Last January I announced that I bought a house in Florida and our family would be snowbirds- we’d spend the winter in Florida and the summer in Utah. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from lots of people who had dreams to do the same! Today we’re headed back to Florida so I thought I’d talk about the pros and cons of being a snowbird.
the pros and cons of being a snowbird
Honestly, I could talk about this topic for hours! I’m figuring out the snowbird lifestyle bit by bit and am still learning out how to navigate it. We’re young for trying this (most people who travel seasonally for better weather are retirees), so it seems like unchartered water. Especially since we have a child who’ll be in elementary school soon. Let’s get to it!
Obviously, the biggest benefit if the weather. Utah summers are a dream, especially in Logan. The evenings get cool and while the days can get too hot in July, mostly it’s pleasant. There’s so much to do- hiking, biking, farmer’s markets. Even in the pandemic, we weren’t bored. It was lovely.
Do you know what I didn’t realize? Some people don’t know how great Florida winters are! The beach in South Florida in the winter is a dream. The average temperature is 74 degrees and the water is warm too- 71 on average. It’s not sweater weather like California beaches in the winter. It’s perfect. And tons of people are snowbirds in Florida for this exact reason.
While the weather is great, the stress with moving every 6 months is taxing. Driving across the country, packing up all of our belongings, always having it looming like the major deadline it is- it weighs heavily on me. Especially since we rent our house during the off months as an Air BNB means that the house has to be perfect before we move. Cue lots of last minute projects.
The upside of moving so frequently is that we get to see the country. There’s so many different ways to get from Utah to Florida that we get to see cities and town we never would have. We’ve taken Don to new (to him) dinosaur museums, I’ve got to thrift across the country, and we try so many amazing food places.
change of pace
OK, here’s something I do love- it’s such a great change of pace going from Logan Utah to Hollywood Florida. Logan is a rural town with no traffic, lots of great places to eat, and that small town feel. Center Street on Logan is my favorite place- it’s so quaint that I could cry. A local movie theater that only plays old movies, cute shops, lots of antiquing. It’s a dream.
And then it gets too cold so we head to Florida. And Hollywood is amazing too! A 15 minute bike ride to the beach. Palm trees and beautiful sunsets. We’re a three hour drive from Disney World in one direction and Key West in the other direction. The local park has turtles swimming in the pond. It’s so different it really makes it interesting to spend time in such varied places.
friends and family
A major downside is that we desperately miss our friends and family when we’re in Florida. We are all a little more lonely in Florida since our friends are all much closer to our Logan home. It’s a bummer to think about. We miss playing with cousins, thrifting with my sister, babysitting from my mother in law and so much more.
The ONLY upside about this is that when we are in Utah, we try to make sure every weekend counts. We pack in visits with our favorite people. Everyone knows we’re only in town for a few months so it’s a priority to spend quality time together.
Let’s talk about money, honey. When first setting everything up- it’s ridiculously expensive. We bought a home and then needed to furnish the whole thing. Buying all the small things a house needs like a mop and hangers and drapes- it got pricey quickly.
We bought the house in mid January 2020 and the pandemic hit a few months later. Not the best time to spend tons of money.
Now that both houses are set-up as Air BNB’s it’s not as expensive. But buying the original sets of sheets for beds, white towels, keyless locks, and security cameras was a lot of money.
Anyway- the experiment of being a snow bird was expensive up front. And while our Air BNB rental income mostly makes up for the hefty price tag, there’s still costs and double the bills on utilities, lawn maintenance, insurance- things like that.
managing a home from long distance
A tricky part of being a snowbird is that you’re leaving your house for a season. Which means that things might go wrong and you’ll have to figure it out from far away. And it’s even more complicated because who knows when something will break?! I’ve hired task rabbits who did an ok job and locksmiths who charged way too much.
I think now, more than ever before, it’s easier to manage a house from far away. Our doors all open with key pads, we can see who’s at our house from the camera via an app on our phones, we can hire people online and pay them too. But still, when something breaks it sucks.
My son Don, is 5. This winter will be his third time that we’ve been snowbirds in his young life. The first time was when he was 2, then last year at 4, and this year at 5. It’s what he knows.
Will he miss his friends and cousins when we’re gone? Yes, of course. But hopefully this year he’ll make friends in Florida too (last winter was tricky with the pandemic). We talk about our mixed feelings- how we’re happy to be in Florida but sad to miss our friends. It is hard.
Will Don miss his playhouse? Probably. If we were in Logan for the winter, it’d be too cold to use it for most of the time. It’ll just be that much more exciting for him to play in when we get back. It’s not going anywhere. And I’ll do some fun things to the Florida backyard to make it more fun too.
How does it work with his school? Well this year, because of the pandemic, I held him back from kindergarten. So he’ll do school at home with me. My plan was to get back to Florida by August so that he could go to school in Florida. But it’s all online and that’s not for us with Don’s personality and him being a kindergartener.
Next year, I have no clue where we’ll spend the school year. Next August seems like an eternity away. Plus who knows what next year will be like? I don’t like not knowing my plans, but how can anyone plan ahead right now?
One of the tricky things with being a snowbird is that owning plants isn’t super smart. Which is hard because I’m a plant lover! But asking renters to take care of your plants when you’re away isn’t fair. So if I buy a plant, I know it’ll probably only be around for 6 months.
In Utah, I decorated for Halloween because my son is obsessed, but I took it all down yesterday and it’s being stored in our basement. Maybe one day I’ll hire someone to decorate my house I’m not at for the holidays. But I don’t really see that being worth it. So for now, it’s just decorated for everyday living.
Though lots of parts of owning two homes isn’t simple, it does make it so you’re constantly going through your belonging. Every 6 months I go through every single thing I own and decide if I really need it. This is hard to do, but it’s nice to have it done.
It also means you’re up to date on all house projects every 6 months. Again, it’s a lot of work to do, but it’s nice to know you don’t have lingering projects that need to get done.
renting vs. buying
The first winter we spent in Florida, we rented a house. It was nice because we could check out the town without the commitment of owning a place. That’s how we fell in love with Hollywood Florida. It’s family friendly and we got familiar with the neighborhood so we could see the nice parts of town for when we would eventually buy.
The hard part of renting is furnishing a house and then dealing with all that stuff when winter is over. It was a lot of work to decorate a home and then sell or move the things. It was not a sustainable way to do things.
Buying has been great in that our things are still in the house so when we get back, we just unpack our clothes and food and we’re good to go! But it is expensive having a mortgage in Florida and all the taxes and maintenance costs that come with it.
So that’s a little glimpse into being a snowbird- at least for our family. What do you think? Would this lifestyle be for you? Any other questions I can answer?
In this post I included pictures from the projects we’ve done since June to our Utah house. Here’s a list of them all!
- Rainbow tile bathroom
- Rainbow Clawfoot tub
- Firepit Area
- Privacy Fence
- Don’s room
- Guest Room arch wall and bead night stand
- Porch refresh with Rainbow rocking chair
Which was your favorite to follow along with? Side note, yesterday I painted a mural in Don’s bedroom and finished it up. I took pictures, but the computer I use to edit pictures is packed away so it’ll be a week or so before I can share the reveal of that.
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