The Snowbird Blues

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The snowbirds blues

When the trees turn red, the children hunt for candy, the snowbirds fly south. But this year, it's less light-hearted. Inflation is hurting, the Canadian dollar is losing its feathers, rents are up. How you can have the blues… even in the sun.

Tourists on a Miami beach

Inflation hits hard in the United States , more than here. In September, it reached 8.2% in our southern neighbors against 7% in Canada in August. For South Florida, in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, the increase was even 10.7% year-on-year.

Everything has increased. The last hurricane also had an impact, people emptied water bottles and toilet paper. Even for electricity, the bill has gone up, explains Denise Dumont, editor-in-chief of Soleil de la Floride, during an interview with Radio-Canada.

On average, Floridians pay US$125 per month for electricity, which is 13% higher than the national average. And the price is expected to increase further next year.

We don't heat ourselves like in Quebec, but we do get air conditioning. So we also feel the rise in prices, recalls Ms. Dumont.

Despite the tighter financial context, tourists fleeing winter should arrive in droves in the coming weeks . They are 250,000 from Quebec, 900,000 from Canada.

Those who own a property will have less impact than those who rent for a few months. But I feel like people are going to be careful with their money. They will do activities that cost nothing, like going to the beach, to parks; people will change their habits, she says.

This is what Danielle Nolin and her husband Serge Bouchard, who live in Naples, on the west coast, plan to do. from Florida.

It's been two and a half years since we've been to our condo. So, we don't really know what to expect. We have apprehensions. But what we say is that the restaurants are cheaper than in Quebec. We will find bargains. We have a lot of friends, we have community dinners. We're going to do more BBQs by the pool!, she says, laughing.

Danielle Nolin, resident of Naples, Florida

Like many migratory travelers, Ms. Nolin monitors the movements of the Canadian dollar and buys greenbacks when the exchange rate is favourable. Currently, the loonie is at its lowest, around 72 cents US. A year ago, it was 81 cents US.

At the end of the summer, we changed from the Canadian dollar, it was 79 cents. Always plan for that, she says.

This is also the case of his friend Claude Lévesque who also lives in Naples. He has US accounts and has anticipated the movements of the loonie. I watch the Canadian dollar every day! It has become a habit, he explains.

But there are things that cannot be controlled, like the hurricanes that have hit Florida in recent years. .

Since Irma, our insurance costs have doubled. We can expect a further increase next year, that's to be seen, explains Mr. Lévesque.

According to him, the price remains acceptable. For a $300,000 condominium, it costs between $700 to $1,000 annually. We are more careful with our money. We go to restaurants less in Quebec, we will do the same thing in the United States, he says.

The pitfalls will however be greater for new winter tourists or those who want to visit Florida for a few weeks and rent a property.

Everyone wants to come here. During the pandemic, we had what we called COVID refugees, people who telecommuted from Florida. Of course, these people return to the office, but the attractiveness of the region remains important, explains Guylaine Fontaine, a real estate agent based in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Last year, Florida experienced the largest immigration flow in the United States with an addition of nearly 260,000 people, according to the United States Census Bureau. As a result, the real estate market has overheated. Last June, property prices soared nearly 30% year-on-year, a record high in the United States.

We only work on 12 month rentals. But those who want to come for a month, two months, they have to find on sites like Kijiji. And the price is very high. Before, you could get one for $3,000 a month. Now it's $4500. And things that we could have on the seaside, now you will pay more next to the Turnpike, explains Ms. Fontaine.

Guylaine Fontaine, real estate broker in Florida

For those who are looking for overnight stays in hotels, the situation is not much better. Due to Hurricane Ian which destroyed the Fort Myers area in the Gulf of Mexico, many have booked on the East Coast.

Those who did not find apartments or rents until now, it could be very expensive and difficult to find, predicts Denise Dumont.

The latter also notes that some snowbirds who will return to Quebec during holiday season want to rent their house or condo on Airbnb.

We didn't see this before, it's something completely new. People want to have more income, she explains.

Despite everything, Claude Lévesque would not change his routine for anything in the world to escape the Quebec winter. We have a good quality of life. I walk my 10 kilometers three times a week, I go swimming for an hour every morning, he says, his voice smiling.

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