Things to consider in a search for off-base housing

Beautiful summer view of the street in Combe Castle, Wiltshire, UK | Photo by Ian Sherriffs via 123RF
Beautiful summer view of the street in Combe Castle, Wiltshire, UK | Photo by Ian Sherriffs via 123RF

Things to consider in a search for off-base housing

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

It’s been weeks already and you’re dead tired of living out of a suitcase. The house that could be your home for the next few years has ample space, airy rooms and European charm in buckets. While the potential living space itself may pass muster with flying colors, the town or village and its proximity to the places you need to be will have a huge influence on the convenience and comfort of your daily life. Before you sign on any dotted lines, consider these factors that might pertain to your own personal situation—doing so might help you avoid a decision of the heart you come to regret.

Distance to schools: Is your town served by a school bus route? Is there a way your offspring could get to and from school in a pinch, without the need for a parent-taxi?

Commute time: What is the morning and late-afternoon traffic situation? Will a ten-mile drive take you over an hour due to congested highways?

Internet speed and cellular phone service: Does this cute little village lag behind when it comes to connectivity? Will callers get through to you on your mobile line, or do you risk missing important calls?  

Infrastructure: What does that cute town you would be calling home have to offer? Is there a bakery, supermarket or takeaway restaurant?

Urban, suburban or country life?: Quiet and solitude is no doubt wonderful, but is the distance from the nearest neighbor so great you might feel ill at ease late at night on your own?

Accommodation to foreign residents: Does the town’s website offer an English-language presence, a sign that town authorities are eager to welcome foreign residents?

Public transportation: Is the town served by a train or regular bus service? Is there a night bus to whisk you home from nights out in a nearby bigger city?

Niceties: Does the town have any assets that aren’t essential, yet make life more pleasant, such as a swimming pool, cycling paths, tennis courts or hiking possibilities? Is there a beer brewery, winery or local watering hole where people can meet up regularly?

Social life: Does the town offer clubs that match your family’s interests, such as a sports club with soccer teams and fitness courses, or a hunting, fishing, cycling or history club?

Environmental factors: Is your would-be new home directly under a flight path, next to a farmer’s field that stinks of fertilizer, busy motorway or railroad used for cargo night and day?

This begs the question—how on earth would you know about some of these things before actually living there? Of course, do all the research you can beforehand—unofficial social networks are great places for that. Do a dry run of your morning commute. And why not spend some time walking through the town that would be yours, visit its bars or restaurants and be brave enough to strike up a conversation with a local? Ask the right questions, and the answers are sure to fall into place.

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