Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania consistently makes the “Best Places to Live” lists. It has a beautiful setting where two major rivers (the Allegheny and the Monongahela) combine to form the Ohio River against a backdrop of steep hills. Pittsburgh has a solid economy, low cost of living, and growing educational, cultural and medical infrastructures. Pittsburgh has been named as a top 10 Value City for Retirement, and was also once the focus of a series on the "PBS Newshour". The New York Times offered it as an example of resilience even in the 2009 economic collapse.
Nicknamed the “Steel City”, that industry's collapse led to a hi-tech and medical resurgence in the city’s economy. The University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne, Carnegie-Mellon, Chatham College, and Washington & Jefferson College are just some of the prestigious schools in the area. The student presence has a major impact on the city's ambiance, culture and economy. Although Pittsburgh is Pennsylvania’s second largest city (300,000), it has a relaxed feeling. There are distinct districts here including a compact downtown area near the Point (where the rivers combine) with many skyscrapers.
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Where to Retire in Pittsburgh and Home Prices
The North Side is residential and has many architecturally interesting homes, along with many of the city’s popular attractions. The East End is home to the city’s universities and colleges and combines a noticeable student presence with homes for the very wealthy (in Shadyside and Squirrel Hill). The West End’s Mt. Washington features the Incline, a ride that showcases a great view of the city. Homes in that area also provide stunning views. There are a number of ethnic neighborhoods, including the famous Hill District (African American). There are many lovingly restored homes in neighborhoods. There are active communities in the area (see link at left). According to Zillow, the median home value in Pittsburgh was $200,195, in early 2021, which is a 12.2% rise from early 2020.
What Is Special about Pittsburgh
Relaxed living in a culturally rich environment: consistently rated as a top livable city, world famous sports teams, Duquesne Incline, Monongahela Incline, Fort Duquesne, Fort Pitt, Cathedral of Learning, Mattress Factory (museum of contemporary installation art), Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Point State Park, The South Side, The Waterfront, The Strip District
Pittsburgh is rated above average for walkability and for biking.
What Is Not Special about Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh winters are cold and dreary, although the region does not receive much snowfall. Here are some helpful facts about what it is like to retire in Pennsylvania.
Who Will Like Retirement in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh attracts a community of retirees who want to live in a livable city with many colleges and cultural opportunities. Pittsburgh has a proud past and people are strongly affiliated with the city.
Local Economy Is Driven by
The largest employer is the University of Pittsburgh and its Medical Center. There are a dozen or more Fortune 1000 companies with headquarters here including H.J. Heinz, PNC Financial, PPG Industries, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Technology, retail, finance, education, and medicine dominate the economy.
Climate and Physical Environment
The city is in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. It is located at the confluence of the Allegheny River and Monongahela River, where they form the Ohio River. The area between the rivers is called the Golden Triangle. The terrain is extremely hilly. The July average high temp is 85 and the January average low is 20. May is the rainiest month.
Restaurants & Cultural Scene
The wealth created by Pittsburgh's industrial past has resulted in an unusually strong cultural life. Major institutions include the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (in Heinz Hall), the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Dance Council and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. The River City Brass Band and the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra perform here. Pittsburgh has a long tradition of jazz, blues and bluegrass music. Museums include the Andy Warhol Museum, ArtGardens of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Frick Art & Historical Center, Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
The City-Data.com reported crime rate in Pittsburgh was 544 versus the U.S. average of 321.
There are more than a dozen hospitals here, many of which are world famous.
Pittsburgh International Airport is new. The mall structure it uses is the model of the new airport. The mass transit system, the 11th largest in the nation, is excellent with buses, light rail, and funiculars (Inclines). Amtrak offers intercity rail service. There are bike trails along the riverfronts. Pittsburgh is above average in walkability when compared to other cities.
To update my 2013 post, the real estate situation has continued to be a problem for future retirees. That median price includes run-down housing in old, inner city neighborhoods with lead paint, asbestos, etc. When you look in the suburbs, you will find fewer choices and much higher prices. I sold my home in 2015 (after getting 3 estimates from different realtors). Its current estimated price has risen 25-30% on the real estate sites over the last 5 years -- without any improvements by the Buyer. And like everywhere else...the few new home developments advertise starter prices for a stripped down, basic model. Options add up fast. While the Pittsburgh area is great for people who want all four seasons including a cold winter, the availability of suitable housing continues to be a major deterrent IMO.
Posted by Neonzeus on February 05, 2020
My wife is interested in our retiring in the Pittsburgh area, but I am having trouble finding an attraction. I grew up in Erie, but have not lived in PA since leaving for the Navy in 1968. We are currently living in Northern Virginia and hope to retire in about a year or so, but have no idea where; just not here (NOVA). Grandkids live in Florida, but we do not want that either. Some family in Erie, Pittsburgh area. Of course if I could figure out what I was looking for, that would help. Penny thinks it will be a good area; inexpensive housing, good medical, family withing driving distance.
Posted by w4zy on December 27, 2013
Pittsburgh is often mentioned when someone means Allegheny County or Southwestern PA. Living in one of the suburbs outside of Allegheny County will drop your real estate taxes significantly, while still letting you enjoy all that the area has to offer. Top medical care and good access to a variety of hospitals. Winters can have snow and some very cold and icy days, and we just "enjoyed" some 90 degree days. If you want 4-seasons, you'll definitely have them here! Services are readily available if you need help. I have an acre with a long driveway, and paid about $325 at the end of the season for all of the winter plowing. My yard guy charges about $180 a month to cut my grass and carry away clippings. HOA fees at the condos I've been looking at have ranged from $165 to $200.
Senior activities like free 1st run movies are offered by UPMC Senior Living (the local health care conglomerate) in the afternoon. There are lots of volunteer opportunities and many good community libraries. Every side of the city has a large mall, most of which also have senior walking programs for early morning walkers to earn coffee, discounts and similar perks. There are also convenient community college classes, community center classes, and other opportunities to learn about everything from new computer skills, photography, cooking and dancing. Lots to do, from festivals, free concerts, museums, opera, ballet, symphony, major entertainers coming through the City, zoo, sports events, two casinos, speaker series, etc.
No tax on SS income. No sales tax on clothing and meds.
The biggest negative I see is the limited quantity of suitable senior housing in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. I'm trying to downsize, and there are few updated small houses with first floor master bathrooms and attached garages. There are also few condos with those arrangements, and the ones that are available sell quickly. I just found a house with my requirements on one of the realty sites, and it had already sold in a day. If you're able to bump up into the $350,000 range, there are some nice new developments. House hunting here seems much more challenging than in areas like NC or FL, which are booming.
The second biggest negative is that we don't have many areas where you can walk to a grocery store, a drug store, etc. from your home, if you're looking for one of those small houses or condos in a non-urban setting. The likelihood is that retirees will be dependent on a car or will have to apply for Access (senior citizen or disabled person) van transportation at a reduced cost. There are a few communities for aging in place run by St. Barnabus, Passavant, and Lutheran Senior Living that offer transportation.
Having had a disabled spouse, I found adult day care to be wonderful and available from Easter Seals at a reasonable cost. I also found nursing home and assisted living availability in the area to be great (which may be relevant to people who are looking ahead), and the cost is certainly less than on either Coast.
The Pittsburgh international airport is good for travel, although it seems to have fewer flights all the time. Like most airports, it isn't particularly senior friendly and there is a lot of walking (although you can request wheelchair assistance). We also have an Amtrak station, a Greyhound station and Megabus, along with some travel companies that offer senior citizen bus trips to casinos, tourist attractions, NYC shopping, and other fun trips ranging from day excursions to several day vacations. AAA and others also offer some cruise trips where they will drive you from Pittsburgh to the port.
Utility costs and homeowners' insurance costs are reasonable, in my opinion. No problem finding mechanics, cleaning ladies, handymen, or others to help make life easier. People are generally very friendly.
Again, biggest problem is finding a good selection of suitable housing within that $200,000-$300,000 range outside the Allegheny County border. Are you listening, developers????
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