The Return of the Snowbirds

The Return of the Snowbirds

Creating a Smooth Transition for Your Community.

by Adia Walker / Published October 2014


People from all over the country who want to escape a cold and dreary winter have been flocking to Florida for years. The mild weather, abundant sunshine, and relaxed Florida lifestyle annually brings more than 800,000 snowbirds to community associations across the state. While this influx of residents within a community can put a strain on resources, there are actions that community association managers can take to ease the transition for their residents.

“Community association managers should be conscientious of the increasein demand and make adjustments where needed,” says Diane Braswell from Leland Management. Tips for staff members who want to make the return of the snowbirds easier on everyone include:

  • Anticipate an increase in architectural review applications and attendance at monthly board meetings.
  • Create a streamlined process to ensure mailing addresses are updated and important documents are not being sent to residents’ northern homes.
  • Ensure staff members are prepared to spend some extra time “catching up” with returning residents.
  • To minimize any parking issues, post a reminder of the parking rules and communicate the courtesies of proper parking behavior.
  • Use newsletters and brochures to stay in communication with snowbirds throughout the year; this can reduce the amount of issues snowbirds may encounter in their transition back to Florida.
  • Consider how the year-round residents are affected and do your best to strike a balance between the two different groups.

Sentry Management, Inc. says that permanent residents are often unhappy with seasonal people due to the amount of tenants; they feel that tenants are not as responsible as owners and fail to maintain the property as an owner would. “We try to use the time snowbirds are on site to educate them on the year-round issues of the community and better prepare them to deal effectively with their renters and leasing agencies,” says the company’s Regional Vice President, Robin Spencer. 

Many times there can be a delicate balance between year-round residents and snowbirds. During the winter months, a quiet community can be completely transformed into a lively place bustling with additional residents and activity. “Commu-nity association managers need to help the residents embrace the benefits of being part of a snowbird community by offering social events that welcome the snowbirds and allow them to get to know their neighbors,” says Braswell. “Many of our communities host ‘snowbird socials’ for their returning residents. These events range from BBQ luncheons to throwback movie nights, but all feature food, fun, and Florida sunshine. Other communities simply send out a welcome letter containing dates for social events within the community and any updates they should be aware of.”

Sentry Management encourages the residents within their communitiesto coordinate the activities and events during the snowbird season. “Many communities have social committees that develop a complete schedule of activities,” says Ann Concannon, Vice President of the Volusia CountyFlorida Division for Sentry Management. “It is best to have a social committee formed that is comprised of year-round owners or early arrivers who are prepared to be knowledgeable about the happenings of the association. This allows the owners to share experiences and information, which minimizes staff time from answering many similar questions.”

While the community association managers, staff, and year-round residents can all play an important role in easing the transition, the snowbirds themselves play a key role as well. Leland Management and Sentry Management, Inc. suggest seasonal residents use the following tips to help adjust during their annual move:

  • Keep key utility account numbers and contact information in one location for each residence. This will provide a quick reference with account numbers and contact information for all of your utilities making it easier to contact each company to turn on and off services. 
  • Plan for healthcare—pick a primary physician in each location and do research on the insurance requirements prior to you visiting the doctor. 
  • Stay organized—create a transition checklist for each residence. Turning on and off utilities, starting and stopping mail services, and storing all outside belongings in the home are a few items that should be on the checklist. 
  • Engage the services of an individual property manager or inspection service to check the unit on a weekly basis during the summer months. Without regular attention, a small maintenance item could become a much larger concern.

One of the biggest nightmares for a snowbird, who has just arrived at their Florida home ready to relax, is dealing with damage that has occurred while they were gone. Much of this headache can be prevented by closing your unit properly. 

“When closing up a condominium to head back north, keep in mind that water, both in a liquid state and in a vapor state, is your biggest enemy,” says Patrick Dunifon, Sales and Marketing Director for Florida Pipe-Lining Solutions. “Next to fire, water does the most damage to a home. The biggest offender is burst washing machine hoses followed by toilet supply tubes, water heaters, and then pinhole leaks in the walls. Other possible threats include pest invasions and sewer gas entering your closed condominium from drains.”

Florida Pipe-Lining Solutions recommends all snowbirds follow ten steps for a worry-free departure and a happy arrival next season to their Florida home.

  • Turn off the electrical breaker to your water heater. Then, turn off the water supply and drain the water heater.
  • Turn off main water service shut-off to your unit.
  • Flush half of the water from each toilet tank. Then add a one-quarter cup of bleach to the toilet bowl. Cover the tank and bowl with saran wrap to prevent evaporation. Dry drains can allow entry of sewer gas, bugs, and vermin.
  • Place two tablespoons of non-toxic RV anti-freeze in the bottom of your dish washer to keep the rubber seals from drying out and cracking. Stick a note to the dishwasher to remind yourself to run it through a full cycle when you return to rinse it out.
  • Remove all perishable food from the refrigerator. If you are leaving the refrigerator on, lift the arm up on the icemaker. Leave several one-half gallon bottles of water in the freezer and fresh food section so the refrigerator has something to cool and freeze. This keeps the compressor from working as hard as it does with an empty refrigerator.
  • Clean range top and oven so that no spilled food particles are there to attract pests. 
  • To prevent mold and mildew in Florida with our high humidity, the A/C should be left on while your unit is closed up. 
  • Add a one-quarter cup of bleach to the A/C pan to prevent algae forming and blocking the water discharge, which could lead to flooding the condominium.
  • Keep your blinds and curtains closed to keep out the sun and the unwanted individuals who look for empty homes.
  • Unplug TV, radios, and other unneeded electrical devices while you are gone. 

By providing guidance and assistance to seasonal residents, community association managers can help minimize the number of problems that occur during the transition period of the early winter months, making a happier community for all.