Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN) Review

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
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Published on June 01, 2021
9 min read

The Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN) helps military members track down places to rent or buy next to more than 500 bases worldwide. Not only is it free to use, but AHRN (pronounced A-hern) automatically calculates your Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to show you homes in your price range. And you don’t have to sort through thousands of listings to find something near the base: AHRN shows you only those places that are a hop, skip, and a jump from work.

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Free to use
Pro Bullet No realtor required
Pro Bullet Lists only housing near base
Pro Bullet Built-in BAH rent calculator
Pro Bullet Military discounts
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet No longer supported by Department of Defense (DOD)
Con Bullet Sketchy customer service

What is the Automated Referral Housing Network (AHRN)?

The Automated Referral Housing Network (AHRN) is an online military housing database. The site launched in 2004 and initially received DOD’s stamp of approval. The partnership ended in 2013 (AHRN didn’t meet the government’s IT requirements), but AHRN continues to grow and claims to be the largest military housing database in the world.1

Whether you received a permanent change of station (PCS), need a bigger home for your growing family, or want a change of scenery, the AHRN military housing website can help you track down housing options near your base.

It works the other way around too. If you get transferred to another installation, you can rent out your home to other military members.

How is AHRN different from other real estate listing services?

AHRN is different from other real estate listing services in several ways:

  • No realtor required to access the database. Anyone can search for or list a home on AHRN. General listing services often require a real estate agent to gain full access.

  • Rent and buy. Many listing services allow you to rent or buy—but not both. AHRN knows that military members move about every three years and lists both rental and for-sale housing options. AHRN even shows individual rooms for rent if you don’t have a military spouse.

  • Size. AHRN is smaller than well-known listing sites like the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but that’s actually one of its biggest selling points. Rather than make you sort through thousands of listings to find an ideal fit close to base, AHRN does the work for you. You may see fewer listings than MLS, but the ones you do see are the cream of the crop for military personnel.

  • Registration. AHRN asks for more personal information during the registration process than other sites. But there’s an upside: AHRN automatically calculates your estimated BAH allowance once you enter your rank, marital status, and number of dependents. So you see the cost of housing and instantly know whether it’s in your price range.

  • Military benefits. AHRN has a business directory where local companies post deals for military members. Many participating property managers also give service members benefits like discounted rent and reduced security deposits. The savings come in handy whether you’re paying a lawyer during a divorce or finally moving out of the only dive that you could find when you first got to base.

Want to save time finding housing near base?

How do I register for AHRN?

You register for AHRN by filling out the registration form on the company’s main web page. In addition to providing your name, email, and phone number, you also need the following information:

  • Branch of service
  • Military grade and rank
  • Marital status
  • Number of dependent children
  • Gaining installation

How do I move in the military?

You have two basic options for moving in the military:

  1. Household Goods (HHG). The government moves all your belongings from Point A to Point B. You still have to file insurance claims if things break or find a way to make due if the movers are late, but the government does all the hard stuff like packing, moving, and unpacking. As long as you don’t go over your weight limit, it’s basically free.

  2. Do it yourself (DITY). DITY moves are popular because you can make money. Rather than pay for the military to move your stuff, the government gives you a moving allowance, and you do all the work yourself. It’s not easy, but you get to keep whatever money you don’t spend.

Money
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How much does AHRN cost?

AHRN is free to use—and you can also score some sweet deals. Not only do you get free access to military housing lists, but you also have two other money-saving benefits at your fingertips:

  1. Business directory. AHRN keeps a directory of local businesses that often have discounts for service members. Even when they don’t have deals, it’s an easy way to track down nearby restaurants, law offices, and storage unit companies if you’re new to the area.
  2. Military benefits. If you see a flag next to your listing, it means that the property manager has special benefits for military tenants. AHRN says the perks usually include discounted rent, reduced application fees, or smaller security deposits. That’s money you can put into savings or use for other moving expenses like shipping your car.
AHRN listing flags

A flag icon on your AHRN listing means the property manager has special benefits for military tenants.


AHRN features and services

Listing types

AHRN has several types of listings:

  • Apartments

  • Condos

  • For-sale listings

  • Military roommates

  • Off-base housing

  • On-base housing

  • Single-family homes

  • Temporary lodging (like hotels)

Distance to installation

AHRN tells you how far your housing options are from nearby military installations. Not only can you see how close the home is to your main base, but it shows you the surrounding installations as well.

For example, we looked at a four-bedroom home near Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and AHRN showed us the distance to the base (8 miles), the local Coast Guard Recruiting Office (14 miles), and the closest Navy Operational Support Center (27 miles). It’s a godsend if you need info on how close your home might be to multiple installations.

AHRN listing details

AHRN listings include a “distance to installation” box that shows how far it is from your home to nearby military installations.

AHRN tools and resources

AHRN has a “Tools and Resources” section on its website with tons of helpful information:

  • Find a real estate agent. AHRN connects you with nearby realtors. You can have AHRN submit your name, number, and email to interested real estate companies, or you can click on the websites of featured agents and contact them directly.

  • Find a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan. See if you qualify for a VA loan and claim benefits like lower interest rates and no minimum down payments.

  • PCS toolkit. Download a free, step-by-step guide to your PCS move and get access to blog posts with moving tips.

  • Find a recommended rental. See apartments, condos, townhouses, duplexes, and homes that AHRN thinks are your best fit. (The listings don’t seem very different from what you get on the main page, so this may be an advertised spot for property managers anxious to rent out their living spaces.)

  • RentSmart Average Tool. Tell AHRN what kind of housing you want, and it will filter out options that don’t match. Not only can you narrow down your price range, but you can also search for specific listing types (houses, apartments, and townhouses) that are within a certain distance of base.

    RentSmart allows you to find the best available options in just a few keystrokes. It’s like those crime TV shows where the geeky tech works her magic on a keyboard and quickly whittles 1,000 suspects down to 4 people—only you’re the tech (Goth jewelry optional), and the suspects are houses.

  • More resources. A catch-all menu linking to relevant websites, including your base (and its Facebook page), the local newspaper, and area crime statistics.

BAH rent calculator

This is where the real magic happens: AHRN uses the info from your registration form to calculate your BAH allowance and automatically shows you what’s in your price range. It also breaks down estimated utility costs, so you don’t accidentally put your entire allowance into rent. It’s a lifesaver if this is your first time using BAH for a home.

You can even use the tool to quickly see which housing options would be far enough under your BAH that you could bank the extra cash. For example, if you find a home for $1,200 per month but have a BAH of $1,600, that’s $400 you get to keep (minus whatever you spend on utilities).

AHRN makes it easy to save (or not overspend).

Money
Save money on realtors

The typical real estate commission fee is 6%—or about $20,000 for the average home. Check out our tips for how to avoid realtor fees.


Things to know about AHRN

Moving resources are legit

AHRN has helpful military housing resources. While many sites load up their resources sections with filler articles, AHRN adds real value by breaking down complicated military rules. Consider just a few of AHRN’s recent posts:

  • Partial DITY Move: In-Depth Guide & Expert Tips You don’t always have to choose between DITY and HHG moves. AHRN shows how you can sometimes save money by having the government move some of your stuff while you transport the rest. It’s a tricky topic and shows how AHRN focuses on what matters to service members.
  • What Items are on the PCS Prohibited List? Did you know there are some items that government-contracted moving companies don’t allow (like personal baggage, animals, and propane tanks)? AHRN breaks down the list while reminding you that you’re responsible for taking care of any items the mover doesn’t pick up.
  • What is Your PCS Weight Allowance for 2021? In-Depth Guide & 11 Tips You get charged for every pound you go over your PCS weight allowance (it can quickly add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars). AHRN shows you how to make the most of your budget and even gives advice on estimating your total weight (it recommends calculating 1,500 pounds per room—plus appliances).

The articles are bona fide resources that can help you with your military move. No fluff here.

There are some drawbacks

AHRN seems like a dream come true, but it’s not perfect. Two red flags stand out:

  1. DOD stopped its sponsorship. It’s probably not a good sign that DOD ended its support in 2013. While the government didn’t specify how AHRN failed to meet IT requirements,2 it’s troubling that the problem was significant enough to end the relationship. The divorce hasn’t been all bad, though. AHRN claims that it gets 5,000 new members each month and has nearly double the viewership of Homes.mil.1
  2. We can’t reach customer service reps. And we’ve tried. Our calls to the customer service number always go straight to voicemail (after a single ring), and while AHRN says it has a live chat feature, we’ve never seen it. That concerns us (even though you’re more likely to work with a realtor or property manager than an AHRN rep).

Automated Referral Housing Network (AHRN) FAQ

What does AHRN stand for?

AHRN stands for Automated Housing Referral Network. The website maintains an online database of available housing near more than 500 military installations across the globe.

Can veterans use AHRN?

Yes, veterans can use AHRN. The online database is for the entire military community, including active duty military, veterans, civilian contractors, and military family members.

Is AHRN a DOD referral program?

No, AHRN isn’t a DOD referral program. DOD’s sponsorship of AHRN came to an end in 2013 when AHRN failed to meet federal IT requirements.

What is the DOD housing network called?

The DOD housing network is called Homes.mil. The online armed forces housing network connects service members and their families with available housing across the world.

Can I find housing in Hawaii on AHRN?

Yes, you can find housing in Hawaii on AHRN. The website connects users with available housing near several Hawaiian military installations, including Pearl Harbor, Fort Shafter, Schofield Barracks, Tripler Army Medical Center, and Marine Base Corp Hawaii.

Can I see my privatized housing allowance on AHRN?

Yes, you can see your estimated privatized housing (or BAH) allowance on AHRN. The online database uses your registration info to calculate your BAH and compares it with the rent and estimated utility costs of available housing.

How can I find housing near my military installation?

You can find housing near your military installation by checking online real estate databases like AHRN, MilitaryByOwner, and Homes.mil. You can also check listing services like MLS and Rent.com, but they include housing options that aren’t near your base.

Can I qualify for a VA loan if I’m not on active duty?

Yes, you can often qualify for a VA loan if you’re not on activity duty. You can find specific eligibility requirements by going to the VA website or talking with your mortgage lender.

Do I need a credit card to use the AHRN website?

No, you don’t need a credit card to use the AHRN website. Users can view or post on the military housing referral service for no fee.

Can a military audience use MLS?

Yes, a military audience can use MLS—but it’s not ideal. Unlike sites such as AHRN that focus on the military community, MLS includes many housing options that aren’t ideal for service members (often because they’re far away from military installations).

Who can list houses on AHRN?

Anybody can list houses on AHRN, including residential landlords, property management groups, apartment complex managers, military privatized contractors, and hotel and extended stay property managers.


Recap

AHRN is an online military housing referral network. The website lost its DOD sponsorship in 2013 but continues to be popular with service members. It’s smaller than big sites like MLS, but that’s a good thing because you don’t waste time looking at houses too far from base. AHRN also has landlords who offer discounts to military members—and the site automatically calculates your BAH allowance so you can focus on housing in your price range.

We could never reach AHRN’s customer service reps, but that’s not a dealbreaker since you’re more likely to work directly with realtors or landlords. Throw in the fact that it’s free to use, and AHRN is worth considering if you’re PCSing or need new housing.

Need help finding housing off-base?

Recommended resources

People also asked . . .

Sources

  1. AHRN, “The AHRN Media Kit,” 2019. Accessed May 18, 2021.
  2. General J. G. Ayala, Marines.mil, “Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN) Lost Its DOD Affiliation,” January 2014. Accessed May 18, 2021.
Kurt Manwaring
Written by
Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.