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Housing referral website sharpens its approach

Sep. 25, 2012 - 10:48AM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 25, 2012 - 10:48AM  |  
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Finding a place to live involves more than the number of bedrooms and baths. Whether moving to a new duty station far or near, service members often must find a place quickly.

The">Automated Housing Referral Network website pulls it all together and a number of improvements have been made over recent months.

The free site sponsored by the Defense Department is accessible to service members, DoD civilians, housing offices, registered property managers, landlords and designated spouses. It covers all U.S. military installations in the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii; Air Force bases in Europe and the Pacific; and Army posts in Europe. Plans are in the works to add Army posts in the Pacific and Navy bases overseas, said Paul Giese, AHRN program manager.

Since AHRN launched in 2004, nearly 906,000 service members have registered to use the site, where troops may post homes for sale, as well as for rent, and reach other military members moving to their areas. Currently, 1,100 of the 46,866 total listings are for sale; about 7 percent of listings are by service members.

Among the changes:

It's pet-friendlier. Just hover your mouse over the paw-print icons for details on a home's pet policies; you don't have to dig into each separate listing anymore.

Mapping capabilities. You now can display rental listings on a map showing their proximity to the local installation and even map out the most efficient route for a house-hunting trip.

Search by privatized housing. The updated search function also allows you to search new listings since your last login, as well as search by available rentals that match your estimated Basic Allowance for Housing (within 25 percent); all rentals; off-base rentals; government-controlled housing; homes for sale by military owners; shared rentals; and temporary lodging. And you can create customized searches.

Listings include information about schools serving the area and whether a rental property has been inspected by the local housing office. About one-third of available listings have been inspected.

AHRN offers housing office contact information as soon as you register for the site, and among other things, reminds you to take your lease to the housing office to make sure there are no problems before you sign.

The site requires a listing to be updated within 24 hours after a lease is signed to keep the information current.

"We want to make sure when a military member looks at it, it's maintained and up to date," Giese said.

About 75 percent of troops who visit the site find housing through AHRN, Giese said. "We're striving to get it higher, but it's a good success rate."

Giese said the improvements and additions are based on feedback from users, so keep your comments coming.

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