When Snowbirds Fly How Seasonal Residents Impact HOAs

Every year the cycle repeats itself in numerous co-ops and condo communities from the Gold Coast to the Jersey Shore: as temperatures drop and snow begins to swirl, flocks of empty nesters and others fortunate enough to own a second home in a warmer climate pack up and head south.

Having these part-time residents’ units empty for months at a time poses certain challenges for the managers and boards of associations, whose administrative and managerial jobs don’t ease up just on account of the season. Security, emergency access to units, voting issues and communication all become pretty complicated.

The carefree lifestyle of condominium residents may make an owner feel as though taking off for a winter in Florida is as simple as removing the trash and locking the unit doors. Managers and other real estate industry pros know it’s not that simple.

Gaining Access

A 2006 survey by Stan Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida in Gainesville, found that of all the people who spend part of each year in Florida, the greatest number were from New York, with Michigan next, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, Canada, Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California. Upstate New Yorkers have long gravitated to places like the central eastern coast and the area around Tampa and St. Petersburg. And now that South Florida has filled up, metropolitan New Yorkers and folks from the Garden State are popping up in nearly every place where Florida sand meets the sea. Most of these temporary residents migrated to counties in the southern part of the Sunshine State. And that means there are a lot of empty co-op and condo units.

It is unclear exactly when northern visitors to the Sunshine State became known as “Snowbirds,” but Canadian singer Anne Murray made the term famous in 1970 with the release of her song bearing the same name. The term is applied most commonly to the seasonal northern visitors who visit Florida annually generally during the period from November through April. National elections, early or late snowfalls and holidays can and do affect the annual exodus in both directions. Full time residents who leave Florida for several weeks during the hottest summer months are often referred to as “Sunbirds.”

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