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FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The 2021 housing market in the U.S. features a combination of low interest rates, high demand and soaring prices, and while that certainly complicates people’s home-buying decisions, it is also making finding off-post rental properties for Soldiers and families moving to Fort Rucker a challenge.

While the Fort Rucker Housing Services Office has been able to find homes for Soldiers and families, “it’s been an adventure,” said Michaela Smith, housing services manager.

A Soldier moving to Fort Rucker’s journey to find a place to live should start with a phone call to the housing services office, followed by a visit to homes.mil to look at available properties, Smith said.

The housing services office helps Soldiers and families find a place to live off post, assists them deal with issues while living in rental properties and helps them deal with any problems when they leave, according to Van Danford, Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Works Housing Office chief.

But it’s the first part of that three-tier mission that’s gotten complicated, according to Danford.

“People are putting homes on the market to sell this year because prices are so high,” he said. “A lot of places that owners and companies have been renting for the past 6-8 years, they have sold them this year instead. It’s a problem across the country. Between this and the transportation issues, it’s been a tough year for PCSing.”

One small realty company that manages rentals in the area recently told Smith that they had lost 100 properties this summer because of sales.

“How many rental properties that are on the site varies – this summer, there haven’t been many,” she said. “Things are renting before they even hit the site – they’re renting before people even move out.

“With a lot of these companies, things are renting so fast that they’re not taking the time to advertise on our site,” Smith added. “So, I’m searching each realtor’s site to see what has been added and what has come off. Right now, each company might have five or six advertised, but only one is available right now. Then there’s not anything else until Oct. 1. It’s better than it was earlier in the year, but prices have really gone through the roof – they know what they have.”

Despite the challenges, housing services is finding homes for Soldiers moving to Fort Rucker and making sure they’re good places to live, as well, according to Danford.

As part of its commitment to taking care of Soldiers and families, the office inspects all properties listed on the homes.mil site, on which commercial realtors can advertise rental properties, to make sure they’re suitable living accommodations, Smith added.

“We’re very particular about the properties that we allow them to place on the site,” she said. “As they come onto the site, those are the ones that we inspect first and foremost. If we receive any complaints or hear about issues, we inspect those homes, as well.”

Inspectors look for life, health and safety issues with the properties, and also look to see if they are well maintained and well kept, if appliances are operating properly, if there are any signs of mold and if there are any code violations, Smith said.

“We want to make sure each property is something Soldiers would be proud to live in while they’re here,” Danford said.

Additionally, if a Soldier moving to Fort Rucker is still at their old post but wants information on a rental property in this area, Smith will inspect it and share all of her findings with that Soldier. She will also do a walk-through via FaceTime to allow the prospective tenant to tour the property.

With so few properties on the market and on-post housing being 96% occupied, some people moving to Fort Rucker might want to jump on any offering they see in the area, but Danford cautions against rash action.

“Don’t sign a lease without seeing the property first, or without asking us to look at it for you,” he said. “Soldiers are supposed to go through us before signing, but with the market so tight right now, there may a temptation just to get something and commit to it. Come through us first – we’ll make sure you’re getting a good place to live.”

For more information on off-post housing in the Fort Rucker area, call the housing services office at 255-1849.