After a lifetime of hard work, two-plus years of dealing with COVID-19, and the current uncertain stretch of economic rockiness right around the curve, many older adults are chomping at the bit to exit the 9-to-5 hustle. Pronto.
But, for more Americans, the idea of retirement seems like it could be a long way off. Housing prices have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic—making the time-honored strategy of selling the family home, downsizing into a cheaper forever abode, and banking the extra equity way less assured. Stocks and bonds have dropped significantly, also eroding many nest eggs, and inflation is rising at the fastest pace in more than 40 years.
Those compounding factors have led some experts to say that 2022 is a “dangerous time to retire.”
This year, about 59% of older Americans expected to delay plans for retirement and work longer, according to a survey by Edward Jones and Age Wave. That was a significant uptick from the previous year when about a third of those surveyed felt similarly. Harsh economic realities are making it harder to stretch a fixed income.
But for those who are ready to make a move sooner rather than later, there are options—and we set out to find them.
There are some alluring places where younger baby boomers and older Gen Xers can still retire comfortably—with reasonable home prices, lots of folks over 55, and plenty of amenities and fun things to do. The data team at Realtor.com® rounded up the best places for retirees to enjoy their golden years—without draining their savings.
But there’s more to modern retirement than Bingo games in dimly lit urban senior centers or the frenetic, sprawling Florida 55-plus communities of yore. Today’s older Americans are finding active, hobby-filled lifestyles in destinations all across the country. The list of retirement priorities is just as varied as the diversity of the population.
“For some, living in a sunny location with great weather—like Florida, California, or Arizona—is [still] a must-have,” says George Ratiu, manager of economic research for Realtor.com. But those popular retirement meccas are less affordable than ever. In fact, California and Arizona didn’t make the top 10 because home prices were so prohibitively high in these states.
To scope out the top retirement destinations, our team of data wizards scoured Realtor.com data in May for the 300 largest metros. (Metros include the main city and the surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.) We looked for places with the most senior-friendly amenities in local homes for sale, including universal design and aging in place. For affordability, we factored in a year’s worth of median list prices from June 2021 through May 2022.
To figure out places already popular with retirees, we focused on metros with the highest populations of residents aged 60-plus using U.S. Census Bureau data. We also found the places seeing the largest increase in 55-plus folks. We also included metros with the highest number of businesses appealing to seniors in our ranking, using additional census data.
Finally, we capped the 12-month median list prices in our top 10 to $500,000 to ensure these places are still reasonably affordable. And we confined our list to just one metro per state to ensure the list’s geographic diversity.
Ready to see where retirement dreams are made?
Median home list price (average over the past 12 months): $390,000*
From June through late October, Traverse City boasts near-perfect weather, making it an ideal place to live for anyone who wants to enjoy an active retirement. E-bikes are everywhere. Boating, swimming, and (of course) pickleball are huge. Locals regularly go to wine tastings, check out the sand dunes, and paddleboard on a variety of lakes.
There are multiple inviting senior centers in the area, a couple of which are right on the waterfront, some offering free tennis and shuffleboard daily as well as $5 exercise classes on cardio drumming to Zumba to yoga on the beach.
Temperatures—and the full-time population—drop in the winter months.
“If it was 80 degrees all the time, there would be a million people living in Traverse City,” says Bart Ford, real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors. “We have a lot of snowbirds who go South when the weather is bad, and then they come back and are here for those months when the weather is nice.”
House hunters who want to get into that snowbird life—or don’t mind the cold—can find great homes that are well-priced, including this wheelchair-accessible three-bedroom manufactured home asking for $234,000 or this downtown three-bedroom bungalow with a great front porch for $399,900.
2. Portland, ME
Median home list price: $469,000
This vibrant port city has a ton going for it—gorgeous waterfront views as well as vibrant restaurant, bar, and cultural scenes. Because of all that, a lot of second-home owners and retirees have been snapping up homes and condos throughout the city.
While Portland is a lively and relatively affordable place to live, temperatures can go negative in the deep of winter, the state has an income tax, and city property taxes are fairly high. However, those increased expenditures do come with increased services like fast snow plowing and road repairs.
And, like other cold-weather retirement destinations (ahem, Traverse City), many of the folks who choose this historic city for retirement do flock South for the winter months.
“The population in the summertime swells,” says Jeremy Lock, broker with Portside Real Estate Group. “A lot of people come up here from Florida.”
Buyers can find this fully renovated, three-bedroom Cape Cod in Portland’s desirable Thompson’s Point for $395,000. Meanwhile, this universal design one-bedroom condo with water views, concierge services, a “shared association Tesla” (!), and a patio with views of Casco Bay is asking for $579,900.
Median home list price: $430,000
Set on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Isle of Wight Bay, Maryland’s bucolic Eastern Shore is where urbanites from Baltimore and Washington, DC, go to relax when the swamp starts to get steamy. The area is full of historic towns, stunning natural scenery, iconic crab shacks, and, of course, beautiful beaches that attract boaters, anglers, swimmers, and sunbathers.
All of those aforementioned amenities have led the Salisbury metro to rank 16th among the “fastest-growing places,” according to U.S. News & World Report. The metro also ranked in the outlet’s top 50 “best places to retire.” The low cost of living in the area was factored into the rankings.
Starting in the mid-$100,000 range, buyers can find single-story homes with good bones such as this $145,000 four-bedroom ranch that needs a bit of TLC. Those who are willing to spend more can score completely renovated places like this well-laid-out three-bedroom house asking for $282,000.
Median list price: $328,000
Young families and the grandparents who follow them have been flocking to Myrtle Beach in droves over the past couple of decades. For multiple years in a row, the coastal city that boasts a 60-mile-long beach has been one of the fastest-growing metros in the United States. There’s plenty of sunshine, golf courses abound, and home prices are still reasonable.
“The more visitors that come here, the more they realize it’s not a sleepy beach town,” says Radha Herring, broker-owner of Watermark Real Estate Group. Some of those tourists have fond memories of Myrtle Beach and come back to retire there.
“Myrtle Beach is a fairly large metro area with a lot of infrastructure—it’s a beach that is quite livable,” Herring says.
While prices have risen significantly over the past several years, it’s still much cheaper than many comparable vacation towns. Buyers can find serious deals on one-story houses such as this $299,900 three-bedroom on a half-acre.
Median home list price: $169,000
Property taxes are notoriously high in Illinois, and there’s a flat income tax of 4.95%. However, the Land of Lincoln is the only state in the Midwest that doesn’t tax 401(k), IRA, and pension income—and that’s a boon for retirees living off of their savings.
And while property taxes might be higher than, say, Wisconsin, the uber-affordable home prices in Bloomington offset those rates. But people aren’t just moving here because it’s comparatively cheap.
The safe, midsized city, located two hours south of Chicago, offers a dense suburban feel with lots of green spaces, including the lovely multiuse Constitution Trail—beloved among walkers, runners, and cyclists. There are plenty of golf courses scattered around for folks who want to spend their golden years swinging clubs. And the area boasts multiple senior centers to socialize, exercise, or adventure with peers for free.
A cool $165,000 can get you into this three-bedroom house with a sweet front porch in the South Hill neighborhood. For an additional $20,0000, this three-bedroom ranch is available in the Oakwoods subdivision.
Median home list price: $377,000
Home prices in this perennial retiree state exploded over the past two years. But this reasonably priced Florida metro, located between Miami and Orlando, is a chill outpost on the state’s Treasure Coast. It’s quiet and serene, yet offers plenty of activities for folks looking to live a true sunshine state lifestyle with a lovely botanical garden, world-class golf courses, and nature trails that wind through nearby Savannas Preserve State Park.
All of those attractions paired with the affordable-for-Florida home prices have made Port St. Lucie a top retirement destination. (The state boasts no income tax, so retirees can save big.) In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked it as the third-best place to retire in the U.S. after coming in at No. 5 the previous year.
Starting in the mid-$200,000 range, house hunters can find solid homes that are well-suited for aging in place, including this two-bedroom house on the market for $260,000.
7. Syracuse, NY
Median home list price: $179,000
Syracuse was one of many Rust Belt cities to see jobs and people move away, leaving large swaths of vacant properties behind. While the population is still declining, recent downtown revitalization projects have made the inexpensive upstate New York city a far more attractive place to live.
Because it’s a college town (that also has a world-class research medical program and plenty of learning opportunities for retirees), it boasts a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene. Another bonus: It recently launched the fastest 5G network in the world.
For less than the cost of a down payment downstate, homebuyers can score amazing deals in and around Syracuse, including this renovated single-story two-bedroom house on the market for just $169,900. Meanwhile, this updated, historic three-bedroom house still maintains charming original details and is asking for just $160,000—though, it does have multiple stories if that’s a concern.
“You get a lot of bang for your buck,” says Sarah Barrows, a real estate salesperson with Keller Williams Realty Syracuse.
Median home list price: $407,000
In North Carolina, they’ve come up with a term for northern state retirees who think they want to spend their golden years in Florida but end up living out their best days in the Tar Heel State: “halfbacks.” They move to the Sunshine State, realize it’s not the right fit, but still want to be someplace warmer and more affordable than the Northeastern and Midwestern communities that they left—hence they settle about halfway.
That’s why more folks over the age of 55 have moved from Florida to North Carolina than vice versa every year of the past 10 aside from 2013, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
And why not? The state boasts similar greenery to the North but with much milder weather, lower taxes, and, for those who want to be near the beach, the gorgeous coastline in cities like Wilmington. The port city, which is a gateway to the Cape Fear coast, boasts a lovely historic district and Riverwalk, which is lined with restaurants, galleries, and shops.
The area also boasts great deals on new construction such as this single-story three-bedroom house with an attached garage that starts at $359,990.
9. Concord, NH
Median home list price: $397,000
Just last month, this idyllic New England town took the top spot on the Realtor.com list of the hottest real estate markets in the United States for the first time. Located just an hour away from Boston (and all the world-class medical and cultural institutions it has to offer), the city boasts plenty of arts and cultural events, sporting events, outdoor and recreational activities—plus low tax rates and affordable housing. And it is has no income tax.
In the area’s 55-plus communities, homebuyers can get nice places for a steal such as this two-bedroom condo in the nearby suburb of Goffstown with direct access to the rail trail for $366,070. There is also this brand-new two-bedroom condo in the same community for just $405,154.
10. St. Louis, MO
Median home list price: $244,000
There’s no denying the real estate deals in St. Louis are appealing to people looking to cut down on expenses. All across the city, buyers can find affordable, renovated homes well-designed for aging in place. They include this cute three-bedroom, brick ranch asking for $199,000 and this three-bedroom bungalow for $180,000.
But it’s not just cheap real estate and favorable tax rates that are bringing retirees in—there are so many activities for residents, it’s hard to list them all. St. Louis boasts dozens of walkable neighborhoods, a vibrant cultural scene, 45 colleges and universities, one of the best zoos in the county (entry is free), and a whole lot of national restaurant awards.
“Our cost of living is low compared to many other states,” says Luan Meredith, broker-owner of Realty and Associates. “And, culturally, we’ve got everything.”
* The average home list price for the metropolitan area from June 2021 through May 2022 used Realtor.com data.
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