Summering in Style

In New York, freezing temperatures are as reliable as death and taxes. And if recent winters are any indicator, the cold and wind will be accompanied by plenty of snow this year. But there is an alternative: Snowbirding.

Many Long Islanders call places like Florida or the Carolinas home in the winter and while it may not be for everyone (ahem, day jobs), it’s not as difficult as it may seem. “Being an empty-nester with many peers in the same situation looking to move, I have recently referred three customers to our Florida offices,” said Mona Kremin, a Great Neck-based realtor with Douglas Elliman. “I expect that amount to increase.” Most snowbirds are retired couples or are at least approaching retirement age; their primary homes are paid off and they have plenty of free time.

Long Island homes are expensive—most sell for well over $260,000—and our property taxes are among the highest in the country. But down south, real estate and taxes are less expensive. “I just purchased a home in Boca Raton,” Kremin said. “If it were for sale in the Great Neck area, it would sell for approximately $1.2 million. I paid $255,000.”

Like all real estate, it’s about location. Kremin said that on Florida’s east coast, towns from Jupiter down to Miami—which includes places like Boca Raton, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale—are extremely popular with New Yorkers. They’re all beachfront towns with lots to do, especially for water enthusiasts (read: beach bums). And on the West Coast, Sarasota and Naples are also hot places to buy for the same reasons.

Florida offers more than just condos. Real estate can range from waterfronts to those with backyards on a golf course. Further inland is prime for something more Long Island-like: suburban streets, megamarts and a short drive to the water. “There is enough inventory available in Florida to find a second home to meet your needs,” Kremin said. Even if buying isn’t in the budget, many Floridians rent their homes out in the winter months to accommodate snowbirds with tight belts.

Of course, having two houses means having twice the maintenance, taxes and maybe a mortgage. Arrangements have to be made to have the exterior of both homes taken care of, and it’s important to make friends with year-round neighbors who can provide updates. “Not many people want to rent homes in Florida in the summer,” Kremin said, alluding to the heat and humidity. “Homeowners either rent their homes out during the winter months or year round.”

Beyond warming the bones, buying a second home is typically a safe investment in a market where everyone wants to be. Renting out a second home for a few years could also be an option. The growing market in Florida might mean it’s even possible to buy a home and sell it in a few years for a profit. “With the low purchase prices in Florida, you can probably make money if you choose to sell in the near future,” Kremin said. “I purchased my home in April 2014 and I think I can sell it for $40,000 more now.”