Dear Governor Crist, What about the Snowbirds?

Dear Governor Crist,
What about the Snowbirds?
At the risk of losing your interest in continuing to read this, I am a Canadian, a Snowbird, and not a homesteader. I enjoyed wintering here over the last 5 years, but I no longer feel welcome in Florida. I listened last night to you and Senator Atwater at the Eissey theater and there was no mention of the disproportional and discriminatory burden of property taxes carried by snowbirds. Does anyone in Tallahassee care?
Homesteaders can rein in government spending with their votes, businesses and rental property owners can pass the rising taxes onto their customers. Non-homesteader snowbirds are the only ones sitting at the end of the line. No votes to cast and no customers to pass the costs onto. We are the customers who pay. All the proposals tabled, so far, aggravate our condition by further increasing the Snowbirds’ share of the tax load.
My personal property taxes have already increased three-fold from $4,000 to $12,000 over the last five years. My neighbors, many of whose taxes have actually decreased in the last 5 years, are still paying $3000-$4,000 for identical condo units.
Property taxes have reached the breaking point for Snowbirds. Without relief, many retirees’ lifelong dreams will be shattered. When they bought, they did their due diligence on taxes, insurance and maintenance; they felt they can carry the load. Nobody understood the potential ravages of Save-Our-Homes.
So now, some of who can still pay, will continue to do so resentfully as ones who feel taken unfair advantage of; feeling like suckers who are paying their neighbors’ bills with no recourse to stop their spending spree. Others, who can’t pay or are hanging on by their fingernails, will likely lose their dreams. But all Snowbirds feel trapped in a vise between unconscionable, unfair and growing burden of taxes, and the collapsing property values, which prevent them from selling.
Those, who were previously thinking of becoming Florida Snowbirds, will not be encouraged by us, as if they would even consider it given current circumstances. Those already here, may shortly feel like they have been expropriated from their homes.
In a state that has no income taxes, what rationale can there be for the disproportionate burden imposed on Snowbirds, who don’t send children to schools and only use the services a few months of the year?
You want to stop runaway spending by cities and counties? Value all property at fair market value and apply the proportional tax burden; so that when voters vote for restraints, the politicians have nowhere else to offload their profligacy.
You want to give relief to those who really need it? Provide property tax reductions to those whose income below some threshold level.
As I am a taxpayer who can’t vote, I can only appeal to your sense of fairness and justice toward us. But I can also appeal to you to consider the economic future of Florida. If the Snowbirds’ property tax burden is not reduced, the inflow of new Snowbirds to Florida will become a trickle; the outflow of current Snowbirds may become a flood. Can working homesteaders be far behind? Sounds like a lose-lose proposition!
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3 comments

  1. John Goemans · · Reply

    You should have known about this going in. I am also a snowbird and did my due diligence. In most cases, the cost of home ownership (taxes, HOA fees, insurance, utitlities etc) not including the cost of capital was more than my annual rental costs. Potential capital gains is non-existent and the ultimate estate taxes (US) killed the deal for me. Bottom line, there is only downside and no upside. If you are wealthy enough to have fun money to spend on ownership in Florida, knock yourself out. For me, not a chance.

  2. Hi John,
    For reasons you mention, I haven’t been recommending the purchase of FL real estate for many years. And perhaps you are right, I should have known about SOH ammendment, though in 2000 when I bought this was not on the radar, my real estate agent did not mention it and to the best of my recollection, I was unaware of it. (I was aware of the uneligibility for the homestead exemption ($25K at the time, now increased to $50K)). Those who were SOH aware, even pre-2002 could not have imagined what happened to property values and taxes between 2000 and 2006.I totally agree with you that there is no cost advantage to ownership, even if you don’t count sunk cost of purchase and/or mortgage payments. (Though there may be some lifestyle advantages.) All property tax related legislative changes since 2000, rather than provide relief to non-homesteaded owners, have actually worsened their situation. I still believe that the principle of “same value, same tax” should apply (even though non-homesteaders use most services only a few months of the year and some services they don’t use at all, e.g. schools). I also suspect that stopping dscriminatory treatment of out-of-staters, and in fact doing away with SOH ammendment altogether would give a much needed kick-start to Florida real estate market. But it is unlikely to happen, as the latest proposed changes to be voted on in November will make things even worse for non-homesteders (see “Florida’s discriminatory property taxes” at https://retirementaction.com/advocacy/floridas-discriminatory-property-taxes/. I have also tried to get the message out to other snowbirds who are considering buying to warn them about the property tax treatment in FL, e.g. see
    http://www.snowbirds.org/topic/snowbirds-%20florida%20tax%20crisis/article-details/102/162/issue-66.html#anchor1276 )

    1. John Goemans · · Reply

      Thank you for your response to my comments. At one point, I did seriously looked at purchasing property in Florida. I was planning to sell my cottage in Ontario and use the proceeds from that sale to buy a substantial properrty – cash – in Florida. The Homesteaders tax to me is horrendous. I can understand why Floridians would want this to continue. Who would not. Unfortunately, they are cutting off their noses in spite of their face. Any politcian that even proposes eliminating this tax will most likely be defeated in the next election. This will never change This is like the mortgage interest deductabiity allowed in the US. As we all know, this is another reason for the collapse of the real estate market. As far as I am concerned, the US will continue to be a slow or no growth nation will tax rules like I mentioned. I love the weather and the people but I will NOT invest. Too many barriers.

      PS: At least where my cottage is located, I pay taxes but also get to vote in the local elections

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