Listen to the conversations of Boomers and many debate whether to stay put or go elsewhere. This isn’t about whether to move into an assisted living facility or nursing home. It’s not time yet for many Boomers—those born between 1946 and 1955—who are still healthy and active and want to continue to play tennis, golf, garden, cook, learn, volunteer and travel.
Instead, their debate centers around whether to remain in their homes or move closer to their grown children and possibly grandchildren if they are not nearby, or try some distant place that beckons. The distant place that appeals might seem to have all the stars aligned—affordable, low maintenance housing often without stairs but with a multicar garage; low property and estate taxes; culture, recreation and restaurants; quality affordable healthcare in proximity; public transportation; walkability to an array of destinations; and good weather, whatever that means to them.
This topic is timely as the timetable for retirement is going down, from age 65 in 2013 to age 63.7 in 2017, according to a Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey, sponsored by national home builder PulteGroup Inc. The survey found that the two top priorities are the desire to downsize and find a home in a better location. "What ‘better’ means is that boomers want a great value in a great place to live, and they may or may not be interested in a transitioning area unlike a millennial family that would accept that. They want an area that has transitioned and if they have the pocketbook to do so would pay a premium to do so," says Jay Mason, vice president of market intelligence at PulteGroup. "Retirement," Mason adds, "marks a new phase in a baby boomer’s life, and it only seems natural to relocate or move to a new home when transitioning away from their primary career, or from the day-to-day rearing of school-aged children."
For this cohort, the options are increasing as developers and homebuilders recognize and market to it with varied options, like a smaller single-family detached house, townhome or one-level condo. The biggest decision many must make is whether to choose a home that’s in a traditional suburb, urban downtown, or in a gated, age-restricted community with amenities on the premises. The latter option appeals to many since it’s become a well-known fact that isolation can affect health adversely at this stage as friends and family die and move away.
The key to finding a good fit involves having the right mindset that a move can represent. Think of it as an adventure. Second, it requires doing your homework and prioritizing what’s most important—perhaps, warm weather, a charming bookstore or library, or park with walking trails. One way to improve your approach is to consider renting for a few weeks or months to try out a possible retirement destination. All sorts of sites online will help you find "the 10 cheapest cities to retire to in the U.S." or "America’s 15 Baby Boomer Boom Towns."
Here are four cities that piqued our interest:
Located in western Pennsylvania and once known as "the steel city," is cited by Bert Sperling’s online resource, Sperling’s Best Places, as one of its favorites for retirement. The site ranks 370 metropolitan areas throughout the country according to different categories such as for foodies. Pittsburgh is also ranked in the No. 8 slot, according to U.S. News. And the reason is that it considers Pittsburgh one of the most affordable, plus it has a low crime rate, top cultural institutions including the Andy Warhol Museum and Public Theater, a choice of quality medical centers, high concentration of Boomer residents, airport with an international hub and attractive growing downtown.
"I grew up here and nobody back then went downtown except to see a ball game," says real estate salesperson Joe Yost with Berkshire Hathaway. "Now there’s a huge presence with condos, restaurants that you can walk to and more," he says. Those who don’t want to live directly downtown may prefer Squirrel Hill and Shadyside, also in the city but not directly downtown, he says. And it’s still relatively easy to find a nice home with a first-floor bedroom in the $300,000 range. There are also age 55-and-older communities 15 to 20 minutes from downtown for those who prefer community living.
Pittsburgh’s main negative, Yost says, is a colder winter climate, like New York and Chicago. And for sports enthusiasts there’s plenty of company since Pittsburghers are known for their devotion to their professional sports teams such as the NFL Steelers, NHL Penguins and MLB Pirates, according to the U.S. News report.
- Population: 305,704
- Latest median price of homes sold, according to Zillow: $145,770
- Attractions: Phipps Conservatory, Carnegie Science Center, Strip District
- Major hospitals: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Allegheny General Hospital, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside
- Universities: University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University
San Antonio, Texas
A city where you can stretch your retirement dollars, according to Moira McGarvey, founder of GangsAway.com, a retirement planning website. It was also ranked as No. 3 in best places to retire, in part because it’s ranked below the national average in cost of living and housing, according to U.S. News.
Founded in 1718 as a mission city, it’s become beloved for its historic Alamo mission where a battle was waged in 1836 and which is now a museum, its River Walk, a park and network of walkways with shops and restaurants on the banks of the San Antonio River, and its many festivals.
Need a place to take your grandchildren? The city has several commercial amusement parks, including Splashtown, Morgan’s Wonderland and Kiddie Park. And proof is in the increasing numbers. The city is experiencing a growth spurt, having topped the national list for largest raw numeric growth in population among all U.S. cities of 50,000 residents or more, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Now pegged at about 1.475 million, its population is expected to grow by 1 million over the next 20 years.
"It’s considered one of the hottest markets in the country with demand now high and inventory low," says real estate salesperson David Blegen, with Keller Williams City Views Realty. And many of those who are Boomers and relocating are returning military personnel attracted by the low cost of living and temperate climate that rarely dips below 32 degrees in winter and is dry in summer, says Blegen. "We’re known as Military City U.S.A.," he says.
When it comes to housing, the nationwide trend to live downtown holds here as well as in historic neighborhoods such as Lavaca with its Victorian and Craftsman houses and King William with its also Greek Revival, Victorian and Italianate stock. Inventory throughout the city and suburbs and whether in new or old single-family houses, townhomes or condos can be found for as little as $125,000, though at much higher price tags too, including exceeding $1 million. And when a move to assisted-care or a nursing home with state-of-the-art memory facility may be needed there are options for that, too, Blegen says.
- Population: 1.493 million
- Latest median price of homes sold according to Zillow: $166,800
- Star attractions: Alamo Mission, Japanese Tea Gardens, San Antonio Aquarium
- Major hospitals: Foundation Surgical Hospital, Warm Springs Rehabilitation Hospital, Methodist Hospital
- Universities: University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, Trinity University
Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Known as the Research Triangle because of the multiple universities and technology centers clustered within proximity. Both Durham and Chapel Hill are about 30 minutes away from Raleigh. And U.S. News ranked the area as No. 13 in terms of best places to retire.
Boomers have heeded the advice and continue to relocate there. Besides the educational opportunities, the cost of living is placed slightly lower than the national average, though with growth has come significant rising house prices, the report also said. Cultural activities abound as well with the presence of the North Carolina Symphony, the Carolina Ballet and the North Carolina Museum of Art. And the area’s mild winter is also a draw.
Housing options include Carolina Arbors by Del Webb in Durham, which opened almost six years ago, and reflects the increased activity options of an age 55-and-older community. Located in the Brier Creek neighborhood and near shopping, the community Carolina Arbors includes 1,150 homes and amenities far beyond shuffleboard. Here there is an on-site swimming pool, fitness center, croquet, bocce ball and pickleball, arts and crafts studio, demonstration kitchen, grandchildren’s playground and walking trails. Housing inventory includes 11 different single-family detached house plans with two to four bedrooms, priced from the low $300,000s to $500,000s range. "It’s all about the lifestyle with a massive clubhouse that measures 37,000 square feet and where everyone hangs out," says Carly Harte, marketing manager for the Pulte Group’s four brands that include 14 communities. "There’s also an on-site lifestyle director that plans events for any time of the day. Amenities are unmatched from anything in the area," says Harte.
- Population (Raleigh): 464,758
- Latest median price of homes sold according to Zillow: $261,500
- Star attractions: North Carolina Museum of Art
- Major hospitals: Duke Raleigh Hospital, WakeMed Raleigh Campus, UNC Rex Healthcare
- Universities: North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University in Durham
Las Vegas, Nevada
Despite being hit hard by the economic recession 10 years ago, home prices have climbed again in the Las Vegas area and the average is now $257,200, according to Zillow; they’re expected to continue to climb. At the same time, there is little inventory throughout the Valley, and a lack of affordable land is said to make it tough for builders to keep up with demand for new construction.
Las Vegas still appeals to the older segment since its housing prices remain at a lower price than in many cities nationwide, especially those in nearby California. An additional reason is that not all Boomers are looking to fine tune their golf game or stay up late and hit the Strip’s restaurants, bars and casinos. According to an article in Small Biz Trends, many still want to work and Las Vegas is considered a top territory to find jobs in small businesses.
In addition to lower housing costs, many retire to the Las Vegas area because of its lower living costs, low overall tax rate, absence of a state income tax, recreational options that include hiking in nearby parks and the Grand Canyon, growing good healthcare options, a nearby commercial airport and it is said to have 300 days of sunshine a year.
Real estate salesperson Ray Glasser, who specializes in the 55-and-older age cohort and is with Summit Properties and 55places.com, finds that most of his Boomer clients want to find housing on the outskirts of the Strip, about 20 minutes away. "They buy into the idea of having a house and access to a clubhouse to work out and ‘not be bored,’" he says. Shea Homes’ Trilogy® brand at Summerlin® appeals as one example because it represents new construction—no heavy remodeling will be involved. That’s somewhat of a rarity in the area because of the absence of a lot of large parcels, Glasser explains. At Trilogy, the 354 homes are priced from the $400,000s up, set amid 50 acres and share a modern desert architectural vibe. When not working, owners have an array of activities to consider, from a culinary studio to an unleashed dog park, Zen garden, pickleball and bocce ball courts, fitness studios and lap pool. A similar upscale community that was also built from the ground up is Toll Brothers’ Regency at Summerlin with 450 houses.
- Population: 633,000
- Latest median price of homes sold according to Zillow: $257.200
- Star attractions: The Strip with its casinos, helicopter rides over Las Vegas and nearby Grand Canyon, The Mob Museum, Hoover Dam tour, hiking in nearby Bryce, Zion and Monument Valley
- Major hospitals: Kindred Hospital Las Vegas, Complex Care Hospital at Tenaya, desert Willow Treatment Center
- Universities: University of Las Vegas, College of Southern Nevada