So You Want to Be a Snowbird?

Each year, many people migrate from colder regions of the United States to spend the blistering cold months, somewhere warmer.  In Arizona, snowbirds are as common as cacti and gorgeous sunsets.

While there are many advantages to being a snowbird, there are also challenges and additional expenses to consider before you start packing.  Here are some of the issues and costs to explore if you’re thinking about making the switch to a snowbird lifestyle and buying a second home in Arizona or elsewhere.

Suggested Reading: Arizona Home Plus Program

Should You Rent or Buy?

Your winter location can be a smaller house, a condo or even a mobile home.  If you rent a home or apartment, you can do this for several months. This affords you the opportunity to spend your winter in a different place each year.

If you opt to purchase a second home obviously, your largest expense will come from buying the second home. Even if you’ve already paid off your primary home, acquiring a second mortgage is no small undertaking.



You’ll need to insure both homes, and insurance rates may increase considerably for a home that you leave empty for extended periods of time.  Just as you need insurance on your primary residence, you’ll need the same for your second home. The only difference is that insurance on a second home will likely cost you more.

A few suggestions to help keep the costs down when you’re away from home for a long period of time are to have a family member do regular stop-ins and inspections while you are away or install a home security system.

Call your insurer to confirm and find additional cost-saving suggestions.


In addition to the cost of buying a second home, you need to budget for the cost of appliances, dishes, and furniture. If you buy or rent, don’t forget to budget for travel costs, especially if you might fly back home occasionally for a special occasion or emergency. If you plan to fly to your sunny destination, you’ll probably need to rent a car.

Medical care

If you are over 65 and on Medicare, you should be able to obtain medical care wherever you go within the United States. If you use private health insurance, you will need to research whether there are doctors and hospitals at your destination that will be covered by your health care network. You’ll need to take your full medical records with you, including prescriptions you take or see if your primary physician will share your medical records with a doctor at your snowbird destination. Think about how you will obtain prescription refills, especially if you use a mail-order pharmacy that ships three-month supplies automatically.


And there is no surprise that your second home will be taxed. Also, keep in mind depending on how much time you reside in your new state, you may end up paying income taxes in two states.  Luckily, property taxes might be lower depending on where you settle. For example, Arizona boasts lower costs than much of the country.

Home maintenance

When you own one home you are already familiar with the costs of home maintenance, but with two homes in different climates and not living in one home fulltime, there could be problems that you will need to consider.  For instance, if you live in an area that gets very cold in winter, you need to keep your heat on at a reduced temperature to keep your pipes from freezing and bursting.  Also if your community or your homeowners’ association requires you to shovel snow, you’ll have to arrange for someone to do that. Similarly, you may need to arrange for people to mow grass, maintain pool chemicals, water plants and control weeds.


You can probably take your dogs or cats with you, although that may limit the selection of places you can rent. If you have other pets such as birds, fish, or turtles, you will need to have someone visit your home often or find people who are willing to take them and provide foster care while you’re gone.


With two houses, you have two sets of utility bills to deal with. When in snowbird land, it’s a smart move to temporarily shut off any utilities, such as electricity, gas, cable, Netflix, and internet.


Having someone regularly check on your house is a great idea. If you don’t have someone who can, you may want to consider installing a security system in your primary residence. This provides you with peace of mind so you can enjoy your winter, but also increases your overall costs.

These are just some of the costs associated with buying a second home and taking flight as a snowbird. Be sure to research the particular area where you plan to move to get the specific details you need and feel free to contact our home loan team to ask any additional questions you may have along with the way. We’re happy to help you transition to a happy snowbird lifestyle.

The Certo Team
55 N. Arizona Place Suite #103
Chandler, AZ 85225

Contact a licensed housing specialist now! 602-429-6789