Updated August 25, 2015 (originally published December 10, 2013) — The horrible Arctic weather the northern half of the USA experienced in the last 2 winters had at least one major effect – it made a lot more people interested in finding a snowbird rental for the winter! This article will give you suggestions on how to narrow your choices on where to live, give some tips on how to go about finding a winter rental, and provide a list of reader-suggested snowbird destinations from earlier this year. Note that the reader Comments made to both this article and the related ones in the “Further Reading” section are at least as helpful as those in the article itself!
Keys to Success
The keys to success in finding a good snowbird rental are quite simple: get started early, and explore plenty of avenues. Hoping to luck into something is not very likely.
We think there are many advantages to renting in a warm place for some or all of the winter. There is the obvious one: it gets you out of the frozen Midwest, icy Northeast, or the dark/dreary/wet Pacific Northwest for a pleasant interlude in the sun. If you are retired and not a big fan of winter, why not be in an agreeable climate for a while? Another big advantage of snowbird rentals is that they give you a chance to see and experience different parts of the country with very little risk or expense. People who do it for several years get a very good idea of what areas they like and don’t like. Then, if they later decide to purchase a place either as a snowbird or for year-round living, they are much more educated buyers. Yet another advantage: it provides an opportunity to be near friends and family without overstaying your welcome.
Get Started Now!
If you are looking for a snowbird rental for this current year (2015-2016) you are a bit late. But all is not lost. There are still plenty of options if you get on it now. And it is not too early to be thinking about the following year’s season.
There are so many choices for snowbird winters that it can be a bit overwhelming. We think that by answering these questions you will be able to narrow down your choices to a manageable few.
How Far Will You Go
People from the northeastern U.S. often look for a warm place to winter in the Southeast, often on the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, Georgia, or Florida. Folks from the Midwest typically head south too, possibly to Mississippi, Alabama, or the west coast of Florida. Other Mid-westerners and those from the northern plains and Pacific Northwest tend to like wintering in the sunnier parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Adventurous souls keep going past those spots to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Northern Europeans like southern Spain, Greece, Turkey, the Canary Islands, South Africa, New Zealand, and southeast Asia. But there are always exceptions – you will find New Englanders who winter in Palm Springs, CA and folks from Oregon who spend January on the east coast of Florida. Many retirees tend to go where there friends go, often setting up little satellite communities. The choices are there; it’s a lot about whether you want to drive or fly, how far you are willing to travel, what is available, and how much you want to spend.
How Long Can You Stay
The length of your trip can bear a big impact on your snowbird experience. For example if you can only get out of the cold for a week or two, there isn’t much point in going to the Carolinas. Sure it will be warmer there than in Boston. But fickle weather patterns could mean that it won’t get out of the 50s for more than a few hours of the day, and your trip could be disappointing. The shorter the trip, the further south (south Florida, the Caribbean, or southern Arizona) you should think about going. Ironically, if you can get away longer, say for 3 months or so, you won’t have to travel so far away to have great odds of experiencing many days of warm temperatures in the coastal Carolinas, Georgia, Phoenix, or northern Florida.
Climate and Lifestyle
What you want to do in your free time has a relationship to your climate choices. Fishing and swimming are going to be very chilly except in south Florida. If you just want to be outside, then South Carolina, Arizona, or New Mexico might be fine for you.
How Much Do You Want to Spend
Certain parts of snowbirding country are more expensive than others. Central Florida and part of Florida’s west coast can be very inexpensive. The fancy parts of Florida’s east coast like Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale are pricey, although there are parts of the coast that are more affordable. The type and degree of fanciness of the town or community has a huge impact. Communities that rent manufactured homes, trailers or RVs, and cottages can be downright cheap. Likewise if you own or rent an RV you can stay very inexpensively in countless RV parks. You can use Advanced Search at Topretirements to find these type of communities. Port Charlotte in southwest Florida has many rental bargains, while just a few miles down the road in Naples almost nothing comes without a big price tag. Similarly in Palm Springs (CA) rentals are expensive and in demand, while further out areas are reasonable. Once you start looking at rentals, you will quickly see where the bargains lie.
How to Find a Good Snowbird Rental
Friends. One of the best ways to find a good rental is to ask your friends who go away in winter. They just might have a neighbor looking to rent out for a month, or they can look on bulletin boards or newsletters for leads. Having some inside knowledge via the “Coconut Telegraph” is always a good idea.
Online sites. VRBO.com, Homeaway.com, Vacationrentals.com are great places to start looking for a place to spend the winter. Craigslist.com have plenty of rentals but you do need to be very cautious about scams. More than one person has paid in advance to rent a place only to arrive and find a non-existent rental. A single friend of ours looking to spend the winter in FL found a very economical bedroom to rent near Naples via Roommates.com. Airbnb.com might be a very good bet if you only are looking for a room or very small place. Among all these online sites there are thousands of places that can be rented by the week, month, or longer. Obviously it helps if you have narrowed down your search beforehand, as the choices might be overwhelming. See the end of this article for member suggestions on where to consider looking. Tripadvisor.com is a good place to get an idea of what a particular town or resort might be like (along with hotel and restaurant reservations). On all of these sites, carefully consider the reader comments and feedback. Obviously, some people have axes to grind, but be wary when you see red flags.
Search. A simple search on Google, Yahoo, or Live.com such as “Monthly rental apartment in Key Largo FL” can be surprisingly effective in turning up some good leads. You might also find a realtor who has some rentals while you are searching, although they are generally more interested in selling than renting.
More tips – Big places vs. small. Some of the largest active adult communities have so many homes in them that the odds of finding a rental are good. The Villages, On Top of the World (both near Ocala, FL); Laguna Woods Village in California all have community boards and real estate agents that list rental opportunities. Go to the web sites of the communities you are interested in for ideas on who you might contact. Most RV/Mobile Home communities have rental units, and these are usually fairly inexpensive. You can find that type of community by using our Advanced Search.
Some Snowbird choices
These are some of the ideal snowbird destinations that your fellow members suggested earlier this year. Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg. See more ideas in our “Snowbird Pairings” article listed below.
Comments and Suggestions. What are some of the strategies you have used to find a good snowbird rental? Please share your ideas in the Comments section below. If you are looking for a rental here is one suggestion that probably won’t work – posting a comment here saying “…you are looking to rent a place in …?” As one Member responded to a very non-specific request like that, “You’re a bit late to the party”. We will say it again: the keys to success in finding a good snowbird rental are to get started early and explore plenty of avenues.
For further reading:
Sandy’s Adventures Part II: How to Find an Affordable Warm Winter Place to Retire
Snowbird Rentals – Going, Going…Gone
Our Ideal Snowbird Pairings (Summer and Winter)
Rental Frustrations for Snowbirders and the Buy vs. Rent Dilemma
Annual Moving Challenges for Snowbirds