Easy Street

Kristine Hayes

A FEW YEARS AGO, my future husband and I took a trip to southern Utah to participate in a pistol shooting competition. We were taken by the area’s beauty and easy access to outdoor recreational activities. While there, we looked at a few homes and were pleasantly surprised to find the prices quite reasonable. We decided Utah would be high on our list of places to relocate to once I retired from my job.

Soon after we returned home, St. George, Utah, was ranked as one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country. As the population increased, so too did housing prices. Not long after our visit, we realized we were priced out of the market.

Last year, we learned about a retirement community located just outside of Phoenix. Arizona was another state we were interested in retiring to, so we took a trip to investigate the area. Within a couple of days, we felt we’d found the right location for us and we began house hunting.

It took two months before we closed on a home. We were outbid on two properties before finding a home we felt was ideal for us. We’d formulated a list of criteria for our retirement destination and the house checked every box.

First, we wanted easy access to the various activities we enjoy participating in. Our retirement home is just 20 miles from a world-class shooting range. There are also multiple dog-training clubs throughout the region, which will help us keep our pack of four canines active and engaged.

Live concerts, movies in the park and an overwhelming number of continuing education opportunities are available within the community itself. There are also multiple fitness facilities, a library and several clubs we look forward to joining.

Next on our list was access to health care. With a full-service hospital and multiple physicians’ offices located less than two miles from our home, this box was easily checked.

Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for most of our lives, both my husband and I were interested in retiring to a location with less rain and lower taxes. Arizona met both criteria. Weatherwise, we’ll be trading wet, cold winters for hot, dry summers. Taxwise, we’ll be trading high payments for much lower ones. The property taxes on our 2,000-square-foot Arizona home, located on a 10,000-square-foot lot, are 75% less than the taxes on our 1,100-square-foot home on a city lot in Oregon.

Finally, we knew we wanted to find a home and community that were disability friendly. Although my husband and I are both healthy and active now, we realize this might not always be the case. When my husband underwent knee-replacement surgery last year, it gave us insight into how difficult it can be to negotiate a house that isn’t designed for mobility devices.

Nearly all of the 17,000 houses in our retirement community were built with accessibility in mind. Most are single-story homes with open floor plans and bathrooms designed for use with wheelchairs and walkers. The sidewalks are wide and barrier-free. The major thoroughfares running through the community accommodate three lanes of traffic. Golf carts are street legal.

The entire community was built with the idea of making it easy for residents to age in place. If, in the future, my husband and I need assisted care, there are multiple in-home health care providers available. Residents who need assistance paying for prescription medications, utility bills or appliance repairs can request funds through a community-based, nonprofit charity. Over the past four years, the organization has paid out more than $400,000 in financial assistance to community residents.

I initially questioned our decision to buy a second home before I’d retired. But my husband reminded me of our trip to Utah and now I’m glad I listened to him. Housing prices within the Arizona community have already increased 10% since we purchased our home last year.

Kristine Hayes is a departmental manager at a small, liberal arts college. Her previous articles include Decisions, DecisionsDay by Day and Did It Myself. Kristine enjoys competitive pistol shooting and hanging out with her husband and their dogs.

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