Baby boomers are still moving to Arizona to retire, despite predictions they wouldn’t.
Members of the huge demographic group have vowed they wouldn't spend their leisure years the way their parents did. But census data and new rankings show they are ending up in many of the same states, and some of the same neighborhoods.
Arizona is behind only Florida for drawing the most retirees, according to a recent analysis of Census data. And five Valley cities made the list of top 10 metro areas drawing the most new residents who are in their 60s or older.
But unlike prior generations focused on golf, the latest generation of retirees wants hiking, friendly neighbors and a good deal.
Phoenix began to draw retirees in droves when Del E. Webb opened the first Sun City on the city’s western edge in 1960.
That original Sun City is still drawing buyers, but so are newer sun cities, Trilogy communities and other new developments that offer something different than the golf cart, lights off at 8 p.m. lifestyle.
“As baby boomers venture into retirement, they’re not looking to just move to another house,” said Jeff McQueen, president of Shea Home’s Trilogy division, which has four active-adult communities in Arizona, including it's newest Trilogy at Verde River.
He said Trilogy’s survey of baby boomers show they have friends moving away, and they want to move to a new place where they'll know their neighbors and can have an outdoor lifestyle beyond just golf.
Hiking is now a top amenity baby boomers want in Arizona communities.
Sunshine, low taxes and an affordable lifestyle are the state’s top draws for many baby boomers ready to slow down a bit, housing analysts say.
Arizona is second in the nation for drawing the most new retirees, an analysis of the latest census data from financial research website SmartAsset shows. Arizona grew by a net 28,614 residents older than 60 in 2016 up from 27,576 in 2015.
Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert, Surprise and Peoria each drew more than 1,000 new retiree residents during 2016, the research shows.
Metropolitan Phoenix and Arizona always rank well on ratings for retirees and active-adult communities. And there are a lot of lists.
Where baby boomers decide to live is a big-money proposition for builders and state economies.
Nine Arizona communities ranked on 55place.com’s new list of the top 55 Active Adult Communities. That’s second to only Florida, too.
The list uses several sources on sales, census, crime, construction time, homeowners associations and amenities for the ranking.
Of the Arizona communities to make the 2018 list, all are in metro Phoenix except one:
Affordability is a key concern for the growing retirement population looking to buy homes, Arizona housing analyst Jim Belfiore said.
The original Sun City is a draw for people, particularly from the Midwest, looking for the most affordable home prices. But all active-adult developers are conscious of prices.
The Great Recession and housing crash hit many baby boomers’ retirement funds. Some are working part time because they want to, but others need to.
Trilogy’s survey found many of its buyers are moving from California to Arizona because of the more affordable home prices.
Metro Phoenix home prices are climbing, but are still affordable compared with California.
Nevertheless, some of the state's most affordable options for retirees are shrinking.
Some retirees who spend winters in affordable mobile homes and RV parks are finding it tougher to do that now. A growing number of the most affordable manufactured home communities in the Valley are being turned into more expensive apartments and subdivisions.
That’s why much more affordable small Arizona towns like Sierra Vista, Florence, Coolidge and Winslow are climbing on lists of Arizona’s top places to retire.