Inexpensive Areas to Purchase a New Home

Marketwatch recently posted a story listing ten cities that feature some of the lowest priced real estate in the county. Those cities were:

    • Niagara Falls NY
    • Riverdale, GA
    • Coolidge, AZ
    • College Park, GA
    • Detroit, MI
    • Hastings, FL
    • Cleveland, OH
    • Lithonia, GA
    • Trotwood, OH
    • Sioux City, IA

For retired military members, these cities can be an option, but some are better than others. If you pair low real estate costs with availability of military facilities for health care, commissaries, and fitness centers, then you have a real opportunity to live well on a retired paycheck.

So I offer suggested alternative cities that have similarly priced real estate, but have better access to military facilities.

I welcome your impressions of these cities and your recommendations for locations for military retirees to consider when deciding on where to live.

Housing Prices Continue to Fall

Cities that were outside the reach of military retirees are now a real bargain. Popular choices such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Tampa are now at bargain basement prices. In addition, mortgage rates have fallen again to the lowest levels of the year.

We recently purchased a short-sale home in Las Vegas. We were interested in this neighborhood in 2005, but the prices were far to high for our projected budget. Five years later the home was available for less than half the price in 2005.

Florida, which does not have a personal income tax, has truly become a bargain. How does a two bedroom, two bathroom condo with an ocean view in Destin for less than $190,000 sound? This one sold in 2004 for $499,900 and is now on the market for $189,900.  Using your VA mortgage, with no money down, your payment would be about $1,600 each month, including taxes, condo fees, and insurance.

If this is still too rich for you, try the greater Phoenix, AZ area. This four bedroom two bathroom home in Tolleson, AZ was built in 2006, selling at that time for about $250,000. You can buy it now for $86,000. Try a payment of $641!

The bottom line, again, is that military retirees have so many more options than they had five years ago, and mortgage rates will lower your monthly payment to the point that you can enjoy greater freedom and more security than you’ve ever been able to achieve. This is a great time to consider an early retirement!

States that do not tax military retirement pay

According to Retirementliving.com, the following states do not tax military retirement pay.

Retired Military Pay
Some states provide special tax benefits to military retirees. Others simply follow the federal tax rules. The states that do not tax retired military pay are: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky*, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi*, Missouri*, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina*, Ohio, Oregon*, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
(*With conditions)

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Great Retirement Locations

Money Magazine’s most popular issue is their annual list of the Top 100 Places to Live. I’m always attracted to the list because as I get closer to my military retirement I’m often asked where I’ll live. For many this question is a foregone conclusion. They’ll return to their home of record, closer to family, their follow-on job, or to a home they’ve purchased years ago.

For others, there is uncertainty. They aren’t tied to any particular area and are flexible to choose a home based on their tastes and experiences.

So, what criteria can you use to select the best places to retire?

Let’s consider Money Magazine’s list. The magazine considers criteria like average income, cost of a family home, weather, access to health care, education, entertainment and recreation.

For military retirees, access to military bases and facilities must be considered. Access to healthcare, commissaries, exchanges, fitness centers, and other benefits unique to military retirees is a huge factor in selecting a home.

Consider Cheyenne Wyoming, for example. While not ranked in the top 100 cities on the Money List, it is easily within driving distance to the number 6 city, Fort Collins Colorado. With F.E. Warren Air Force Base located in the city, a low cost of living, no state income tax, almost no crime, and clean air, Cheyenne offers the military retiree a great place to settle down.

If you prefer a warmer climate, consider Gilbert Arizona. Close to Luke Air Force Base and Phoenix, Gilbert ranked number 36 on the magazine’s annual poll. It was highlighted for it’s access to professional sports teams, cultural events, large parks and access to recreation. While exceptionally hot in the summers, you won’t see nicer weather than Arizona in the winter.

The Money Magazine list provides military members considering retirement a good resource to explore as they narrow down their choices. It’s interesting to note, I think, that the list is different every year. The bottom line is that America is full of great places to live. For military members, the added factor of living in reasonable proximity to major military bases helps narrow down the choices.

I am from Vermont, for example. Vermont doesn’t have a military facility, but nearby states like New York and Massachusetts do. By mapping out bases and then determining the distance you’d be willing to travel to get there on a regular basis, you can begin to create short lists of places to investigate.

For me, I am willing to drive 40 minutes to reach a base. While Vermont is out of reach, I could live in New Hampshire near the Portsmouth Naval Yard, and still be close to family while taking advantage of New Hampshire’s reasonable taxes.

Everyone has their own criteria, but a military retiree must consider access to services as an important resource. A good reference is About.com’s list of U.S. Military Bases and Installations.

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