After eight successful PCS moves, Marine spouse Shanon Castro felt ready for almost anything.
That was until her family got the unexpected news that her husband would be transferring from South Korea to Florida last year. The stress of securing a suitable home in a competitive housing market during a pandemic was overwhelming. An added challenge? Figuring out how to get it all done while living in a time zone 14 hours ahead of their future home.
“It was probably the most difficult move we’ve done,” Castro said. “There’s a lot of moving parts with an overseas move in general. And then this time, we had a dog and kids, and it was pretty intense.”
She came across a new nonprofit, Military No Stress PCS, on Facebook and asked for help. The organization will research homes, neighborhoods, schools, commute times, local services and community events as a complimentary concierge service to families during a PCS. The mission started in 2020 when civilian real estate professionals who worked with families near MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, saw a need for a global network of professionals.
According to the Department of Defense, 400,000 service members will PCS this year. Funded by grants and donations, Military No Stress PCS aims to make what promises to be another stressful season more manageable.
“We just want to be here to help you,” said Program Coordinator Erin Lorenz. “If you’re stressed about looking up schools for your kid, send us a message, and we will look it up for you. We just want to help make at the very least one part of it less stressful.”
Castro said the nonprofit was a game-changer in finding their eventual house. In the past, she had scoured military Facebook groups for information about new places. But with the help of Military No Stress PCS, she was getting advice from an expert tailored to her family’s needs.
“Yes, you can read what everybody says, but you don’t really know what their priorities are as a family or what’s important to them,” said Castro. “[Military No Stress PCS] really got a feel for what you would be okay with and what you’re not and what things you would be searching for.”
Inside knowledge about lesser-known neighborhoods or parts of town could prove crucial for military families making a move this year. According to the real estate company RE/MAX’s National Housing Report, last year ended with the lowest number of homes for sale on record, and houses were only on the market for an average of 31 days.
Military No Stress PCS’s network includes 47 real estate professionals in 87 CONUS and 12 OCONUS locations. According to nonprofit founder Rob Schelle, they’re often able to provide leads on houses or rentals before they’re made public.
“We can at least assist in getting ahead of the curve and be aggressively ready to go, so people are positioned in a good place,” said Schelle.
Many families are also dealing with delays in their household goods transports. According to the Defense Property Program data, at the end of last year’s summer PCS season, only 58% of household goods delivered arrived on time.
Military No Stress PCS works to ease the stress of waiting for those items in an empty house. In one situation, they were able to lend a family staging furniture until their items arrived.
“We were able to give them a bed to sleep on, give them a dining room table and chairs,” Schelle said. “It was nothing crazy or fancy, but they weren’t sleeping on a mattress on the floor. We’re able to provide things of that nature, and we get creative at times.”
As the nonprofit grows, its leaders are on a mission to connect with more professionals in the military community. They’re on the lookout to partner with other PCS services and veteran businesses to provide families with a network of trusted referrals in their new homes.
Castro and her family have now successfully settled in Florida, and she’s thankful for the nonprofit’s help in pulling the challenging move off.
“It was just really nice to have somebody that we really trusted here to help carry the burden of trying to search for the perfect home and community,” she said.
To learn more about Military No Stress PCS, visit militarynostresspcs.org.