Snowbird Housing Deal Breakers

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Snowbird Housing Deal Breakers

Hint: The Deal Breakers are Personal and Nuanced

Price, location, view, pet friendly and availability are all deal makers. They're also the deal breakers. However, there's more to it than that. It's the nuances of a particular rental that may or may not work for snowbirds. 

Recently, I was asked to tag along on a tour of a potential rental for two Wisconsin-based snowbird friends with an adorable Golden Retriever named Cooper. My friends decided to take a look around at the options because they weren't entirely sure about returning to their current place. Their rental rates were increasing and they had other concerns about the place. Not only did they gain valuable insight to what matters to them, the tour opened my eyes to mistakes by owners. To my astonishment, after touring several properties and considering everything, my friends decided to stay where they are.

This is an account of what the deal breakers could be and why owners should listen carefully to the feedback from potential guests. It can save a ton of headaches for both parties.


Plan A Year In Advance

Snowbirds in general, like to plan way in advance. As in a year or more. My neighbor, Elaine and her husband and pooch have always stayed in the same unit for the month of January. She said finally -- two years from now in 2026 -- they will be staying for January AND February. It has taken that long to get a booking for the full two months. Past availability was not a deal breaker in this case, but for many it easily could have been. Elaine didn't say, nor did I ask, if the current February occupant is aware of what is happening. Snowbirds, always stay connected with your property manager and/or owner so they can work with you on your future plans. No one wants to be blindsided.

On the flip side, Wisconsin Terri was told it was "too soon" to reserve the unit she was considering for next year. This is exactly the opposite of how I think. Again, not allowing to book a year in advance would be a solid reason for many snowbirds to keep looking.

Owners: if a guest wants to book for next year, take the reservation! If you have qualms about a cancellation, request a significantly larger deposit of a minimum of $1,000 and extend the pay-in-full due date to be 90 or 120 days in advance instead of 60 days or whatever the standard policy is for weekly rentals. It's a huge commitment for snowbirds and owners to pledge 60 consecutive days vs. the usual 7 days, but each party needs assurances they will have a solid deal.

Snowbirds: Make sure there is a solid, written contingency plan if an owner cancels your reservation or sells the property before your arrival. If you book through a management company with a large property portfolio, get it in writing that you will be rebooked into a similar or better property in the event of unforeseen circumstances. It is essential all deposits and pre-paid funds will be refunded if the owner and/or PM do not have a suitable property available.

Weather, Distance, Transportation

Unfortunately no one is aging backwards which means at some point weather, distance and transportation increasingly become a problem for snowbirds.

Several friends are facing this issue due to age, health and concerns about driving to and from their snowbird communities. Dee from Colorado relies on her son to bring her to and from her southern home in Northwest Florida. He has asked her to consider a closer location in Arizona to make it easier for him. Except there are no beaches in Arizona, which understandably puts Dee in a quandary.

The weather this winter has been one of the worst for as long as many can remember which doesn't help Dee's decision. Time will tell if distance and weather are the deal breakers for Dee.


I've personally witnessed an increase of doorbell cameras installed on the exterior of rental properties. For some, this could be a deal breaker simply because they don't want to be photographed every time they come or go. Nor do they want their belongings, packages, guests and deliveries to be documented. Not that there's anything illicit happening, it's simply a lot for guests to accept and it could make or break a rental to snowbirds or anyone else for that matter.

Storage, Storage, Storage 

Snowbirds typically stay for at least 30 days and usually 60 or even 90+ days. They may book by the week or by the month, but it's a totally different set of needs than the weekly vacationers who are in and out in seven days.

Therefore, what might be just fine for a family who is not going to be in the unit all that much for a week in peak season compared to snowbirds who have an extended stay and accordingly bring a lot more clothing and "stuff."

I kid you not, a friend toured a property that had a locked closet in the second bedroom. Presumptively it was full of the owner's possessions. Guests are expected to put their clothes on hangers dangling from three or four racks mounted at a 90 degree angle on the bedroom wall.

No! As in, "Are you kidding me?" Absolutely there is no way I would want to spend 30-60+ days looking at clothing dangling from the walls. My friend and her husband do not share a bedroom and her husband would be the one with his clothes decorating the walls. The owner refused to make accommodations and ultimately, this was the deal breaker.

The Devil's In the Details 

Vacuum cleaners, mops, pots and pans, utensils, cleanliness, decor and more matter. Even beyond that, the details, large and small, can make or break a snowbird's willingness to rent a unit.

I know of a snowbird who didn't like the mattress in the primary bedroom. She said it was very uncomfortable and she tried every possible option to improve the situation, including sleeping on the unit's bunk bed. Worn out or sagging furniture is also another potential deal breaker.

Features such as very short vanity cabinets in the bathrooms may not be noticed in photos, but could be a problem for tall guests.

Snowbirds who can take a tour of a potential place should do so, it's worth the time to do so because you can pick up so much more than seeing photos. If it's not possible, ask a lot of open-ended questions. Prepare a list of potential deal breakers, then be honest about what your non-negotiables are. Know your limits and be patient. It can take time to find just the place. Once you find what works for you, protect your investment and plan accordingly.


"Use discernment. Guard your heart. Ask questions. Pay attention to red flags.”

-- Michael Bliss, Canadian Historian and Author


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