Finding a place to live right after PCSing to Germany is a stressful process. And when you’re living in a foreign country, you may not know what to expect from your options! But finding military housing in Grafenwoehr, Germany can be easier if you’re properly prepared.
I’ve compiled this comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about on-post housing, off-post housing, private housing, and even the barracks at USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr.
Table of Contents
What to expect about German housing /// What should I bring? | | | Can I look at housing options now? /// How to get on the housing wait list | | | What are my options? /// COVID | | | About off-post government housing /// About on-post housing | | | About off-post private rental housing /// A tour of the barracks | | | Moving in /// Moving out | | | FAQs about wait lists and bringing family
What You Need to Know before PCSing to Germany
There’s a lot of information out there, and I want to set the record straight! Before we get much farther into the process for getting military housing in Grafenwoehr, Germany, I want to set realistic expectations for your housing options.
How is military housing different in Germany?
First, garages are not guaranteed. If you live on post, then houses will either have a one-car garage or a car port. The barracks only have a parking lot available. Off-post housing is guaranteed a “parking spot,” which may or may not be covered.
And even if you don’t have a car, keep this in mind for your storage purposes!
Second: yards. If you live on-post, you will have a small yard if you move into a house. The stairwell apartments will not. Fenced-in yards are not a guarantee for off-post housing.
In regards to appliances, the built-in fridges in German houses are small – probably half the amount of space in an American fridge. But keep in mind that you can lease an American-sized fridge from the housing office if you have the space for it.
Pro tip: you may be able to buy a fridge from someone who is leaving USAG Bavaria! keep an eye on Facebook groups like Take My Stuff
There’s also not a lot of built-in storage space when it comes to German houses. You’ll have to buy wardrobes to store all your clothes, and possibly cabinets and bookshelves for things such as linens, decor, board games, and toys.
Government housing, on the other hand, will almost always have built-in cabinets and closets. It just may not be as big as you’re used to in the US.
Utilities are also very different in Germany. The utility company will withdraw a set amount (that you determine) from your bank account every month, regardless of whether it’s on-post, off-post, or private lease.
Then, at the beginning of the calendar year (usually), you send the company or the housing office a meter reading, and they tell you how much electricity you’ve consumed. At that point, you either owe an additional amount on top of what you’ve been paying monthly, or you get a refund because you’ve paid too much.
It may seem like a complicated process, but it can actually make budgeting easier!
You’ll also notice that there are doors everywhere throughout military housing around Grafenwoehr. At first it can seem claustrophobic, but you’ll notice in the winter it may help keep your utility bills down! By turning off the radiators and closing doors, you don’t have to heat the entire space (because as you’ll see, these homes are large).
And speaking of winter, I want to mention how to prevent your pipes from freezing. Housing recommends that you disconnect the water hose outside and turn off the water supply to the outside faucet.
What to Bring When Moving into Military Housing in Grafenwoehr, Germany
Just like moving anywhere, there’s no guarantee your furniture will fit in your home in Germany. While the homes may be large, the living spaces may be smaller and shaped differently than your home in the States. They may also have slanted ceilings on the second and third floors, which can be prohibitive for dressers and bed frames.
You don’t need to bring everything with you. Even if you do, you won’t be able to use everything.
To start: don’t bring your washer and dryer, and adjust your expectations for doing laundry! Just like the fridge, you’ll be able to lease a washer and dryer from the base for a super low fee.
Doing laundry is probably one of the hardest adjustments. Most dryer units spin the water out of the clothes, and then extracts the water into a tray that you need to empty. You’ll definitely want to buy a drying rack when you arrive.
And if you’re concerned that you don’t have the right tools and equipment for life in Germany, all residents have access to Self Help for tools and supplies! They have resources such as snow shovels, yellow bags for plastics (will explain in a bit), paint supplies, hammer drills with screws and anchors, yard tools and replacement light bulbs.
But for the big (and fun) items such as storage supplies, furniture, rugs, and decor, you can shop at the Vilseck PX or in stores on the economy. You’ll want to dedicate at least one full day to visit shops like Depot and POCO!
Pro tip: be sure to pick up some VAT forms before shopping for home goods!
Most people don’t have them these days, but there’s one more thing that you shouldn’t bring: cordless phones. The Telecommunications Act (TKG) regulates the frequency spectrum in Germany, and use of the 900MHz frequency (which most US cordless phones use) is a violation under German law.
Be a Good Neighbor: Respecting German Culture and Customs
Everyone has their own stories about encounters with German neighbors or residents when it comes to American behavior! And a lot of it just comes down to being informed. And pretty much everything you need (to start) will be at Self Help.
For example, residents are in charge of shoveling snow from sidewalks and shared driveways/parking areas within 50 feet of the home in a timely fashion. You can get both a shovel and salt from Self Help!
The same goes for recycling: you are required to take your plastic recyclables to the nearest recycling center. Yellow bags are generally designated for plastic, and you can get them at Self Help.
And there are penalties for not recycling or throwing out trash properly. Residents caught illegal trash dumping will be fined.
Overall, you’re expected to be a polite and respectful neighbor. You need to respect local quiet hours, maintain the grass in your yard, and keep your property clean.
If you leave your pet outside or they bark for extended periods of time, your neighbors may call the authorities to inspect your home.
A Quick Rundown of Housing Terms You Need to Know
Before we dive into the good stuff about military housing around Grafenewoehr, Germany, I want to define a few terms for you.
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH): This is the minimum amount every soldier receives to pay for housing when accommodations aren’t provided by the government. It’s calculated based on the local economy, pay grade, and number of dependents.
Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA): It’s based on your pay grade and dependent status (with or without).
Move in Housing Allowance (MIHA): It’s a lump sum flat rate that you will receive upon moving in to a private rental. This allowance helps offset your initial move-in expenses, such as setting up your cable.
Concurrent Travel: Concurrent Travel allows your family to accompany you to your next permanent duty station. Your PCS orders should reflect “Concurrent Travel” and MUST show the family members’ names.
Temporary Lodging Allowance (TLA): This offsets the higher costs of hotel stays and meals. You’ll receive up to 60 days of TLA when you arrive in Germany, but it’s also conditional ).
For example, families must be on concurrent travel to receive TLA. But if you stay with friends instead of a hotel, you may only be entitled to the allowance for meals and not lodging.
Deferred Travel: Deferred Travel is when your family is not authorized to travel with you due to approval delays with your family’s travel. You have 120 days to bring your family over after the travel orders have been issued (BAH stops on 121st day). TLA is not authorized.
Certificate of Non-Availability (CNA): If there isn’t any government housing available, this document means that you can still receive TLA while you look for housing on the economy.
Want to Look at Options before You Arrive?
If you want to see what the houses look like, you can check out the USAG Bavaria Housing Facebook page. And if you want an idea of floor plans, check out the AHOUS website and select Bavaria: Grafenwoehr.
Pro tip: start Googling the different neighborhoods around USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr and Vilseck to get an idea of where you want to live!
And while you can research neighborhoods and housing options all you want, you can’t be put on the waiting list for housing until the Service Member arrives in Bavaria. Your PCS orders must reflect Concurrent Travel of approved family members – with any amendments – or approved Command Sponsorship.
And you get on the waiting list by registering with the housing office.
First Step: Register with the Housing Office
When you arrive, there’s a good chance that a lot of people will also be in line to find a house. Be prepared for this process to take at least 30 days. The maximum is supposed to be 60 days, but it can take longer during peak PCS season.
If you want to research ahead of time, look up these towns:
Vilseck Area: Vilseck, Weiherhammer, Mantel, Amberg, Kaltenbrunn, Freihung, Kenneth, Pegnitz
Get on the wait list
After you meet your sponsor and check into your hotel, the Service Member of your family will need to go register at the housing office in building 244 (where the welcome center is). Bring all of your orders (PCS, Pin-Point, Command Sponsored, Joint Domicile, Amendments, TDY en-route, etc.) and DA-31 to your appointment.
In order to get on the housing waiting list, you need your eligibility date! The date that you sign out of your losing installation (on your DA-31) determines your eligibility date.
In normal circumstances, your sponsor can’t put you on the wait list before you arrive. But as of early 2021, sponsors play a huge role in your search for a home because of COVID precautions.
How eligibility works
There are also other conditions that determine eligibility. Service members must be on a 36-month tour to be eligible for government quarters. Soldiers must have 12 months remaining on their tour to apply for quarters, and 6 months left on their tour to sign for quarters.
You have to apply for housing within 30 days of arrival (or receipt of command sponsorship) to maintain your eligibility date. If you apply after that, your eligibility date is the same as your application date.
Pro tip: If you don’t have your SOFA passport when you arrive in Germany, you should start that process while your service member initiates the housing search!
There are other methods of establishing eligibility, such as the effective date of Command Sponsorship, date of application, or through an approved Exception to Policy. If you qualify for a different way to establish eligibility, you’ll be notified.
Keep in mind that eligibility (your spot on the waiting list) does not necessarily follow “First Come, first served” rules.
For example, you signed out on leave on 1 May and sign in to your new unit 30 May. 1 May is the eligibility date. But if Jane Doe signed out 20 April and signs in 4 June, by regulatory guidance her family will be placed ahead of you. But that’s only if your families are on the same designated category listing.
Going through your options
Once you’re on the waiting list, you can truly start the search for your new home! But there will be some limitations.
For example, you may only receive two offers to choose from. If you decline your first offer, you drop to the bottom of the waiting list. Your eligibility date also changes to the date that you declined the first offer.
In other words, if you declined your first offer, pretty much everyone who arrived after you is now ahead of you on the wait list.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a house you like! And depending on the wait times when you arrive, there’s a chance you can give a preference. But don’t get your hopes up. We’ll address where you can live in the next section.
And keep in mind that your TLA is only good for 60 days, so depending on how long the wait list is, you might out-stay your TLA.
If you decline your second offer, your TLA will be terminated and your eligibility date will change. Plus, your CoC may be informed about the situation.
Moving during COVID
COVID has certainly thrown a wrench into these procedures. Here’s what you need to know:
You only get two options to choose from. You can get location preference, and the housing office will consider requests for a yard or other reasonable needs.
Normally your sponsor can’t get you on the waiting list. But during COVID, you may send your orders to your sponsor no more than 30 days prior to your arrival so they can put you on the waiting list.
Then they may do a video tour of your first option. The benefit of this: if you agree, you’ll have a home that you can move into much sooner than before!
Second Step: Choosing a Place to Live
Note: this section pertains to those who have a choice to live on or off-post. Unaccompanied E6 and below are required to live in the barracks (jump to section). They are not authorized to reside in government quarters or private housing off-post.
Where you can live depends on your rank and marital status, but availability of housing plays a big role, too.
While your eligibility date determines where you are on the wait list, your rank and bedroom requirements may also determine how quickly you find housing. For example, if a 4-bedroom home becomes available, the housing office may offer it to a family of five at wait list position 8, even though a married couple with no children is at wait list position 3.
But no matter your rank, USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr guarantees family housing within a 30-minute drive of your assigned post.
If government quarters are available, you’ll be required to take those. Occasionally the influx of people PCSing causes a shortage of government housing, in which case you may accept a CNA so that you can search for private housing options. (More on that in a bit.)
Off-Post Government Housing
Netzaberg isn’t technically on-post housing, but the town is like a satellite neighborhood of the Grafenwoehr post. The road that connects the town to the base is just a 5-minute drive.
It used to be a medieval village where people could stay and watch military training. Now, it’s part of Eschenbach and home to a large percentage of Army families at Grafenwoehr!
The small town has a shoppette, the elementary school, the middle school, and a chapel. If you want to live in a neighborhood that feels like a close-knit suburb in the US, you’ll want to live in Netzaberg!
Plus, all the homes have a fenced in backyard and electrical outlets for American appliances. And you’ll have plenty of space – all the homes are either 2 or 3-story houses.
The houses in Kulmain are pretty similar. It’s 20 minutes from Grafenwoehr, and the 42 units form a neighborhood with a playground.
You’ll notice that the lighting options aren’t very sufficient. Light bulbs tend to be energy efficient, so you may want to invest in a few lamps when you arrive.
Some American lamps, however, will work with just a converter on the plug. If the voltage on your appliance is just a single number below 220V (ex: 120V), you will likely need a transformer. If it displays a range of voltage (ex: 100-240V), then you can use a converter.
You’ll find that the ground floor has all the living space, and the rooms that can be bedrooms, home offices, or play rooms will be on the second (and third) floors.
The homes on post are pretty similar to any of the off-post government housing, but with the advantage of being close to on-post amenities!
Not all Grafenwoehr Germany military housing will have a garage, basement, or attic. This is important to keep in mind when deciding which furniture, appliances, decor, and other stuff you want to bring across the ocean.
For example, American-sized furniture (like sectional sofas) may not fit in some of the rooms. On the upside, there’s a lot of built-in storage, so you may not need all your bookshelves. You may just want to buy some bins and organizers when you arrive.
Off-Post Private Housing
If you’re active duty and PCSing to Germany, you may be required to take government housing. You’ll need a certificate of non availability (CNA) if you’re seeking an off-post private house. But if you’re PCSing as a civilian, private housing will definitely be an option for you!
We live in Weiden, which is just a 20-minute drive from Grafenwöhr. It has two large Edekas (a grocery store chain), an OBI (like Home Depot), a bustling marktplatz with a weekly farmer’s market…it’s basically the best place to live if you’re PCSing to Germany (only my opinion).
While government housing tends to have smaller rooms, off-post private housing means you can use most of your American-sized furniture! The trade-off, however, is that you can’t easily use all your appliances. You’ll definitely want to get a couple transformers for things like your Kitchenaid or food processor.
Kitchens are often spacious, but don’t have as much built-in storage space. They also won’t have built-in closets or shelving in other rooms. Trust me, you’ll make a lot of trips to POCO, Ikea, and OBI.
Alternatively, if you don’t need to use all the rooms as bedrooms, you can use an entire spare room as a closet. Deck it out with a few wardrobes and a vanity!
And speaking of vanities, dual sinks aren’t really an option in private housing. Same for built-in dishwashers. Convenience looks different in Germany than in the US!
Some homes will have older appliances built-in, such as the kachelofen to heat your home. But you don’t necessarily need to use it if you have radiators.
The built-in refrigerators are very small, which is why Germans shop nearly every day to get what they need. But you can still find larger, (almost) American-sized fridges in stores or on Facebook groups like Take My Stuff. The housing department on post will also provide an American-sized fridge for a one-time rental fee.
And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a built-out basement like ours! It’s definitely possible to find a large home with lots of storage space off-post in private housing.
You’ll also find that, with the private housing options and even with the government housing, your guests can have a small en-suite apartment experience that allows them to have access to a bathroom and even possibly a kitchenette.
BONUS: The Barracks at Vilseck
If you’re an unaccompanied E6 or below, you won’t have these options for housing. But you have to live somewhere, too!
The housing office assigns you to whatever barracks are available, regardless of whether you’re stationed at Vilseck or Grafenwoehr. Most of the time you’ll be in a building with soldiers in your unit, but you’re not guaranteed. The video above is an example of what an E6 barracks room looks like, so don’t get your hopes up if you’re a private and your room is half the size.
The housing office provides fridges and furniture, but you will definitely want to buy an A/C unit or a fan for the summer.
And before you move in, don’t forget to pick up toilet paper! (A good rule of thumb for everyone, really.)
Third Step: Moving into Your New Home
This is easily the best part of the process!
The time between signing your lease, moving into your new home, and receiving your furniture will vary. But when you sign your lease, you can request a delivery of temporary furniture, which you can keep for up to 90 days.
This means you can finally move out of that hotel room! If you didn’t pack bedding in your unaccompanied baggage, you can buy some at the PX.
When you need to have the temporary furniture removed, you have to schedule it either at the housing office itself or request an appointment online. There isn’t a phone number you can call to make it happen, nor can you do it via email.
If you move into a house that doesn’t have American outlets, or appliances that can’t use a converter, you’ll need to get a transformer. Keep an eye on the Take My Stuff Facebook groups for people selling them (or giving them away).
Final Step: Moving Out of Grafenwoehr Germany Military Housing
There may, sadly, come a day when you need to leave. So be prepared!
Pro tip: Bavaria News assembled this great checklist for cleanliness standards when you PCS out of USAG Bavaria Grafenwoehr
For military housing around Grafenwoehr, Germany, I recommend scheduling your household goods pick-up and your flight as soon as you receive your orders. Then notify housing to schedule your inspection date.
For private housing, you’ll need to consult your lease to figure out the procedures for terminating your lease, but you’ll usually need to notify your landlord in writing at least three months prior to moving out. And if you run into any legal trouble or have questions, contact the private rental housing office.
And regardless of where you live, you will have to make your own hotel arrangements. If you are moving out of private rental, you’re authorized up to 10 days of TLA, but if you’re moving out of government housing, you are authorized up to only 3 days.
Other Frequently Asked Questions about Moving into Grafenwoehr Germany Military Housing
We’ve answered a few additional questions about PCSing with families and rules for choosing housing options. You can also find more answers to the nitty, gritty questions in this U.S. Army guide for housing at USAG Bavaria.
Yes and no. If it’s an option for you, your counselor in the housing office will provide you a list of what’s available, and private rental housing options may or may not be on that list.
You are entitled to Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA), a separate utilities allowance, and a one-time Move In Housing Allowance (MIHA)
No. As of early 2021, assignment to government housing is mandatory. If you choose to sign a private rental lease without permission from the housing office, you will be entitled to OHA or MIHA.
Your family is authorized to travel with you (the service member) and receive TLA with concurrent travel. With deferred travel and approved Command Sponsorship, you have to wait until you’ve signed for a house before bringing your family. Once you’ve signed for the house, the travel authorization for your family members will be issued.
If you bring your family on your own, you won’t be entitled to TLA, which means you won’t be reimbursed for any costs (ex: hotel, flights).
You’ll need to submit a request for command sponsorship through your S1.
Congrats! You will need a statement of pregnancy with a due date from the doctor. Once you bring that to the housing office, they will place you on a wait list (just like when you arrived), and your eligibility date is the day you apply. Keep in mind that all moving costs will be at your own expense.
They’re spread out among Vilseck (high school), Grafenwoehr, and Netzaberg (middle school). All three locations have elementary schools. Netzaberg also has a child day care (CDC) for the little ones.
A non-dependent may visit for up to 90 days per calendar year. You need to submit a request through the Chief of Housing, and it has to be approved by the Garrison Commander as well as local authorities.
You are limited to two pets (two cats, two dogs, or a combination). If you are bringing more than two, you have to submit an exception to policy for approval. Check out our guide to PCSing with pets for more info!
Home Is Where the Heart Is
The most important thing to bring to Grafenwöhr is a great attitude. Everything may not be able to fit, and nothing will go quite as planned.
Moving always presents unexpected challenges, especially when it comes to crossing the ocean. And while you may have heard a few nightmare stories about it, living in military housing in Grafenwoehr, Germany is what you make of it. So make it awesome!