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Boise Makes Best Retirement City Lists: Forbes, CNN, USNews, Huff Post

Where to retire in idaho

by Christina Gregoire

Boise has made several top retirement lists for 2012, including Forbes.com's “25 Best Places to Retire in 2012.”  Well, I know that all baby boomers have different ideas about where to retire, but like most of you, I can’t afford a house on the beach in Hawaii.  So, several weeks ago, I scoped out a few communities in the Boise area... and yes, I guess I am looking for my own private idaho.

I should point out that I've never lived in Boise, but I found someone (in a Boise forum) who grew up there.  On a hunch, I asked her if she was in real estate.  Well, she is and she's an agent and she knows Boise neighborhoods like I know Seattle neighborhoods.  Her name is Andrea, and she helped me with this article. (The snarky comments are mine, of course.)  So, if you have questions about Boise, use the link below. She's uber helpful and ridiculously knowledgeable.

Forbes: The 25 Best Places To Retire In 2012

The Forbes retirement article praises Boise for its low cost of living, low housing costs, reasonable taxes (always a plus), moderate high-desert climate, accessible healthcare, low crime rate (half the national average), above-average air quality, and abundance of opportunities for staying active.

Here is my impression: Boise’s home prices are unbelievably low compared to Seattle or California (two places where I’ve owned homes).  The average house in Boise was recently $118,000, but according to new data from Andrea, the average price has jumped up to $199,000, with the median around $167,000.  (You can’t get a garage in Seattle for that.)  However, the reason home prices are so low is because Boise has lost a lot of jobs, so if you are planning to augment your retirement income by working, Boise may not be your best bet. On the other hand, Idaho also makes the list of best states for retirees from a tax perspective.

Downtown Boise

Boise has a low crime rate because it’s a small town with a population of about 200,000 in the city and 600,000 spread out over the valley.  Hey... don’t blink or you’ll miss downtown Boise.  Well, I found their cute little downtown area to be very “people friendly.” I went to their artsy Saturday (farmers) Market with my stepson's family, and because it was a hot summer day, the grandkids ran through the fountain at The Grove (Boise Centre on the Grove).  Everything is within a few blocks.  You won't get lost.

According to Andrea Pettitt, “The Grove is home to ‘Alive After Five’ every Wednesday evening throughout the summer where hundreds of people gather for live music, food, beer, and great people watching. In the winter, there is a huge Christmas tree on The Grove and tree lighting ceremony. It’s a central part of Saturday market and many other events.”

CNN Money: 25 Best Places to Retire

CNNMoney gives Boise the number three spot on their list of 25 Best Places to Retire.  Their criteria includes cultural amenities along with the usual considerations, and CNN explains, “Granted, Boise is no Manhattan. But, its thriving cultural scene includes an opera company, a philharmonic orchestra, and a ballet. At Boise Art Museum, which focuses on contemporary American art, you'll see works by Ansel Adams and Chuck Close.”

Cultural scene?  That’s a joke, right?  People don’t move “out west” for the great art scene, but for the great outdoors and the freedom it brings.  If you want culture, save your frequent-flyer miles and go to NYC, London, Paris, or Florence.  However, the good thing about Boise is that you might be able to afford a trip to Europe because your cost of living will probably be much lower.

Andrea Pettitt on Boise's Culture:

“I think that for the average person, there is just the right amount of opportunity for culture in Boise. I’m no Manhattanite, but I do appreciate a gallery opening, a Philharmonic concert, or the Trey McIntyre Project - a world-class dance company that chose Boise as their home because of the quality of life here. On the other hand, if you moved to, say La Grande, Oregon, or even Bend, Oregon, you might get that “out west” lifestyle, with a lot less culture. For realsies. So, I think we’re ahead of a lot of places that way.

"Plus, it’s so accessible.  I think a lot of people who live in Boise proper get out and see more than others who live in much larger cities but for whom cultural events are out of reach."

innertubing boise riverUSNews: The 10 Fastest-Growing Retirement Spots

According to USNews, Boise is one of the 10 fastest-growing retirement spots in the country, with a 45% increase in the number of people over 65 since 2000, and a 92% increase in the number of baby boomers (ages 55 to 64) during the same period.  Much of this increase is due to seniors and boomers wanting to age in place, but it’s always a good sign when people, who have the option of moving, decide to stay in an area.  As a side note, many families in the Boise area (especially the burbs) are Mormons.  I was once married to a Mormon and the Mormons I’ve met are great people and wonderful neighbors.  I mention this demographic because

  • The Boise area has lots of kids because Mormons tend to have large families.  This keeps Boise from feeling as old and senile as USNews makes it sound.
  • Mormons, Catholics, and other religious groups are generally family oriented, and this may be the reason some older people have decided to stay.  If you don’t have family in Boise, you may not feel the same way… or your kids and grandkids might decide to follow you to Idaho for Boise’s great public schools.

On the other hand, the lack of nightlife might make all of Boise feel a little like a retirement community.  (Okay, that’s a bit of a joke.)

Andrea Knows More About Boise's Nightlife Than I

“I think our nightlife is decent, mostly on the weekends Thursday-Saturday. You can find quiet, hip and swanky places for drinks and dining. I love the Red Feather. I have a toddler so I am a bit out of the current Boise nightlife loop, but in my adult life, I’ve never been short of things to go and do, music to hear, etc. On any given weeknight it is easy to find a place to dance, listen to acoustic tunes, or a number of other activities.”

Huffington Post

In the Huff Post article, College Towns: Consider These 16 Communities For Retirement, Professor Andrew Carle at George Mason University says, "Today's retirees and the baby boomer retirees want three things…They want active, they want intellectually stimulating, and they want intergenerational retirement environments. Well, I've just described a college campus."

Bike trail in boiseOther reasons given for choosing a college town like Boise include a thriving downtown, affordable places for chow, and pedestrian-friendly areas.  Boise is also ranked as one of the top 10 turnaround towns, which means that home prices could appreciate.

Personally, I think the coolest thing in Boise is the bike trail that cuts through the city.  This paved bike path winds along the Boise river, past the university, and out to some reservoir.  I actually saw a man fishing in the middle of town as I rode my baby-boomer-style cruiser bike.  How cool is that?

Neighborhoods and Suburbs of Boise

If you prefer cities, there are cool places in…or very near…Boise that will fit your budget.  (There are also high-end neighborhoods for those of you who just cashed out your spendy abode in some high-rent state.)  However, if you like the suburbs, you will find really low home prices.

The North End: Those of you who prefer older, more established, more artsy, more liberal neighborhoods will adore Boise’s North End.  This historical district, with 100-year-old craftsman-style homes, is within walking (or biking) distance of little restaurants in Hyde Park and downtown Boise.  North End homes are older, well built, and more expensive.  Also, you probably will need to remodel if you don’t buy an upgraded home.  (Keep this in mind if you're a single boomer chick.)

new homes boise idahoHarris Ranch: I see Harris Ranch as a perfect place for retired Californians.  However, don’t tell too many people you’re from California.  I remember how Seattleites felt about the California invasion of the late 80s.

The Foothills: If you go a short distance north or east of downtown Boise, you can get up in the hills.  Many of these homes have wonderful views of the city and the valley.

The City of Meridian:  To me, the Boise suburbs like Meridian feel like a smaller, friendlier version of Orange County, California, in that they are mostly Republican, conservative, flat, arid, outdoorsy, and white, with a few Hispanics to add a bit of flavor.  However, the Boise area has nothing remotely close to South Coast Plaza.  And, that’s fine with me because, in general, you don’t have to try too hard to keep up with the Joneses.  Also, instead of riding your bike along the beach, you’ll be riding along the Boise River Trail.  Boise has less smog than Orange County, but the area has some air-quality issues due to the terrain.

Andrea's Tips for Retirees Moving to Boise

Here is Ms Pettitt's insider info for boomers considering a move to Boise:

Meridian: I think Meridian subdivisions SOUTH of the freeway are perfect (for baby boomers and seniors). Slightly older subdivisions (early 2000’s) like Thousand Springs or Rockhampton are great, or for new construction, Tuscany is fabulous. The traffic flow from the south of I-84 corridor is infinitely better than north Meridian, which makes the commute to downtown about 15 minutes, instead of 45.  (For Meridian, the average home price is now $202,636 and the median is $187,810 - evidence of the higher-end new construction in that area.  Of course, there are lower prices in Meridian and other areas.)

West Boise and Garden City: Hobble Creek is a gorgeous subdivision behind the Hewlett-Packard campus. Demeyer Park is great. There are many wonderful, established neighborhoods. The west part of Garden City is also very popular with the baby boomer set.

Southeast Boise: River Run, Bown Crossing, Pier Pointe, Lakewood, and Columbia Village areas all have retirement-friendly options.

Eagle: The City of Eagle is great but spendy. Perfect for those who want their own little small town, river frontage, and nice dining options. Everyone there keeps a gorgeous home.

My take: Even though there are multimillion dollar houses in the fancier parts of town, I just saw a lakefront home in tony Eagle for under $350,000.  And, it’s one story.  You gotta be kidding.

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Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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