Friday, February 15, 2002

George Mindling Column 2-15-2002 - Annual Northern Migration

Annual Northern Migration

The recent warm weather has been a blessing to businesses that benefit from our visitors enjoying the beaches and the water, but a caution signal to others. While everyone enjoys the outdoors and the activities associated with a nice winter vacation, the unseasonable national temperatures have many of our winter residents planning on returning to their summer homes up north sooner than usual.

The annual northern migration is usually in full swing by Easter, which falls on March 31 this year. We would normally expect to have about six more weeks of "season," but this year may be "shorter" and result in lower sales volumes for the stores and restaurants that depend on the winter season to carry them through the lean summer months. As our community moves toward a more balanced economy, the effects of the summer hiatus will be lessened. It will never be the same as elsewhere in the country simply because of where we are, but it will change.

The season in the '50s in Miami began with the opening of Tropical Park race track in November, reached it's peak with Hialeah six weeks later, then ended with the annual closing of Gulfstream Park in April. Horse racing, dog racing and Jai Alai were the big draws to South Florida then, along with the marvelous weather, before Mickey put up the vacation sidetrack in Orlando and the cruise ships at Dodge Island began carrying the winter visitors to the Caribbean. Florida's Gold Coast has found the winter season has changed drastically in the last 30 or 40 years. Southwest Florida's Sun Coast's winter season will change too, but for different reasons.

Southwest Florida's big draw has been value. The cost of maintaining a vacation home here was considerably lower than most other places in the country. The beaches were clean and the groceries were cheap. Florida still doesn't tax groceries or medicine. Those who move here as residents find there is no state income tax. If you live here, you get a $25,000 property tax break called "homestead exemption." There is no need for heating oil and rarely do you have to replace a winter coat or jacket. 

Electricity was cheap by national standards, and back then. so was water.  However, the price of single family homes is now skyrocketing. helped along with quick and painless low interest financing. The homes that were on the market five years ago in the low $110,000 to $115,000 range are now in the $165,000 to $170,000 range. Land on usable waterfront property is going up even faster. One home on Cabaret had it's property appraisal shoot from $138,000 last year to $182,000 this year based on sales in the area!

The worldwide marketing campaign once waged by General Development Corp. for Florida property has now been replaced. Instead, local Realtors have accepted the marketing of Southwest Florida as a great place to live. As more people call the Sun Coast home year round, the effects of our seasonal residents will be less and less.

George Mindling © 2002

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