As more baby boomers begin planning for retirement, necessities like affordable housing, low taxes, and a reasonable cost of living suddenly become top considerations. Some warm weather and beautiful beaches wouldn’t be bad either.
So it’s not exactly surprising that seven of the top 10 places to retire in 2020 are in the Sunshine State of Florida, which has long held an irresistible lure for seniors, according to a recent report from U.S. News & World Report. The Gulf Coast city of Sarasota, FL, snagged the No. 1 spot this year.
“This year’s list of best places to retire is dominated by Florida in a way that we haven’t seen in years before,” says Emily Brandon, U.S. News & World Report’s senior editor for retirement. “It’s largely due to the state’s affordable homes, low taxes, and high ratings for happiness and desirability.”
To come up with its rankings, the magazine looked at home affordability, happiness ratings, desirability, taxes for retirees, access to quality health care, and the job market (for those who aren’t quite ready to give up work altogether).
Sarasota, on the western coast of Central Florida, beat out Fort Myers, FL, this year. It held second place last year. That’s despite the city’s relatively high median home list price of $447,750—nearly $100,000 more than the national median of $350,000, according to September realtor.com® data. Homes in the metro area are a bit more reasonable, at a median list price of about $374,550.
“The people who already live in Sarasota are generally happy with where they live,” says Brandon of what gave the beachy city an edge. “A lot of retirees who have been stuck at home for a really long time [due to the pandemic] are dreaming about a Florida beach retirement.”
That’s translated into a rush of folks of all ages moving to the area from other states, says longtime Sarasota real estate agent Peter G. Laughlin, of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. He’s getting a lot of clients from New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and California, a mix of retirees and professionals who can now work remotely.
Buyers can score two-bedroom, two-bathroom condos in the downtown area for around $600,000 and up, he says. Condos on the beach, such as the islands right off the coast, can run in the millions. There are also single-family homes on golf courses that usually start around $800,000.
“Right now we have very little inventory and everything is selling very quickly,” says Laughlin. For homes priced just right, “we have offers over asking.”