Cameron Allison, a Navy spouse, just had one week to fly to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia from Texas and purchase a home. The task was no small feat. She didn’t have any friends in the area to guide her and, by law, realtors couldn’t tell her what neighborhoods were safe or which ones had the best schools. The experience inspired Cameron to launch MilitaryTownAdvisor.com so that other military families don’t have to go through the same ordeal.
In the interview below, Cameron takes the time to explain how MilitaryTownAdvisor.com can help you during your next move. And, as an added bonus, she opens up about her experience as a Navy wife and her top recommendations on the places to go and things to see in Hampton Roads.
|Cameron Allison, the founder of MilitaryTownAdvisor.com,|
and her husband, who is a pilot for the U.S. Navy.
Q: Tell us about you and your family.
A: My husband and I met in college at Texas A&M University in 2001 and later married in 2004. One day he woke up and decided he wanted to fly for the Navy and like any good wife, I said, ‘Ok honey!” (honestly thinking it would never happen). Boy was I wrong. He applied, took tests, and was accepted to Officer Candidate School with a pilot’s slot. Now we are happily married and stationed in Virginia Beach, Va., with two kids (3 years and 1 years old) and he flies for the Navy.
Q: When did you launch MilitaryTownAdvisor.com?
A: I launched MilitaryTownAdvisor.com about 10 months ago, so we are coming up on our one-year anniversary soon. Please keep spreading the word and ‘paying it forward’ by leaving reviews to help other military families.
Q: What inspired you to launch the website?
A: Our last move was really tough because we moved from a small military town in Texas to Hampton Roads in Virginia. I didn’t have any friends up here to tell me about where to live so I contacted a random realtor and she began sending me pictures of houses on the MLS. Once we flew up there, we had 7 days to look at houses, figure out the city, and put an offer on our first house. I was clueless and even made a binder with tabs where all the houses were located. After that move, I came up with idea to make a website where military families could leave ‘insider’ information for other military families in the form of reviews. Most people don’t know that realtors, due to the Fair Housing Act, can’t give you information about which areas are safe, which neighborhoods have good schools, etc. The reviews allow this information to be passed to other military families. One thing I have learned is military families aren’t looking to buy their dream home, all we really want is a good house in a great neighborhood.
Q: What kind of information can military families find on the website?
A: The site has reviews submitted by other military families about 1) Places you would live (ex. Neighborhoods, condos, and apartment complexes), 2) areas of town, and 3) Schools. In each review, there is a map with Google Street View (so you can actually see what the area/neighborhood looks like), ratings for safety, location to base, schools, social, and family friendly, and a section for pros and cons. It’s insider information -- which realtors can’t tell you due to the law -- that everyone is looking for when researching a new duty station before a PCS.
Q: I noticed when I visited the website that reviews are available on specific neighborhoods and schools in cities across the nation. That’s the kind of detail that is bound to help military families searching for places to live at a new duty station or schools to send their kids to. But sometimes the reviews are just a paragraph long. Is there a way for military families to get more information if they’re interested?
A: All the information on the reviews are submitted by other military families so it depends on what information they want to offer. The ‘optional section’ has a great place for favorite shopping, restaurants, gyms nearby and a place for the reviewer to add addition websites for further information.
If people want more information we have military spouse’s who are Local Experts who provide maps, neighborhood lists, ‘sight unseen’ if you need someone to take pictures of a house without being there etc. To know more http://militarytownadvisor.com/content/?page=3
A: The reviews are from other military families who have been in your exact situation with a PCS. It’s a Pay-It-Forward Method so leave a review for others and you will be happy when you get new orders that others did it for you.
There are 3 Review Forms: 1) Where to live? (residences like neighborhoods etc.) 2) Areas of town, and 3) Schools. Enter an address, select the closest match and answer the questions! It’s so easy and only takes a few minutes! Here is a great “How To” Youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvI8jpG5tQk&feature=plcp
Q: What direction do you see the website going in the future?
A: I am making a lot of additions to make it more of a ‘real estate resource’ tool by adding a ‘School Search’ with GreatSchools.org Ratings and ‘Home Searches’ that allow you to search for homes within a specific neighborhood, area, or zip. The biggest problems we have as military families is trying to find the best schools in good neighborhoods. The site will be the one-stop shop for schools and neighborhoods!
Q: Anything else you want to highlight about the website?
A: My vision is to provide jobs for military spouses. I feel we are over educated and under utilized. Currently, we have opportunities for Local Experts, but I’d love for the entire company to be run by military spouses and be a huge military spouse network for jobs and helping each other. More about us http://militarytownadvisor.com/about/about.php
|Cameron and her family currently reside in Virginia.|
Q: Last, but certainly not least, where does your family live now? What are your top three top recommendations or tips about the area?
A: We are stationed at NAS Oceana, which is located in Virginia Beach, Va., in an area called Hampton Roads. My top three recommendations for ‘things to do’ in the area is 1) Va. Beach Oceanfront – It is a big touristy spot, but it’s fun to ride your bike along the boardwalk. The boardwalk is about 10 miles long so it’s far to walk, but a bike is a perfect outing. A great restaurant on the water is Catch 31 or if you want my favorite restaurant off the beaten path look for Cobalt Grille in Hilltop North Shopping Center. 2) Portsmouth Children’s Museum (if you have young kids)- It’s fantastic and has a bubble room. We love going there and seeing the hands-on exhibits for kids. 3) For dinner and a movie, we love CineBistro in Hampton, Va. It is an up-scale movie theater with gourmet food and drinks. You can sit and watch a movie and drink wine, martinis etc. It’s very clean and classy! Since we have small children, we love to have dinner and movie together so it isn’t an all night affair (that way you don’t have to pay the babysitter as much!!)
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