The Top Five Emerging Metros for Retiree Relocation
- Charleston’s favorable climate and relative affordability have enticed many new relocating retirees, making it our top emerging market for seniors.
- Harrisburg and Chattanooga rank in the top five, as their access to the great outdoors remains a leading consideration for retirees.
- Port St. Lucie and Raleigh also make the top five, with weather and outdoor recreation attracting a growing number of seniors.
As Baby Boomers reach retirement age, their evolving geographic preferences are strengthening housing markets and local economies in new locations, which feature attractive climates, relative affordability, and ample outdoor activities. With swelling populations of senior citizens, our top five emerging metropolitan areas for retiree relocation are fertile ground for multifamily real estate investment.
Charleston, the most populous city in South Carolina, is our top emerging market for retiree relocation. Charleston’s overall population grew by 4.1% over the five years ending in 2021, nearly doubling the national growth rate of 2.4%. Over the same time, its senior population swelled by 27.7%.
Direct beach access and a moderate climate that sees wintertime temperatures in the 50s and 60s are among the area’s major selling points. Moreover, a recent WalletHub report ranked Charleston as the top market for retirees, driven by its affordability and rich density of recreational activities.
Taking a closer look, for every 1,000 residents in Charleston in 2021, there were 175.1 seniors — up from 142.8 in 2016. The increase of 32.3 seniors per 1,000 residents was the most significant increase among qualifying metropolitan areas, contributing to Charleston’s rise to the top of the list.
Pennsylvania’s capital city, Harrisburg, comes in second on our list of top emerging metros for retiree relocation. Harrisburg is a magnet for people looking to move on from Philadelphia, with 39.5% of its incoming rental demand coming from the city of Brotherly Love.
For every 1,000 residents in Harrisburg in 2021, there were 186.2 seniors — increasing from 154.9 in 2016 (an increase of 31.3 seniors per 1,000 residents). Over those five years, Harrisburg’s senior population increased by 34.9%.
Recently, USA Today ranked Harrisburg as #2 on its list of best places in the U.S. to retire. Housing affordability played a significant role, as did the city’s proximity to natural amenities, including the Susquehanna River and the Appalachian Trail.
Chattanooga, Tennessee’s fourth-largest city, secured the #3 spot. For every 1,000 residents in Chattanooga in 2021, there were 185.8 seniors — up from 154.9 in 2016. Over that time, Chattanooga’s senior population increased by 40.8%.
Nestled among the Cumberland Mountains, Chattanooga leverages its natural beauty with Tennessee’s low cost of living appeal, including low property taxes and no statewide income tax. Further, Chattanooga has a diversity of dedicated senior housing types, including resort-style options and mountaintop gated communities.
Considering these attributes, it’s no surprise that Chattanooga had the highest share of satisfied renters 45 and above, a testament to the area’s balance of affordability and livability.
No retiree-focused list would be complete without at least some mention of Florida. Port St. Lucie claims the #4 spot on the list as the number of seniors has risen from 241.1 to 269.7 per 1,000 people from 2016 to 2021. During this time, the senior population jumped by 44,870 people — accounting for a 42.7% growth rate.
Port St. Lucie supports all of the quintessential amenities that come to mind when thinking of retirement in the Sunshine State, including direct beach access and excellent golf courses. The metro is also ranked as one of the safest in the country. Port St. Lucie plugs into an I-95 corridor providing easy access to many other retiree hotspots. Seniors also benefit from an abundance of quality medical facilities, making retirement more comfortable.
Rounding out the top five is Raleigh, NC. Raleigh’s population of 1.5 million makes it by far the largest metropolitan area on this list. For retirees seeking a mild climate who don’t wish to give up an urban lifestyle, Raleigh is proving to be an attractive landing spot.
Zumper recently ranked Raleigh as the #7 market in the country for retirees, citing air quality, weather satisfaction, and abundant outdoor recreation options. For every 1,000 residents in Raleigh in 2021, there were 140.6 seniors — up from 112.4 in 2016. Over that time, Raleigh’s senior population rose by 36.0%.
As more Baby Boomers retire, the relocation patterns of seniors will gain growing importance in the years ahead. From Charleston to Harrisburg to Raleigh, emerging metros for retiree relocation will likely play a more prominent role in the future of multifamily real estate.
Data are based on Chandan Economics’ analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Rankings are based on the aggregate shift in seniors per capita between 2016 and 2021. Markets are measured at the metropolitan statistical area level. Only MSAs with populations above 500,000 were considered in this analysis. Additionally, only MSAs with five-year population growth rates above the national average (+2.4%) were considered for this analysis.
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