November 26, 2018 — Thanks to the almost 700 members who generously contributed their insights to last week’s “Snowbird” poll. We appreciate you sharing! As promised, here in Part 1 is our first detailed report on the summary for each question. Part 2 features a compilation of the most popular snowbird pairings (where our Members say they want to snowbird to, and from where), along with how they get there and other details of their migrations.
Your input confirms many of our pre-conceived opinions, along with some surprises. For example, it is not news that the top snowbird destination states are Florida, Arizona, and South Carolina – in that order. But we were surprised by how many people have a reverse migration pattern; they pack up and go somewhere cooler in the summer. One Member called himself a “sweatbird”, “shadebird” might be another handle!
Here are some other highlights from the 10 question poll, with detailed findings for each question below:
– The number of our responding members who expect to be snowbirds(49%) was much higher than we expected. When we asked the question in 2014 that figure was only 15%.
– The majority of snowbirds spend between 2 and 5 months in their seasonal retreats.
– People who live in the Northeast are overwhelmingly likely to snowbird in the Southeast.
– Folks from the Midwest are also more likely to migrate to the Southeast, but a significant number of them will head to the Southwest instead.
1. Retirement Status
Over two-thirds (69%) of the respondents to this survey are retired. Some 19% are not retired, and another 12% are partially retired. The results are interesting because this survey shows a much higher percentage of retired people than we have seen in our previous surveys. When we asked this question in a July survey, for example, only 40% said they were retired. The only interpretation we have for that is people who are already retire are more interested in snowbirding.
2. How likely to be a snowbird
We were surprised by the percentage of people who said they were either likely or extremely likely to be snowbirds (59%). In the only other survey where we asking about snowbirding, only 15% chose that option. But the question in that survey was different – the emphasis in that one was would you move in retirement, and where. The number of people who said they were interested in being a reverse snowbird – usually going somewhere cooler in the summertime – was a bit of a surprise.
Here are 49 “Other” responses to the question that provide some additional insight.
3. How long will your snowbird stay be?
Just over half of the survey respondents spend between 2 and 5 months in their snowbird location. Another 28% are at their seasonal migration spots for 5 months or more.
1 month or less
More than 6 mo
4. Over time, do you spend more or less time in your snowbird location?
Our personal experience has been that most people who are snowbirds end up spending more time doing that as time goes on, and that was what we expected to see here. That didn’t turn out to be a huge phenomenon in the survey, however: almost half (48%) said they spend the same amount of time snowbirding, but 44% said their stays are longer.
About the same
5. Where would you go as a snowbird, and where will you migrate from?
We asked survey takers to state what region they live in now, and then pick the region(s) where they might want to snowbird. The left hand column shows the regions they migrate from, in rank order (most people migrate from the Northeast, the fewest from “other”). As expected, the Southeast and Southwest are the preferred retirement destinations.
People who live in the Northeast are overwhelmingly likely to snowbird in the Southeast (70%) Folks from the Midwest are also more likely to migrate to the Southeast (58%), but many will head to the Southwest (34%). If you live in the West or Southwest, you will most likely do your snowbirding in those regions.
Live in Northeast
6. State most likely to snowbird to?
Florida and Arizona were the runaway favorite snowbird destinations. After the Carolinas, all of the remaining states were about the same in terms of popularity, but write-in votes show the tremendous variety of choices that people take as to where to snowbird.
7. Rent or own?
A slightly higher percentage of people rent as snowbirds vs. owning a home (29% vs. 26%). But a sizable percentage (23%) are considering renting and then buying, while another 18% chose “Other”. The many write-in comments show that there are many ways to tackle snowbirding. For example, people who own RVs vary where they go as snowbirds each year, while other folks visit relatives in different places.
8. How difficult is it to find a place to snowbird in?
We asked this question because we hear a lot of anecdotes from people who struggle to find a place to rent. They say availabilities are tight and you are never sure exactly what you are going to get, or if will be available the next year. As it turns out, however, only 18% of our survey respondents say it is difficult or extremely difficult to find a place.
There were 161 great comments written in to this question. Here are just a few, but we recommend you click on this link and scan all of them because there are so many good ideas and experiences to learn from:
– Spent two years traversing the country, going back to all our favorite places. Personal experience with the region.
– Wanted to go to Arizona this year everything was locked up could not find place to rent started looking in May 2018 for a place for winter 2019. Was looking in Apache Junction area we do have pets too but it is a very tight market there.
– Our hobby is ballroom dancing. We can only dance one evening a week in the northeast. Being a snowbird will provide dancing in Florida 5 evenings a week. Oh how wonderful!
– Since we are going for 3 to 4 weeks, we’ve used Airbnb successfully.
– We helped our son and family purchase a home in Chula Vista, CA. In exchange for that we now have that as our wintering destination free of costs. We remodeled a section of the house to turn it into our own little sanctuary. Now we can come and go whenever we want, stay as long as we like or not even come if we want to travel to other places we desire to visit. Plus we get to spend time with our grandchild whenever we want.
– Places vary as we are summer “sweat Birds” getting away from the AZ heat. Sometimes Canada, New Zealand in 2019, Colorado mountains etc, any place cooler
– We spent over a year going to and staying various communities to find out what it was like. We believe that you need to spend the time in order to be sure it fits for you.
9. How did/would you find a place to stay for your snowbirding?
Survey respondents primarily seem to use research, referrals from family and friends, and their personal experience to find the places to stay where they choose to snowbird (the lower the number on the chart below, the higher the ranking).
10. Tell us about your snowbird pairing preferences (where you go and where you come from), plus how you get there, and any other comments.
We will report on the results from this question next week. There were 342 write-in responses (wow)! That report will include a pdf of all responses as well as a tabulation of the most popular snowbird pairings, among other details.
Thank you Topretirements members! Your input was great. We know your fellow members will find it useful. Please share your reactions in the Comments section below!
Links to Previous Surveys
Florida Top Choice for Snowbirds: Our Survey Results
Climate and Weather Drive Where People Retire
Topretirements Members Very Confident About Retirement (2014)
Topretirements Members Report High Degrees of Spousal Compatibility- 2013
Our Members Getting Ready for Big Retirement Moves- 2013
Retirement Living Preferences – 2013
Medicare Survey – 2012
Best and Worst Things About Your Retirement
Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing
Top Concerns about Retirement
Plans for Retirement