignment. Single and married (but unaccompanied) first-term Airmen must check in at the Central Dormitory Management Office or Hurlburt Housing Office. In order to live off base, your rank must be at least SrA with over 3 years time in service.  

Civilian Rental:

Renting off base in the civilian market can be convenient, close to work, with no worries about receiving short-notice orders.  This option is not free and may not be the best use of your BAH. Check the 2018 BAH rates for Florida to see if this option fits your budget. Renting from a civilian entity is essentially using your BAH to pay for the owner's property, paying them to update and maintain their home. As already mentioned, renting may put restrictions on your pet(s), or not permit it at all. If renting off base is what is best for you and your family, Eglin's housing website has the availability of rental property.

BUYING:

Often times, monthly mortgage payments are lower than local rent costs. To get an idea of how much you would be paying for a mortgage payment, the following mortgage calculator may be helpful. It is important that you have a Realtor® you can truly depend on.  I have you covered. I have the personal experience and offer professional real estate service. I understand the critical need to be available day and night during the PCS process. Call me today at 850.830.9894 for a free military consultation and to discuss using your VA benefits to purchase a home and answer any questions you have about this process. I’d love to help!

I recommend that as soon as you get your orders, begin looking for housing. There are several websites that offer property searches and advice, however, many of these sites tend to be slow to date available property. My website has the most current listings as it is connected directly with the MLS service. I have access to property that may have not hit the market yet, so feel free to contact me. I recommend setting up an automatic email alert available on my site, that way you don't miss homes that most fit your needs and wants. 

I will assist you in planning your house search by utilizing current technology to view potential property and record it and upload it to a private link on YouTube or view property, transmitting it live through Skype or other video chat services.  I will assist you in quickly narrowing your property search for your perfect home. Sometimes it is impossible to travel here before your move, don't worry about that, I have you covered! By use of electronic documents and e-signing, when the time is right, you can present an offer and sign all required real estate documents remotely from your current location. 

Purchasing a home has long been referred to as “The American Dream.” You are free to choose your location, the style of home, school district, commute times, etc., and you can use your BAH to pay your own mortgage and invest in your future. ( 2018 BAH rates for Florida). Your VA benefit allows you to purchase with $0 down and no monthly mortgage insurance.  The freedom of purchasing include such things as choosing wall colors, flooring choices and other designs that make your home truly your own. Many times, the rental market is restrictive in regard to permitting pets. Pets are part of our family, therefore buying is the option to keep your family together. 


HOMESTEAD EXEMPTIONS

In Okaloosa County, we have Homestead Exemptions that provides a property tax exemption up to $50,000. In order to get this exemption you need to qualify as a permanent resident before January 1st of the year that you are applying for the exemption. All applications and documentation must be completed by the deadline of March 1st. The Homestead Exemptions availableto you may provide you with multiple options to take into consideration. The most common exemptions available to service members and their restrictions are: 

  •  You can only claim a Homestead Exemption on one property, anywhere nationwide. Therefore, if you own another home and receive any property exemption or discount on that property, you do not qualify to use that exemption here.
  • Married couples can file as a Separate Family Unit. For details regarding eligibility and restrictions, you will need to call the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser office directly.
  • I have represented several military couples where one spouse is active duty and the other spouse is a disabled veteran. If this is the case with your family, you are eligible for a $5,000 tax exemption. This scenario does not require the permanent resident requirement as the other exemptions.
  • Likewise, if the disabled veteran has been determined by the VA to have a total and permanent disability, you are qualified for a 100% property tax exemption. This exemption does require the veteran to be a permanent resident. A surviving spouse is also eligible for this exemption, as well as surviving spouses of a "fallen hero," an active duty service member or first responder that was killed in action. 
  • Deployed Exemption is available to active duty members who are currently receiving a Homestead Exemption and are deployed outside of the United States for approved operations. 
  • The Military Personnel with Homestead Exemption is available for service members, currently receiving Homestead Exemption, who have received PCS orders outside of Okaloosa County to continue to qualify for the exemption if they elect to rent their property. This exemption must be renewed yearly while away from Okaloosa County. 

The Homestead Exemption Checklist will provide a more comprehensive list of exemptions available and provide you with all of the required documentation and instructions for applying for qualified exemptions.

PCSing TO ANOTHER LOCATION

At some point, you may receive PCS orders to another location. If or when this occurs you have a few options to consider and decide based on the most suitable for your situation. I will be more than happy to advise you and offer my services at such time. The possible options:

  • You could rent your home. This method will allow you to retain ownership of your home, while someone else pays for your mortgage. In addition, if you have utilized the Homestead Exemption, you will be eligible to use the Military Personnel with Homestead Exemption explained above. If you decide this is your best option, I will connect you with a highly recommended property management specialist to handle the renting management of your home in your absence.
  •  You can opt to sell your property. If I was your Realtor when you purchased your home when you arrived here, I advised you of your property's estimated resale value. Considering the housing market is driven by the local market conditions, I will evaluate the current local market and provide you with a detailed Current Market Analysis (CMA), and advise the optimum pricing strategy that will bring you the most money in the quickest time possible. If you determine that it makes financial sense that is best for you and your family to sell your property, I will promptly advise the best strategy to prepare your home for listing. I will market it to get it sold and quickly, relieving you as much as possible from the stress associated with your relocation.
  •  Regardless of your decision, I will assist you with your research into your new location. I have a vast network of military-knowledgeable Realtors across the world that I will recommend based on the best fit with you and your family. The Realtor I recommend to set you up in your new location, with corporation from me will do as much as possible to alleviate the stress of PCSing, as much as possible. 

It is my goal to provide the best service available and to go above and beyond expectations because I genuinely care about the relationships developed with my clients. Real estate isn't just my job, I try to make a difference in people's lives and I love what I do. You can reach me via text, calling or email, 850.830.9894, JonathanJeswald@jjemeraldcoast.com.