Insider Tips On Becoming A Snowbird From New York to South Florida
A rare guest post from my friend Elyse Berman, a star agent in Boca Raton, Florida. I have known Elyse for ages and she's more than knowledgeable about the New York to Florida real estate process. You can connect with here at her sites below.
ADVANTAGES OF OWNING A HOME IN SOUTH FLORIDA AND NEW YORK
Every year as summer turns to fall, people begin to remember cold winters and thoughts of south Florida pop into their heads. South Florida where the weather is warm and the sun shines most days of the year. It's very appealing, especially to those thinking of becoming snowbirds. South Florida becomes even more attractive each time it snows.
WHAT IS A SNOWBIRD?
A snowbird is someone who lives up north and spends the winters in south Florida. They have the best of both worlds - beautiful weather in the winters and they spend their summers in New York, which is equally as beautiful.
How do I know this? I'm a New Yorker, born and raised, living in south Florida for 24 years. I grew up in Forest Hills and Woodmere. You know that old expression, You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take the New York out of the girl? Well, that's me.
I vividly remember the change of seasons. Fall was always my favorite. The winters, well, the winters were the winters, but the summers were always beautiful in upstate New York, in the City and on Long Island.
WHAT IS A SNOWFLAKE?
A snowflake is a local term for those not ready to spend the entire winter in Florida. They may spend a weekend here or there, Thanksgiving and the last two weeks of December, and a couple of weeks in February. This group of people are most likely still working and looking for a quick getaway, perhaps to a condo in Highland Beach or Boca Raton. They may be testing the waters for their retirement years.
Are you planning to become a snowbird or a snowflake? Many snowflakes opt for condos versus single family homes In Delray Beach or Boynton Beach as there is less maintenance. They can come and go, just lock the door and leave.
"My parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that's the law."
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE MOVING SOUTH
Where do you want to live? You may already be familiar with the area from visiting family or friends and have a good idea of where you may want to live. Are you a beach person who wants to wake up and see the ocean every morning? Does watching the boats go by on the Intracoastal appeal to you? Or would you prefer a downtown condo, perhaps in Boca Raton or Delray Beach within walking distance of restaurants, shops, galleries and goings on?
You have options. Perhaps condos are not for you. You'd prefer a townhouse, villa or single family house. A villa is Florida lingo for a single-story condo, often with a garage and attached on either one or two sides. You have no one above you. (Remember, unlike New York, most homes in Florida are single level...and it's much easier to age in place, so a nice little bonus.)
There are also gated communities. Loads of gated communities. Here again, more choices. Are you a golfer who wants to live in an equity country club? Some people do and others prefer not to pay the higher fees associated with these clubs.
We have all-age communities and 55+ active adult communities. Other than your monthly homeowner's maintenance, these communities have no additional fees except for private fitness classes, massages, shows, restaurants, things like that. The clubhouse, pool, fitness and recreation centers are all included in your monthly maintenance. Most 55+ communities include lawn care, as well.
When I say 55+ communities or senior communities, these are not the communities of our parents' generation (although they still exist.) The newer communities, built in the last 20 years, were built to model country clubs without the golf course (reducing the expense) but cater more to the baby-boomer generation adding state-of-the-art fitness centers, pickle ball and more.
MAINTENANCE FOR YOUR SOUTH FLORIDA HOME
You will need to have someone check on your property in Florida (and probably New York, as well) to keep your pipes from bursting) while you're gone. In south Florida, it gets hot, sometimes humid and our air conditioners run pretty much all year long. When you leave your Florida home, you'll set your thermostat at 78 or 79 degrees, so it will only kick on only if it gets that hot inside. You don't want to fly down to find your air conditioner not working or you have a leak.
MEDICAL CARE IN SOUTH FLORIDA
If you have a specific condition that needs monitoring, check with your doctor in New York to see if they have someone they can refer you to down here. Through the years, I have heard complaints of how terrible doctors in south Florida are. I can tell you, first-hand, there are some very fine physicians here. You need to find them. Ask around. Many NY doctors are well connected to the South Florida network. It is so common for their patients to have homes in both places.
As more New Yorkers move down, we are seeing a shift. My husband's cardiologist's practice was recently taken over by NYU Langone. See what I mean? I have also watched Boca Raton Community Hospital go from a small community hospital without a cardiac center to Boca Raton Regional Hospital now. They do a lot of fundraising and, in the past 20 years, have added not only a cardiac center, but a neuro center, a cancer center, a new emergency room, and a newly redone women's center. They hire the best and brightest doctors from around the country.
Delray Medical Center, a level 1 trauma emergency center, has also recently expanded, as has Bethesda in Boynton Beach, which now has its own cardiac center and a third facility in west Boynton. Nearby is also JFK Medical Center, and we are within driving distance of University of Miami Health System. Bascom Palmer is consistently ranked number 1 eye center in the nation year after year.
TAX BENEFITS OF MOVING TO FLORIDA
Unlike New York, Florida does not have a state income tax. It is also a Homestead State. In order to qualify for the homestead exemption, you must become a resident of the state of Florida. It is always best to speak to your tax professional and/or financial adviser with regard to Florida residency and homesteading.
Residency in Florida requires you spend at least six months and one day in your Florida home. How do they know? They know. They can easily check your utility bills.
Florida Homestead offers several benefits. First, there is the 3% Save Our Homes Cap Assessment limit on all residential properties. That means they can never raise your taxes higher than 3% in any given year. Please note: Any time there is a change in ownership, that triggers a reassessment of the Fair Market Value on the property. Once you apply, the base year is established and the 3% Cap will kick in.
The second benefit of homesteading is protection from creditors. Basically, as long as you pay your taxes, homeowner's fees and insurance on the property, no one can take it from you for any judgments or credit card debt.
The third part of homestead exemption has to do with when you pass away. And for this, depending on whether you're single, divorced, married, remarried, whatever, you need to consult a Florida attorney. I know you probably have an attorney in New York, but unless s/he is licensed in Florida (and some are), please do yourself a favor and consult a Florida attorney. The laws in Florida are different than the laws in New York. Trust me on this, I am a retired court reporter from New York. And, that brings me to my next topic.
WILLS, TRUSTS AND POWERS OF ATTORNEY IN NEW YORK
Wills, trusts and powers of attorney in New York may not be recognized in Florida. Oftentimes, these documents are redone when people move here. So, if you're planning a permanent move to south Florida, seek the advice of an estate planning attorney in Florida. Perhaps your New York attorney can refer you to one. Even if you're planning to just become a snowbird, it would be wise to speak with your attorney in New York about this matter. What would happen if...
MOVING TO SOUTH FLORIDA WITH PETS
If you have pets, it's important to look into where you're considering buying before you buy anything. Many condos and gated communities have pet restrictions, so make sure to do your due diligence first. Hire a local buyer's agent (FREE to you) who is knowledgeable about pet restrictions in different gated communities and pet-friendly homes in Boca Raton and the surrounding cities of Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Highland Beach and south Florida. Do you need a buyer's agent for new construction - YES - especially for new construction! For reasons beyond your furry friends.
Please don't hire a real estate agent who claims they are "pet-friendly" and all you see are listings, because listings are manually entered and often wrong. And our fur babies mean way too much to us to have problems later on, like when the board approves you but not your pet. It happens. I've seen it.
Speak to your veterinarian. They may have a recommendation for a vet in south Florida. Get a copy of your pet's records. Today they are usually available on disk or even online so you have them with you at all times. My vet now has them online.
Most dogs love Florida. They like to go walking and meet up with their friends. They make friends in the neighborhood or building. Boca Raton and Delray Beach have three dog parks between them, a dog beach and plenty of doggie day care, if you're so inclined. Plenty to keep your beloved pet busy.
UTILITIES IN NEW YORK AND FLORIDA
It's a good idea to check with your local utility and cable companies to see if there is any problem with interruption in service while you're gone. Same goes for any subscriptions you may have. You may be able to forward them for the months you'll be gone.
MY FRIEND SAID...
I can't tell you how many times I've heard "my friend said...," and, please, don't take this the wrong way - your friend may be right - but from my experience in working with people over the past 14 years, everyone has their own comfort zone. While your friend may tell you one community is fabulous and you're going to love it, you just may and that's great. But, you may not. And, things do change over time.
As a buyer's agent working in south Florida, I can tell you, you will know when the community is right for you. You'll feel it. You'll get a comfortable feeling that hey, this is a place I can call home. And that's it. Because the best deal in the world isn't going to work for you if you don't feel comfortable there.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MOVING TO SOUTH FLORIDA
There's a lot to think about before becoming a snowbird, snowflake or making a full-fledged move to Florida. It took time and folders (yes, folders!) 24 years ago (although my husband would still use folders!) It takes planning.
From one New Yorker to another, I am here to help you make as seamless a transition as possible. I get it. I know what it's like to move with the dogs, the family, the business, from New York to Boca Raton because I've done it.