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Shopping for a warm weather home

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Posted: 7 am ET

With Northern temperatures in the single digits and even lower, a winter home where it is warm seems like a great retirement planning idea. My husband and I think we made the right retirement choice fleeing Michigan's cold weather, but we have found some expenses to be higher than we expected. If you're thinking of becoming a snowbird like we did this year -- or even a year-round warm-weather resident -- here are a few things to consider as you shop.

Condition is key. Many of the best-priced units in warm places have been treated as rentals for years. Often that means the systems have received heavy use and may not have been kept up to date. If the purchase price is going to be only the beginning of the expenditures required to make the property comfortable, factor that into your negotiations.

Community costs. If you're buying a condominium, make sure you understand all the costs of owning. The economic downturn left many condo communities economically challenged after numerous owners stopped paying the fees they owed. Today's buyers should not only examine the condo financials but also ask pointed questions about upcoming maintenance requirements.

Keeping the lights on. The cost of utilities, including television, phone, electric, water, lawn maintenance, trash, etc., adds up. Make a list and get good estimates of what the cost of each item will be. You may be surprised by the total.

The price of fun. How much will it cost you to belong to the golf club, the activity club, the fitness club, the boat club? etc. Unless you are going to be content sitting on the porch, you have to be able to afford to join in.

The cost of visitors. We have already welcomed a lot of guests this year. Fortunately, the airport is nearby, but if it were a long drive, schlepping visitors would be a major pain and cost.

Only you can decide: Is the warmth worth it?

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