Think of snowbirds as your neighbors

sjones@thesunnews.comJanuary 10, 2014 

Hundreds of snowbirds turned out for The North Myrtle Beach Chamber annual snowbird reception in early 2013. Many local business members participated having contests, food samples and giveaways and some donated door prizes.

STEVE JESSMORE — The Sun News Buy Photo

At least some locals look at snowbirds as a cold weather savings account.

They come from Maine and Ontario and other unacceptably cold places, rent a place for a month or two or three and fork out cash for rooms, meals, gasoline, movies, theaters, groceries, knick-knacks, doo-dads and untold number of other things.

Every time they fork out, someone along the Grand Strand can make a deposit.

But, some say, there is a better way to view snowbirds.

As neighbors.

“You start with one trip a year,” said Jason Potter of Grand Strand Coastal Realty, “and that becomes two trips a year, then three trips a year, and then you get a condo.”

Potter and other Horry County Realtors say that snowbirds and other Strand visitors who eventually become residents could account for as much of 50 percent of the area’s real estate market.

Penny Boling of Boling and Associates says snowbirds might buy area properties for investments or as second homes they can use when they want to get away. She said that more than 50 percent of her firm’s business comes from people who were visitors, a good percentage of them snowbirds.

She and her then new husband first visited the Strand in the ‘70s as honeymooners from Wisconsin. Within four years, they were full-time residents.

Boling and Potter said that besides the weather, the area’s enticements include good restaurants and things to do.

“They come down here to escape the harsh weather, and they have these good experiences,” Potter said. “I look at it as free marketing.”

Even better, visitors who like the Strand enough to move will go home and tell their neighbors how great it is, which is sort of like throwing a baited hook in a fish pond.

Potter, a native of the Washington, D.C., area, said he’d been coming to the area on vacations since he was a toddler. He moved here with his parents about 10 years ago. Now the family is trying to get aunts and uncles to join their exodus.

“We tried other places, and it seemed that Myrtle Beach still had room to grow,” he said.

Marvin Heyd, president of Prudential Myrtle Beach Real Estate, said 92 percent of sales at his company come from out-of-towners. Snowbird visits tend to translate into sales at times when sales to other market segments tend to slow.

Boling said she can’t say it’s from snowbirds, but her company recorded more sales this December than it has in any December since 2000.

What does that say?

“It says whoopee,” she said, “especially in December.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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