Where Can I Rent for No More Than $1000/Month and Go Carless?
March 17, 2010 3:35 PM   Subscribe

OK, big broadbrush question. I'm 60, retired, with an annual income of $50,000. It's time for me to move. But, where? I'm looking for a place where I can rent for no more than $1000 per month, don't need a car, and that's not bereft of reasons to be there. Climate matters. I.e., sun is good, ice is bad. Is this possible in the U.S.?
posted by justcorbly to Home & Garden (39 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You can absolutely rent for under $1k a month and be carless in Philadelphia, and there's plenty to do... but I'm not sure we do so well on the "climate matters" scale, assuming you're looking for something like SoCal or Florida weather.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:37 PM on March 17, 2010

Austin, TX
posted by jchaw at 3:37 PM on March 17, 2010

What sort of activities would you like to do in your new location? Since you said walkability is important, what kinds of places do you want the ability to walk to?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:39 PM on March 17, 2010

I agree with Tomorrowful. Other than the climate, Philadelphia is a wonderful place to live with reasonable rents. You can walk to everywhere and live in a great neighborhood for less than $1,000/month.
posted by eisenkr at 3:42 PM on March 17, 2010

I'd go for a small-medium city, location depending on what you want to do, like Madison WI, Austin TX or Asheville NC. All are walkable to an extent.
posted by deadweightloss at 3:43 PM on March 17, 2010

What excellent timing you have! Business Week just published their list of most affordable places to retire.
posted by DrGail at 3:43 PM on March 17, 2010

Why is living in the US a necessary condition? For $1,000 a month rent + expenses I think you could maintain a very high quality of life in many counties... perhaps even try several different ones. Put most of your US-based possessions in storage, live for a couple months in some balmy foreign locale and explore it, then move!

There's a chapter in "The Four Hour Workweek" that deals with just this scenario.
posted by Spacelegoman at 3:47 PM on March 17, 2010

Welcome to much of Florida, particularly Northeast Florida, for various values of "not bereft of reasons to be there." The fishing is good, the golf is plentiful, and except for January and a few days in February, pretty comfortable, year 'round. There's no state income tax. There's a generous property homestead exemption, if you change your mind about renting. Cost of living is generally pretty low. But, we do have, sometimes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and bugs. These have not, historically, in the last 100 years, been major problems for Northeast Florida, although they have been in the rest of the state.

In my city, Jacksonville, there is a good health care system, and decent public transportation. There are lots of civic organizations, colleges and universities, and good airport, rail and bus connections, if you'd like to travel.

Not good if you like mountains, as the highest point in all of Florida is only 385 feet above sea level. Not likely to become a bastion of progressive politics, any time soon.
posted by paulsc at 3:55 PM on March 17, 2010

Response by poster: Winsome: Walking to a decent grocery is really the only must have, so long as there is transport to go elsewhere.

Spacelogoman: Does "The Four Hour Workweek" go into the immigration/residency/visa requirements of specific locations? I'm not averse to moving outside the U.S. I'd go to the UK in a heartbeat, but I don't seem likely to gain entry for, say, two years, and it's costly.
posted by justcorbly at 3:55 PM on March 17, 2010

Sun City, AZ. It's like a heaven for active, social retirees (it might be ok for people who live a sedentary lifestyle, but my point is, it's not just a bunch of people sitting in rockers on their porches -- this city was designed for active retirees). Year-round nice weather, golf, fitness areas, swimming pools, parks. Within easy driving distance to Phoenix for bigger-city needs (and airport) -- and there is transportation to Phoenix and really all over Sun City (plus people drive golf carts everywhere, not just on the golf courses). Rent can run from very pricey to very reasonable (here's a searchable site of apartments and their prices).
posted by Houstonian at 3:56 PM on March 17, 2010

Response by poster: Houstonian: I used to live in Phoenix. It's at the top of places I don't want to live. I suppose there are cities that are less liveable without a car, but...

posted by justcorbly at 3:59 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What about places like Portland, Salem or Eugene in Oregon? Yes, I know about the weather.
posted by justcorbly at 4:00 PM on March 17, 2010

Seconding Asheville North Carolina. I was only there for a day on a road trip, but the the town was adorable and it's near tons of outdoorsy opportunities. I don't know much about the rent though, sorry.
posted by kylej at 4:02 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The section of the book I was referring to is more oriented towards extended vacations or long-term travel (but long term can mean several years) rather than living abroad permanently... still worth checking out though.

Some other Mefites might have more insight into the expat life. I was imagining more along the lines of like Central and South America, Spain, SE Asia etc. based on your first post.

The main point of 4HWW is that a year or longer of moving between those places is less expensive than living in America, but your dollar goes much further (if you're smart about it).
posted by Spacelegoman at 4:03 PM on March 17, 2010

This question, about finding $1K/mo or less rental + walkability addressed California in particular, and may have some good resources for you.
posted by rtha at 4:07 PM on March 17, 2010

What about Savannah? From a quick look at Craigslist, it looks possible to find a nice downtown apartment for under $1000/mo, and it's really pretty there.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:14 PM on March 17, 2010

(Savannah, Georgia, that is)
posted by oinopaponton at 4:14 PM on March 17, 2010

One other thought, except for the last 5 years of increasing drug activities throughout Mexico, are some of the cities of Mexico's central highland plateau, such as Morelia, Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende. But still, these areas have, as yet, nothing like the violence or overt drug cartel presence of the northern Mexican states and border cities, and while not cheap by Latin American standards, do offer great climate, good services to American ex-pats, frequent easy flights back to the U.S., good hospitals and health care, and a wonderfully historic and picturesque living environment.
posted by paulsc at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2010

Bend, OR is a great sunny place to move if you don't mind the snow coming down a few weeks a year.

Plus: Less than 100,000 people, lots of hiking/golfing/cycling/skiing, lots of sun.
Minus: Less than 100,000 people, four hours from anywhere, occasionally very snowy.

Bonus: the real estate market in Bend crashed so its much more affordable than it was a few years ago!
posted by golden at 4:26 PM on March 17, 2010

You might be able to find an apartment to rent in Eugene or Portland for under 1K, but it would be far from palacial.

Salem, maybe easier, but then it's Salem.
posted by Danf at 4:56 PM on March 17, 2010

Austin fails on the walkability score, unless you chose your living situation by virtue of convenience to a grocery store. I was carless in Austin for 3 years. The first year I lived in an apartment bldg. almost across the street from a big grocery store and on a bus route to UT (my reason for moving there), so I got by pretty well. When I moved to a cute, cheap house to room with a classmate, I managed because said roommate had a car and would take me along when she went grocery shopping. It would have been quite a schlep and at least one bus ride otherwise. Austin actually has OK bus service, but they were frequently late and would blast right past you if you were sitting at the stop and didn't jump up and flag them down. This was 10+ years ago so things may have changed.

Many neighborhoods did not even have sidewalks, again making walking a challenge. As a further datapoint, I was the only person in my graduate class who did not have a car. The few who arrived without ending up buying one while they were there. I don't even have a license so that wasn't an option for me. The summer heat, which lasts from mid-May through much of October also makes walking less than enjoyable for a good part of the year unless you really love the heat. And don't let anyone tell you that it's dry heat. Austin isn't as bad as Houston, but it can get humid there.

But I think that if you had a license and Austin has a Zipcar program or something similar, it could definitely work for you long term.
posted by kaybdc at 5:08 PM on March 17, 2010

Why cities? Depending on how much solitude you want, you can find a gorgeous cabin or trailer in a scenic area in the middle of nowhere (just look around on Craigslist), or you can live ~30 miles outside a city, living cheap with nature and going into the city occasionally for entertainment. Small towns are also a possibility, many of them extremely affordable due to the lack of high-tech/Fortune 500 economy, but the pervasiveness of religion and lack of intellectual stimulation may be a problem. A tradeoff might be finding a college town.

Basically the astronomical-cost-of-living areas are going to be close to employment centers and in gentrified/housing boom areas, especially suburbs and areas of urban renovation, so this opens a lot of options already.
posted by crapmatic at 5:58 PM on March 17, 2010

St. George, Utah
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:09 PM on March 17, 2010

If you can live in a 200 sq. foot studio then you could actually find something in Hawaii for $1000 a month. Food costs more, but the bus system is great and there are lots of retirees that come out here in the winter and many who live here all year round. Can't beat the weather.
posted by thorny at 6:17 PM on March 17, 2010

A relative lives in Yuma, AZ for 5 winter months of the year (the other 7 are spent in Canada). Their Park Model Trailer rental in a 55+ park was way less than $1000 per month and they ended up buying a trailer for what seemed like very reasonable money. The park has lots of activities going on in their rec centre; they have a pool and other amenities; and their park is wedged into a strippy commercial district a few blocks away from two large malls (and right next door to a gay bar).

Yuma seems like a nice place; very close to Mexico if you desire access to medical tourism.

Not sure how livable it is in the summer, but it was quite nice when I was there in March.
posted by Mitheral at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2010

Winsome: Walking to a decent grocery is really the only must have, so long as there is transport to go elsewhere.

if that's your biggest deal-breaker, say hello to St. Petersburg Florida, from the downtown-north neighborhoods to the beaches. you can walk or ride your bike to a Publix from many addresses east of 34th street, and down in the beaches areas, there are plenty of services and amenities on/off Gulf Blvd. In beach towns that aren't Belleaire, I would imagine you can find *something* in your price range. There are also at least three minor league/spring training stadiums in Pinellas County, if a $5 professional ballgame is your bag.

St. Petersburg - it's not just God's Waiting Room any more.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:59 PM on March 17, 2010

Athens, GA's not bad - cheap rent, nice walkable downtown with lots of live music. You might consider it a poor man's Austin, actually - as kaybdc said about Austin, you will need a car to go grocery shopping.

Asheville looks nice too, from my stay of about 2 hours during a long road trip.
posted by dd42 at 7:14 PM on March 17, 2010

Several neighborhoods in Long Beach, CA will meet those requirements.
posted by notyou at 7:24 PM on March 17, 2010

Eugene/Springfield definitely has stuff for under 1000 a month. We also have a pretty good transit system, lots of sidewalks and bike paths also. Yes it rains here, but usually it is a soft drizzle more than a pounding rain that minimal gear will keep you dry. Springfield is a little cheaper than Eugene and we almost have the second bus rapid transit system in place. I am currently looking for a place for my older mom (65+) here, and have come to the conclusion that she can find a decent house with a garage for less than 750 a month, and an apartment for less than 600 month. There is a wealth of outdoor activities here, the coast is an hour in one direction, the cascade summit an hour in another. Salem is about an hour north, and Portland about two hours away. The largest hospital between San Francisco and Portland opened last year in Springfield. It is a nice place to live, a far amount to do and if you get an apartment in the right spot no need to own a car (although it could be convenient-the transit system isn't perfect). You can live pretty good here for 50000 a year, and if you are so inclined could buy a fixer-upper house cheap, fix it up, and have a very nice older home. There are lots of older homes of less than 1000 sf here pretty cheap. Older housing stock of course but build pretty well usually with old growth doug fir lumber, cast iron pipes and a need for rewiring. Good luck and memail me if you have any specific questions.
posted by bartonlong at 7:53 PM on March 17, 2010

Near-downtown walkable Asheville (a house in Montford, or possibly the condo apartments springing up around downtown) is definitely doable on that sort of income.

This winter has been pretty brutal by local standards, and western NC is seasonal in a way that further south isn't, but the town is well set up for retirees. (The uptick in bad drivers with Florida plates suggest that the halfbacks are already starting to come in.)
posted by holgate at 8:02 PM on March 17, 2010

Eugene/Springfield definitely has stuff for under 1000 a month.

Oh, so does Portland if that's what you want.
posted by furiousthought at 8:59 PM on March 17, 2010

Re: Yuma, AZ -- not a walkable city AT ALL. Cross it off your list if that is important.
posted by bigmusic at 10:16 PM on March 17, 2010

New Orleans. You will love every day you spend here- even the bad ones. $1000 a month is definitely doable in midcity and probably parts of uptown and they are both walkable. Think about it.
posted by Pacheco at 10:24 PM on March 17, 2010

No specific suggestions but I've found a few websites that might be helpful:
posted by Gusaroo at 11:49 PM on March 17, 2010

I've been looking into Sequim, WA as a retirement option. It sits on the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula and just a stone's throw from Canada, so you might expect it to be wet and cold, but it's perfectly positioned under some kind of atmospheric bubble that keeps the town relatively warm & dry. It's a small town with public transportation and a haven for retirees.
posted by kbar1 at 12:26 AM on March 18, 2010

I thought of Denver, where I once considered moving. Sunny as all hell, and if you're in the center city it would seem can live in an interesting neighborhood, walkably, for cheap. (Similarly, Boulder, but too expensive.)
posted by zvs at 12:36 AM on March 18, 2010

Charleston, SC? Very pretty, lots of sun, lots of types of housing. Not super public transit but there are buses, thanks to all the tourism. Good food, too.
posted by pointystick at 6:43 AM on March 18, 2010

Sevierville, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains, is a beautiful place to live. If it snows, it rarely lasts more than a day or so. There is a nice transit system. It is a tourist destination, so there are shows, shopping, lots of fun things to do. You can rent a nice log cabin with a jacuzzi for under $1,000 a month. The transit system takes you from one end of the county to the other. The people are friendly and it has a low crime rate. They are building a new hospital there that promises to be first class.
Although it is a tourist destination, almost all the tourism is kept to a couple of locations, which means you have a lot of privacy off the beaten track.
Also, Tennessee has very low tax rates for homes. A lot of retirees move there for that reason alone.
posted by srbrunson at 5:09 PM on March 18, 2010

Just got back today from a three-day to New Orleans. Seconding Pacheco, DH and I are in about the same situation and we would go to New Orleans in an instant. Very walkable, and enough to do and see to stay busy for months and months. Vibrant, colorful, artsy, everyone has an interesting story, very friendly in a way that only southern cities can be, the weather fits and it's just the coolest place ever.
posted by raisingsand at 7:37 PM on March 18, 2010

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