10 Very Affordable… and Great Places to Retire

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

September 14, 2011 — If you are like most people, affordability is a big part of the equation in finding your best place to retire. We certainly get enough requests from our members asking for help finding them. But we also know there are other aspects to choosing your retirement location – you are too discriminating to settle for some place just because it’s cheap. So with that in mind we created this list of places to retire that are not only affordable, but have enough going for them that you might actually enjoy living there. This is part I from towns starting A-L. Here is a link to Part 2, Affordable Towns M-Z. We also updated this series in 2012, see “More Great Affordable Places to Retire“.

The selection factors we used to develop this list:
Affordability. Median home price in the community should be at least 25% less than the U.S. median of $171,900 (2nd quarter 2011, National Association of Realtors), or $130,000.
Lower taxes for retirees. We did not consider any of the states on our “Worst Tax States for Retirees” list.
High culture. To avoid you getting stuck in just any old town, we selected only towns have all earned a high culture rating.

To develop this list of affordable places to retire we used our free Retirement Ranger selection tool. We did not make any selection criteria for region, state, or minimum January temperature. However, you can use the Ranger to develop your own custom list with whatever criteria you want.

Our Top 10 Affordable – and Desirable – Places to Retire (Towns A-L).
These towns are in alphabetical order; we did not attempt to rank them.
Chattanooga, Tennessee
The median selling price of a home in Chattanooga is $115,000. Chattanooga is famous for its friendly people, its Civil War history, and for a milder climate and lower cost of living.

Clearwater, Florida
Located on Florida’s west coast and right next to bustling Tampa and charming St. Petersburg, Clearwater is justly popular with retirees. The median home price is $129,000.

Fort Myers, Florida
Fort Myers makes just about every one of our affordable places to retire lists. The region has been so hard hit with real estate woes that it is a slightly relief that home prices have increased lately – to a median of $110,000. The city is on the Gulf and has amazing cultural, recreational, and lifestyle resources.

Grand Rapids, Michigan
This bustling small city is beloved by its residents. Yet hard times have left it with a median home price of $103,000, a fraction of the national average. Highlights include The Heritage Hill District, one of the largest urban historical districts in the nation, in addition to the Gerald Ford Museum.

Gulfport, Florida
This funky little town is on the same island as St. Petersburg. Its Casino on the Bay is one of the busiest dance halls in America. Median home price is about $120,000.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
The capital of Pennsylvania has some tremendous infrastructure and beauty for a small city. It has had its share of fiscal woes (the city verges on bankruptcy) but the housing prices can’t be beat – the median home price is $81,000 according to Zillow.com. On top of that, Pennsylvania is surprisingly tax friendly for retirees.

Holland, Michigan
This beautiful town on the Lake with its Dutch heritage is another bargain in Michigan. Median home price is $107,000.

Kalamazoo,Michigan
Yet another Michigan bargain with that great name, Kalamazoo. Zillow.com reports the median home sold for $104,000 this year. Kalamazoo is a college town, home to Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University.

Las Vegas, Nevada
Beat up as bad any place in the country by the real estate bust, Las Vegas has become a happy hunting ground for home bargains. The median selling price of a home is $126,000. There are many interesting communities to live in, not to mention there is always something to do here.

Louisville, KY
The median selling price of a home in Louisville is $130,000, almost 25% below the national average. Taxes are relatively low too. Located on the Ohio River, Louisville is sort of a bridge between north and south. Residents enjoy the Kentucky Derby as well as 22 city parks.

For further reference:
Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront
Most Affordable Places to Retire (2010)
How to Find an Affordable Place to Retire
Most Affordable College Towns in the Sunbelt
WSJ_MarketWatch – “10 Affordable Home Markets”
AARP – “10 Affordable Cities for Retirement”

Comments? What towns would you suggest that are not only affordable but great places to live? Any reactions to this list? Let your fellow members know using the Comments section below.

Posted by John Brady on September 13th, 2011

30 Comments »

  1. Good criteria and list; also think about walkability. Car-dependent locations become harder to maneuver as we get older. Check out walkscore (www.walkscore.com) for a place you’re considering. Be sure to see how YOUR retirement income will be taxed. And, if you’re paying high Home Owner Association fees, it can negate the lower home prices.

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    Editor’s Note: Thanks Jan, 2 great points. Walkability is extremely important, and will get more important as we age. And how YOUR retirement income is taxed was the major point of last week’s article – the rules are complex and everyone’s situation is different.

    by Jan Cullinane — September 14, 2011

  2. Louisville has come leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. The Mayor has taken Louisville from an old, grittier type town to a vibrant contender in cities – places to live, and places to build a business. Worldport – UPSs’ ‘world port’ just put in a $1B+ expansion – they now handle and sort a half million packages per hour. Plus all the other cool stuff Kentucky has to offer. We love it here now.

    by Brad — September 14, 2011

  3. While I can agree to the wonderful of Michigan cities spent 20 yrs raising my family in Kazoo, you forgot to mention the winters, lake effect results in 100 inches per year as average snowfall. Holland is all time favorite in the summertime. We have just completed our retirement assessment, Pinehurst and Amelia Island. AI won out due to housing value and variety of activities available. From Philly.

    by Dennis — September 14, 2011

  4. Most of the towns you recommend are in places where the weather is terrible at least part of the year. Also, they tend to be in the eastern part of the US where humidity is very high. There really isn’t much to look at on your site in the West or Southwest, where the air is dry and someone with severe COPD/Asthma like myself can exist.

    by Petchy — September 14, 2011

  5. Editors Note to Petchy. This list is what we have come up with for Towns with names starting A-L. There will be some towns coming up in M-Z that might fit your personal criteria better. However, have you looked in our Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, and California Directories? There are dozens if not a hundred towns to choose from there, some of them more affordable than others. Start here:http://www.topretirements.com/active_adult_communities/National.html

    by Admin — September 14, 2011

  6. Please don’t forget those of us who are apartment renters, I will someday be looking to retire in a friendly, classy town where there are wonderful apartments to rent and much to do. I am also concerned with what is available in the state of NJ, in a 55+ or senior community. I need help in locating this kind of information and I have read the apartment info connected on this site, it is not enough, especially for those like myself who do not drive and depend on community transportation or public transportation. Thanks for your help. I am looking for affordable rentals.

    by Debbie — September 14, 2011

  7. 🙄 Another possible thing to consider is proximity to relatives. Most of my family lives in San Diego, I live in Georgia and have been for 16 years. I miss them so much that I have decided to move back to one of the most expensive cities so I can be closer to my brother and son. On the flip side, some of you have lived close to relatives for so long that you can’t wait to move away from them.

    by Randy — September 14, 2011

  8. I agee with all of the above comments but..other than Las Vegas…aren’t there any affordable place to retire on the West Coast? My daughters are on the West Coast, I am in Anchorage…I would like to move closer…any suggestions? Oregon?

    by Bethany — September 14, 2011

  9. 3 places in hot-as-heck and humid FL; 3 places in cold and snowy MI; 1 place in hot, dry, and economically depressed Las Vegas, and 3 places (Chatanooga, Louisville, and Harrisburg) prone to flooding. There’s always a reason some places are especially affordable. Cherry-picking data can get one interesting but not necessarily useful results. And Las Vegas has “high culture”??? That’s a chuckle.

    by Glenn — September 14, 2011

  10. I have found Louisville to decay over the last 20 years. The previous mayor of Louisville took his profits and is now running for Lt governor. The crime is becoming an increasing problem with the urban crawl. The housing average listed is from the entire area, but most workers live east and north where housing is way more expensive than the average. Louisville still has a significant busing issue with schools which has a severe negative impact on jefferson county. Why buy a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood when they will bus your kids to a tough area of town. My two cents. Nick

    by Nick — September 15, 2011

  11. I totally agree with Nick re: Louisville. The bussing situation for school kids is unbelievable!! 5 yr olds riding a bus for an hour only to be bussed from a decent/great neighborhood to a school in a neighborhood an adult wouldn’t want to go to in daylight!! The education in Jefferson County is not up to standards. If the school system wasn’t SO disfunctional Anchorage would not have created their own district which incidently is rated a 10 out of 10!! Louisville has our children bussed to failing schools when there is a decent school blocks away. WHY WOULD ANYONE WITH SCHOOL AGE KIDS WANT TO SUBJECT THEIR KIDS TO THIS TYPE OF SITUATION. School is for learning, not learning how to protect yourself from danger. Obviously a retiree normally doesn’t have school age children, but one can tell a lot about a community by researching the school system. For a retirement community, I would highly recommend looking elsewhere! There are opportunities for enjoying the arts, etc, but it it worth the tradeoff of retiring to a city of this size that can’t or won’t address the safety of their city??

    by Catherina — September 15, 2011

  12. ‘addition to my comment about Louisville: Median price of housing means nothing. If you have a large area in the city that is decaying, these houses would be cheap for a reason thus bringing down the median price for the city. If something is cheap there is a reason. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEACH for any of these towns is important. A declining city = smaller tax base = fewer governmental services. Detroit MI is a prime example. There’s nothing left there to attract people. Less taxes = less services = crime ridden city.

    by Catherina — September 15, 2011

  13. I agree with Debbie. I have been looking for affordable, safe winter rentals in St Pete area of Florida for a year with and without the help of realtors and cannot seem to find anything. Does anyone have info that could help.

    by Marie — September 16, 2011

  14. Just viewed Sun Lakes in Banning CA (to be closer to our family). Do not see it reviewed by your site but we were pretty impressed. Would also like to see information on moving/relocating costs. We will be moving from East coast to the West coast

    by Kats — September 24, 2011

  15. Sun Lakes is impressive; it’s big and it is very established. You know what you are getting into. Here is our brief review along with contact information.
    http://www.topretirements.com/reviews/California/Banning/Sun_Lakes_Country_Club.html

    by Admin — September 24, 2011

  16. Where and how did you compile this list of cities? I’ve lived in several of them and I have no idea how they made the cut. For example, suggesting that Las Vegas is a great place to live is bogus and based primarily on home pricing which has plummeted over the past several years. Sure there are home bargains there, but there’s much more to a livable area than merely the price of a home. If you think you’d enjoy living among a high number of transients then go ahead and give it a try, but don’t be surprised when your neighbors turnover several times per year and you don’t have any idea who is or will be living next door to you next month….

    by A. Nihilist — September 27, 2011

  17. […] October 4, 2011 — If you are like most people, affordability is a big part of the equation in finding your best place to retire. We know because so many of our members ask for suggestions on inexpensive places to live. But we also know that you are not going to choose your retirement location just because it is cheap. That’s why we created this list of places to retire that are affordable, AND have enough going for them that you might actually enjoy living there. This is part II – towns starting M-Z. Part I (towns A – M) has 10 more great towns, “10 Very Affordable, and Desirable, Places to Retire” […]

    by » 8 More Affordable Places to Retire You Will Like Living In Topretirements — October 3, 2011

  18. […] further reference: 8 More Affordable Places to Live 10 Very Affordable Places to Retire 11 Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront Affordable College Towns in the […]

    by » 20 Great Affordable Towns for Retirement Topretirements — April 17, 2013

  19. Does anyone know anything about kent county Delaware and Sussex county Delaware also cape coral florida? Not retirement communities

    by janis — July 27, 2013

  20. Janis, about 6 years ago we lived in Naples Florida. Had some friends who owned property in cape coral in which they finally sold and lost money. We paid a visit to this community and didn’t like anything about it. Personally I would steer clear of cape coral. It’s been awhile now and perhaps things have changed but I would certainly visit and do my due diligence before investing in this community = just our opinion. Robert

    by Robert — July 28, 2013

  21. THANKS ROBERT THAT WAS VERY HELPFUL. WE’VE NEVER BEEN THERE BUT WERE CONSIDERING IT. WE ARE ALSO LOOKING INTO DELAWARE. WE WENT THERE FOR A WEEKEND RECENTLY AND LOVED IT. JANIS

    by janis — July 28, 2013

  22. Janis, tell me more about Delaware – been considering checking it out. Most of my family is in the South Eastern part of Pa so it would be fairly close.
    Pa is friendly to “Seasoned Citizens” BUT they get you on the SCHOOL TAX and that is why we have not moved back to Lancaster (Amish) Pa. I love it there but do not want to pay the school tax being on limited income.

    tks,Robert

    by Robert — July 29, 2013

  23. interesting blog about pa school tax..of course I live in NY and our property tax is over 11K this year..so we looked in lancaster ..just a few weeks ago..and found tax on a 300K home was inrange of less than 300 a yr..so when we considered the fact that pa does not tax any pension /401/ss/military..it was wash between Delaware and Pa ..as in Delaware the property tax on a sin
    miliar home was 1400 ..but the Delaware income tax would allow some deduction for 65 plus ..the state would still tax us about 3000 in income..so just making a point..if we are wrong would sure gladly appreciate any comments..the one thing we did find in pa was the taxable property tax varied…GREATLY..for example in Bucks County the same home had double that tax burden..so thanks to all for
    and ‘please ‘ let me repeat some others who made comments in the past…one must consider other things in re locating..and we found Pa was beautiful in its setting and looks like , so far, very good healthcare facilities ..which we will check during next visit..

    by Robbie — July 29, 2013

  24. Janis: I have to agree with Robert on Cape Coral, FL. It seems an area in transition and not all good. We moved to Fort Myers, FL 18 months ago and love it here and, no, we don’t have sinkholes, insurance problems or a high crime rate in the area we bought. Yes, it’s humid in the summer but most days we have a nice breeze and love sitting on our lanai in the afternoon. In FL it’s important to buy a house that does NOT face West in the afternoon or you will not enjoy your patio until AFTER sundown. Hope this helps.

    by terry — July 29, 2013

  25. Just bought a new home(not 55+) in Northampton County, the Lehigh Valley, Nazareth, PA. Was torn between a similar home in Sussex County, NJ and the PA home. Factors that made PA the winner: it does not tax any pensions, even out of state, state pensions (I have one from AZ), 401/ss/military like Robbie pointed out, no tax on clothing, drugs, heating fuel, and one of the top 10 medical facilities in the country is very near by. My home is in a rural area with many amenities near by for shopping, cultural events, and easy access via highway or public transportation to NYC and Philly. Sussex County, and NJ is not so tax friendly and the county is very rural with no major highways for access to the City, shopping or other amenities. This PA area also has many 55+ communities, but I was not interested in living in that type of community, and didn’t look at any. I’m currently living in the Netherlands, and the home will be completed when I move back to the USA in June, 2014.

    by Rita — July 29, 2013

  26. To Robbie – is that a typo? – tax on a 300K home a year less than $300!!!!
    I don’t think so – you better check again. Yes, taxes do vary from county to county. As I said before Pa is friendly to Seniors (I am seasoned) but depending on what county you live in School tax is waiting. It’s also my understanding that over 65 you get some kind of break but you must own the home before the 1st of the year to get that following break – whatever it is.
    Robert

    by Robert — July 29, 2013

  27. We moved from New Jersey to Pa when my husband retired. We wanted to stay close to NJ to be close to our family but we do not like it at all. We’re in the milford area and it is so far behind in everything. Most towns in this area do not have police departments only the state police and good luck in getting them to respond. We have terrible hospitals in the area. We have to go to Jersey for everything. You can shoot guns whenever you want as long as you are so many yards from another house. The noise is deafening. They sell fireworks everywhere. We moved into a very expensive community after 4 years of gun shots all around us and so with the dues and taxes, we’re not really getting any break. We went to Delaware for a long weekend and we were very impressed. They actually have police departments and shooting and fireworks are not allowed. Yay. Everything is so clean and not a bump in the road. Taxes are very low (ranging from $600.00 to $1200 a year) They do tax your pension but not your social security and at 65 you get a break in school taxes. The beaches are beautiful and very dog friendly which is very important to us. Great hospitals and shopping. Just be careful everyone where in Pa you look. We only pay $3000.00 in taxes but we have nothing here – no police no laws no stores not even food stores. Everyone goes to Jersey. Our house is on the market and we plan on going back to Del in the fall to look around some more. Thanks everyone for all your comments. Im glad I found out about Cape Coral. Janis

    by janis — July 29, 2013

  28. Just drove across PA recently & can testify that the condition of the highway was awful clear through. Bumpity bump bump bump. Maybe they could raise their taxes just a teeny bit to save the state’s infrastructure?

    by Judith Keefer — July 29, 2013

  29. Judith – you don’t notice it as much in Lancaster, Pa in a Amish horse & buggy
    good gas mileage too.

    Robert

    by Robert — July 30, 2013

  30. Robert from Robbie ..yes a typo…sorry everyone $3000 property tax on $300,000home in Lancaster county..and in Bucks just above there same price home $5000..all are approx but very close..
    and again if my research is incorrect appreciate the feedback

    by Robbie — July 30, 2013

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