Snowbirds - Planning the Maiden Flight

by : Jake Marsh

So retirement looms and the idea of being housebound in the winter for six months is not a pretty thought. And of course, you have thought about all those people who just pack up and flee as the first snow flake flutters down and you have wondered....

How do they do it? Do they like it? How did they take the plunge? How could I take the plunge - if I wanted to, of course!

Well, providing you own your own home, the quick answers are: clever financing, wise lifestyle choices, being adventurous, read on....

The answer to, 'how do they do it?', will be left until later, because first you have to make sure that you WANT to do it! Well, the best way to find out is to tag along with a friend who does it, but obviously many of us do not have anyone available.

If you have a car or an RV, you could plan a tour of the 'Snowbird States' and see which appeals to you the most. These states are generally accepted to be Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Florida and South Carolina. If you have a car, you will find many bed and breakfast spots to overnight, as well as hotels.

If you don't want the expense of this, the Internet will give you an overload of information (start with and you can pick out one place and fly there. Or if you are driving, you can pick out a few places fairly close to each other and have a research vacation.

The question, 'do they like it?', will probably be answered by how much research is done by each 'wannabe snowbirder' to track down the environment that is perfect for them. You may love the idea of spending winter in a warm place, but may forget that you need to match your lifestyle choices to that place.

Do you want solitude and peace or do you want dancing and a social life or do you want recreational fun, stimulating learning opportunities or endless golf? Ask yourself some serious questions before you contact a real estate agent who knows the answers!

For instance, you may want to find a coastal area and buy a place on the beach, or you may wish track a resort where you can park an RV or you may want to buy a small cabin high in the mountains or down in the desert canyons.

If you are planning to buy a property, most people browse the Internet for an idea on prices; a good real estate agent in the area of your choice can advise you about regional concerns and advantages, amenities and climate. He or she will also be able to email you details of homes before you arrive.

If you are planning to rent or buy or bring your own RV to a resort, then you can find much of the resort information on the Internet.

Let's suppose you have a place in mind: next is the financing. This can be easy for those lucky people who have spent all their life paying off the mortgage. The answer is a reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage will let you give yourself a loan without making any payments back. It is like a line of credit that is secured by your original home.

With this money you can buy a property for cash, which puts you in an excellent bargaining position. If you leave the line of credit on your original home for the rest of your life, the bank will pay it off and give the balance of the house to the 'estate' (along with your paid-up snowbird home).

You may even choose the option of renting your home for part of the winter to help to pay down your reverse mortgage. Some snowbirders find that they want to spend Christmas with the family, so do not leave until January 1st each year. In this case, you could rent your home out from October to December.

But either way, you can now join that happy bunch of people who never get a wheezy cough or feel an arthritic twinge - because you can choose to always be in the warm!