Snowbird House 

This article not prepared by City Weekly Staff

Snowbird is a world-famous ski destination—a place. A snowbird is also a person, as in someone who travels and lives south during the winter and then who moves back in the late spring or early summer. It’s common for snowbirds from Logan, Salt Lake City and even Idaho and Wyoming to seasonally move down to St. George where it’s warmer, sunnier and virtually smogless. You end up avoiding the winter blues and possibly treating yourself to a more active social life because you can get out and bike and hike more.

“Snowbirding” is not a Utah phenomenon at all—people have been seeking out warm climes in the wintertime from the very first hunters and gatherers to New Yorkers relocating to Florida. Many modern folks purchase a smaller home or condo. Some go for a mobile home in an established park. Most don’t rent the second property and actually purchase.

Generally it’s a baby boomer or retiree who purchases a second home because they are in a financial position to do so. Besides the purchase price, there are costs to owning a second property—the annual upkeep, property taxes, home-owner association dues, insurance and any mortgage costs. Empty nesters often sell the large family home and then purchase two smaller condos—one in, say, Salt Lake City and the other in St. George. Mesquite, Nev., is also a popular winter destination because of the advantage of no state income tax.

During the heyday of the real-estate market, the average St. George-area home was selling for $287,000. This past year, the average price had fallen 37 percent, to $175,000 (according to U.S. Government/FHA statistics). I think at one point in time, St. George was one of the worst locations in the state for the number of foreclosures—when people are in financial trouble, a helpful solution is to give up the second home, first. Plus, there were a lot of speculators/investors riding the wave of high and fast prices of the boom that lost their shorts in the crash. Home subdivisions were left with scraped dirt and survey sticks instead of finished homes. There were areas of the county that looked more like graveyards than neighborhoods.

The good news is that the St. George housing market is starting to crawl back and the word “healthy” is back in people’s conversations about home sales. Permits for home construction are up this past year over a virtual standstill in applications during the crash years. There are fewer foreclosures than there have been in the past few years, and the MLS reports that single-family home sales in 2011 were up almost 50 percent over 2008 and that condo sales were up 12 percent

If your folks are thinking of selling their big home and buying a condo up north and down south, tell them to talk to a Realtor in both areas. Even though a licensed real-estate agent in Utah can sell anywhere in the state of Utah, you want a Realtor who knows that very specific area of each home purchase sale. One Realtor can refer you to another, and vice versa. I know I would never want to try and sell a home in St. George—it’s a nice area, but I don’t know all the nuances of, say, “blue clay” issues (not a good kinda dirt to build a home on top of), or know any reliable home inspectors, engineers or lenders down there. But I have friends who do! n

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