Finding a place to call home in Okinawa can be exciting, yet daunting. Most people live on base, due to the rule that you must live on base until your area that you qualify for is at 98% compacity. We had heard our area was at 100%, so I started doing research before we even got to Okinawa. I looked up our housing allowance and then scoured available properties on a website that lists all of the government approved properties from all of the agencies on the island.
I made an excel spreadsheet of all of the properties that were in our price range and met our other standards. I listed all of it's features such as beds/baths, square feet, pet friendly, agency, appliances, etc. This helped us 1.) see what our priorities were in a place off-base and 2.) what agencies had multiple properties that met our needs.
Once we got to the island, we immediately headed to the housing office for a brief. We were informed that we were allowed to go off-base since what we qualified for was 100% full. We were very excited about this, even though we had originally thought it would be better to live on base. There are definitely pros and cons of both, but we wanted to live out in town to get the full experience. We also wanted a place that wasn't boring and the same as everything on base.
After the brief, I began contacting the agencies I knew would fit our needs. I was so glad I had done research, because there was over 100 agencies to chose from. If I hadn't know anything about it, I would have been completely overwhelmed. The first agency picked me up that day while Jake was at work. The very first property definitely caught my interest. It was updated, close to Jake's work, and had an ocean view. After doing research, I did not think we would be able to find something so new with an ocean view. At this point I was thinking this would be our place. It's only downfall was that it was pretty small.
The second property the housing agent showed me was almost exactly like the first property but in a single family home version. It even had a small yard. It was also slightly bigger. It didn't have an ocean view, though, which I couldn't get over after the first property
The next morning we had an appointment with another housing agency. Jake got to come along this time. The first place she showed us was a traditional Japanese apartment. It had a great yard, but we could not get over some of the Japanese style features, particularly the shower. We are not tall, but we could hardly fit in the tiny shower room (top left picture in collage). This apartment helped us decide that American style was an important feature for us.
The next place the agent took us too was a HUGE single family home with a nice yard. The first thing we noticed was the beautiful hard wood floors. It also had a brand new kitchen. This place was nice, but not the place for us. The bathrooms were still not what we were looking for. It also did not have a view and was not in the best location.
Later that day a different housing agency came to pick us up. The first place he took us to was a place he referred to as the "fancy apartment." It was quite fancy, with glass chandeliers and a crazy looking shower. It was a beautiful place, but it had no outdoors space and was not in a location that met our needs.
The next place he showed us was a bit closer to where we wanted to be. It also had and amazing view and a small yard. It was very nice, but a very weird layout. It had a fair amount of space, just not much usable space.
After this property, we were feeling better about our options. The agent took us right down the street from Jake's work. When we pulled up, we were unsure. The duplex was on a pretty busy road and didn't look like much from the outside. As soon as we walked in, we completely changed our minds. The view and the yard were INCREDIBLE. There was tons of space. It was clean and airy. It was exactly what we were looking for. Going into this process having done lots of research, I knew there would have to be a compromise. With this place, there didn't seem to be one. There was not only a great view, but a yard. It was big and American enough to help us feel at home. Oh wait, there was a catch. The price. After we fell in love, he dropped the bomb on us.
The agent told us he may be able to negotiate with the owner. In the meantime, the previous housing agency sent me an email for a beautiful property that had just opened up. We called her and she immediately came to pick us up. She took us to an area of the island that I knew was wonderful. It was where I had wanted to live from the get go. We hadn't seen any properties there, yet, because it was about 40 minutes from J's work. As we were driving to the area, we really liked it. The property was the top story of a high rise. The usually means one thing, a gorgeous view. We were right, the view was incredible. The apartment was just as much space as the duplex we fell in love with. It was in a much more populated area and had much more of a city feel. It had a large balcony, but no yard. All of the sudden, we were torn. This place was in our budget and was just as great. One major thing that really got me thinking about this place is that we would see a glorious sunset EVERY.SINGLE.NIGHT.
After seeing this last property, we talked to the agency with the duplex. They were able to get the price down a little bit, but not exactly where we wanted it. So, here we were with two great properties: one was over budget and one was far away. After we talked it over, we decided to go with the house that was slightly over budget, but only 3 minutes from Jake's work. We figured what he saves on gas money somewhat cancels out it being over budget. We also decided that being close to Jake's work was a huge priority. It was easy to give up seeing the sunset every night to see my husband a few more hours a day.
This process was fairly easy for us (minus the tons of paper work and admin stuff once we decided, but that's a different story). I had done my research; I knew our priorities, what agencies to use, and what areas would be best. So far, we are so happy with our choice. It already feels like "home." We feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful place and are amazed everyday when we wake up and look out of the window.
So here are my tips:
-RESEARCH ahead of time so you are prepared
-Narrow down the list of agencies to ones you know will work for you
-Have a list of non-negotiables
-Go at a pace that works for you. If you want to see 20 properties before deciding, go right ahead.
-Write down features and your thoughts on each place. This will help you compare. (I made a housing worksheet to fill out at each house. I didn't ended needing it since the choice was so easy, but I was glad I had it)
-Trust your gut
There it is, the low down on off-base housing here on Okinawa!