July 15, 2011 — Note: This is Part II in our series from Sandy, who has spent years researching how to find the perfect – and affordable – retirement spot. “Part I: What Sandy Learned in 8 Years of Visiting Dozens of Active Adult Communities” has attracted 49 comments so far.
For me and my husband the best way to a ‘perfect’ retirement is to enjoy wonderful Northern springs, summers and falls – and spend winters somewhere warm. In spite of what a lot of people think, it is possible for almost anyone, even those on a very small budget, to experience this dream. This article will tell about a successful strategy we used to get there.
A few years ago I was searching the Internet for a way to stay longer in Florida without the high cost of the Destin rentals, when I came across an unusual way to winter in Florida – yearly leasing a trailer or ‘cottage’ for the rent of two Spring months in Destin. We found a great deal! For either $4600 or $5600 a YEAR plus utilities, you can have your own place for whatever portion of the year you want to live in Florida. No packing and toting anything for each winter. You can have a winter cottage where you can keep all your warm weather clothing, favorite personal items and crafts without packing and unpacking each time you travel.
The Village of Casa Del Sol provides a single unit trailer with or without a same size screened porch that you can lease for a year, and for any subsequent years. You don’t pay a monthly maintenance fee when you are not there, nor electricity or cable bills, unless you choose to keep those utilities running while you are up north.
This community is a non-smoking, senior environment that charges a monthly utility fee of $30 per month for the months actually used. The fee includes water, sewer, daily curbside trash pickup, and lawn mowing.
Each cottage has one bedroom, one bath, living/kitchen area with an eating area. It comes furnished with the basics: Couch, chair, kitchen eating area with two chairs, dishes, silverware, and glasses for 4 people, basic pot and pan cooking and utensils , stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, queen bed, dresser, and a Murphy (in-the-wall) bed. Each resident provides their own linens for the bed, bath and kitchen. And any other cooking items they want. It is your place until you decide you no longer want to return to warm, sunny Florida.
It is a smaller community with around 300 units. Most residents are snowbirds, but several units have year-round residents. These snowbirds come from many different states, (mostly Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Indiana, several New England states and Eastern Canada.) It is a great mix of people who ALL want to enjoy the warm weather and each others’ company.
There is a volunteer social Director(s) that is a former teacher/principal with his retired teacher wife, who keeps things moving ALL the time. There are weekly coffee hours, dancing, bingo, euchre, dominoes, poker, bridge, and exercise classes, plus numerous parties and pot-lucks. A heated pool is available every day with pool exercise classes, plus a whirlpool, and an exercise room in the club house. You have a laundry room within the club house that houses all the events. And a kitchen to use for the bigger parties and there are monthly community events and activities. Even road trips and/or cruises are planned.
At least 1/3 of the residents volunteer at Give Kids The World. GKTW provides kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families a special week of activities that Orlando offers, including Disney, Universal and a Village to stay in.
The best thing about this community is that you are close to all the Disney/Orlando/Tampa activities. So, if the park’s activities don’t keep you busy, these local attractions will keep you as busy as you’d like, and you are an hour from either coast – Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. Many residents have season passes to Disney and enjoy all the entertainment including the wonderful Christmas displays, some even work at Disney part-time – many seniors love working there – there are many benefits. Plus, you can enjoy all the Bowl Parades in the area.
Of course, Spring Training is all over the state. You can see your favorite baseball team before they come home. This place is ideally located in the state of Florida to enjoy the entire state. In a couple of hours you can be on South Beach or a couple more in the Keys.
It is not a lavish setting; one would just say it is a ‘trailer park’, they are single-wide trailer with a screen porch but it is luxury when back home it is 10 degrees and you haven’t seen the sun in over a month, plus NO snow to shovel or icy roads – otherwise Paradise! It is a great place to winter. So, really any one can enjoy retirement with a warm winter and your Northern home. A thing I never thought I could afford!
Note: There are two others owned by the same holding company, at least I think it is the same holding company, the units look exactly the same, the renting/leasing approach is the same and their websites are designed very similarly. The one in Ocala is only $3500 for a year lease, but no screened porches and I have no idea on their activities. There are so many other low cost communities too, you just need to spend some time researching them.
There are so many low cost living options that almost anyone can winter in Florida or other warm state with very low rent. To find places use this website as a start (use the Retirement Ranger or Advanced Search looking for low cost options in Florida or Arizona). VRBO.com is great for finding places , as is Craigslist and other ‘rent through owners’ websites. You can start with 4-6 weeks to get the lay of the land, and many who start out this way now go for 6 months each year. To stay within a budget you won’t be spending the winter right on the beach or in Southern Florida, where rents are $2000 to $5000/mo. But you will be in a nice community where it is warm and there is plenty to do. Once you are wintering in a warmer location, you can then start to look for places to live in future years, or year round if that is your desire.
Comments: Have you had success finding an affordable place to retire in the sun? Share with your fellow members your successes and failures, using the Comments section below.
For further reference:
Part I: What Sandy Learned
Finding the Best Active Communities Can Be Fun!
How to Find a Great Snowbird Rental for the Winter
Our Ideal Snowbird Pairings (Summer and Winter)
Rental Frustrations for Snowbirders and the Buy vs. Rent Dilemma
Annual Moving Challenges for Snowbirds