Seasonal Residents Managing the Snowbird Migration

It’s a refrain you’ll commonly hear from retirees who are weary of suffering through cold northern winters or hot southern summers: “When I retire, I’m going to live in New York for half the year and in Florida for the other half!” 

These residents, who split their time between climates, have earned the nickname ‘snowbirds’ for their seasonal migration from region to region. Since individual condos and HOAs do not typically track what percentage of their residents are snowbirds, and the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t track seasonal residents either, it’s hard to say how many New York residents leave and return every six months. One thing is for certain, though. While these residents are making things easier on themselves, they can be making things more difficult for the associations they leave behind. 

Snowbirds

A 2006 survey by Stan Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida in Gainesville, found that of all the people who spend part of each year in Florida, the greatest number were from New York, with Michigan next, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, Canada, Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California. Upstate New Yorkers have long gravitated to places like the central eastern coast and the area around Tampa and St. Petersburg. And now that South Florida has filled up, metropolitan New Yorkers and folks from the Garden State are popping up in nearly every place where Florida sand meets the sea. Most of these temporary residents migrated to counties in the southern part of the Sunshine State. And that means there are a lot of empty co-op and condo units.

It is unclear exactly when northern visitors to the Sunshine State became known as “Snowbirds,” but Canadian singer Anne Murray made the term famous in 1970 with the release of her song bearing the same name. The term is applied most commonly to the seasonal northern visitors who visit Florida annually generally during the period from November through April. National elections, early or late snowfalls and holidays can and do affect the annual exodus in both directions. Full time residents who leave Florida for several weeks during the hottest summer months are often referred to as “Sunbirds.”

Leaks and Creaks

“One of the biggest challenges with seasonal residents is maintenance issues while they are gone,” says Nat Kunes, vice president of product management for AppFolio, Inc., which works with over 6,000 property managers across the U.S. “For example, it’s critical to ensure that the HOA or property manager has access to the property, and that they have a way of knowing if something breaks.”

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