To me, there's no time like the present. If it meets your criteria I would approach it with a "how can I make it work" type mindset if its a good deal. You can interview property managers any day and see if you get the warm and fuzzy on them. You can sign a limited POA to your realtor to sign for you at closing if you'll be gone by closing date.
I think the last question comes down to your goals and what you want to achieve. You can also answer this question with an ROI vs. Opportunity Cost analysis. How much are you going to make if you invest now/when you come home vs. how much are you going to make in a savings acct or wherever you are stashing the savings.
Good luck man, keep your head down.
@ Andrew Major - It takes 1-2 months to close if you finance conventionally. If the deals meet your criteria, they'll meet a partner's goals with the same criteria. Just make sure you trust him.
The bright side is...you don't have to spend winter in Watertown. If you're investing up there, I would be interested to see what the deal looks like. Of course, Fort Drum has been built up decent since 787 was built.
As a fellow military member, I know you'll find a way. Keep us posted.
I think it's prudent for new investors to invest somewhere close to where they will be. Especially if you don't have a property manager setup. You cannot manage a property from a distance.
@Andrew Major - Why not buy a too big house, rent your spare cheaply furnished bedrooms by the bedroom on a 6-12 mo lease, rent out your room during your deployment and watch the cash flow in?
I’ve written elsewhere on bp about how I’ve made my personal housing expense negative (I got paid to have roommates while living for free in my 5/3 house.) As long as you’re not a sucker for sob stories or tolerate late rent — never rent to friends — you should be good to go. Pm me if you need more specifics or an agent referral.
@Andrew Major I would urge caution if this is your first investment. @Ian Kee has raised excellent points. Focus on building your war chest and doing your research. Pull the trigger but only if you, literally, come across the deal of the century. Otherwise, I would save myself the hassle for the time being.
You can always invest in REITs and other real estate companies to get real estate-based exposure while you complete your tour.
Purchasing your first rental property is like having a child, if you wait until you're 100% ready, you won't do it. That's where an experienced partner or a creative strategy helps. I have a couple brothers who live in the Watertown area, but they work in law enforcement and don't invest. I haven't looked into it too much, but am personally leery about Fort Drum. I feel the entire economy is basically propped up by the 10th Mountain, but you know better than me. Basically, if you work the numbers and they are as good as you say, post them on here and you'll find someone who'll work with you. I believe this business is about people, not houses.
I'm still active duty and my wife and I own three SFR. I have been stationed in southeastern Virginia my whole career which I consider an advantage. The best advantage is time and getting started. I bought my first house in 2001 at 21 years old. I didn't know what I was doing. It was just cheaper for me to pay a mortgage than rent an apartment. Then, I learned (made mistakes) from the housing crash but managed to keep two rental properties. Regardless, Uncle Sam has faithfully paid my mortgage for over 17 years and the least he should do is start your investment career.