Boca Raton, FL, Is the Best Destination for Snowbirds in 2021, With Top 10 Also Featuring TX, AZ and SC Hotspots

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The snowbirding lifestyle has won over millions of Americans over the years, as well as Canadians who look for kinder climates. Last year was clearly a game changer for many industries, with travel among the most affected by the pandemic and seasonal migration seeing its fair share of disruption. But some people still hold on to their plans of hitting the road, albeit using a different approach than usual.

In the first half of last year, a good part of the main snowbirding population – retirees – chose to cancel or delay relocation plans, as well as nearly half of the traditional Canadian cohort. But snowbirding is far from cancelled. Many people are still eager to escape the freezing cold and look for solutions, either opting for in-state moves, closer to home, or being extra vigilant about safety measures. Moreover, a new cohort has joined the traditional group of snowbirds, remote workers who recently discovered they can work from anywhere.

Our sister division focusing on self storage, StorageCafe, recently published a study that looks at the best destinations for snowbirds in 2021. The research looked at factors such as the average temperatures during the winter months, the percentage of houses designated for seasonal use out of the vacant housing stock, access to beaches, parks and golf courses, health and safety indicators, and the availability of self storage space as people often store seasonal gear at their snowbirding location, as well as the COVID-19 community vulnerability index.

Boca Raton takes top spot and becomes 2021 best snowbird destination

Florida has long been the go-to destination for snowbirds. But more specifically it’s Boca Raton that emerges as the best place to be in 2021 if you seek sunny skies and a relaxed, laidback atmosphere where social distancing is easy to practice. The average temperature from October to March hovers around 74 degrees, there are almost 22 miles of beaches in the area, and 255 square feet of park space per capita. And, should you need a car to explore the area’s many attractions, you can use Discover Cars to rent an affordable vehicle and explore the area comfortably without worrying about crowded public transportation.

The city also boasts no less than 23 golf courses, so there are plenty of opportunities for spending time outdoors. Boca Raton, and Florida in general, have a well-developed seasonal housing infrastructure that can accommodate an influx of newcomers during winter. More than half – 55% – of Boca Raton’s vacant housing stock is dedicated to seasonal use.

The following three spots in the ranking also go to Floridian cities: Jupiter and West Palm Beach are both located on the state’s southeastern coast, near Boca Raton, thus forming a veritable cluster of excellent snowbird destinations. If Jupiter excels in housing options for snowbirds – 78% of its vacant housing stock is dedicated to seasonal use – West Palm Beach impresses with 700 square feet of park space per capita. The fourth in line, Fort Myers, is located on the state’s southwestern coast, has average winter temperatures in the low 70s, so it’s a bit cooler than Boca Raton, but still very enjoyable. Golf enthusiasts can practice their technique on any of the 34 great golf courses in the area.

The first non-Floridian city in the top ten is Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, an up-and-coming destination for snowbirds, boosted by its location, which signifies a shorter trip for most seasonal movers from the northeastern states. Although the average winter temperature, at 59 degrees, is not quite as warm as Florida’s averages, it’s still perfectly pleasant, and allows for outdoor activities and for thoroughly enjoying the city’s more than 800 square feet of park space per capita.

Honolulu is next in line, as the sixth-best 2021 snowbird destination. The winter month temperatures are a perfect 75, there are 30 miles of beaches in the area, and 42% of the city’s vacant housing stock is earmarked for seasonal use. Honolulu is the only state capital to make it among the top 10 destinations. In addition to countless restaurants featuring amazing cuisines and culture-infused events, it’s the natural backdrop that makes Honolulu spectacular. Waikiki may be world-famous and more crowded than most people would appreciate in the current pandemic-influenced context, but there are some awesome, quieter places in the area, secluded beaches and natural attractions that can offer the respite that snowbirds seek. Makua Beach for one, where season one of Lost was filmed, is worth a place on any wanderer’s bucket list.

The following two places, 7 and 8, go to Clearwater and Delray Beach in Florida. Both cities have over 60% of their vacant housing stock destined for seasonal use, and score points when it comes to the beaches, parks and golf courses combo.

Corpus Christi, the only Texan city to make it into the top 10 best 2021 snowbird destinations, has an impressive number of beaches, 39 miles, and an equally impressive 850 square feet of park space per capita. Corpus Christi’s beaches are truly an exception among the other Texan cities in top 100, as few of them are on the coast.

The final spot in the top 10 goes to Gilbert, Arizona, which has more than a third of its vacant housing units dedicated to seasonal use. The beaches are obviously missing, as it’s a desert city, but Gilbert compensates with comfortable temperatures in the low 60s and sunny, dry weather.

Florida, California, Texas and Arizona consolidate their status as snowbird hotspots

When looking at the best destinations for snowbirds from a state perspective, Florida remains the uncontested leader. The state scores six out of the top 10 cities and 29 positions in top 100. Besides perpetually warm weather and gorgeous beaches, Florida has another important advantage – a well-developed housing and services infrastructure that provides plenty of options for people looking to relocate for the winter.

California has 34 cities in the top 100, more than Florida, but none in top 10, and the average ranking of Californian cities stands at 74. The state scores well for weather and opportunities for outdoor activities. However, Californian cities generally have lower percentages of housing units for seasonal use. Also, housing in California is notoriously expensive, as is the overall cost of living, and this remains the main downside for the state when it comes to snowbirding.

Texas, on the other hand, boasts affordable living options for its “winter Texans.” The top three most-affordable cities for snowbirds are all in Texas: Brownsville, with an average monthly rent of $730 between October 2019 and March 2020, followed by Harlingen and McAllen, with $745 and $777 per month, respectively.

Arizona has a dozen cities in the top 100, including Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson. The state represents a good mix of affordable housing options, including numerous RV parks, and opportunities for outdoor activities. The state enjoys 300 sunny days per year, and winter transforms the hot desert into a comfortable environment, perfect for hiking or golfing.

Seasonal migration was still on despite the pandemic, partly aided by “zoombirds”

Retirees were indeed less inclined to travel last year, because of health-related worries. However, an emerging new segment of people, young professionals working remotely, saw the opportunity of relocating to warmer areas for the winter. As a result, there was only a moderate, 14% decrease in online searches related to short-term rentals for snowbirds, when comparing January-November 2020 to the similar period of 2019.

Canadian snowbirds, on the other hand, were more affected during this 2020-2021 snowbirding season, due to restrictions on non-essential travel across the US-Canada land border. In a regular year, it’s estimated that roughly 1.2 million Canadians are crossing the border, running away from cold cities such as Quebec, Calgary or Edmonton to get to warmer shores for the winter. However, this winter season, only about 31% of the Canadian snowbirds were still planning to relocate, according to a survey done by Snowbird Advisor.

Residents of New York, New Jersey enjoy financial advantages from snowbirding

When looking at the states of origin and the destination states for snowbirds, and comparing the living costs in both locations, it becomes clear that some get a better deal out of temporary relocating than others. Residents of New York and New Jersey are the luckiest – most of the popular snowbirding destinations have lower living costs than these places of origin. New Yorkers migrating to Florida for the winter enjoy both the sun and 15% lower living costs. In fact, the only state where they have marginally higher living costs – by 3 percent – is Hawaii. Exactly the same is also true for residents of New Jersey.

Residents of other northern states, such as Ohio, must dig deeper into their pockets than back home if they want to relocate for the winter. Florida is 13% more expensive than Ohio, while Texas and Arizona are 8% more expensive.


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Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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