Why Florida is the Perfect Place for Snowbirds and Snowflakes

Monday Jan 14th, 2019


Happy New Year everyone!  2019 has officially arrived and with it have come sub-zero temperatures.  I understand some people love this weather and all that it brings.  Skiing, snowboarding, outdoor skating, snowmobiling and various other activities are enjoyed by many who reside in the Great White North, however I am allergic to this weather.  I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is affectionately known as SAD.  It causes depression, most often beginning in the fall and lasting through the winter months.  As such, I love travelling south and getting a healthy dose of vitamin D in the form of sunshine.  I'm very fortunate to be able to travel to Florida a few times over the winter as my parents are snowbirds and have a second home in Estero which is just north of Naples, the golf capital of the world.  Since I pop in and out, I would be considered a snowflake and I much prefer that version to the cold, wet snowflakes we get during the winter.  according to a report Feb. 8 by the MIAMI Association of Realtors and NAR. Canadians account for 9% of all foreign buyers in South Florida, up from 6% in 2016.  Florida has a lot to offer and if you are thinking of a second home for the colder months, it's definitely worth a look. 


What is nice about Florida is the variety of housing options.  Most Canadian's, and snowbirds alike, prefer to be inside a gated community.  From coast to coast, gated communities are everywhere across the Sunshine State and offer an elevated level of security which is often paramount to many buying a vacation home.  Within many of these communities exists a plethora of choices.  There are condos, carriage homes, single family homes and townhouses and mobile homes in a wide variety of price points.  Many baby boomers, who are the largest group of snowbirds, are downsizing into a luxury condo, or smaller custom home in Canada as their primary residence and are buying luxury vacation home as their winter retreats.  From the top of the panhandle all the way down to the Florida Keys, you'll find there are options that meet both wants and needs as well as budget for those looking for a second home.


Another key aspect when considering Florida as your home for the winter is it tailored to suit many different lifestyles.  There are communities geared to specific age groups, those offering golf and/or tennis clubs, those located on the ocean, and some with restaurants, pools and other amenities.  Whether you love golf, shopping, boating, dining, playing cards, or are a beach bum, there is plenty to do in Florida, so it's important to prioritize your passions and hobbies to ensure you buy or rent at the right place for you.  Many communities have strict rules about how often, how long and to whom you can rent you home to, so another consideration is how often you plan to use the home and whether you intend to rent it to make some income.  Many have rules about what types of vehicles can be parked in your driveway, where trucks, trailers and RV's are not permitted. 


Proximity to an airport is another factor to consider when buying or renting a home in Florida.  Because it is in the same time zone as the GTA and is only about a 3 hour flight, many love the convenience of travelling there and back.  That is assuming you're relatively close to an airport.  A remote community will lead to longer commutes and can add substantial travel time.  Luckily there are many beautiful communities within 20-45 minutes of major airports on both coasts making travel to and from the airport relatively easy depending on the time of day.  Non-stop flights from Toronto to Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale are offered daily which is making Florida a preferred destination for those who still work as they can get home quickly when needed.


Weather is likely the number 1 reason why many people decide to look into a vacation home in Florida.  Determining when you'll use your vacation home the most is critical as the weather in Florida is seasonal like ours, though instead of getting cold it gets scorching hot.  Fall and winter in Florida tend to be absolutely beautiful with hot daytime temperatures that cool down in the evenings.  In the summer, temperatures often creep above 100 degrees with no relief in the evenings and it rains a lot.   should also point out this is also hurricane season so that can be a factor.  The snowbird season runs from about October to April with the bulk of traffic being January through the end of April.  This typically coincides with the best weather Florida has to offer and many aren't in their homes during hurricane season though potential buyers and renters should be made aware of the destruction a hurricane or tropical storm can cause.  For the majority of buyers, however, the benefits of a warm-weather lifestyle outweigh the risk of hurricanes and rising water levels.


Financing can be an concern for home, however with decent credit and 30% or more to put down it may just take a little longer than getting a mortgage in Canada.  In Florida, TD Bank warns that four to six weeks is the norm. Ever since the 2008 crash, U.S. banks have tightened up their credit checks significantly. Be prepared to supply accountant-verified information about your income for the past three years, all the costs relating to your Canadian home, all assets that have been “seasoned 60 days”, passport/visa information, and much more.  The majority of people in the market for a vacation home are likely more than quaified but should be prepared to supply more information than they would ordinarily require for a Canadian mortgage and to wait a bit longer for approval.  iInsurance on a residence in Florida will be about double than for a comparable one in Canada. That’s because hurricane insurance is a must and flood insurance is required in coastal areas.


Whether you are looking in Siesta Key, Naples, Boca Raton, Miami, Sarasota, Sarasota, or anywhere else in the Sunshine Belt, there are many consideration beyond the scope of this blog.  Probate and tax planning, for example.  You should always consult with a tax lawyer who specializes in estate planning before making a purchase to best protect yourself and your investment.  It also important to note that Canadian's are only able to spend 182 days per calendar year in the USA before they are considered residents and may end up owing income tax in both countries. Seek professional advice to determine if a home in Florida makes sense for you.  If you are in fact looking for a home in Florida, please reach out and I can connect you with some of the best agents from coast to coast.  There is an established base of Canadians all over Florida and many agents who are familiar with all of the concerns and questions you may have.


Yours in sunshine,


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