Living Life In Five Dream Towns

Broderick Perkins

When AARP published "Dream Towns," a study of five cities with gratifying lifestyles, it was ironic, but quite satisfying for me to discover Rehoboth Beach in my home state of Delaware on the list.

That's because when I completed the AARP Magazine story's accompanying and eminently useful, five-minute multiple choice "Location Scout" to determine the kind of town best suited for me, I discovered my current "hometown" San Jose, Calif. was on the list. I was pleasantly surprised, because Delaware and San Jose, believe it or not, have quite a few things in common.

When I lived in Delaware (Wilmington, actually, a fast, one-hour or so drive to Rehoboth) for the first third (I hope) of my life, I spent a lot of time road tripping to destinations endowed with some of the world's best attractions, including, ahem, regional cuisine -- Philadelphia (cheesesteaks and the Phillies were worth the 30-minute drive), New York (Put all the reasons-to-go in one story? Fuggedaboutit!) and Atlantic City (BV or "Before Vegas") to the north and Delaware's beaches, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. (the nation's capital) and Virginia's (it really is for lovers) beautiful Shenandoah Valley to the south.

Now, heading into the second third of my life on the nation's other coast in San Jose, I likewise appreciate being within a day's drive of a host of towns with similarly good eats (Unfortunately, a real Philly cheesesteak or bona fide sub is impossible to find) and other fun stuff -- San Francisco Bay area, Napa Valley and environs to the north, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel beach towns to the south and, of course, Vegas, which now puts Atlantic City to shame, a short flight away.

As a baby boomer with eczema it's particularly gratifying that I've been able to continue my chosen lifestyle without the humidity! The exclamation point is mine.

The point is, where you live and where you can quickly get to from that location, are keys to a dream lifestyle, especially if, like me, you are a baby boomer looking for a home that helps you keep going.

AARP's other Dream Towns come with similar stories from locals about why they chose the lifestyle they love. We've noted some salient points offered by AARP and added some housing costs so you know what you'll be in for.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.'s housing prices here can be stiff, the highest of the bunch, especially in Rehoboth itself. Sort of like San Jose -- a half million dollars for a small condo -- but if you don't need a lot of space and don't mind living without an ocean view you can buy a condo way back from the waterfront or in nearby towns for less than half that amount. To join the Washington, D.C. summer crowd, however, you could pay millions. But there's no sales tax, property taxes are ultra low and there are lots of other tax and financial benefits, which is why many companies incorporate in the Diamond State. AARP says the walkable community has a small-town atmosphere where you can rub elbows with the mayor, the chief of police, and do as much of nothing as you wish in peach and quite.

St. George, Utah -- In 2003, with average home prices about $150,000, St. George was named one of EscapeHomes' Top 10 Emerging Second Home Markets because of its affordability, slow but steady growth and popularity as a retirement area.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's Home Price Index for the first quarter 2006, the latest data available, put St. George at the top of the heap of home price appreciation nationwide -- 38.4 percent in one year. Home prices in the county seat and center of commerce for Utah's Washington County hit a wall this year, braking at around $250,000.

Nestled in the state's southwestern most corner, about 150 miles from Las Vegas, NV, and about twice that distance from Salt Lake City, St. George is desert playground at an elevation of 2,800 feet on the edge of the Mojave Desert within a day's drive of Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon National parks.

Clean air, star lit night skies, low crime and walkability along the Virgin River all make for a quaint, quieter lifestyle than in larger cities.

Charleston, S.C., another beach town, is home to gracious southern living where retirement income is taxed but Social Security and some pension income is not and the local income tax deduction is hefty.

You'll bow to the more than 180 houses of worship and real southern hospitality so genuine the town has been named the most polite city in the nation for the past decade.

Myrtle Beach is a world class golf mecca, and Hilton Head, Kiawah and Seabrook Islands resorts are all nearby, drawing bird watchers and nature lovers alike.

The college town offers a host of educational opportunities that aren't degree based and older residents can audit an unlimited number of classes in the College of Charleston.

The weather's mild, but humid with 102 sunny days to enjoy the beaches.

Home prices were up 16.51 percent in the past year ending in the first quarter, according to OFHEO. The National Association of Realtors put the median price at about $200,000 in the first quarter, but this is a beach town and housing can soar as high as the birds.

Las Cruces, N.M.'s, home prices rose 14.88 percent in the past year ending in the first quarter this year, according to OFHEO. Listings reveal an ample supply of newly built 2,000 square foot homes (three or four bedrooms, two to three baths) for under $300,000. Spend half as much for new and older homes with three bedrooms, two baths and about 1,500 square feet.

Another college town and a good food depot, the Chile Capital of the World at the foot of the Organ Mountains exudes natural light and sky hues of blue, purple and green that attract artists and those looking for a relaxed pace.

The state's second largest city also offers low property taxes and income tax exemptions for older taxpayers, hiking, camping, golfing and other outdoor attractions.

There's also New Mexico State University campus, Santa Fe four hours away, White Sands National Monument nearby and the Mexican shopping town of Juarez across the border.

Memphis, Tenn., the "big city" of the group comes with median home prices (about $150,000, $165,000 for a new downtown condo) well below the national average and a modest 6.27 percent home price appreciation rate that welcomes nearly all home buyers.

A revitalized downtown Memphis makes for a historical country, rock and blues town you can paint red or rock to over at Graceland. Attractions include the Memphis Botanic Garden, the Orpheum Theater, the daily duck march at the Peabody Hotel, river boat rides on the Mississippi and trolley rides around town.

Also there's no state income tax on salaries, wages, Social Security, IRAs, or pension income, but there is trouble in River City in the form of a 8.4 percent tax on groceries you'll have to drive into Mississippi or Arkansas to escape.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: