Being a submarine spouse brings frequent moves and frequent underways and deployments, which is a recipe for figuring out housing on your own. Some housing markets and duty stations might be ones that you want to invest in buying a home, so how do you do that on your own? I have had the pleasure of closing on a house while my husband was deployed twice now, so this is now in my repertoire of things I know about!
Step 1. Obtain a SPECIFIC Power of Attorney.
Hardly any place will accept a General Power of Attorney, so before your spouse leaves for deployment, try to think of ANYTHING that might come up and get a specific power of attorney for it. If buying a home is one of those things, ask your Realtor, Mortgage/Loan officer and escrow company what exactly it needs to say. Put as much details as you can into it. If you know the property address and purchase price, that might be things to include. Your local JAG can help with the wording.
Step 2. Access Your Spouse’s Accounts
When preparing to buy a house the Mortgage officer will frequently need updates to your finances. You will have to send bank statements, sometimes multiple times if closing gets delayed. Do not forget to have ALL bank and investment accounts available. Most banks are using 2 factor authentication these days, so plan ahead of time. Here are 2 examples of snags I ran into during this most recent purchase: Our checking account is a joint account, so I assumed it would not be a problem to access statements. Unfortunately, since he is the primary, I only can see lists of transactions, not the actual statements online. This was remedied by visiting the bank in person to get a statement. Another one was my husband’s TSP account. This is not an account we think about often, but the mortgage company wants EVERYTHING. Even with his login info, I couldn’t get through the 2-factor authentication. Calling them, they would not speak to me without a SPECIFIC Power of Attorney (see step 1!) that mentioned TSP. This was eventually remedied by changing quarterly statements to be by mail rather than electronic (had to wait for a port call to do that!!)
Step 3. Provide an “Alive and Well” Statement
This has been an issue for us BOTH times buying a home. We did not know about this requirement for VA Loans the first time we bought a house. Our Loan Officer informed us on the day of closing that they needed to speak with my husband on the phone to verify he was alive and well. They did not seem to understand that was not an easy thing to just call up a submarine!! Fortunately for this one they were just doing fast cruise after the shipyard, and not out on an actual mission. After first trying the ombudsman who did not know how to help, I contacted the CO’s spouse for help. A few minutes later my husband was on the phone. To this day I still do not know what magic she worked, but my husband tells me they essentially raised the sub so that he could make a call. I DEFINITELY would not plan to do things this way in the future, as it was just some kind of miracle that made for a good story! Buying our second home, people still did not seem to understand the difficulty in contacting a submarine. Most people cannot seem to wrap their head around the fact that we sometimes have ZERO communication!
We knew it would be a hurdle and drafted a letter ahead of time, dated for the day of closing, stating that he was alive and well. Of course, on the day of closing they decided that wording was wrong and we had to frantically contact the ombudsman who helped us get the correct letter written from squadron. All this to say.. be aware that for VA loans, they are required to confirm that the service member is alive and well ON the day of closing, and that it will be a challenge if they are out of communication. Try to get a letter ahead of time with the proper wording!
Step 4. Be Prepared to Sign, Everything
There are a lot of pages to sign at closing, and when using a POA you will have to write that out for every signature. No scribble signatures allowed – cursive writing out your name, your spouse’s name and “by attorney in fact” EVERY single time. Watch out for hand cramps!
Step 5. Accept Help!
When your friends, neighbors or co-workers offer their help, say yes. Hire movers, hire a cleanout crew, hire people to help you unpack. This is a lot to do on your own, so say yes to help! You are never too old to need your Mom and Dad, and mine have come to help me with every single Navy move. I asked a co-worker to help move a table, sent kids away on playdates, and hired help.
Have you moved or bought a house on your own? What tips do you have?