Housing is one of the biggest challenges facing retirees, according to a recent study by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research.1 As many as 17 million adults aged 65 or older spend 30% or more of their income on housing2, classifying them as house poor — meaning that they are “burdened” or “very burdened” by housing costs.
That burden is so great that only 46% of Americans aged 50 or older anticipate being able to stay in their current home, according to research from AARP3.
But where can retirees — and those who plan on retiring soon — move to lessen their housing costs while maximizing their quality of life? We analyzed 100 cities for housing, healthcare, and quality of life indicators to create Orchard’s first report on under-the-radar cities for retirees.
These cities offer retiree homebuyers more affordable housing options with a higher quality of life. Here’s what we looked at:
Of the 100 cities we analyzed, these 15 cities ranked the highest on our proprietary score.
This vibrant city situated along the western banks of the Maumee River is known for its friendly locals and welcoming atmosphere. It also boasts the lowest list price of all the cities in our study and the second lowest rent prices — making it ideal for homebuyers and renters alike. Toledo also has the fourth highest population over 65 on our list, making it a great place for those looking to find community in retirement.
Nestled among the hills of western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is a dynamic city with a rich industrial heritage and a thriving modern identity. The city boasts world-class medical institutions like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and a higher-than-average density of Medicare providers. Pittsburgh also has the third-lowest list price of all the cities we examined.
In addition to being the runner-up for best cities for retirees, Pittsburgh holds the top spot for under-the-radar city for LGBTQ+ homebuyers in 2023.
Located along the eastern shores of Lake Erie, Buffalo offers retirees access to the city's architectural heritage and flourishing food scene. Housing is also highly affordable, with a median list price of just $222,450 (the 7th lowest out of all cities we surveyed) and median rent of $1,310 (the 11th lowest). Buffalo also has almost double the average number of Medicare providers per person over age 65, landing it in the 7th place overall for this metric.
However, Buffalo recorded three storm events since 2022, so retirees considering this city should be prepared for the extreme cold.
A jaunt to the southern shores of Lake Erie will take you to another one of our top under-the-radar cities for retirees. Cleveland offers the second lowest list price on our list, at just $204,450, and a median rent of $1,375, also much lower than average
Cleveland also offers access to some of the best medical care in the country, with The Cleveland Clinic consistently ranks among the top hospitals and attracts patients from around the world. Additionally, this city has a strong Medicare provider ratio of 1.28 providers per beneficiary.
Retirees looking for community need look no further than St. Petersburg. This city boasts the fourth largest over-65 population, accounting for 19.3% of residents overall. However, homebuyers and renters alike will have to pay a premium for access to this community. St. Petersburg also has the highest list price, at $479,000, and rent at $2,046.
Nestled in eastern Washington, Spokane is a city that blends natural beauty with urban amenities. The Spokane River, Riverfront Park, and Centennial Trail offer ample opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and kayaking. Naturally, Spokane had one of our list's strongest air quality index ratings (10th place overall) and park scores (16th place).
However, retirees will have to pay more for access to Spokane’s natural beauty. This city has our second-highest list price on our list at $449,750, and middling when it comes to the density of Medicare providers
In the heart of West Texas, is our seventh-best under-the-radar city for retirees. Lubbock is known for its warm hospitality and strong sense of community — albeit a decidedly younger one. Lubbock is home to Texas Tech University and offers a lively college atmosphere with a vibrant music scene. As such, Lubbock has the lowest population of individuals over 65, out of the top cities on our list.
However, this city has the highest density of Medicare providers compared to other top cities and 7th most overall. Housing prices are also affordable — the median list price here is just $244,500.
Corpus Christi, located along the Gulf Coast, is a city with a rich maritime history and an abundance of coastal charm. Despite having a low park score of just 41.9, Corpus Christi has numerous beaches, such as Padre Island National Seashore and Mustang Island State Park, making it a haven for water sports enthusiasts and beachgoers. Homes are relatively affordable here with a median price of $317,500, and the median monthly rent is $1,441. However, what pulled Corpus Christi into the top 15 under-the-radar cities is the ample presence of Medicare facilities. This city has 2.15 providers per beneficiary, the 12th highest ratio of all the cities we examined.
Nestled along the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati offers its residents ample outdoor spaces. As such, it claimed the top spot for parks score on our list and fifth overall. It also offers some of the most affordable housing — with a median list price of just $277,450 and median monthly rent of $1,340, as compared to the national median of $425,571 and $2,029, respectively.
The city's distinct neighborhoods, like Over-the-Rhine and Mount Adams, offer unique experiences with a mix of local shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Cincinnati's sports culture is evident with the beloved Cincinnati Reds baseball team and the Cincinnati Bengals football team.
Lincoln, the capital city of Nebraska, is a friendly and welcoming community with a strong emphasis on education and innovation. Home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the city benefits from a vibrant college town atmosphere, with cultural events and sports activities. Lincoln's strong commitment to sustainability and its numerous bike trails make it an eco-friendly and active city for residents.
Housing here is also among the more affordable, with a median list price of $290,075 and a median rent of $1,212. Lincoln also has some of the best air quality of the cities we examined, ranking fifth overall for air quality score. However, Lincoln has the lowest number of Medicare providers compared to senior residents on our list, with just 0.27 providers per beneficiary.
Known for its iconic Gateway Arch, St. Louis offers a blend of Southern charm and Midwestern hospitality. St. Louis's living cost is generally affordable, making it an attractive choice for young professionals, families, and retirees — almost 14% of St. Louis’ population is age 65 or above, placing it in the top third of cities overall. Homes here have a median list price of $215,000 and a median rent of $1,299.
Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Winston-Salem is a city with a rich educational legacy and an abundance of parks — coming in second on our rankings for park score. Housing here is among the more expensive on our list but still affordable compared to national trends. Homes here list for a median price of $297,707 — more than $156,000 less than the average of $454,572.30.
Richmond offers retirees a charming place to call home with a vibrant arts and entertainment scene and ample recreational opportunities at the James River Park System and Belle Isle. However, Richmond ranks as one of the more expensive cities on our list — with a median list price of $342,500 and a median rent of $1,528.
Additionally, Richmond had the highest occurrence of storm events since 2022 on our list, so homebuyers looking to move here should be prepared for extreme weather conditions.
Situated at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, Kansas City, Missouri, offers a vibrant nightlife. The city's devotion to sports is evident in the passionate fan bases for the Kansas City Chiefs football team and the Kansas City Royals baseball team. The affordable cost of living in Kansas City makes it an appealing destination for young professionals, families, and retirees alike. Kansas City has not recorded any major storm events since 2022, and homes here list for a median price of $294,000.00.
Rounding out our top cities, Greensboro's friendly neighborhoods offer a welcoming atmosphere for residents. The city's diverse arts community is celebrated in events like the National Folk Festival and First Fridays. With its moderate climate and air quality and easy access to nearby mountains and beaches, Greensboro offers a balanced and enjoyable lifestyle for retirees looking to settle there. Homes in Greensboro list for a median price of $297,200.00.
Rising home values have helped older homeowners by driving wealth creation — Americans aged 65 and over have an average of over $300,0005 worth of equity in their homes, as compared to the mere $60,000 average equity that homeowners aged 35 and under have.
To tap into that equity, homeowners can use a home equity loan or line of credit, which lets you borrow against the value of your homes and use the funds for various purposes, such as home improvements, medical expenses, or debt consolidation. While a home equity loan or HELOC can be a great short-term solution, homeowners will have to pay them back.
On the other hand, rising home values and mortgage interest rates have also locked in many retirees to homes they can’t afford or maintain. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development identifies the homes of older Americans as the most at risk of depreciation from disrepair and lack of home improvement spending6.
This means that when retired homeowners attempt to tap into their home equity, they might discover that they have less money than they anticipated. Here are some solutions for retirees in this position:
Property tech companies like Orchard also provide a valuable service to those looking to maximize their home equity. Our Concierge service will make value-boosting repairs and renovations to your home at no upfront cost to you before we list your home on the market to sell for top dollar. We’ll even help you buy a new home before selling your current one, so you only have to move once.
Interested in learning more? Get started with a free home valuation — our estimates are 30% more accurate.
Orchard’s proprietary under-the-radar score combines home sale data and quality of life factors. To find the top under-the-radar cities for retirees, we applied these metrics to 100 cities across the country.
Here’s what we looked at and how much it accounted for:
Winnie Ng contributed to data collection and analysis for this report.
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