Reasons to Move South
By Larry Gavrich, Founder & Editor,
Home On The Course, LLC
There is no lonelier time for a golfer living north of the Mason-Dixon Line than January and February. Virtually all golf courses are closed, save for those few along the Gulfstream-warmed coasts of Connecticut and New York where, playing the game is possible if you can swing a club wearing a ski jacket, heavy sweater, or both. The rest of us will plop down in front of our televisions and feel bad enough watching all those pro golfers in shirtsleeves at the first PGA Tour event of the year, in January, at Kapalua on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can actually play golf most every day during the droll days of winter by moving south, and more than pay for it with the money you will save in your annual costs of living. And with the new federal tax plan Congress recently approved, many of you in certain tax brackets and living in certain high-property tax areas will save even more.
Let’s review the numbers quickly for the benefit of those of you reading this in New England, the mid-Atlantic states, or the upper Midwest. Here are the January average temperatures, in Fahrenheit, for a select number of cities in the North: Portland, ME (30); Hartford, CT (33); Manchester, NH (29); Morristown, NJ (34); Schaumburg, IL (29); Minneapolis, MN (20); Pittsburgh, PA (35); and Wilmington, DE (38).
Now here are the average January temperatures for a few southern towns: Charleston, SC (56); Myrtle Beach, SC (52); Chapel Hill, NC (45); Wilmington, NC (51); Sarasota, FL (65); Vero Beach, FL (65); Savannah, GA (58). On those odd days in the South when it rains, you will have to wait just a day or two for things to dry out. On those not-so-odd days up North, you won’t play for at least a couple of months because it is tough to find golf balls in the snow; even if you find a golf course that is open and snow-free, you will have to brave the customary frigid temperatures. Virtually all courses south of Virginia stay open year-round, and many of them over-seed their fairways and greens to make them look like northern courses do in May.
The financial arguments to move are as compelling as the climate-centered ones. Let’s say, for round numbers, you and your spouse spend $100,000 annually on all your expenses, your “cost of living.” You don’t have to hate winters where you live in order to love the money you will save by moving to a warmer weather location where you can play golf year round — or do whatever you like to do outdoors.
A couple who spends $100,000 annually to live in Minneapolis could move to The Landings golf community just over the border from South Carolina and outside Savannah, GA, and save 21%, or $21,000 annually. A couple in Morristown, NJ, would save 37%, or $37,000, moving to Myrtle Beach and be able to play golf virtually year round. (I say “virtually” because several times each winter, the thermometer dips below freezing.) Even if your annual expenses are, for example, $50,000, you can still save in the tens of thousands of dollars each year. The source for these comparisons is BestPlaces.net where you can run a comparison for your hometown and any location in the Carolinas or elsewhere.
There is one other recent event that argues for a move south in the near future. Housing experts are predicting that real estate markets in some Blue State areas will be hit hard courtesy of the new tax law that reduces the mortgage deduction limit to $750,000; of greater significance to more people in high property tax areas is that the combined deduction for property tax and state and local income taxes is capped at $25,000 per married couple.
One recent New York Times report that focused on Livingston in the high tax state of New Jersey, where I was raised, predicted the housing market there and in similar towns in “blue” states would drop 10% because of the new tax law’s provisions. Most homes in Livingston and other middle/upper-middle class towns are valued at about $175 per square foot and higher. Most homes in southern golf communities where my clients have moved are priced between $100 and $150 per square foot.
Those differences will more than pay for private club membership at a year-round golf club, or for travel a couple of times per year, or for whatever other activities you would like to dominate your retirement years.
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