Welcoming Back Snowbirds and Making Sure It’s a Smooth Transition for Your Community

People from all over the country who want to escape a cold and dreary winter have been flocking to Florida for years. The mild weather, abundant sunshine, and relaxed Florida lifestyle annually brings more than 800,000 snowbirds to community associations across the state. While this influx of residents within a community can put a strain on resources, there are actions that community association managers can take to ease the transition for their residents.

Manager’s Best Practices

As community association managers, we should be conscientious of the increase in demand and make adjustments where needed. Here are a few tips for staff members who want to make the return of the snowbirds easier on everyone include:

  • Anticipate an increase in architectural review applications and attendance at monthly board meetings.
  • Create a streamlined process to ensure mailing addresses are updated and important documents are not being sent to residents’ northern homes.
  • Ensure staff members are prepared to spend some extra time “catching up” with returning residents.
  • To minimize any parking issues, post a reminder of the parking rules and communicate the courtesies of proper parking behavior.
  • Use newsletters and brochures to stay in communication with snowbirds throughout the year; this can reduce the amount of issues snowbirds may encounter in their transition back to Florida.
  • Consider how the year-round residents are affected and do your best to strike a balance between the two different groups.

Oftentimes, permanent residents are unhappy with seasonal people due to the amount of tenants; they feel that tenants are not as responsible as owners and fail to maintain the property as an owner would. Try to use the time snowbirds are on site to educate them on the year-round issues of the community and better prepare them to deal effectively with their renters and leasing agencies.

Frequently, there can be a delicate balance between year-round residents and snowbirds. During the winter months, a quiet community can be completely transformed into a lively place bustling with additional residents and activity. Community association managers can help residents embrace the benefits of being part of a snowbird community by offering social events that welcome the snowbirds and allow them to get to know their neighbors.

Many communities host ‘snowbird socials’ for their returning residents. These events range from BBQ luncheons to throwback movie nights, but all feature food, fun, and Florida sunshine. Other communities simply send out a welcome letter containing dates for social events within the community and any updates they should be aware of.
Residents within your communities can coordinate the activities and events during the snowbird season, if you do not have a lifestyle director to plan them. Many communities have social committees that develop a complete schedule of activities.

Resident’s Best Practices

Before you connect with your fellow snowbirds and enjoy the Florida sunshine, take some time to open up shop in your Florida home. After sitting vacant all summer, your home needs some freshening and checkups to ensure everything is running properly and safely.

Let’s start with the HVAC system. Even during the winter months in Florida you’ll likely need your air conditioning on a regular basis. If you left your air conditioning running all summer, your home should be comfortable and free of musty, moldy conditions. A Wi-Fi thermostat lets you monitor and control the air conditioning system while you’re away. Use this remote system to adjust your thermostat to a lower temperature just before you arrive so you can walk into a perfectly cooled home.

Once you arrive, perform a few maintenance tasks to the HVAC system. Those tasks should include:

  • Schedule a maintenance call: A yearly HVAC system inspection helps identify problems early and make certain the system is running properly. Schedule your maintenance call before you arrive in Florida to ensure you don’t have to wait too long.
  • Filter change: Your HVAC system worked all summer on the same filter. It’s time to put in a fresh, new filter to maximize airflow through the unit. The new filter also helps keep the air cleaner in your southern home. Continue changing your filter each month during your stay in sunny Florida.
  • Inspect the system: Take a quick look around the outdoor air conditioning unit to look for signs of damage or obstructions. Get rid of any leaves or debris around the unit, and trim back branches or plants that grew close to it.
  • Check the thermostat batteries: A fresh set of batteries in your thermostat helps the box run efficiently.
  • Test the system: If the system isn’t already running, start up the air conditioning unit to verify it works. If the system doesn’t work or doesn’t produce cool air, check the thermostat to ensure it is turned to the cool setting with the fan in the auto position. Next, check your circuit breaker or fuse box to check for power source problems. If these solutions don’t fix the problem, call Del-Air to identify and repair the problem for you.

Now that your air conditioning system is comfortably and efficiently running, you can focus on your other Florida arrival tasks. That list of tasks includes:

  • Notify management company of your arrival: If you live in a condo or gated community, let security and the property management company know you are back in Florida. Alert your southern neighbors so they know they can ease up on the neighborhood watch routine.
  • Turn on your water: Head to the main valve of your Florida home to turn on your water supply. Test all faucets in your home and watch for leaks.
  • Do a quick inspection: It’s been a while since you’ve been in your southern home. Do a walk-through to check for anything that looks out of place and to identify potential problems. Address those concerns right away.
  • Freshen up your home: If you cleaned up and prepped your southern home properly at the end of the last winter, you shouldn’t need to do too much cleaning. Wipe down all kitchen surfaces. You may want to launder your sheets and towels so they smell fresh.
  • Plug in appliances: Go through your home to plug in everything you unplugged last winter. Replace batteries in any battery-operated items. If you unplugged your refrigerator, set it to the appropriate temperature and wait for it to get cold before filling it with perishable food items.
  • Test your smoke alarm: Put fresh batteries in your smoke alarm. Test the system to ensure it is working properly.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector: If you don’t already have one in your Florida home, install a carbon monoxide detector to improve your safety.
  • Security is also an issue. Even if you’re in a gated community, it’s important to ensure the safety of your home. A security camera is an easy way to see who is at your door and to monitor activities taking place outside your home.

If you have a second vehicle you keep at your Florida home, do a maintenance check on it. A local mechanic can give the car a quick inspection to ensure everything is working properly and the vehicle is safe to drive.

With everything up and running smoothly, it’s time to knock on your neighbors’ doors and start enjoying the Florida winter.