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Old 08-01-2013, 08:23 AM   #41
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We've been bouncing between suburban Chicago (house) and Scottsdale (condo) since 2002. We have yet to stay in Az longer than 2 weeks at a time due to DW's work. That will change soon.

Your plan sounds feasible to me. I cant address expenses in San Diego or San Francisco, but our condo ownership/utilities in Scottsdale is running about 7k a year.
Ronstar -- how are you managing a condo in Snotts er Scottsdale for $7K/year all in? Is there rental income offsetting some expenses? Any specific advice on Scottsdale -- that's an area of interest to DW and I.

Overall I'm assuming you are pretty happy with the situation?

RunningBum, Ronstar and others ESRed and snowbirding -- are you finding the additional cost of snowbirding is worth the hit to the full retirement date?

Others have made good points about hobbies and activities. For us, biking, hiking and just being outside in the sun are very important to us and nearly impossible in our primary location ~6mos a year. So, while renting 1-4 months some where else is appealing, there are some logistical considerations such as having two sets of (fairly expensive) road bikes and gear, car, clothes and home-office equipment. Obviously buying a second place prevents having to lug or rent that stuff, but also reduces flexibility. A hybrid idea we've kicked around is having a year-round storage unit, perhaps big enough to hold a cheap car, and each year we take the bikes, office stuff and some clothes to whatever rental we get.
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Old 08-01-2013, 09:21 AM   #42
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RunningBum, Ronstar and others ESRed and snowbirding -- are you finding the additional cost of snowbirding is worth the hit to the full retirement date?
Yes, but my situation wasn't typical. I did it to stay close to my son during much of the school year when he moved away with his mother, while retaining the house I'd built for retirement. I actually came out a bit ahead by making Texas my primary residence (no state income taxes while I was exercising some of my stock options) and making a nice profit on a house I bought there. Most importantly I was able to keep a good relationship with my son so it'd have been worth it even if I took a hit. He went to college near the home I'd built so I'm back to one home now.
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Old 08-01-2013, 01:45 PM   #43
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We have been retired for 11 years. Living in Vancouver BC in a 3300 sq.ft. penthouse. It was the result of downsizing 16 years ago from big place. We have experimented with home swaps in San Diego and Toronto for a month at a time. We have also used vrbo to get apartments in Paris, Nice, Lucca and Rome for a month each.

In 2007 we bought our place in the sun and we now spend 6 months there. We rent out the penthouse for 6 months. Out total annual cost has dropped since buying. This is because the cost of living in Mexico is much less than in Canada. Based on the resulting annual savings, we can live forever! We do not rent out our Mexico place.

Our budget includes a month-long trip to Europe/Asia/South America-Africa each year. This year it is Vancouver Island, Galiano Island, The Okanagan and Toronto. So far the weather has cooperated!
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Old 08-01-2013, 02:15 PM   #44
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We have been retired for 11 years. Living in Vancouver BC in a 3300 sq.ft. penthouse. It was the result of downsizing 16 years ago from big place. We have experimented with home swaps in San Diego and Toronto for a month at a time. We have also used vrbo to get apartments in Paris, Nice, Lucca and Rome for a month each.

In 2007 we bought our place in the sun and we now spend 6 months there. We rent out the penthouse for 6 months. Out total annual cost has dropped since buying. This is because the cost of living in Mexico is much less than in Canada. Based on the resulting annual savings, we can live forever! We do not rent out our Mexico place.

Our budget includes a month-long trip to Europe/Asia/South America-Africa each year. This year it is Vancouver Island, Galiano Island, The Okanagan and Toronto. So far the weather has cooperated!
I think it's great that you are comfortable renting out your penthouse while you are down in Mexico. I currently live full time on the West Coast due to DW's work and my house in the south is rented out and I hate the feeling that strangers are living in this house and doing who knows what in there. Once we start "snowbirding", I think I would only allow friends and/or family to use our vacant property.
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Old 08-01-2013, 02:22 PM   #45
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I still work so no snowbirding in my case. Things will change when I finally FIRE.
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Old 08-01-2013, 02:30 PM   #46
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Once we start "snowbirding", I think I would only allow friends and/or family to use our vacant property.
I didn't even do this. All I needed was for someone to forget to turn the heat down, or not turn the water off, or leave a window open, and I could incur high utility costs or animals getting in. Especially when I left in late summer and wouldn't get back until winter was well underway, I did a lot to winterize the house and didn't want it undone. In a more moderate climate like Vancouver that wouldn't be such an issue.
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Old 08-01-2013, 02:53 PM   #47
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Ronstar -- how are you managing a condo in Snotts er Scottsdale for $7K/year all in? Is there rental income offsetting some expenses? Any specific advice on Scottsdale -- that's an area of interest to DW and I.

Overall I'm assuming you are pretty happy with the situation?

RunningBum, Ronstar and others ESRed and snowbirding -- are you finding the additional cost of snowbirding is worth the hit to the full retirement date?

Others have made good points about hobbies and activities. For us, biking, hiking and just being outside in the sun are very important to us and nearly impossible in our primary location ~6mos a year. So, while renting 1-4 months some where else is appealing, there are some logistical considerations such as having two sets of (fairly expensive) road bikes and gear, car, clothes and home-office equipment. Obviously buying a second place prevents having to lug or rent that stuff, but also reduces flexibility. A hybrid idea we've kicked around is having a year-round storage unit, perhaps big enough to hold a cheap car, and each year we take the bikes, office stuff and some clothes to whatever rental we get.
The 7k was actually $7300 for 2012. I don't rent it out. I've since cut internet and phone so in 2013 it looks like:

$1300 re taxes
$2640 HOA dues
$300 gas
$1200 elect
$400 ins
$780 cable
or $6620 total

Scottsdale is great for your kind of hobbies. I do a lot of hiking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, run and bike through the neighborhoods, and bike to ASU campus in tempe via Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt. I have a hybrid bike and stick mainly to paved trails and sidewalks. There are a lot of roads with bike lanes for road bikers, but I'm sticking to the trails for safety.

Lots of good restaurants and shopping, movie theaters, spring training baseball, etc to keep yourself occupied. Housing seems to be picking up. Very, very hot in the summer sometimes 100-115 with max high at 120. No humidity. Hardly ever rains, but when it rains an inch there is flooding. Seems like they get 5 minutes of monsoon rains every day in late July - early Sept. Spring, winter, and fall are great. Some days in winter may get down to around 55, and it could snow at night, but doesn't stick. I've had run-ins with termites, scorpions, tarantulas, javelinas, and rattlesnakes - all freak me out because these are unheard of in Illinois.

I'm happy with the situation and will spend more time in Scottsdale once DW retires. I go around 8 - 9 times a year (since 2002) and average stay is 5 days. I needed this place to maintain my sanity through the winter, so it was worth the pushback in my retirement date. I still work 1 day a week, but DW still works full time, so my retirement date is subject to her retirement date more than my condo purchase.

My advice is to rent a place for a while first to make sure you like it, and if so, shop around and buy something if it suits your needs.
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Old 08-01-2013, 03:45 PM   #48
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Ronstar, thanks, that is very helpful. Did you pay cash for your place? If so, do you account for any opportunity costs?

We will be doing exactly what you suggest and renting several places over several periods to see how we like it.
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Old 08-01-2013, 05:28 PM   #49
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Ronstar --

RunningBum, Ronstar and others ESRed and snowbirding -- are you finding the additional cost of snowbirding is worth the hit to the full retirement date?

Others have made good points about hobbies and activities. For us, biking, hiking and just being outside in the sun are very important to us and nearly impossible in our primary location ~6mos a year. So, while renting 1-4 months some where else is appealing, there are some logistical considerations such as having two sets of (fairly expensive) road bikes and gear, car, clothes and home-office equipment. Obviously buying a second place prevents having to lug or rent that stuff, but also reduces flexibility. A hybrid idea we've kicked around is having a year-round storage unit, perhaps big enough to hold a cheap car, and each year we take the bikes, office stuff and some clothes to whatever rental we get.
Not sure that I understand your first highlighted comment. We retired at 59/57 and had allowed to explore this option in retirement. We have not regretted this decision. There are many in our community that snowbird and discussing this with them has given us good insight on how to pull it off. There are also many winter renters where we go (considerable population of Canadians).

Of the renters (1-5 months group, but mostly less than three) they prefer to rent as their rental costs are less than the option of ownership (and the related hassles). Of those we know who've purchased (5+ months), most are happy, but I know of a few houses/condos for sale also.

Like you, we love just being outdoors (in shorts in January/February) and always drag our clubs, but leave the bikes at home. Florida rentals along the beachfront in our location (we're 1/2 block off the beachfront) are not conducive to bike riding (a person could get easily thumped out where we are as roads leave a lot to be desired for safe bike travel). The car is loaded to the hilt, but you quickly learn what to bring to limit the load.

We've come to the conclusion that renting works out for us as we will probably relocate in time to another area even though there are pluses to familiarity of locale (why so many re-rent the same property every year). We've also rented in other areas for a month - trying out different areas, but find that Florida works out best (so far). We also travel on short trips during the year (week or so).

Our experience has been that most retirees we know grow tired of the snowbirding travel/hassles, and eventually settle in one of their chosen areas. Found this has been true since we owned our lakefront place in the 80's. Over the years, many sold out and others bought (this is how we accumulated so many boats). We bought from a retiree and sold to a retiree there. I see deteriorating health and age as the limiting factors. Some quit quite early and others keep-a-going. Two of our northern neighbors winter in Florida +/- 7 months out of the year. They are both talking about selling, but one will call Florida home (90's) and the other is staying up north (70's).

Not sure of our plans to stop or even purchase/relocate, but the "try before you buy" is highly recommended. Renting gives you a lot of flexibility especially when contemplating a purchase.
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Old 08-01-2013, 05:43 PM   #50
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We rented in FL a few years before paying cash in a gated community at the bottom of the market. We feel we got a great deal. It has been super easy to rent for 6 months a year (actually to the same folks).

We rent by the week to family only during the summer for Disney trips.

We we retire and begin the snow birding thins we will no longer do the 6 month rental.........
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Old 08-02-2013, 05:27 AM   #51
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Ronstar, thanks, that is very helpful. Did you pay cash for your place? If so, do you account for any opportunity costs?

We will be doing exactly what you suggest and renting several places over several periods to see how we like it.
Yes we paid cash, but I don't account for opportunity costs. I consider it a non-income producing asset like our house that in our later years will be sold to bolster our portfolio.
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Old 08-02-2013, 06:50 AM   #52
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My two places are only 140 miles apart, but differ in elevation by 5,500 ft, so have totally opposite climate.

We maintain utilities at both places, in case we want to come up to spend the weekend, even in the winter, or particularly in the winter to watch snowfall. Having duplicates of household items is not a problem, however, there are often times when I look for some tool and wonder if I left it at the other place.

Money wise, it only costs double to have 2 homes. Well, not quite, since we have been spending more time down in the flat-land home, and it costs more for A/C cooling than the high-country home needs heating. Values are comparable, so insurance and RE taxes are the same. The high-country home needs more exterior maintenance due to the winter.

We do drive back and forth, and did not even have to bring socks and toothbrushes, only food if going up North. Sometimes we did not even bring food, and stopped at a town along the way for grocery shopping.

It's been enjoyable. It only costs money.

By the way, I saw that the OP is mighty young. He has time to decide.
Our condo in the mountains is about 150 miles away. We've had it for 10 years while kids were still at home, but now they're gone and we are lucky if we get up there 4 times a year. Costs including mortgage, utilities, taxes, condo fees, run us about $15k per year. Like NWbound, it's been enjoyable, and it only costs money. But it costs too much money for us, and it's gotten to the point where we feel guilty if we go somewhere besides the condo for the weekend. We're putting it on the market.
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Old 08-02-2013, 08:21 AM   #53
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Not sure that I understand your first highlighted comment. We retired at 59/57 and had allowed to explore this option in retirement. We have not regretted this decision. There are many in our community that snowbird and discussing this with them has given us good insight on how to pull it off. There are also many winter renters where we go (considerable population of Canadians).
Fritz, I was asking early SEMI-retired folks if the expense of a second living arrangement (whether it be purchased or rented) is worth delaying the full retirement date. I am ESR'd now and DW and I are on track for a full retirement in 7-10 years, but if we immediately start diverting $15K/year to snowbirding, that would obviously push the 7-10 back some.
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Old 08-02-2013, 09:38 AM   #54
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Our condo in the mountains is about 150 miles away. We've had it for 10 years while kids were still at home, but now they're gone and we are lucky if we get up there 4 times a year. Costs including mortgage, utilities, taxes, condo fees, run us about $15k per year. Like NWbound, it's been enjoyable, and it only costs money. But it costs too much money for us, and it's gotten to the point where we feel guilty if we go somewhere besides the condo for the weekend. We're putting it on the market.
This is also why we sold our lake place in the late 80's.

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Fritz, I was asking early SEMI-retired folks if the expense of a second living arrangement (whether it be purchased or rented) is worth delaying the full retirement date. I am ESR'd now and DW and I are on track for a full retirement in 7-10 years, but if we immediately start diverting $15K/year to snowbirding, that would obviously push the 7-10 back some.
As mentioned earlier in this thread - I've been consulting part-time since we decided to retire, so I believe I somewhat fit the hard to define early semi-retired definition (although I view retirement as no further planned pursuit of full-time work). The consulting money is nice and it's used to reduce withdrawals from retirement savings, but the money for snowbirding doesn't depend on outside earnings (it's in our retirement budget) and we wouldn't do it if it wasn't doable w/o those funds, or if I had to commit to continued part-time consulting to pull it off.

Those we've talked to (who snowbird) before we ventured into it, advised us to try it out before we made any serious commitments (purchases). Found this to be good advice and have passed it along in this thread.

We've lived all across this great country (owned eight primary residences), and business travel was part of my job requirement. This is probably the reason we always look forward to exploring new places. We figured our time horizon in retirement for exploring/snowbirding to hopefully be about +/-15 years, based on what we've learned from those already doing it. This helps keep snowbirding in perspective for us.
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Old 08-02-2013, 10:31 AM   #55
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.. Once we start "snowbirding", I think I would only allow friends and/or family to use our vacant property.
We got over that feeling when we did the home swaps. It definitely is a real feeling though. So far, we have been lucky but every year brings new challenges.

And we do like the fact that our southern home is never sullied by strangers.
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Old 08-02-2013, 10:54 AM   #56
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Once we start "snowbirding", I think I would only allow friends and/or family to use our vacant property.
Our policy regarding property usage: No house guests when we are not at the property.

When we are not at the property, no one is allowed - not even close friends or relatives. When we are at the property, guests are welcome. They will be house and fed, but no taxi service.
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Old 08-02-2013, 01:49 PM   #57
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When we bought our 2nd home in the high country, I was seriously thinking about relocating up there full-time. The cold there in the winter seemed more tolerable than the heat down in the flat land. So, the place we bought was suitable as a full-time residence. It's got a bit of land, a large hill-side deck with panoramic view, and we have a detached 2-car garage. It was quiet up there, and many retirees who are hermit type live there full-time.

Now, I realize that if we have medical needs (as I did recently), the metropolitan home is a much better choice, so downsizing to the mountain home is out.

I am keeping both for now. Opportunity cost as well as maintenance cost would drive me crazy if I concentrate on that. However, I need to remember the enjoyable time we had up there, plus the numerous times my son and I spent riding our motorcycles though the forest trails. In fact, we should be up there now, if it weren't for a small problem.
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Old 08-02-2013, 04:30 PM   #58
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Our policy regarding property usage: No house guests when we are not at the property.

When we are not at the property, no one is allowed - not even close friends or relatives. When we are at the property, guests are welcome. They will be house and fed, but no taxi service.
Wow...different strokes...................
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Old 08-02-2013, 05:01 PM   #59
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We've had a second place for many years. While we're not totally comfortable with relatives using it while we are absent we have done so and probably will again. All in all, it's only stuff, everything can be replaced. Besides, there is no way we could hope to maintain a property from afar without help from family and friends.
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Old 08-04-2013, 09:40 PM   #60
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My spouse and I snowbird between Cape Cod and AZ (Green Valley, just south of Tucson). I retired in 2010 and weve spent two full winters in AZ now. Some things we learned;

DW wants to have two of everything, especially in the kitchen. I just shut up and go along with the program.
We use the post office service which sends us all our mail, once a week. Its pricey, around $140 dollars a month.
I have a person I trust check our Cape home once a week. We leave the power and heat on. We do have a large whole-house generator which takes much of the worry of pipes freezing off the table for us.
We need four cars; two on the Cape and two garaged in AZ. Looked at all the other options and that was the only one that worked. We do reduce the amount of insurance on vehicles when not at the location. I only wish we could have found a place we liked in Florida so that we could drive a car back and forth, but that did not happen.
We rent our place in AZ, a full-size home. Got lucky with this one as it was fresh on the market (VRBO) and we were one of the initial renters. We have full use of the home for a cost of $10K a year, which includes all utilities, insurances, water, computer, whatever. We get along very well with the owners, a lovely couple who live about 20 miles from us in AZ.
As for eventually buying a place in AZ, we dont know. My dear spouse would like a second home, Im not that enthused by the prospect. We have a few years to work this out.

On the whole I like the snowbirding business. Especially missing the snow part when it hits back on the Cape!

Rich
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