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5 Under-Appreciated Towns for Retirement

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

August 13, 2014 — (Note: This is Part 3 in a series of under-appreciated places to retire. Find the links to Parts 1 and 2 at the end).

We get a little tired of seeing the same towns and cities get picked for “Best” this or that for retirement. Seems like everyone doing the selecting is drinking at the same water trough. So when our friend Bob Powell at MarketWatch asked for input on some under-appreciated places to retire, he got our attention (his article, “Five Lesser Known Places to Retire”, was published last Sunday in USA Today).

Our goal in coming up with 5 less discovered towns was to find places that have lots of things going for them, along with a reasonable cost of living. There has to be plenty to do, and the town needs to be livable.

Our 5 Latest Under-Appreciated Towns
Here are the 5 we came up with:

Greenville, NC. This all-American city is suitable for all ages as well as retirees. The city has applied to become a Certified Retirement Community. The population grew 44% from 2000 to 2012. East Carolina University’s 26,000 students make it a college town. The county has 20 parks, 4 lakes, and at least 6 golf courses. In fact it is very active for sports – named “Sportstown USA” by ”Sports Illustrated”. reported the median home sold for about $155,000 in early 2014.

The Beach in Gulfport is right downtown

Gulfport, Florida. This cute little town is on the same peninsula as St. Petersburg. There is a small downtown, great community center, Casino (great dance hall), and beautiful beaches and bays. Walk to the beach. It is decidedly low-key, but has the advantage of being just outside St. Pete and its many attractions. reports the median home sold for $100,000 or less in early 2013, while Zillow reported a Home Value Index of $123,000 in June, 2014. No state income tax is another attraction.

Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s the capital of Nebraska with over 250,000 residents. Those who live here are happy to host the Cornhuskers (U of Nebr.) and over 100 parks. Historic Bungalow District has some interesting architecture. The median home sold for $145,700 in 2014’s 2nd quarter according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Unemployment is very low at around 3%.

Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville is famous for its NASA Marshall Space Flight Center , the Redstone Arsenal, and as a high-tech center. It is a popular destination for retirees from all over the country, based on availability of desirable housing, beautiful parks, and a vibrant cultural infrastructure. The Twickenham Historic District features homes in the Federal and Greek revival styles. Alabama is not a place northerners first think of retiring to, but Huntsville is unique and very appealing. According to the NAR the median selling price of a home was $179,000 in the second quarter of 2014.

The action at Ruidoso Downs (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Ruidoso, New Mexico. This resort in southcentral New Mexico has about 10,000 people and is steadily growing. Some of the local attractions beyond the climate and scenery include good skiing nearby at Ski Apache, and Ruidoso Downs, a flat horse racing track, the Billy the Kid Casino, and the Hubbard Museum of the American West. says the median selling price of a home in early 2014 was about $220,000.

For more ideas see:
Most Under-Rated Places to Retire – Part 1
Beyond Asheville – More Under-rated Places to Retire – Part 2
10 Affordable Places to Retire Where You Might Actually Want to Live

Comments? Please share your ideas for more-underappreciated places to retire, as well as the reasons for your pick. We look forward to reading them in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on August 12th, 2014


  1. As a new retiree, I find Huntsville, AL a unique and surprising find. Huntsville is populated with some very intelligent people with high degrees of education. Most of the population is from somewhere else (which makes Huntsville a nice melting pot). The health care system is top notch and easily accessible. The scenery is stunning. The weather is a temperate four seasons (perfect in my mind). The community is very progressive in many ways. I love it here. Be sure and check it out.

    by Dennis Fakes — August 13, 2014

  2. I live on the West Coast. Everything I read is about the East Coast Area – what about the west? Is Nebraska or Arizona the only retirement communities in the west??

    by Darlene Monroe — August 13, 2014

  3. We really liked what we saw in Ruidoso, NM and the surrounding area but we were warned that the rapid growth is outpacing the availability of fresh water and is causing traffic delays. This is certainly something to research before falling for Ruidoso’s many charms.

    by i graham — August 13, 2014

  4. It would have been nice if you had included the city statistics as you always seem to have done in the past?

    City, State
    Median Income
    Median Home Cost
    and other pertinent information including the town website URL.

    Editor’s note: Most if not all of this data/info is available on the individual city reviews for each. Click on the City name, which is a link to that review for that.

    by MICHAEL REEVES — August 13, 2014

  5. Gulfport – really? Remember Katrina? Seriously all gulf locations are subject to annual horrific weather, as the climate changes things are reportedly going to get worse. Exercise caution because it will be easy to fall in love with the location.

    Lincoln – Now what are you going to do? No ocean, no mountains, Mmmm…I hope you like museums. However, if you like quiet surroundings, good people and are content with just being somewhere it might work for you.

    Now, let’s look out west. My pick is Nevada, depending on where you are, it can be a friendly tax location. Steer clear of Las Vegas and look to the north. There is still crime to deal with but you can avoid it and afford a home on some land if you like.

    by Brian Thorne — August 13, 2014

  6. Just recently we decided to retire to Palm Coast, Florida. On the east coast of FL. It had everything we were looking for and is the best bang for the buck on the eastern seaboard, when it comes to beachfront property. And the things we didn’t want too close, are still within a hour or two drive.

    by Dave M. — August 13, 2014

  7. thanks for the great reports. now that i am starting to look for retirement communities i have many concerns. the top concern is health care and what kind of housing and costs follow when health starts to fail. do you have any info to share? thanks again, jh

    by john hickey — August 13, 2014

  8. Any retirement homes on the coast of Oregon and Washington?

    by PaMella Isenberger — August 13, 2014

  9. Darlene,

    It may just be because the population center of the US is in Missouri, not Utah or Nevada. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and would love to hear about more options from Colorado to the West coast because there is no way I’m moving back to my roots East of the Mississippi. But we’re not where most people live.

    by Ron M — August 13, 2014

  10. We’ve truly enjoyed your report of under-rated places to retirement. Many of these destinations were on our “possibles list”. We visited the top five on our list and then spent several weeks visiting our two top before making a final decision. A few intersections with your report and our list:
    Mt. Dora, FL — A cute and laid-back little town. For us it was too dependent on nearby Orlando for major services and activities. Mt. Dora had the feeling of being a retirement destination of our parents, that is, a town that time has forgotten.
    St. Petersburg, FL — Definitely not the St. Pete of our parents generation. This city (underline ‘city’ with the implied traffic congestion and bountiful services & activities) cannot be taken as one lump as it has numerous diverse neighborhoods, varying greatly in housing prices and crime rates.
    Gulfport, FL — Sometimes called the Key West of Central Florida — it isn’t. Gulfport’s downtown is tiny and not at all active. Gulfport is quickly becoming yet another neighborhood of it’s encroaching big brother, St. Pete.
    Thanks for your report.

    by Tom — August 13, 2014

  11. I think I found the best place to retire – St. Marys, Georgia. When traveling to Florida we stopped for the better gas prices. Exit 1 off 95 is St. Marys. It is the perfect place between Jacksonville and Savannah so close to big city shopping, hospitals, dining but it’s a small town. We love it!

    by Kate — August 13, 2014

  12. I’m with the others regarding recommended retirement spots in the Western coastal states. It seems that the west coast states are more expensive, especially housing. However, there are many of us out here who will not leave so we need more recommendations for this side of the country. Thanks for any input.

    by Kim G — August 13, 2014

  13. Which communities do the single retirettes like?

    by Mick Loughlin — August 13, 2014

  14. Kim – correct. I’ve lived in CA all my working life and now that I’m retired I can’t afford to live here anymore – but still like the west so I’m looking at Utah, Nevada. You have to dig around here to see talk of west coast topics however.

    by John H — August 13, 2014

  15. I was pleasantly surprised by the Birmingham, Alabama area. I helped my daughter move into her first apartment in preparation for starting her new job. She settled in the Homewood area. The shopping was wonderful, and the weather was much less humid than here in Florida. And I did not know this, but BMH is a big medical city with many hospitals and a major university (U of AL) that has a medical school. And as the natives say, BMH is large enough to have a variety of things to do, but still small enough to give you a hometown feel.

    by Marianne — August 14, 2014

  16. You bring up some interesting locations. When it comes to retirement I am looking at many points you cover but also, taxes and crime as initial screening factors.

    by Susan S — August 14, 2014

  17. Ruidoso, NM. We spent a week there a couple years ago, checking it out for retirement. Although it was an interesting area we did have some concerns:

    – Water. There wasn’t much there, there’s very little rain during the year, and with the growth the area is experiencing, I expect it to be a major problem soon.
    – Dryness/Height. Although the high desert has its own beauty, the extremely low humidity and dry air gave my wife frequent nosebleeds; something that’s never happened anywhere else.
    – Things to do. There are some, the Hubbard Museum of the American West and the mythos surrounding Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War are interesting in the short term; not sure they would be sufficient for a lengthy retirement.
    – Vicinity to Santa Fe/Albuquerque. These are fascinating historical and culturally interesting towns, but an hour or so away. Why not live closer?
    – Taxes. NM isn’t that great for a military/Federal retiree; there are several states that treat you much better.

    These are just our general impressions; we intend to go back for several visits over the next few years, but Ruidoso doesn’t suit us for a long-term retirement.

    by Kirk Webber — August 14, 2014

  18. Any comments about Eugene, Oregon and vicinity; Boise, Idaho and vicinity, or some of the small towns around Portland, Oregon?

    by Ursula — August 16, 2014

  19. You can’t beat the Carson Valley of NV. Gardnerville/Minden offer reasonable taxes, weather, 4 seasons with Lake Tahoe, major ski areas,
    Hot August Nights, Street Vibrations, casinos if you want, clean fresh air.
    Drawbacks: Too many GD Californians!

    by Chuck — August 20, 2014

  20. We love retirement in Grand Haven, MI. Found an awesome condo community on a golf course, even though we don’t play golf. Beach (Lake Michigan) 1.5 miles away. Our jobs had us working in Augusta, GA for the past 7 years and the heat, humidity, snakes, fire ants and scorpions were enough for us “outdoor” folks. We always thought we’d move back to New England. This is even a better place. Four seasons and cost of living in western Michigan is less expensive, too.

    by Gail Provencher — August 20, 2014

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