Work From Wherever Snowbirds
Work From Wherever (WFW) Snowbirds
How to Choose the Best Rental for Working Remotely
In May of 2019, I published a blog post entitled "How to Be a Working Snowbird," and in 2021 it remains quite relevant. In fact, How to Be a Working Snowbird has become one of my most popular blog posts. No doubt the rise in interest is because the global pandemic combined with increasingly effective technology has brought a new generation of people who can and do "Work from Wherever (WFW)."
The terms for these remote workers include telecommuter, virtual worker and "Zoombirds." Being able to work remotely means there is a dramatically increasing desire to work in locations outside the primary home. I consider a Zoombird similar to a WFW Snowbird, with the biggest difference being WFW Snowbirds make it a point to escape the cold climates and typically stay awhile in their warm-weather community. Zoombirds may purposefully seek winter locations in the United States such as Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Michigan's U.P. and New England as well as Canadian locations such as Toronto, Quebec and British Columbia, which is not a hallmark of snowbirds.
Traditional snowbirds and those able to "Work from Wherever" are seeking the best places to spend some or part of the winter in a southern climate, which means there is additional competition for housing accommodations. My husband and I have worked remotely in NW Florida for six years and we put much thought and consideration into choosing the best rental property to meet our unique needs. There's much more to finding a suitable rental property than simply getting a place with a table and chair next to an outlet to plug in your phone charger and laptop computer. Here's what we have found is important in a rental property.
Technical and Logistical Specs
First of all, there's no point in considering a rental property in a remote "off the grid" location that does not offer reliable, high speed wi-fi. Therefore, some mountainous regions and very rural or exotic locales that may be great for a quiet, eco-vacation will probably not work out for your WFW quest.
Can you and your equipment easily transport to your desired new community?
Do you have a vehicle large enough to move everything you need to work remotely as well as your personal effects, your pet/s, spouse or partner and/or family members?
Are you able to drive to your snowbird community? If so, are you willing and able to share a vehicle with your spouse/partner?
Do you need to be located near an airport, rail station, bus terminal or other form of transit?
Will you need to fly to your new community such as an island location, foreign country or places too distant or challenging to make the drive?
If you fly, does your budget allow for a rental vehicle or second vehicle to be stored on site? If not, can you walk or hire a driver as needed to go to the places you need to conduct business?
Are you considering a location that is readily accessible to business services such as shipping, printing, supplies, banking, post office and more? It's not always possible to control how packages are sent to you, so therefore if the post office tries to deliver something to you, cannot make the delivery and you have to retrieve it from them, will you be driving a long distance to get there?
Can you adjust to and work within a different time zone?
Do you have a reliable home team: trusted neighbors, friends and family members who can help out with anything needed while away?
Do you have a supportive spouse / partner to help as needed with the unpredictable situations that will undoubtedly arise?
General Housing Considerations
Budget, Budget, Budget
What is your target price range per day, week or month? Cost of Snowbird Rentals: Beach, Desert, City/Metro
Type of Property
Condo, home, high or low rise? View? Amenities? Parking? Pet friendly? What to Look for in a Snowbird Rental
Park model or RV community? 21 Considerations for RV Snowbirds
WFW Housing Accommodations
The wow factor
I don't think I'm the only one who wants the wow factor in a WFW rental. There has to be something appealing that draws you to a place whether it is the location, view/scenery, amenities, local attractions, people you know in the area or perhaps a combo of everything. It is far too much work to pay for and then pack up and move yourself and your stuff across the country to settle for mediocrity. You'll eventually resent a space that has nothing appealing about it and next thing you know, you'll be homesick, lose your ambition to work and wishing you hadn't bothered to WFW.
Carefully Evaluate the Promotional Images
Look carefully at the online photos promoting the property. Pay attention to all of the details because the images and angles are designed to make the space look and feel bigger than it actually may be. Ask the property manager a lot of questions, such as: Are the property photos current? If I rent the place, will the furnishings and furniture match what is shown in the photos? Are there any known issues with anything that would interfere with your ability to work there? Are there things stored in the closet/s or under the beds that might take up space that you need for your business essentials? What is the actual square footage of the property? If you get a vague answer, check the property records.
Adequate space for your needs
Is there adequate space in the rental you are considering? Be realistic about this. If you rent a condo with a small dining table that also doubles as your desk, is that truly enough? Because you also likely need to have a printer located next to the work space as well as files, components, equipment, parts and supplies. If there are no other available options to eat your meals, this set-up isn't going to work. It's not only your desk space, but your files, ancillaries, supplies, products and more. Think it through, it may not seem like you need much until you start adding it all up.
Make sure you can put your business supplies and everything related to that in a cabinet, closet/s or corner of a room so you aren't miserable in a layout that simply doesn't meet your needs. On TV, they try to make "tiny" houses seem appealing, but not if you can't function in the space. No one is going to sit outside all day to work remotely, nor is it practical to sit in a coffee shop to conduct business.
Rearrange furniture to suit yourself
Our first season, a visiting friend remarked to me, "Are the owners OK with you changing things around?" I had rearranged dishes, removed unattractive artwork into a closet and modified the living room furniture arrangement. As long as things are put back where they were by the time you leave, no one knows about or cares what you do, providing items aren't lost or damaged in the process.
Try to set up so you are facing a window with a nice view or at least some sort of interior feature that you enjoy looking at such as a focal point in the room. If it's large enough space, make sure your work space and relaxation space/s are not the same.
For years, we moved a desk for my husband from the primary bedroom next to a large panoramic window in the living room with a gorgeous ocean view. We placed our printer on a sturdy dining chair and a portable file cabinet on another chair. For my "desk," I moved a game table next to an outlet and placed my computer monitor and keyboard on top with the hardware tower sitting on the floor. Neither of us had "office" chairs, so we used the game table chairs, which are not especially comfortable, nor do they have wheels.
The very large dining room table (which seats ten) functions for shipping/receiving products and supplies as well as for setting up the medical devices and systems we import from Europe. We can eat meals at a long kitchen counter area or outdoors on the deck. The third bedroom is where we store products, parts, supplies and shipping materials. The second bedroom is dedicated entirely to guests or used as a TV room. We know we are more than a bit spoiled because our unit is 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths and 1,900 sq. feet plus a 500 sq. foot balcony.
However, all of this space comes at a premium price. It is expensive to rent a great place at the beach with unobstructed views. For us, it was a reward and an incentive to work diligently all year and worth the cost because the entire goal of working remotely is to escape the winter and enjoy a change of scenery in a warm climate. We offset the high rental cost by staying less time than a full winter.
Security for Deliveries
Is there adequate security for packages being received? By this, I refer to situations such as a busy condo complex with many guests coming and going past your door. A package sitting in the open can be very tempting. Don't count on security cameras to help. If there's any installed, they aren't necessarily working or monitored.
Your snowbird community is not the same as your primary home where everyone knows their neighbors and has a doorbell camera. Even if someone is caught stealing on camera, there's low odds of finding them, especially in communities with many transients. Who wants to go through the trouble of tracking someone down and pressing charges? The damage has already been done. Your package is MIA and now you need to redirect energy into replacing it.
Keep in mind, Amazon, FedEx and UPS drivers, have the discretion to leave your package or not if no one answers the door. If they feel it isn't safe to leave it, they will take it back to the terminal.
One option is to arrange for the front office of the place you stay to sign for your package/s. Of course, this is only if the service is available and it requires pre-arranging in advance, although it isn't a guarantee everything will go as planned.
Our condo complex does not offer business services such as that. There have been many evenings where we wanted to go across the street to eat dinner, but instead had to stay and wait until as late as 8:00 pm for packages to arrive, especially those that required a signature.
Last, but not least, is the place you are considering quiet enough to be free from noise and distractions? Working remotely from wherever is great, but it won't last long if you can't stay focused on work and find yourself distracted by noise, other temptations and become derailed.
Reserve A Year in Advance
Put much thought into your choices. If you like where you WFW, reserve it for your return trip a year in advance, preferably while you are on site. It won't be there if you procrastinate. This can and does happen because there's not a lot or any loyalty from property managers to look out for you. They are typically very busy and cannot block in "potential" dates unless the dates are properly contracted via electronic signatures and collection of your deposit money. For the same reasons WFW is popular, technology is what makes booking online the only way to essentially guarantee you get the same place again.
If you don't like your place, re-evaluate your priorities and seek something more suitable. Ask around, conduct research and don't hesitate to try something else. Again, reserve far in advance, a new place might even turn out for the better. After three years of staying in a place we thought we loved, miscommunication caused us to lose the condo for the following year. We were upset, but accepted an alternate choice that turned out to be an even better Western sunset view. After that, we purposefully returned to the "new" place, which had the same fantastic layout and amenities as the original condo. The old saying, "Everything happens for a reason" proved to be true for us, thankfully.
"If it is important to you, you will find a way. If it's not, you will find an excuse.”
-- Ryan Blair, American Entrepreneur and Author