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More home for the money a selling point for many retirees

After retirement, most people enjoy spending more time at home. And more home for your money in Mississippi is a top reason why relocating retirees move to the state.

For example, a home that costs about $153,000 in New Orleans would cost only $100,000 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, $106,000 in Tupelo and $123,000 in Jackson, according to the home price index reports available at the Web site www.coldwellbanker.com. A $100,000 home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast would cost approximately $189,000 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., or Denver, Colo.

People are really keen on getting more home value for their money during retirements, says Bruce Kammer, 2004 president of the Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR) and broker-owner Coldwell Banker Country Properties Inc. in Picayune.

“In Pearl River County, the affordable housing we have for retirees is one of our biggest selling points,” Kammer said. “Our value for homes is one of the things that draw retirees to the Pearl River County. We are seeing a lot of people coming out of the New Orleans area and Stennis Space Center wanting to stay in the area. They get to buy a bigger house on more land than in New Orleans. They are getting into a better quality of life, a safer environment, less traffic, less crime — all the things that retirees look for.”

In most larger metropolitan areas, home lots are only a quarter to a third of an acre. In Pearl River County, they are still building a lot of homes on one-acre lots.

Kammer said most of the retirees aren’t looking to downsize. The most popular homes are about 2,000 square feet with all the modern amenities.

“We have people talking about downsizing, but I don’t see people downsizing here,” he said. “They have kids and grandkids, and want to have room for visitors. The value they get for their retirement dollar is wonderful in Pearl River County.”

“Compared to other parts of the country, our cost of living is much better,” said Ellen Short, 2003 MAR president and a broker for TRI Inc. Realtors in Tupelo. “Our prices of homes are much better. Obviously, good home values are a factor. We have even had a couple of people who have called about properties they saw on the Internet, which they purchased sight unseen because it was such a good value. They said, ‘Oh, gosh, we can do that without even thinking twice.’”

People who think seniors don’t use the Internet are wrong. Short says many retirees use that tool first when searching for a new home.

“Anyone can go to www.realtor.com, and find properties listed all over the country,” Short said. “They get real excited when they see our pricing. The positive is someone can get a three-bedroom, two-bath home on an acre of land for a reasonable price. In lots of places you can’t get an acre or even a half acre. Many places only have postage stamp lots available.”

Short said the surprised reaction to better homes for less money in Mississippi is particularly common in people relocating from California. But it is also the norm for people from other large population areas in the country.

Short adds that it isn’t just the price of homes, but overall lower cost of living that attracts retirees.

An example is Fred and Beverly Stroup, who have found that utilities alone are costing them $100 per month less than they were paying for a comparable house in Florida before moving to retire in Tupelo. The couple, who grew up in Indiana, looked at retirement homes in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Their home in Tupelo cost $20,000 less than the home they sold in Florida and is newer and more energy efficient with better amenities.

“We have a great big yard, way too much property, and the grass is getting taller as I speak,” Fred said. “But I love to garden. We walk in the neighborhood because it is quiet, there is not much traffic, and there are sidewalks — which you don’t find everywhere anymore.

“Tupelo is one of lowest cost of living places to live in Mississippi. There are no universities to compete with housing, and you have a good hospital system. There are lots of golf courses around if you care for that sort of thing. Fishing and boating are not far away. We think Tupelo is number one.”

The Stroups relocated from Orlando because they wanted to stretch their retirement dollars.

“We do a lot of traveling because of the money we have saved by moving to Tupelo,” Fred said. “Tupelo is a great place to travel from because of the good highway access and airport.”

Retirees don’t have to give up anything, necessarily, to retire in Mississippi. There are indications that areas of Mississippi stack up favorably when compared with other cities across the country.

Three Mississippi cities, Saltillo (located near Tupelo), Hattiesburg and Ocean Springs have been named to the list of “Top 100 Places In America to Live” by Relocate-America.com. Oxford has been named one of the Top 50 Places to Live by Modern Maturity magazine, one of the Top 10 Places to Retire by the house and home section on www.MSN.com, and was named one of Top Eight College Towns for Retirement in Where To Retire magazine’s May-June 2004 edition.

The latest feather in Oxford’s cap is being named one of the best retirement locations in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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