By their nature, living beings change their behavior when the seasons change. Some hunker down and get ready for the cold, whereas others take flight, traveling long distances to find a climate more suitable to their needs. Despite comforts afforded by modern life, many people choose a similar approach to living: when it starts to get real cold where they live, they hop into an RV and jet to warmer, drier climates. Places like Arizona and Florida in particular are popular among people of all ages, but especially retirees who have the time and resources to avoid the hardships of winter in the north. On the other side of the coin, some people who live in the Southwest will make summertime jaunts north, exploring national parks, coastline villages, and the forests that dot the Rocky Mountains to avoid the squelching heat.
Often these migrations lead snowbirds and sunbirds to fall in love with their getaway homes. What would it be like to just stay in Phoenix through the summer, visit the Grand Canyon on the weekends, flit through the Sonoran cactus forests along the way? What would it be like to get away from snow and sleet forever? Especially for parents of adult-aged children who may want to downsize on the size of their home, the pull to a new little corner of the world can be very strong. Rent to own offers them a great opportunity to explore this opportunity on a trial basis, all the while developing an investment along the way.
The benefits of Rent to Own properties are well known. Lease option agreements are commonly used to buy time while undertaking credit repair or growing a down payment to increase the aspiring homeowner’s likelihood of qualifying for a mortgage. However, it should be emphasized that the leasing period can also be treated as a trial period on a home in a new city or state . . . to help make sure you won’t have a feeling of buyer’s remorse once you’ve sold your old home or locked into a mortgage. The issue for many snowbirds and sunbirds when they are either looking for a vacation home or a new house in their preferred climate is that they tend to love the weather or the experience, but fear they will be overwhelmed by the lifestyle change when permanence is added to the equation.
The leasing period (which typically ranges from 1-3 years) provides tenants with a chance to also test the neighborhood and lifestyle that is associated with the home such as:
- What are the neighbors like?
- Do you like the surroundings?
- Does the culture of the area mesh with your needs?
- And, most importantly perhaps, what is the weather like throughout the year?
Snowbirds and Sunbirds typically come in two varieties: those who are affluent enough to afford a seasonal home and those who are typically on fixed incomes and rent homes or RV spaces seasonally. In many areas, current rental costs are higher than mortgaging rates, and people who are interested in transitioning to their summer homes more permanently are incentivized by current market conditions to buy rather than rent in the long term. However, it’s often wise to make the decision to finally buy a home somewhere new only after first experiencing the whole breadth of the weather and culture in the community during all seasons.
Many real estate experts suggest that you at least rent out a property first for a while to get a true feeling on what this investment will mean for you. You may end up loving the local culture and decide to make a full purchase, or hate it and let the lease run out without having to regret buying the home. This is where the added benefits of Rent to Own properties come in: you can lease the home for at least a year and live in it, while you grow equity in the property, to gain all of the necessary experiences to gauge whether you believe the home is worth the investment.
Staying in a home for only a few months is not a good indication of what life will be like year-round in that location, particularly if you’re thinking of buying somewhere prone to temperature extremes. Sunbelt states such as Arizona are increasing in popularity, particularly in Phoenix, because of consistently mild winter weather and combined with the uptempo vibe in the city throughout the year. Traditional places for snowbirds to nest in the winter time like Florida change dramatically during the “on” and “off” seasons, in that things like traffic, expenses, and even rental costs can fluctuate greatly depending on the season.
If you decide that staying in your soon-to-be new home the entire year just isn’t feasible, you may consider striking a deal with the current owner of vacation home to allow you to sublet the home when you’re not there in order to make it worth your while to continue the leasing period. This works well for Phoenix homes because someone will always love staying in the warm weather, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding renters for the summer. For the investor, home values in Phoenix grew 5.8 percent over the course of the past year and are expected to grow an additional 3 percent according to experts with Zillow.
The important thing is to make sure you fully experience what it is like to live and care for a home in your ideal climate before deciding to make the full purchase. If you decide that buying a second vacation home outright doesn’t work for you, doing so through the Rent to Own method is a great way to combine the ease of renting with an easy transition towards ownership if you end up loving the home for all seasons.