Calgary

Some Canadian snowbirds say they're staying put this season

As many Canadian snowbirds get ready to head south for the winter, some are instead choosing to stay put. Among them are Ron Sweet and his wife, Margaret, who sold their place in Sun Lakes Ariz. last February after spending more than a decade’s worth of winters there.

Calgary couple says real estate, COVID influenced their decision

Some Canadians have chosen to sell off their places down south, but others have made the opposite decision. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

As many Canadian snowbirds get ready to head south for the winter, some are instead choosing to stay put. 

Among them are Ron Sweet and his wife, Margaret, who sold their place in Sun Lakes, Ariz. last February after spending about a decade's worth of winters there. 

"Now we're, I guess, no longer snowbirds," said Sweet, 77, who lives in Calgary. 

Sweet said the decision was driven by a number of factors. They had been on the fence about the place even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the strong real estate market — and their desire to avoid political tension in the U.S. — convinced them it was time to sell. 

Ron Sweet and his wife, Margaret, recently sold their winter home in Arizona and plan to spend this winter in Calgary. (Submitted by Ron Sweet)

And when the pandemic made it so the couple was unable to travel to the U.S., Sweet said they had a better winter in Canada than they'd expected. 

"[We] went, 'Well, this is kind of nice, we've been missing this, you know?'" he said. 

After he and his wife sold their place, Sweet said two of their Alberta neighbours in Arizona did the exact same thing. 

Wendy Caban, director for Western Canada with the Canadian Snowbird Association, has noticed a similar trend. While the association says its membership numbers are steady, Caban has noticed a "huge number" of sales down south, and estimates about 90 per cent of her Canadian friends in Arizona have sold their places in the last two years. 

Cost has likely been a motivator, she said, noting that taxes, utilities and other fees on her home ate up about $12,000, even when she couldn't use the place during the pandemic. 

"I think a lot of people thought, well, they didn't want to be in that position again," said Caban.

Bucking the trend

Snowbird Jim Neigum looks forward to spending his winter in Mexico. (Submitted by Jim Neigum)

While some have chosen to sell off their places down south — others, like Jim Neigum, have made the opposite decision. 

After years of renting different winter homes, Neigum, 67, decided last November to sell his home in Medicine Hat and purchase a condo in Mexico. 

"We realized that it gets very expensive if you own a very modern home nowadays in Canada, and we wanted to have something we called our own in Mexico," said Neigum, who's currently living in an RV park outside Okotoks. 

As for Ron Sweet and his wife, they're looking forward to laying low this winter, and visiting friends they haven't seen much during previous winters. 

"Our plans are pretty much stay in Calgary this year."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paula Duhatschek

Reporter/Editor

Paula Duhatschek is a reporter with CBC Calgary who previously worked for CBC News in Kitchener and in London, Ont. You can reach her at paula.duhatschek@cbc.ca.

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