You just came down on orders to Fort Stewart or Hunter Army Airfield – congratulations! I first PCS’d here in 2014. I loved it so much that I decided to make Savannah my home when I ETS’d in 2019, and I believe this to be one of the best places you can be stationed. Why?
1. Savannah is a very fun town! There’s a ton to eat, see, and do. To check out some of my favorites, you can peruse this map I made.
2. Coastal Georgia (or “the Low Country” as we call it) is a sportsman’s paradise. The hunting on Fort Stewart is great, you can rent boats from the MWR for dirt cheap and spend weekends fishing and boating in our beautiful salt water marshes that are a very unique habitat. We are also an easy 4-hour drive from the beautiful mountains of North Georgia.
3. The international airport has direct flights to any major city east of Dallas and the fares are reasonable.
4. The local housing market, while hot, is nowhere near as competitive as other duty stations like Fort Carson or JBLM.
5. There’s great diversity in places to live. If a short commute is your thing, you can live in Hinesville and still be only 45 minutes away from downtown Savannah. There are rural options in places like Midway. There’s the halfway point of Richmond Hill, where you can be about 25 minutes from both post and downtown Savannah. Or you can get a place right in downtown Savannah if you prioritize easy access to culture and nightlife over having a short commute.
More about places to live soon – let’s talk about what inprocessing will look like. If you’re coming to any of the units at Fort Stewart or HAAF, you will start out at the Marne Reception Center for inprocessing. E9/O4’s and above can get expedited inprocessing, everyone else will more or less be spending your first 4 duty days doing 9-5 inprocessing tasks. I thought it was a bit unnecessary to be honest and would have much preferred to be able to do inprocessing at my own pace, but hey – welcome to 3ID. You’ll also do PT in the morning. Yikes.
The problem with doing inprocessing this way is that you have to squeeze in time during the day to do things like finding a place to live. So either find a place to live before you start MRC or know that you’ll be in the hotel. PTDY is typically taken after completing MRC and reporting to your gaining unit, unless you got PTDY from your old unit. I do recommend trying to get PTDY from the unit you are leaving and finding your long-term housing situation BEFORE reporting to the MRC if possible. Once you finish MRC and report to your unit, you are not guaranteed getting that PTDY – it is up to your BN commander’s discretion. If you happen to be walking into a big field problem, you might find yourself going straight to the field and unable to sort out the housing situation right away.
Where do you want to live?
So, speaking of housing – where do you want to live? Let’s discuss a few of the different local communities. I put them in order from the closest to Fort Stewart to the furthest away. If you are PCSing to HAAF, just know that HAAF is in midtown Savannah, roughly 7 minutes from the downtown area and about 45 minutes from Hinesville/Fort Stewart.
Hinesville is the place to live if a short commute is your primary concern. Some areas of Hinesville are better to live in than others, depending on where you will work. If you will be in the 92nd Engineer BN, for example, you’ll want to live outside of gate 15 for the fastest commute. If you’ll be at 2nd Brigade, you’ll probably want to be able to get to Old Sunbury Road quickly, as that is the most direct way onto that compound. For 1st Brigade, the main gate or Veterans Pkwy gates will likely be the fastest. See this map for more information on gates. Hinesville has a lot of food and grocery store options from Walmart, Kroger, Home Depot and Lowes, Tractor Supply, Applebees, Chick-Fil-A, Zaxbys, Starbucks, and a few independently-owned restaurants like Zum Rosenhof. In Hinesville and the surrounding areas, there’s typically a fair amount of inventory for decent 3-bed homes in the mid-$100k price point, and there are newer builds in the 3- to 4-bed range for sale in the low-$200k range.
Flemington is just east of Hinesville and most folks basically think of it as Hinesville. Flemington is near the Old Sunbury Road that I mentioned earlier.
Properties here will still have Hinesville addresses typically, and these areas are 10-20 minutes from the main gate. These are probably not ideal places to live if you’ll be in 2nd brigade and you really care about the commute.
Ludowici is about as far west as it is practical to live. You’ll drive about 25 minutes to get to work and about 1:15 to get to Savannah. There are lots of newer builds out here and the prices are typically cheaper than the same kind of house in Hinesville proper. Not a ton of dining or shopping out here – you’ll probably be driving to Hinesville a lot.
Midway has a broad diversity of housing stock from newer builds to trailers. I actually rented a doublewide out there for $600/mo when I first got to Stewart. There’s a cool lake community out there called Lake George that is great if you are into boating, or just want a more quiet place to live. Your drive to work can vary greatly – mine was about 10 minutes, but it’s possible to live in parts of Midway that will take 30 minutes to get to work. Midway gives fast access to I-95 and you’ll be about 40 minutes from Savannah. There’s not a whole lot of shopping or food options in Midway, so you’ll probably end up driving to Hinesville for most of that.
I don’t really know of anyone who lives in Riceboro and commutes to Fort Stewart. It’s a bit of a haul and there’s nothing too nice there.
Richmond Hill is the convenient halfway-point between FSGA and Savannah. If you live in the parts of Richmond Hill that are closer to I-95, your commute to work will be 25-35 minutes. But if you live closer to Keller, you’ll need to tack on ten minutes or so. Richmond Hill has some great schools as well, but, with that, prices are going to be higher than Hinesville. It’s hard to find anything under $200k in Richmond Hill, and the average sale is upwards of $300k. Inventory in the mid-$200s is competitive, but there are deals to be made. Richmond Hill has three grocery stores including a Publix, a decent amount of chain restaurants, and a few good local places, including one of my favorites, a restaurant on the Ogeechee river called Fishtales. Richmond Hill is also home to Fort McAllister state park, which is where I typically launched the boats I would rent from the MWR for weekends on the water. New construction in Richmond Hill typically starts at $250k for a 3-bed.
Georgetown is next closest. These homes are very similar to what you’ll find in Richmond Hill, and the price point is typically a touch lower. Georgetown will add about ten minutes to your commute to Stewart vs living in Richmond Hill, and you’ll be about 20 minutes from downtown Savannah. Georgetown is only a few minutes away from the Rio Road gate at HAAF.
There are a variety of subdivisions north of Georgetown roughly between US-17 and I-95. These are similar to what you’ll find in Georgetown.
Southside Savannah/Windsor Forest/Largo Woods
You probably won’t live here if you’re working at FSGA, but this will be a good option for folks at HAAF. Most of these homes were built in the 70s and you can still pick up some of them in the high $100k’s. Windsor Forest will typically be a touch more expensive than Largo Woods. Here in the southside is where most of your national retail and dining brands will be located and you’ll be about 15 minutes from downtown Savannah.
Midtown Savannah/Ardsley Park/Kensington Park
There’s a lot of different neighborhoods in Midtown, but to keep it short, Midtown will be the fastest commute to the main gate or Stevenson Ave gates of Hunter. Ardsley Park is probably the nicest residential neighborhood you can live in Savannah, most of the homes were early 1900s builds, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything cheaper than $300k here except for small bungalows. I’m a big fan of Ardsley Park! It’s quiet, no tourists, tons of mature trees and parks, and the homes are very unique and pretty.
Downtown Savannah north of Victory Drive
This is another large area that has a lot of variability in neighborhoods, but for the most part, if you live here, you can either walk or ride a bike to anything worth doing in downtown Savannah. I personally live in the Eastside neighborhood, and I chose to live here because the cost of living is much cheaper than downtown, but I’m still close enough to take a $7 uber or ride my bike downtown on a Friday night. Starland/Thomas square is probably my favorite place to be in this area – it includes some of the best restaurants, and it’s not yet overrun by tourists.
Thunderbolt and the Islands
Thunderbolt, Whitemarsh (pronounced Whit-Marsh), Wilmington, and Tybee. Chances are, you won’t want to live here if you work at Stewart, but the commute to HAAF from any of these places will be 10-25 minutes depending on how close to Tybee you live. Tybee Island probably won’t be a very viable option for most because of the prices out there, but tons of soldiers stationed at HAAF live on Wilmington and Whitemarsh. Typically, you’ll spend between $250-350k for a decent 3-bed in these areas. Schools on Wilmington are pretty good as well. There is also an abundance of dining and grocery stores.
Pooler is also a popular place to be for many people. I personally don’t love it, but if you like being close to the outlet mall and big national retail brands, then Pooler is where you want to be and plenty of folks enjoy living there. You’ll be about 45 minutes from Stewart, 15-20 minutes from downtown, and 5-10 minutes from the airport. A 3-bed home in the old part of Pooler will typically run you $200k, and most of the new construction going up will run between $250-300k, but goes much higher depending on what you’re looking for.
This is a town just north of the FSGA training area and some folks live out there. There’s not much to do in Pembroke. You’ll drive a minimum of 25 minutes to get to work, and be about an hour from Savannah. I don’t recommend Pembroke, but if you’re into more of a quiet, rural setting then it is an option.
|Commute to FSGA||Commute to HAAF/Savannah||Area Summary|
|Hinesville||10 mins||45 mins||Shortest commute to FSGA, good diversity of chain restaurants and big brand retail|
|Flemington||10 mins||40 mins||Northeast adjacent of Hinesville|
|15 mins||1 hour||Quiet suburban Southwest Hinesville|
|Ludowici||25 mins||1 hour 15 mins||Rural West Hinesville with acre+ properties|
|Midway||35 mins||35 mins||Small town/rural community equidistant of FSGA and HAAF and the rest of Savannah|
|Riceboro||40 mins||45 mins||South of Midway, rural lots with land|
|Richmond Hill||35 mins||20 mins||Chain and local shopping and food, convenient access to Savannah and FSGA|
|Georgetown||40 mins||10 mins||Suburbs West of downtown and HAAF|
|West Savannah||35 mins||15 mins||Newer construction subdivisions, minutes from shopping and food in Pooler|
|South Savannah||55 mins||5 mins||Easy access to major retailers and restaurants, closest to HAAF|
|1 hour||10 mins||Southern architecture and large open parks, minutes from downtown|
|15 mins||Nightlife and gourmet restaurant access within walking distance|
15 mins –
|Abundant grocery and restaurant options, as well as water access and good schools|
|Pooler||45 mins||25 mins||New construction with access to the airport, large retailers, and chain restaurants|
|Pembroke||25 mins||45 mins||Quaint old Georgia town outside the city|
Rent or Buy?
This is the classic question, isn’t it? The answer really is – it depends. If all you care about is the numbers, then we’ll need to take a look at where you want to buy, what you can expect to pay for a house there, and how much you can rent it out for when you move, or what you might expect to sell it for in a few years.
Typically, I find that the break-even point in the rent vs own calculation tips towards owning around 18-24 months of ownership. If you think you’ll be here for a short time, it might not make sense to buy, financially-speaking. We have an easy-to-use rent vs buy calculator that we would be happy to share with you to use when making this decision – shoot us a note if you’d like to see it!
What about renting for a short period of time while you get a feel for the area? This isn’t a bad choice, but of course the downside is that you’ll have to move twice. This might be a good decision if you are single or don’t have a ton of possessions. It typically isn’t easy to get a landlord to sign any less than a 12 month lease, but it’s not too difficult to find someone willing to do 6 months if you are willing to pay a little bit more. It is difficult to find furnished short-term rentals.
This probably feels like a lot of information, and it may bring up even more questions left unanswered. Along with our experience in the market, and having been in your boots, we are ready to provide you with all the options available to you, as well as the services you need to get where you want to be. So, it’s easy! Just contact us & we’ll be happy to chat through your questions & options.
Written by: Pat Wilver
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