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, Decisions, Day by Day and Did It Myself. Kristine enjoys competitive pistol shooting and hanging out with her husband and their dogs.
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From experience, owning a second home a long distance from your residence can be a hassle and more so as time goes by. Hope your retirement is not too far in the future. You mention heat in the summer. Last time I was in Phoenix it was 110 degrees. That’s heat‼️
Rising home prices can be an issue. We bought our retirement condo two years ago for $580,000 and now they sell for $669,000.
So far we’ve been lucky with managing the second home. We have friends who live down there who frequently stop by and check on the house. We also pay a handyman ($15 per visit) to stop by every two weeks. He runs the water, changes out the air filter and does other odds and ends to make sure the house stays in good condition. We hope to be down there full time in the not so distant future!
As for the heat, I’ve lived my entire life in cold, damp, dark-for-half-the-year environments. I’ll take being too warm, over being too cold, for awhile.
Looking at Zillow, if we were buying now, instead of 15 months ago, we’d be looking at a house 500-600 square feet smaller than what we ended up with, and probably in an area with much more traffic.
We bought a brand new condo last year, and Zillow now has it at over $200K over what we paid for it! I mean, it’s nice and all, and I know realtors gnash their teeth about Zillow because it can create unrealistic expectations. But…$200K increase in 16 months? Yowza.
It sounds like you made a good decision. Retirement community houses here in Raleigh are currently selling out sight unseen. My personal impression is that they are best for those who have an active lifestyle and a strong interest in socializing.
I have no interest in Phoenix but many people find living there ideal. The values of your Portland home and your new home should both continue to increase.
To be fair, I think you should have pointed out that there is no sales tax in Oregon while Arizona has a state sale tax of 5.6% plus county and city sales tax (total is 8.6% in Phoenix). I was also wondering if you have to pay any retirement community fees.
Yes, the sales tax does make some difference. Our home in Phoenix is in an area that’s exempt from paying the additional city sales tax. There are other tax differences as well. Since I live, and work, in Oregon now, I pay 9% in state income taxes. If I choose to work when we move to Arizona, that rate will be significantly less (closer to 3%).
Congratulations Kristine. My wife and I have learned how personal this decision is. Sounds like you guys made a great choice. I have a friend who bought a retirement home in AZ. The his son moved to Seattle. After a few years they decided they like Seattle so much they sold the house in AZ and bought a townhouse in Seattle. To each his own.
As someone who reads much about
retirement, I find it surprising that no discussion in regards to renting for a year or so to make sure you’re making the right decision in relocating especially from quite a distance or weather extremes.
The main issue with renting is that we have four (working) dogs. There are very few, if any, landlords who would probably be willing to rent to us.