The difficult task of finding a new home overseas just became easier for servicemembers in several European communities, with the expansion of a Defense Department-sponsored Web site that is similar to Craigslist.
The Automated Housing Referral Network Web site, used in the United States since 2004, now lists rental homes and apartments near the Kaiserslautern military community, Spangdahlem and Geilenkirchen air bases in Germany, and Aviano Air Base in Italy. The site provides details such as number of bedrooms, size, price and, importantly, whether there is a kitchen, which is not always the case in Europe. Landlords are able to post several photos with each ad.
“It’ll give people a real picture,” said Jo Cardenas, deputy director of Housing at Spangdahlem Air Base. “They will be able to have an idea about where they are going to put their children’s heads down before they even arrive.”
Since May, about 250 potential homes have been listed in the Spangdahlem area, Cardenas said, including apartments, duplexes, and houses. Karen Leonard, the Kaiserslautern military community housing director, said they have already transferred 10,000 listings to the AHRN site and it’s growing as landlords add more units.
Housing officials demonstrate how the Web site works for all new arrivals, Leonard said.
“It’s nicer because they don’t have to run to the housing office all the time,” she said. “Everybody — DODDS (Department of Defense Dependent Schools) teachers, civilians, Army and Air force personnel — can get online and see this information. People in the States can go in and start looking for houses before they even get here.”
Renters using the site must still work with housing officials to hammer out contracts with landlords. But the housing must fit established guidelines to be listed on the AHRN site.
Cardenas said the Web site is a vast improvement over the current system, which is a series of cards, listing different attributes about rental homes and apartments.
“How big is a square meter compared to a square foot? Someone moving overseas might not be able to visualize that,” Cardenas said. “And different places may make different use of spaces that are the same size.”
Because of the five photos, Cardenas added, renters can see the interior and exterior of the homes. The Web site also allows renters to search for places by number of rooms, price and a plethora of other categories.
“They’re not going through pages and pages of available units,” Leonard said.
Master Sgt. Kelley Stewart, who recently transferred to Spangdahlem Air Base, said the Web site was indispensable when she arrived because she did not have a U.S. Army Europe driver’s license and was reluctant to ask new colleagues to drive her around the countryside looking for potential places.
“It was nice to have it all at your fingertips,” she said.
She found a brand-new apartment in Bitburg with heated floors and three balconies.
“It fits all my stuff,” she said. “And it’s five minutes from the walking area.”
Other bases will be added to the Web site soon, officials said. For more information, people can call the local housing office or visit the Web site at www.ahrn.com.