As winter rapidly approaches and forecasted temperature drops threaten to coat nearly half the country in a deep freeze in the foreseeable future, snowbirds and retirees have right minds to head west for the season to the top cities for sunshine, relaxation and affordable rent, a recent analysis suggests.
In the next few days, temperatures are expected to be 20 to 40 degrees below average from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi Valley, according to forecasts this week from the National Weather Service. But as winter’s frigid temps creep closer, snowbirds in the north will find greater motivation to fly off in search of warmer climates, says Apartments.com in its second annual list of the Top 14 Cities for Snowbirds and Retirees in 2014.
Coincidentally, all but three cities on the top-14 list lie west of the Mississippi River, away from the brunt of the anticipated freeze. But while weather might play a significant factor in convincing individuals to pack up and ship out to warmer destinations during the winter months, it is not the sole incentive.
To develop the top-14 list, Apartments.com looked at lifestyle factors that make cities attractive not only to part-time winter residents, but also retirees looking for a place to settle down more permanently, said Brad Long, president of Apartments.com, in a written statement.
“Rental needs change as people get older,” Long said. “While southern Florida is often though of first for this demographic, our list uncovers many other options, in other areas of the country, that offer more than just sunshine.”
Factors considered by Apartments.com in its analysis of what makes certain cities the best for retirees included the median age of residents in that location; average cost and availability of a two-bedroom apartment; median income and key amenities, including flexible leasing options for short- or long-term stays, plus air conditioning.
Of course, weather was a contributing factor as well, with Apartments.com only including cities with at least a 60% average of days of sunshine annually.
For this criteria alone, it’s plausible that Scottsdale, AZ; Henderson, NV; Tucson, AZ; Sacramento, CA; and El Paso, TX round out the top-five cities.
While Scottsdale led the list, the average price to rent a two-bedroom apartment in the city was among the highest compared to other metros at $1,165. Only Plano, TX (#12) and St. Petersburg, FL (#11) came close with average monthly rental prices of $1,233 and $1,155, respectively.
In that same vein, some of the cheapest cities for two-bedroom rentals included Wichita, KS (#10) with an average price of $699; Tucson (#3) with $778; Albuquerque, NM (#6) with $825; El Paso (#5) with $837 and Little Rock Arkansas (#13) where rents average $846—all based on September data from Apartments.com.
Despite the large share of regionally western cities, Apartments.com disproves the conception of Florida being the primo migration grounds for snowbirds and retirees alike, as St. Petersburg was the only Sunshine State representative to make the cut in their analysis.
“A full an exciting lifestyle is available to snowbirds and retirees in some unexpected places, which is why it pays to look at the full picture when choosing an apartment to call home, whether it’s just for this winter or for the longer-term,” Long said.
Written by Jason Oliva