Every Fall (following Labor Day weekend), the Tampa Bay Area experiences an influx of snowbirds. Some of these snowbirds have rented homes for years –  sometimes decades, and others own homes in Florida that they escape to during the cold months up north.

For those renting on an annual basis, the internal debate will once again arise when renters ask themselves, “Should I rent again or should I finally take a chance on purchasing a second home?”

The next six months will be a busy time of year for realtors as they help snowbirds decide which option is the best for their clients and then assist those opting to own to purchase the perfect vacation condo or single family home.

Buying vs. Renting – Which is Best for You?

There are pros and cons to both renting and buying. Those considering a rental property might be concerned over availability, rental options, and fluctuations in price over time.

For those looking to purchase a second home, there might be concerns over making a long term commitment, changes in property values, and added HOA fees.

The situations discussed above contribute to the snowbird dilemma – is it better to buy a place or continue to rent?

Pros of Renting/Cons of Buying

These are some of the big pros to renting a place for the winter. Most of them reflect the negative sides of buying.

Lock and Leave

When renting, if something bad happens to the property like a hurricane – it is not your problem! You’ll never have to replace a roof or fix a pool. The broken window, faulty air conditioning system, and water-pressure-lacking shower aren’t your problem either. The landlord is responsible for these issues, not you.

Cost of entry

The biggest disadvantage that comes with buying is, and a pro of renting, is the up front cost. Assuming you are a snowbird and live somewhere else the rest of the year, you have to have sufficient free capital or borrowing power to own two homes. Luckily, in this part of the region along the Gulf Coast of Florida, it may be possible to recoup some of those costs by renting out the home during the summer months.

Out of Pocket Expenses

Owning a home, whether via a mortgage or cash payment, can be expensive to begin with, but the expenses don’t end there. Add to that the costs of furniture (unless you purchase a pre-furnished unit), HOA fees, utility bills, and membership fees and the monthly expenses may seem never ending, especially when you aren’t living there six months out of the year. But again, if you rent the unit out the other six months of the year, these costs can be offset.

Variety

If you’re one to get bored by monotony, renting might be the right choice. If you purchase a home, it’s a longer term commitment than renting. And if you decide to go elsewhere the following winter, you’re not tied to a place you own and feel obligated to stay.

Pros of Buying/Cons of Renting

There’s No Place Like Home

The biggest pro of buying is having a home. That brings considerable peace of mind to those who travel back and forth. It also eliminates the danger of losing your place – like from the owner who wants to spend more time there or rent to family.

Storage

If you own a home, you can leave items behind to avoid the annual pilgrimage across the country in a car filled to the brim with your belongings. You also have use of all of the storage the home has to offer, since some renters block of closets for their own private use.

Pets

Have you ever found the perfect rental, only to realize that Fido isn’t invited? Many Florida rentals prohibit pets, or at the very least, prohibit certain breeds of pets. This is obviously not the case fo the home owner.

Price Fluctuations

Renting brings with it price increases and fluctuations – by year, by season, and even by month. With buying, there aren’t price increases, and if you hold onto the property long enough, you might see a return on your investment, especially in an area like Florida’s Gulf Coast where property values are on the rise!

Maintenance

The other benefit to owning is that you can get maintenance issues resolved right away! No need to wait for the landlord to resolve an issue that doesn’t meet your expectations. And for those leaving their homes unattended for half of the year, there are fabulous property management companies available to handle that for you. Ask your realtor for referrals.

One and Done

As with buying, finding the right place can sometimes seem like a part time job, but when you rent you may wind up going through this process each each and every year unless you’ve found a place available on an annual basis. With buying, you only go through the search process once.

Taxes

Don’t forget the tax benefits to owning a second home! And if you’re renting a second property for business, there are certain write-offs of which you can take advantage.

Retirement

If you find a property now, you don’t need to worry about searching for another home when you retire. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll have added equity in that home to utilize should you need to.


Whether you decide to buy or rent, make sure you’re speaking with a trusted advisor who can provide you with honest feedback, options, and perspectives. And when the time is right to make that purchase, select a realtor who knows the market well.

For more information on purchasing a snowbird home along the Florida beaches, contact Heather Stotts with The Hustle & Heart Group, a Keller Williams Company.

Hustle & Heart Group