I love small towns and rail-trails. My house budget is $200,000 — so where can I retire?

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Dear Marketwatch,

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I’m an adamant rail-to-trails cyclist who enjoys biking along rivers the most. I want to retire to a small town with easy access to hiking and biking trails, kayaking and other joys of the natural world.

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Can you suggest some walkable small towns (3,000-10,000 population) that are county seats and/or college towns, are politically liberal, and have easy access to rivers and bike trails?

I would have an income of $30,000-40,000. I’ll downsize, and I should have enough income from the sale of my current home to buy outright and avoid most of the ongoing housing costs. I want to come in under $200,000.

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Thank You,



I’m not too concerned about your ability to find railroads; The Rails to Trails Conservancy Matters 2,289 routes that cover 24,905 miles. let’s cover For the Best of Them in America, Check It Out hall of fame,

But while there’s no shortage of low-cost small towns, I’m concerned that many of them are stagnant — not a good thing when you need to sell a home. Add the eclectic and fairly lively (because it’s the county seat or has some kind of college in it), and it’s really tough.

I asked Businesshala’s “Where Should I Retire” tool for help. Short answer: Look for a small town in a county with a large population.

When I looked at the smallest population option (less than 50,000 in a county), solidly Democratic (which we define as more than 55% of the vote for Joe Biden in 2020), the median household of less than $250,000 in 2019 Price and selected a hospital, so I got one. County as 100% match. Yes, just one county in the entire United States.

When I did the same thing, I got five more counties in addition to converting the population to one county with 50,000 to 100,000 people. Two if politics is more balanced (55% 45% or stricter in 2020) and I use the large population option.

I’m not saying you can’t find a place with a higher median home value in a more rural county, especially if you’re looking at a condo or even a community over 55 (just consider the HOA fee). do not forget). This is just going to be a tough find. And smaller cities by definition tend to have a smaller selection of housing, so it will be pretty much a hit or miss.

You saw I skipped college towns. This is because we define college towns as R1-level research universities. They are usually major state universities and Ivy League-like institutions – rarely in smaller cities. One exception is Hanover, NH, where Dartmouth College is located. But house prices! I looked around the Grafton County area, especially down the road in Lebanon, but while it was cheaper, prices have jumped since COVID-19 and it seemed beyond your budget.

In other words, you may want to think more about why you want what you want and whether there is some other way to get it. Would you consider a city of 25,000 or more? Or even 50,000? You can still get easy access to nature and trails in one of that size and in a county of 250,000.

Finally, I’ve heard from many people who prefer a liberal or conservative community. I get it, but there’s no guarantee you’ll like your neighbors. Think about how you’re going to make new friends and build your social network wherever you live.

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So please test your options, even if it is only a short-term rental. Just be sure to pretend you’re a new resident, not just biking on the trail.

Now let’s talk about where to go.

I focused on counties with smaller populations, and Sauk County, Wis., came up with my query; I’ve previously suggested Baraboo (county seat and a smaller two-year institution that is part of the University of Wisconsin system), and it’s a bit bigger than what you described.

If you go even bigger, look in or near Athens, Ohio. It is suggested here.

Another idea is Oberlin, Ohio, suggested here. The caveat here is that while the college town is liberal, the county is red.

Since I hate to repeat myself, here are three other suggestions:

Grinnell, Iowa

Buxbaum Center for the Arts on the campus of Grinnell College.

Getty Images

Like Oberlin, Grinnell is home to a small liberal-arts college. With 9,500 inhabitants, it is slightly larger than Oberlin. And like Oberlin, it’s in a county that turned red in 2020 (55.9% of Powysick counties voted for Donald Trump).

It’s 5.8 miles. checks the rail-trail box with Rock Creek Recreational Bike Trail which spread from Rock Creek State Park (and a lake) to the west end of the city, where it is 1.8 mi. joins with Grinnell Trail,

Drive 55 miles west of Des Moines and you’ll have several rail-trails, including Raccoon River Canyon Trail, inducted into the Rails to Trails Hall of Fame in 2021. Head 67 miles east to Iowa City (which gets waves as a place to stay and was suggested here) for much more trails. If you want to be close to the amenities of a big city, check out the smaller towns outside both when exploring Grinnell.

And if you live in Iowa, there’s no excuse not to attend the weeklong party. rugbrai And pedal across the state.

Home prices are definitely in your price range; The median home price in Grinnell was $210,000 in November 2021, according to Realtor.com, which calls it a seller’s market. here is what’s in the market now,

Frostburg, Maryland

Switchbacks connect Frostburg, MD, to the Great Allegheny Passage.

Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy

stay away from Great Allegheny Passage The 150-mile trail between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, MD, which was the first inductor in rail to the Trails Hall of Fame – can be too tempting for a trail lover to overlook. If so, look into the Four Seasons city of Frostberg, where about 7,000 people live. Cumberland, the county seat, is only a 16-mile bike ride away, and you can walk the C&O Canal Towpath to Washington, DC

Your kayaking options begin with Youghiogheny River Lake, half an hour drive away.

In addition to GAP, there is Frostburg State University, a campus of less than 5,000 students that is part of the University System of Maryland. 60 and above can take free classes,

Like Grinnell, compromise is politics; Allegheny County went for Trump in 2020.

It is certainly economical; The average list price for a home in November 2021 was $149,900, and Realtor.com described it as a buyer’s market. what is here in the market now,

If Frostburg isn’t quite right, consider Connellville, Penn., a city of 7,000 that has benefited greatly from the Great Allegheny Passage. The Penn State Fayette campus is approximately 7 miles away, more than halfway from Uniontown, the county seat of Fayette County and home to less than 10,000 people.

Grant, New Mexico

The La Ventana Arch at El Malpais National Monument is half an hour from Grant.

Getty Images/iStockPhoto

The Businesshala “Where Should I Retire” tool suggests McKinley County, NM, whose county seat is Gallup. I opted for the county seat in neighboring Cibola County, which also voted blue in 2020.

This city of 9,000 people from many cultures is less than 80 miles from Albuquerque and just outside El Malpais National Monument – About 115,000 acres of what the National Park Service calls the “Land of Fire and Ice.”

While Grants has plenty of hiking opportunities in the mountains, the closest railroad is in Albuquerque. However, long-distance cyclists come through with a grant after Adventure Cycling. Route 66 Route (2,500 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, California). drive for half an hour Bluewater Lake State Park For kayaking.

you will know An outpost of New Mexico State University here,

The climate in the high desert is mild and dry. The average elevation is 89 degrees in July, when it receives 1.7 inches of rain. Humidity is low, lower than in Albuquerque (read more about the big city here and here) and its suburbs (suggested here). There’s little snow here compared to my other suggestions, averaging 2.9 inches in December.

According to Realtor.com, the average list price in November 2021 was $150,000, and it was a buyer’s market. here is what’s in the market now,

Readers, which is the perfect small town for Jesse’s retirement? Give your suggestions in the comments below.

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