Wintering at Home – Snowbirds Forego Florida for West Shore Beach Club

In normal times, Rick and Evelyn Matson would not have to concern themselves with the bone-chilling temperatures that have descended across the province this week. Instead, they would be in Florida enjoying guaranteed warmth and sunshine.

But these are not normal times and for this active 75-year-old couple it has meant foregoing their annual trek to Florida, a move which turned out to be a real smart given the threat of $2,000 hotel bills and forced quarantine for anyone wanting to return to Canada by plane.

Instead, they are having their first full winter in the home they bought almost seven years ago in the gated community of West Shore Beach Club built by Summerhill Homes and situated just north of Orillia on Lake Couchiching.

The couple say they bought one of the 76 homes, which carry price tags ranging from $299,000 to $1.4 million, for a number of reasons. Key among them being a clear view of the lake and the ability to leave their new home for an extended period of time and not have to worry

“The fact that this is a gated community was appealing,” Evelyn says. “We thought it would be a better fit for us being away for four months of the year. You have a community here that can watch the house and pick up your mail and those sorts of things.”

As for the type of home they chose, Rick recalls while a lot of people went with the extra storey, “we had had enough of stairs and went for the one level Dunes model. We were one of the first ones in here, so I tried to make sure I had some kind of a view of the water and so far, that’s held up even when they finished construction.

“We still maintain a sight line to the water. Also, there is no way they can expand unless they tore some houses down and put a condo in, but I’m sure that’s not in the rules.”
Summerhill sales manager Brian Ellis says the development has many buyers who have second homes In Florida and Arizona or California, and that “allows them to take off for a good part of the winter, and live the dream lifestyle.”

The remainder of the homeowners live there year-round and as a result have access to a private beach and marine house in the summer and snow shoeing, on-site ice rink and ice fishing huts in the winter.

“We have all different age groups who bought up there and again there’s a lot of people who work from home especially these days,” says Ellis. “That was not the vision at the beginning of the development. We didn’t have a pandemic (strategy) when we started this project, but it lends itself perfectly to this new environment.

“Homeowners are living in a gated community, there’s not a whole bunch of people running through there … There’s a feeling of being away from the maddening crowds.”
As for the Matsons, spending one winter in their home has been more than fine, but all going well they are hoping this is not going to be the norm.

What is a given is a return to Florida in November where the plan would be to spend the winter of 2022 living in a condo located on or near St. Pete Beach.