The August 2009 edition of Money Magazine featured their annual list of 100 best places to live. The copy arrived in my mailbox around the same time my wife and I were discussing the possibility of relocating in the future. In the short-term, we are satisfied with where we live, but often dream of moving to a place that offers more natural beauty, outdoor activities, and a more moderate climate. Actually, I mean a cooler climate – we’d gladly trade a few snow days for 100-degree temperatures in the summer! So take a look at these spots to focus your real estate MLS search.
Money’s list provides a pretty good starting place of cities to consider. Since any relocation wouldn’t happen until we reached financial independence, employment is not a top consideration. We are more interested in qualities like a low crime rate, plenty of green space, and relatively low property values and taxes. Here’s a look at Money’s top ten places to live:
1. Louisville, Colorado Money’s description of Louisville includes “dry, clear weather, little crime, good health care, and low taxes.” Add in the Rocky Mountains, 30 miles of local trails and eight world-class ski resorts within a two-hour drive, and there is little not to like about Louisville, Colorado. I traveled to Denver a number of times on business and fell in love with the Rockies, the climate and the outdoor activities.
2. Chanhassen, Minnesota When I think of Minnesota I think of cold winters. However, with cold winters comes a variety of things to do that a family from the south has never experienced. Ice fishing, ice skating, sledding, and hockey all sound pretty fun. And since I love cold weather I’d fit in just fine. Not sure the wife and kids feel the same way, though.
3. Papillion, Nebraska According to Money, the typical single-family home in Papillion starts for about $100k less than the first two cities. Interestingly, the property taxes were significantly higher.
4. Middleton, Wisconsin Another cold weather locale, but one with lots to see and do. Even though the town is only seven miles from Madison, most residents enjoy hanging out in their own community.
5. Milton, Massachusetts Single-family homes go for $460, 000 here, which just about eliminates the town from our list of potential spots to relocate. Add in a close proximity to Boston and it just doesn’t feel like a good fit for us.
6. Warren, New Jersey Ditto on the above comments. To close to New York City for my tastes, and ridiculously high home values (half-million and up).
7. Keller, Texas The knock on Keller was “rapid growth” and “strip malls.” We aren’t interested in a fast-paces lifestyle, so Kelly might not be a good fit, either. Besides, I’m not sure I’d be escaping the heat moving to Texas.
8. Peachtree City, Georgia Of all the cities in the top ten, Peachtree City sounds most like where we currently live. At only 35 miles from Atlanta, I’d worry about the urban sprawl eventually swallowing our tranquil place.
9. Lake St. Louis, Missouri Lake St. Louis has an interesting history. Developed forty years ago as a “resort community,” it has now developed into an attractive spot for permanent residents. Two major problems with Lake St. Louis – ridiculously high annual dues for their Community Association, and proximity to a General Motors plant which plant to layoff nearly 2,000 workers.
10. Mukilteo, Washington First, a confession. I’ve always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest. I love the idea of being close to both Puget Sound and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. Toss in a great school system and low property taxes, and Mukilteo seems like a top candidate.
Another area of the country we have strongly considered is Idaho. Idaho has a very low crime rate, low property taxes and insurance rates, and they offer more wilderness area than any other state in the lower 48 states. Unfortunately, they do have a relatively high state income tax rate and low average wages, but since we wouldn’t need much income after financial independence neither of these facts are a big detractor.
Speaking of state taxes, Kiplinger.com put together a nice interactive map along with a state-by-state guide to taxes on retirees. You can learn which states impose their own estate taxes, which 7 states have no income tax, and what are the most pension-friendly states?
Again, we won’t be in a position to relocate any time soon, but it is fun to scope out different places. Wherever we do decide to retire, we plan to have a place with acreage to give us a little room to roam. I’d like to have a big garden, and a few rows of fruit trees. When looking for a place to buy, we would gladly put more money towards land than the home itself, and wouldn’t mind adding on to the house or remodeling with cash over time.