The Southwest: 10 Great Places to Retire That Won’t Break Your Budget

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

December 14, 2016 — This is the latest in our new series of the Best Places to Retire in various states, regions, and countries. You can find links to the rest of the series at the end of the article.

Many boomers are looking toward the sunshine and dry air of America’s Southwest for their place to retire. The challenge is to find an affordable town in such a huge and desirable region. We included 6 states in this look: Arizona, Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. The 10 cities and towns we’ve included here will give you a place to start your retirement search.

We did not include California since the state is so big and has so many towns – we will develop a 10 best list just for that state. One thing we noticed while doing this search is that real estate values have increased in many desirable cities so fast over the past 2 years that is getting harder and harder to find bargain places to retire. Many towns that we had rated as lower than average cost of living are now above average.

Our Criteria
We used the Advanced Search at Topretirements.com to identify these affordable places to retire, using three different criteria:

– Below average cost of housing. For point of reference, the national Zillow Home Value Index is $189,400 and the U.S. median selling price at NAR is $240,900 (we provide both because NAR only covers larger Metros).
– Above average cultural opportunities
– Interesting as place to retire (a subjective rating, not included in Advanced Search)

In the interest of diversity we included at least 1 city from each of the 6 states in the region.

Over 40 towns in the Topretirements.com database met our criteria. From those we selected 10 as the most interesting and affordable places to retire – but we encourage you to use similar searches to come up with your own lists. Note that these are numbered for convenience sake; they are not in rank order. For the record our database came up with 20 towns in Texas with below average cost of living and above average cultural resources, 8 in Arizona, 7 in New Mexico, 5 in Oklahoma, and 1 in Utah.

1. El Paso, Texas
This interesting city on the border with Mexico has a new Triple A baseball stadium along with plenty of theaters and museum. It was selected by GoBankingRates.com as one of ten great towns where you can retire for less than $1000 a month. The sun shines 302 days a year on average. The median selling price of a home in this year’s third quarter was $151,300 (NAR), about $90,000 less than the U.S. median.

Canyon, Texas

2. Canyon, Texas is listed on Livability’s Top Ten Small Towns list. For a few years it was home to artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who was inspired by its natural beauty. It is home to West Texas A & M; it is also known as the gateway to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The Zillow Home Value Index in late 2016 was $130,300. Population is 14,000.

3. Tucson, Arizona Blessed with sunshine almost 300 days per year, has beautiful surroundings, and has ample land for development. At 233 performing arts dates per year, it also has one of the nation’s highest numbers of arts performances. There is an almost endless number of 55+ and active adult communities to choose from. The Zillow Home Value Index is $156,600, NAR median selling price is $193,300

4. Sierra Vista, Arizona Located near the Mexican border in southern Arizona, it is very near Tombstone, the famous frontier town and home to the OK Corral. Also nearby is Fort Huachuca, the Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve (hummingbird capital of the US), and the interesting old mining town of Bisbee. Zillow Home Value Index of $156,200.

5. Mesquite, Nevada Located at Nevada’s southern tip, the town boasts many active adult communities, several casinos, and resort golf courses. Mesquite is in the process of building the largest non professional sports venue in the country,the Mesquite Sports and Event Complex. Zillow Home Value Index of $193,600, slightly above the national index.

6. Las Cruces, New Mexico, the second largest city in New Mexico (92,000), is in the southern part of the state. It has been listed as a “Best Place to Retire” by several organizations for many reasons; low cost of living, active cultural life with its major university, and unusually beautiful location. In addition to active adults who choose this as their new retirement community, it is home to 23,000 students of New Mexico State University. Zillow Home Value Index of $138,900.

Alamagordo, NM

7. Alamogordo, New Mexico is a town in southern New Mexico with a population of about 35,000. The area has a very diverse economy thanks to Holloman Air Force Base, the White Sands Missile Range, and a successful economic development commission. The area is popular with retired military and has a reputation for political conservatism. The median Zillow Listing of a home is $154,950.

8. Carlsbad, New Mexico.Carlsbad is located in Southeastern New Mexico, straddling the Pecos River on the edge of the Guadalupe Mountains. Carlsbad Caverns are here, as are the 2,000 students of the New Mexico State University branch. $165,000 Median home listing at Zillow.

9. Ogden,Utah is big on outdoor sports, in fact many of the 2002 Winter Olympic events were based here. The 125,000 square foot Salomon Recreation Center features facilities like climbing walls, dance studios, wind tunnel, surf-riders pool, and a Gym. The s city is ready to be “the high adventure Mecca of the country.” Weber State University is in town. The Zillow Home Value Index is $132,000.

10. Tulsa, Oklahoma wins the honors for having the lowest Zillow Home Value Index on this list, $110,000, somewhat amazing for a city of this size. (The NAR median selling price is $156,500). It is also the cultural capital of the region with an astonishing array of cultural institutions funded by it wealthy oil patrons. There are many interesting old neighborhoods to live in and the Ozarks are nearby.

That’s it, hope you find the list interesting.

For further reading
10 Best Places to Retire in South Carolina
The Most Walkable Retirement Towns in Florida
Affordable Retirement Towns on the Waterfront (a Series)

Comments? If you were picking bargain places to retire in the Southwest where would you go? Could you add or subtract any to our list? Do you experiences with these places – if so please share them or your questions.



Posted by Admin on December 14th, 2016

33 Comments »

  1. What is the “water availability” status of these cities? With drought conditions fairly frequent in the Southwest, (and more predicted because of climate change) how will these cities fare?

    by Sharon Holmes — December 14, 2016

  2. Weather:could not be better
    Views:Great
    Housing: Very reasonable
    Taxes: Everything including Social Security.If they could, they wou;d tax the air.
    Medical: Be prepared to die.
    Dining: Mexican(chili peppers & cilantro)Not for ulcers or faint of heart.
    Most others do not last.If you find others, go there fast.
    Arts & culture:strictly local. Don’t look for Broadway travel shows.
    Shopping: Limited
    Making friends:They say HI! and wave.Don’t expect to be invited into their homes.
    Night life: None.
    I hope you have a mate or GET A DOG !

    Editor’s Comment. Hi lcrdrnr, and thanks for contributing. What community or state are you referring to? Thanks

    by lcrdrnr — December 14, 2016

  3. Water- no problem here.

    by lcrdrnr — December 14, 2016

  4. I lived in Escondido, Cal. in the 1970’s and it was very beautiful with a terrific climate. I realize that this is 45 years later (yup, count em’); but my daughter did a real estate search a couple of years ago and said the houses were very reasonably priced there.

    by ella — December 14, 2016

  5. Tucson is awesome! Several hospitals, including the University of Arizona Medical Center, a cutting edge research hospital, plus the university has a nursing college along with the medical college for doctors. Several venues bring Broadway shows to the area (Centennial Hall & Tucson Convention Center). The casinos attract big name acts (Temptations, George Benson, etc. are coming soon). Because we are a diverse community, restaurants serve foods from all around the world, including German, Italian, Thai, vegetarian, steak houses, seafood, Mexican, farm-to-table, and so on, both upscale and reasonable. Shopping is the same as in other locations: Dillards, Macys, all the boutiques we have, Target, blah blah. Great night life for different venues, depending on what you like. And please, adopt a wonderful dogs from a variety of rescue possibilities. Along with some other states on that list, Arizona is tax friendly to retirees, according to Kiplinger, October 2016. Just saying!

    by Elaine C. — December 14, 2016

  6. Grew up in New Mexico, visit family there. Would not go back. Too much crime! Have to keep doors locked, cars empty, mailboxes secure. Unfriendly. Water expensive. Tax social security. Windy and dry. Upside…Culturally interesting…So visit.

    by Anne W. — December 15, 2016

  7. Ella, your daughter must have been looking at mobile homes ( usually around $120-150,000 with space rent of $500-1,000). Senior apartments start at $1,000-1,200/month. Fixer homes start
    about $350,000 with most move-in at $450,000. Condos maybe $200-300,000. I’m not that familiar with them. Not affordable by the majority of this web-site’s retiree criteria.

    My parents retired to Escondido in the 80’s. Rent was $600, mobile homes about 70K, and my 2bedroom- 2 bath home in a nice area was 92K. Sounds like the South of today. Just not so today in the San Diego area unless you want a Real Fixer-Upper. I live 15 miles NW of Escondido and have been in San Diego North County area since 1982. Can’t afford the 600k starter home in San Diego and husband won’t do a 350-400K condo in Little Italy with 600-1,000 HOA fees.

    by SandySW — December 15, 2016

  8. Sandy SW, I guess all values are relative. My younger daughter lives in the Bay area, where she can’t even buy a rundown 2 bedroom, 1 bath for over a million; so my older daughter probably feels that $450,000 isn’t too bad. I’ve looked for homes in Waynesville, NC and Jonesborough, TN with some property (2 – 3 acres or more) and the asking price has been $450,000.

    by ella — December 16, 2016

  9. I agree with Elaine C. Tucson is the only place I would consider in Arizona. Easy driving, good medical care, weather a tad cooler than the rest of the state, good food, artists and SW culture. Not as “old people ” centered as Green Valley. More of a diverse population. Won’t even mention the crime and drugs because they are a problem in any larger city in the US ( sad to say, but also not my job at age 69). I also like Flagstaff ( it snows there), but too far from good medical care.

    Ella, I just checked Zillow and Coldwell Banker. My old 92K Escondido house sold in 2015 for $359,000 and is valued today at $411,000. It was a good house for us at the time, but I’m sure the baths and kitchen would need to be redone after 30 years. I wouldn’t buy it today, but I do like Escondido, especially the little old houses walkable to downtown. I like character. Fitting furniture inside, however, is a challenge.

    by SandySW — December 16, 2016

  10. NO Texas.Very high.Texas has some of the highest sales taxes and property taxes of any U.S. state.According to SmartAsset.com
    The average effective property tax rate in Texas is 1.94%. This is the fourth highest average in the U.S. That means a typical homeowner in Texas can expect to spend about $1,940 in annual property taxes for every $100,000 in home value.There is an exempts at least $15,000 of the property’s appraised value from taxation. Seniors age 65 and older can claim an additional exemption of $10,000. At the state average property tax rate of 1.94%, both exemptions would equal annual savings of $485.
    Nevada. Never been there. The average effective property tax rate in Nevada is just 0.96%.
    Arizona. It’s okay. Average effective property tax rate is 0.84%. But a.2 year wait to get a $3000 deduction at 65. New Mexico.Did not like it. Low. The state’s average effective property tax rate is 0.70%. In many parts of the state, annual property taxes for most homeowners are less than $600.The biggest exceptions to New Mexico’s generally low property taxes are Bernalillo County and Los Alamos County. Median annual property taxes in these two counties are over $1,700.
    Oklahoma! Nice.Very low tax.The average effective rate across the state is 0.85%.The median annual property tax paid in Oklahoma is just $958. That means most homeowners in Oklahoma pay less than $1,000 per year in property taxes (the national median is about $2,100).
    Utah. Beautiful State. Utah’s property taxes are very low. The average effective property tax rate in the Beehive state is just 0.68%. That means a typical Utah homeowner can expect to pay about $680 in property taxes every year for every $100,000 in home value.
    Just checking it out. Hope to see the article on Cali 10 best cities soon

    by DeyErmand — December 16, 2016

  11. Does anyone live in
    Calabash, NC

    by Diane — December 17, 2016

  12. Hi Diane,
    You may want to check out the NC state guide and forum for more information on Calabash.
    Thanks!!

    by Moderator Flo — December 17, 2016

  13. Yes, Ella. All of life (and retirement) is relative. Guess that’s why we read Top Retirement. The suggestions and validation of others help us accept or swallow the decisions we have made or are about to make. This site and the Weather Channel do it for me !

    But, getting back to this list. I would only move to Tucson. It’s close enough to explore San Diego and save $ without moving to CA. In August, San Diego looks forward to the “Invasion of the Zonies “. By August, Arizona has had enough of the heat and many escape to San Diego and CA. Just visit the other cities listed. Don’t think the other places could hold my attention or provide medical care for the next 20 years. But that is subjective and relative.

    by SandySW — December 17, 2016

  14. this my first time using this sight, can anybody share with me what they know about sun city in Georgetown texas

    by mike ryan — December 29, 2016

  15. Hi there Mike!! Welcome!!
    One way to find information about a town and state would be to go to the home page and find “Retirement Towns by State”. There you will find general info on the state and more specific info on the town and any communities you may be interested in. You can also check out the Forum under Georgetown Texas and post any questions you may have. There is also a “search” box where you can enter Georgetown TX for any additional information on the site.
    Hope this helps!!

    by Moderator Flo — December 30, 2016

  16. Mike Ryan- I drove through Sun City in Georgetown two years ago and I thought it was beautiful. Very hilly and scenic. It was the very first retirement community I looked at, so my eyes weren’t as fine-tuned as they are now. If I went back now and looked I’d probably see things very differently. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there for your purposes. I think you should go see it. Mainly because it’s really huge and has a lot to offer, but also because it’s so beautiful. Texans are known to be a super-friendly bunch.

    by Barbara — December 30, 2016

  17. Any suggestions in or near Albuquerque, NM? I like the climate and how affordable ABQ is, not the noise (ABQ/Santa Fe). Is there a “right” town for quiet? I’ve also been reading about CO/AZ/TX since they’re near NM but I haven’t found anything yet. If you can point me in the right direction, I’d appreciate the info. Thanks.

    by John — January 6, 2017

  18. John: Albuquerque has an extremely high crime rate which deterred us from going out to see it. Another problem I’ve heard of is that many in the medical community are refusing to accept Medicare. With that said, my research led me to Jubilee at Los Lunas, a gated senior community 20 miles south of Abq. Lived in Colorado Springs 10 years. Do not advise if snow is an issue — dangerous stuff for a senior to get around in. We too are interested in Texas, despite the high property taxes which are somewhat offset by no state income tax. I’m open to suggestions of small towns between Ft. Worth and Abilene if anyone has anything to offer.

    by Alice — January 6, 2017

  19. Georgetown, TX is approximately 140 miles south of Ft. Worth. The climate is better and has several adult communities to chose from. Southwestern U., founded in 1842, is located in Georgetown which is 25 miles north of Austin. Austin is not your typical Texas city. It is high tech and lives up to the “live music capital of the world.”

    by Alice — January 7, 2017

  20. John:My wife and I have returned to Long Island after spending about five months living in Albuquerque. We just loved it. In the past few years we have been to New Mexico several times on vacations; in fact over the past twenty or so years we have been in and through (two weeks by car each time) every state West of the Mississippi and liked most of them. This time we really got serious about relocating as we are both retired now. These past five months (July 15 through December 15)were great. He’ll we even joined a gym (Liberty) and we are not gym people. The weather was just fine from 105 in July to 28 in December and yes the dry heat is more tolerable than our humid heat back home.
    We were there to revisit the active adult communities of Jubilee in Los Lunas and Mirehaven just West of Albuquerque. We rented a one bedroom in Albuquerque for our entire stay and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We got to know the city fairly well, restaurants, green chile sauce, shopping, entertainment, traffic or lack there of, Sandia mountain, beautiful sunsets over the city from our back patio (where I got to barbecue many times a rare treat for me), Old Town, and it”s fairly quiet for a city.
    As for crime yes we heard about it and read about it and we waited for it but it never came our way. We felt safe and comfortable. We crossed both adult communities off our list preferring the city itself; so much to do and so convenient. At least that is our experience. Hope this helps John.

    by Basil — January 7, 2017

  21. You’re right, I am trying to avoid snow so I don’t hurt my back with shoveling, and I’m not a fan of humidity–more difficult to breathe in my opinion. I never heard of Georgetown, TX, only around DC. I look forward to more suggestions in NM and the surrounding states. Hopefully I’ll find the right place soon. Thanks for your help!

    by John — January 7, 2017

  22. Silver City NM?

    by marsha — January 8, 2017

  23. Basil: Thanks for your info about Albuquerque. I was there in October and fell in love with it; but like everyone else, I’m concerned about the crime rate. I did look up crime rates online and compared Albuquerque to where I currently live, Columbus, OH. According to Sperling’s, Albuquerque’s value for violent crime is 16 points worse than Columbus but Columbus’s value for property crime is 8 points worse than Albuquerque. I feel perfectly safe where I live and walk everywhere; however, there are parts of the city that I don’t feel safe even driving in. I think the point is there are safe areas and not-so-safe areas in any city, you have to know the city well enough to know the best places to live. If anyone else has thoughts on Albuquerque or other New Mexico towns, I’d love to hear it. Thanks.

    by Lou — January 8, 2017

  24. Hi Lou !!
    You may want to check the Forum under New Mexico for Albuquerque to see if any comments are posted there. You can also do a “search” of Albuquerque as well to look for additional info and articles.

    by Moderator Flo — January 8, 2017

  25. DeyErmand– Just noticed how you put an exclamation point on Oklahoma in your December 16 post. Nice hat tip to us theater people and Broadway-musical lovers!

    by Barbara — January 8, 2017

  26. Regarding Albuquerque, ” like everyone else, I’m concerned about the crime rate.” Thanks a lot, Walter White. ?

    by Barbara — January 8, 2017

  27. Guess this site doesn’t take emojis. That ? was a grinning emoji……. oh well.

    by Barbara — January 8, 2017

  28. Any one know anything about VALENCIA LAKES near TAMPA, FL?

    by jean — January 8, 2017

  29. There are multiple websites related to the southeast. This one is about the southwest.

    by Joe G — January 8, 2017

  30. Yes, most cities of any size with have a higher crime area. I live in Tucson area – 20 miles north – extremely safe area regardless of what Tucson crime rate is. Yes, areas that are less safe, I actually don’t need to go there. My aunt and uncle retired to Rio Rancho north of Albuquerque – they loved it there, other friends live there – crime has never been mentioned.

    by ljtucson — January 9, 2017

  31. Jean-
    Try checking the Forum under Florida or use the search tool to find more information.
    Thanks!

    by Moderator Flo — January 9, 2017

  32. Basil I am so glad to see you finally moved to Albuquerque. Your enthusiasm for the city is just what we need. You have that NYC acceptance of multi-cultures and know that crime and weirdos go hand-in-hand with city living. We moved to ABQ from 1970-1982 and again from 2002 to the present. Still sun- birding to the San Diego area. We also do not enjoy the feel and interaction of retirement “community” living, but have also checked out Jubilee and Mirhaven. Pretty and safe and sheltered, but not “real life” to us. These communities could exist in SC, TN, Fla, etc. You could live there and never know you were in NM except for the weather.
    Yes, we have crime and it is definitely not my ABQ of the 70’s. I have respect for the police dept. and refuse to live my retirement in fear of a break-in, etc. If that is my destiny, so be it. I also very recently benefited from the excellent care of the Lovelace Heart Hospital and am still here to write this Comment.

    by SandySW — January 11, 2017

  33. I just moved out of ABQ, NM and I had plenty of company due to the ongoing increase in violent crimes such as armed home invasions and car jackings. Their police department is doing the best it can with existing resources, but according to their local news sources they’re over 200 officers short of authorization and dropping monthly.
    The bottom line, it’s a dangerous place to live, and in general, people have become house-bound at night because of concern for their safety, and no place is really safe even in the nicer areas where the criminals have been targeting on a regular basis. I know because I lived in one of those areas.
    I wouldn’t even feel safe stopping there for gas if I was driving through again because the gas stations along the interstate highways running through there are experiencing violent crimes on a nearly daily basis.
    Take NM off your list of potential places to retire or even visit, it’s too dangerous.

    by Smokey — February 6, 2017

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