Location, Location, Location – Peak vs. Off Peak
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Peak vs. Off Peak Affects the Cost of Housing
As snowbirds return home to begin the off-season, much reflection goes into what can be done differently for the next season. Life changes happen from year to year, budgets change and energy levels for travelling to/from your destination may not be where they used to be. Snowbirds evaluate if they want to return to the same place, try a new area or whether to return at all. Because housing is the most expensive aspect of being a snowbird, rates are a major consideration of where to stay. [Costs of Snowbird Rentals: Beach, Desert, City-Metro]
Recent interactions with two readers reinforced that misconceptions related to location are far more widespread than they or I realized, which is why it is important to recognize regional differences in pricing. As the tried and true adage says, it's all about "location, location, location." Most people are well aware that being a snowbird in Maui, Hawaii is going to be much more expensive for multiple reasons. However, the cost of housing in every snowbird destination, no matter where you are headed, will be affected by peak and off-peak season. As an example, peak season in Hawaii is not January, it is summer when families are on school break. Seeking lesser known communities is another option for better housing rates. If you are considering a change, carefully take a look at what you're seeking because you may find that by making an adjustment in location based on popularity and/or peak vs. off peak season, you may be able to get so much more for your money, which can make all the difference of your snowbird lifestyle.
At the beginning of 2022, a reader from south Florida contacted me and we enjoyed a lengthy phone conversation. Cindy told me she's a longtime, now retired snowbird who lives with her husband in the Fort Myers area five months of the year and the rest of the time is devoted to their home in mid-Eastern Wisconsin. During the course of the conversation, the topic of north vs. south Florida came up.
Cindy's perception of northern Florida is that it can be quite chilly in the winter (true) and that winter, which is peak season in south Florida, is also peak season in northern Florida (false). Cindy was surprised to learn summer is peak season in northern Florida because it's when families come to the beach for summer vacation. South Florida is considered by many to be too hot in the summer. Some people, such as myself, consider south Florida to be too hot in the winter as well. I don't mind Northwest Florida's jacket weather and truthfully am not interested in residing in hot weather all year round.
This brings us to the crux of the North Florida vs. South Florida rental rates. South Florida is desirable in the winter because of the consistently warm weather with temps in the 70's and '80s. That's an attractive quality and prices in South and Central Florida are reflective of the climate. Due to supply and demand, rental prices are significantly higher, even as much as two or three times higher to get the same square footage, amenities and views as their counterparts to the north. Just ask my friend Vicki. She looked into moving closer to her daughter who was based in Key West and was shocked at the gulf front prices of south Florida. Vicki stayed where she was in Northwest Florida, it was too good to pass up.
Another reader, Bill, recently wrote to me and said, "I was a solo snowbird last year and met some folks. It worked out fairly well. However, I would prefer to buddy-up with someone for companionship and sharing of expenses. Do you have suggestions of where to find someone?... Thank you and best wishes."
I asked Bill the area where he stayed and whether he preferred to remain there, then brainstormed many ideas of where to find a roommate. Finally, I offered one last thought and suggested, "It can be expensive to be a snowbird and reducing the amount of time away, staying in an area that is not as warm or moving inland to a less expensive spot may be helpful. As an example, south Florida is incredibly expensive during the winter months because it is their peak season. Northwest Florida in the winter is the off season and peak is during spring and summer."
Bill said, "Thank you so much for the prompt reply. I was in south Florida (Cape Coral) and it was very nice (and expensive). I drove down so I wouldn't need to get a rental car. I'm in southeastern Wisconsin and it was 1,400 miles each way, and I swore I'd never do that drive again 🙂 I really hadn't considered northwest Florida since the weather can be iffy and I assumed prices would still be on the high side since peak season... but, you have enlightened me with understanding that winter is NOT peak season (using Destin as an example) and rentals are very reasonable per VRBO search. An added bonus is that the drive is 400 miles shorter so It would be a two day drive instead of three. So thanks for planting this seed. I will also explore some of your other suggestions."
Don't overlook checking into less well-known snowbird areas. During correspondence with an extended family member I'm newly acquainted with, we discovered we both enjoy the snowbird lifestyle. Mike and his wife travel extensively in their RV throughout the year. He said, "If things go as planned, we are hoping to spend next winter in Biloxi, Pass Christian or Waveland, all are in coastal Mississippi. We actually really love Florida for a lot of reasons, there are so many things that we enjoy, but anywhere on the Gulf Coast makes us happy. Now that we are older, I think Mississippi makes us happiest... We get the beach, ocean and warm weather without having to fight the crowds or the traffic."
Mike stated, "It’s half the cost and living on a limited budget it makes a lot of difference. Biloxi is really nice, it has everything we need. Most things are within walking distance from our RV park. Plus, we are right across the road from the beach. I get up and walk along the beach for an hour, then an hour back, starting at 5:00 am every other morning. It’s so nice, there’s a 27 mile sugar white sand beach. At that hour, it’s like I have the whole beach to myself. Well, if you don’t include the seagulls, terns and pelicans."
For property owners, here's another huge advantage to buy in an area that is off-peak in the winter. No matter whether it's north vs. south Florida or north vs. south Arizona, central vs. south Texas or elsewhere, the strategy is the same. If you buy a property where winter is off-peak and stay in it for the snowbird season, then you can return home and rent it out for premium rates while you are home and your rental guests are enjoying the peak summer vacation season.
Many times I've been asked by non-snowbird friends and family, "Why don't you stay further south?" It's all about location, location, location and I love where we are in Northwest Florida.
"Your current situation is giving you an opportunity to re-evaluate what you want.”
-- Tasha Bee, UK-based community artist