As prime military moving season nears, many service members and their families already are searching for homes near their future duty station ... with little or no time to actually see the homes.

Much of the research that goes into the home won’t involve the structure itself: Schools, safe neighborhoods, commute times and other concerns factor into such a major financial move. But there’s still the matter of what you see when you pull in the driveway or open the front door.

Some quick advice courtesy of Cassandra Rowley, a Navy veteran and Realtor in the Seattle metropolitan area whose clients often include Kitsap-bound service members:

1. Yes, you can be remote. “The whole process from writing an offer to signing the closing docs can be done long distance,” Rowley said. You’ll need an experienced agent on the ground to make things easier, but the days of multiple parties crowded around a closing table are fading. Expanded photo galleries, 360-degree tours and even virtual reality can help with your decision from halfway across the world, if need be.

2. Know your must-haves. Even with online research, house-hunting visits in advance of a permanent change-of-station move can be whirlwind affairs, with limited time available to see multiple properties. Bring a prioritized checklist, Rowley suggested, so that you remember what you’re looking for ... and how critical that feature really is.

“It's important to remain flexible and open minded, and take into account that if you don't get everything you want in a home, it's probably not going to be your forever home anyway,” Rowley said. “So, what things can you live without?”

3. Trust, but verify. “Buyers are putting an extreme amount of trust and faith in their agent,” Rowley said, so they should be open to recommendations ― if you’ve found an expert in the area’s real estate, there’s little point in ignoring their advice. That said, it’s important to be “asking lots of questions” throughout the process; it keeps agents focused on your priorities and concerns, which may differ from those of other clients.

Ready to make the home-ownership plunge? Visit our VA Loan Center.

Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.

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