4 Places To Be A Snowbird In Style

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. ( MainStreet) -- While curmudgeons in America's cold-weather regions worry about how soon Christmas trees will supplant Thanksgiving turkeys, a loud, flightless bird of a different sort is just settling in for the season in sunny southern states.

Unlike the turkeys, the frost-fleeing snowbirds that inundate trailer parks, campsites and condo complexes in California, Florida, Arizona, the Carolinas and even Hawaii each year are staying for the long haul. The Center For Business Research at Arizona State University estimates that more than 300,000 flock to the state during the winter and spend $350 million on lodging and $280 million on consumer goods.

In Florida, where snowbirds aren't just visitors but cornerstones of the economy, the University of Florida at Gainesville says more than 800,000 temporary residents set up shop on the panhandle or peninsula each year. Of those fair-weather residents, the university says 13% are New Yorkers during the nicer months, nearly 7.5% make their way down from Michigan and nearly 7% come out of Ohio. Pennsylvania and all of Canada contribute another 6% of the total apiece. Regardless of where they're from, nearly 64% of Florida's snowbirds are 55 or older, compared with just above 30% of Florida's permanent population.

Though snowbirds tend to favor recreational vehicles as a cost-effective means of migrating and making more options available each year, keeping a winter home in a fixed destination is still a popular option. According to the Census Bureau, more than 3.6 million homes in America are either vacation or occasional-use homes. That's more than 3% of all U.S. housing being used by folks with no intention of staying there year-round.

That's great for frozen retirees who can afford those homes, but it can be a bit of a problem for the states they're leaving behind. Michigan, for example, sent snowbirds a plea through its Department of Information Technology in November 2009 to write down the number of residents as zero when 2010 Census forms come to their winter addresses and wait until they returned to Michigan in spring to fill out that state's form in full.

Why so pushy? Michigan felt snowbirds helped cost it a Congressional seat back in 2000, lost the state another $200 million in federal funding each year since -- $2 billion over the course of a decade -- and forced Washington to spend less in Michigan than its taxpayers shelled out.

With the better part of a decade standing between them and the next census, snowbirds and their chilly comrades who aspire to that lifestyle have plenty of options for escaping to a sunnier state. With help from the good folks at real estate site Zillow(Z) , we took a look at four warm states sought after by seasonal residents and found houses that should be snowbirds' first choice for a second, sunnier home: