Ready to retire, but it's too hot in Florida? Too expensive where you are? Or you just want to live someplace else?
Here's our annual look at a few places you may not have thought of as retirement destinations. They have all the benefits — great views, walkable downtowns, great food and entertainment and, best of all, easy access to airports and top-notch health care systems.
While most people retire in the same homes they lived in for much of their lives, there are those who want something a little different. For you, we have some suggestions.
But first, you'd better plan it out, says Rebecca Hall, financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial in Reston, Va. "I advise them not to pick up and move there without planning to spend a significant amount of time there, and not just a vacation," she says. "Living there is very different from a two-week vacation."
Other advice from Hall: "I often encourage clients when they are moving someplace to consider renting rather than buying," she says. "We do encourage a temporary transition first, so it's a lot easier to get out of it if it's not the right neighborhood."
She also recommends that clients consider tax laws and estate tax laws.
"How does the new state compare from an income tax perspective?" she asks. "Is it more favorable to retirement income compared to where you were living? What are the estate tax implications?"
Once that's all considered, here are a few places that are attracting retirees.
• Downtown Knoxville, Tenn. (population 182,000)
Regina Santore, Realtor at Coldwell Banker Wallace and Wallace Realtors in Knoxville, said the area is attracting retirees from all over the country, including some who've just read about it. Others had visited before to go to a college football game (Knoxville is home to the the University of Tennessee). But people have come from places such as New York City, Ohio and Maryland.
Lots of festivals, including the Big Ears Music Festival, which Rolling Stone magazine called the most ambitious and avant-garde festival to emerge in the last decade. Then there's the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Knoxville Opera, art galleries, food and wine and shopping.
She compares the feel of downtown Knoxville's urban landscape to South Philadelphia. "Downtown Knoxville is actually pretty small, but it is extremely walkable," she says. "It's very friendly." And there are things like an English pub and a new Scottish pub. "In the last five years it has become a very obvious destination place for casual dining," she says.
Oh, and there's the largest fireworks display in the Southeast on Labor Day. And easy access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Santore says retirees are moving into condominiums in converted warehouses. Prices average $300,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath condo.
Jane Lester, soon to be 88, and her husband, now deceased, moved to downtown Knoxville 11 years ago from Maine to be closer to her son. The big attraction now is that the downtown is so safe and she loves to walk. "One of the big attractions is I am able to walk to restaurants, and walk to library (where she volunteers) and walk to church," she says.
• Blacksburg, Va. (population 42,627)
Annette Fuller, editor of Where toRetire magazine, says retirees quickly learn that a Hokie is the Virginia Tech mascot and that "some of the most beautiful mountains on Earth — both the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny — surround the college town."
"We have all four seasons," says Amy Hudson, broker at RE/MAX 8 in Blacksburg. "We don't have the super hot and the super cold. But we still have the full four seasons. And it's very visually beautiful with the rolling mountains of the Blue Ridge."
Both she and Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam says retirees are moving there from all over, including the Washington, D.C., area.
"Being a college town, we have all sorts of wonderful options for retirees," says Rordam. "We just opened a brand new $90 million center for the arts. If you like sports, we have plenty of sports with ACC basketball and football." And the city has great opportunities for hiking and outdoors recreation, he says.
Rordam says housing prices are not as high as some metro areas, but Blacksburg is a prime location because of the university. "Prices are a little above average," he says. "Coming form Los Angeles or Northern Virginia, they are reasonable. You can probably get a 2,500-square-foot nice house close to town in the $300,000 to $350,000 range."
Fuller says the Creative Learning Academy for Senior Scholars offers courses on topics from art history to Appalachian culture. A country biscuit breakfast is a great way to start a Sunday morning, and downtown bar-and-grills keep beer on tap, and the cost of living is below average. "It's a really easy place to live," says Hudson.
• Bella Vista, Ark. (population 26,327)
The town has all the amenities, says local Coldwell Banker real estate agent Doyle Yates. "We have mountains, lakes, low crime, a Minor League Baseball team and major college sports." (The University of Arkansas is in Fayetteville, 30 minutes away.)
"It's absolutely heaven," says retiree Barb Francis, 74. "It's the best-kept secret anywhere."
Francis and her husband, Dick, lived in California for 30 years, where he was an Air Force fighter pilot and she had a successful interior design business. Tired of the tension and traffic in California, they started looking for another place to live. Her brother, Bob Clift, had moved to Bella Vista with his family, so she visited, and they fell in love with the area, first renting, then buying.
Now, they have a home on the lake.
Yates says among the more notable attractions are a 36,000-acre recreation retirement area, 126 holes of golf, and seven private lakes. "You can play a round of golf for $25 including your cart," says Barb Francis.
"There are currently under 500 homes on the market in Bella Vista," Yates says. "The average sale price is $192,000 (average size is 2,200 square feet). "The most expensive thing on the market is just under $1 million."
• Traverse City, Mich. (population 80,000)
It was cited as one of the 10 best cities to retire by U.S. News and World Report and cited by TripAdvisor as the No. 2 small-town vacation destination in the USA. The Cherry Festival in July attracts a half million people.
"It's the natural beauty of the area," says Michael Schmidt, president of Coldwell Banker Schmidt Family of Companies. "Good Morning America had it as one of the most beautiful places in America. It's absolutely gorgeous. there are beaches, wineries. There is a great mix of people — retired teachers, retired farmers, people who own wineries, people that ran wineries. A lot of times they took a vacation, having a sip of wine looking over the water and decided to retire here.
"What do retired people like to do? They like to have fun. We have a lot of golf, boating, fishing, wineries, craft beer. We have a festival every weekend. There are biking trails and hiking trains. It's affordable. And a lot is free."
He says the median sales price was $160,000 for an average 1,700-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two baths. On the water the median price is $317,000, but you can spend up to $5 million.
"The people here are extremely friendly," says Schmidt. "It's not uncommon to run into someone and have dinner with them the first night you're here."