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Snowbirds in Flight Seasonal Vacancies Require Community Attention

Birds in flight may be beautiful, but their departure sometimes leaves the nest unprotected. And when that nest is in a condominium community, property managers and boards must do their best to compensate.

This region is full of snowbirds, who fly away from home during cold wintry weather, returning in the spring. Others are more like snow eagles, flying toward New England’s condos for the more challenging winter season, relishing snow, ice and hot toddies by the fire.

Regardless of which flight pattern applies, prolonged absences from individual units present associations and managers with a different set of issues, ranging from governance to insurance coverage, to the consequences of unforeseen damage. While only about 10 percent of New Englanders flock to Florida or other hot spots during the winter, their absence requires increased vigilance from management.

Lou Gargiulo, founder and CEO of Great North Property Management in Nashua, New Hampshire, says those in the 55+ age group are more likely to travel during the winter, with residents splitting their time between New England and a warmer climate. Planning for their absence is critical, he says.

“Typically, we prepare people in advance … to make sure certain things are accomplished,” Gargiulo says. “They have to leave a forwarding address and a phone number, plus have someone local on call, in the event of an emergency.” Great North oversees 185 communities in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts—among them 40 condo associations. With that level of responsibility, the company provides residents with guidance on the appropriate measures to take before leaving, to help prevent flooding or other mishaps from occurring.

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