Retirees Come to Central Texas and the Victorian Hamlet of Georgetown for its Charming Downtown, Good Hospital, Friendly Folks and Relaxed Lifestyle
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Quaint and friendly, Georgetown (population 62,000) is located along the San Gabriel River in lush central Texas, just off of I-35 and about 25 miles north of Austin, the capital city (population 800,000). Snuggled between the Blackland Prairie and the green Hill Country, it started as a farming and ranching community in the mid-19th century. The founding of Texas University, known today as Southwestern University and the state's oldest institution of higher learning, set the stage for a prosperous future as academics and people seeking a better life decided to make this pretty town their home. In the late 1800s, Georgetown also became a bustling cattle and cotton transportation hub with the arrival of the railroad.
Today, it is safe, racially diverse, conservative and still attracting new people. In fact, its population has mushroomed by 45% over the last decade. The cost of living is 4% above the national average.
The median home price of $225,000 will purchase a comfortable 2,000 sq. ft. ranch rambler with three bedrooms, two baths and an attached 2-car garage on a wooded lot in an established, leafy neighborhood. In neighborhoods such as Seranada, sturdy older homes on large lots have prices in the mid- to high-$100,000s. Beautifully restored Victorian residences from Georgetown's pioneer days are located within one of the three historic districts.
Much of Georgetown's recent growth has been fueled by retirees (40% of residents are age 45 or better), thanks in large part to Sun City Texas, a popular 55+ Del Webb community. Started in 1995, it is currently home to about 7,500 homes, 14,000 residents and is still being built across 4,500 acres. Three golf courses, recreation centers, clubhouses, resort-style pools, a fishing lake and a nearly endless menu of activities are reasons why Sun City is a popular place. New homes start in the high-$100,0000s and top out in the mid-$400,000s. Two other 55+ retirement communities, Oaks at Wildwood and Heritage Oaks, are much smaller but also popular with retirees. A number of apartment complexes are also here. The median monthly rent is $1,450.
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When it comes to taxes and retirement, Texas is a good place to be (although real estate taxes are high). The state has no state income tax, so retirement income is not taxed. All homeowners receive a $15,000 homestead exemption, and people age 65 or better receive an additional $10,000 exemption. The annual property taxes on a $225,000 residence are approximately $3,800. And for retirees interested in starting a business, Georgetown has been rated one of the best places to do so thanks to its business friendly tax rates.
One of the best reasons to live in Georgetown is its appreciation of its past. During the 1970s and 1980s, town leaders decided to revitalize the downtown and restore its buildings to their former glory. Victorian and pre-WWI structures were renovated and refurbished, and soon Georgetown was boasting a wonderful streetscape of colorful historic storefronts, brick sidewalks and elegant residences. In 1997, the town won a Great American Street Award for this thriving old town district where 200 buildings look just as they did a century or more ago. A variety of businesses, including gourmet chocolate shops, cafes, banks, clothiers and some very good restaurants now reside in these beautiful structures.
During the spring, this picturesque town bursts with color as wild flowers and red poppies bloom with abandon, creating a festive atmosphere. The Red Poppy Festival celebrates this time of year and draws attendees from around central Texas. The Cattlemen's Ball happens every October. The Christmas Stroll each December turns the downtown into a fairy book scene. Every First Friday galleries stay open late, and music wafts from restaurants and pubs on the Square.
There are also two farmers' markets, five city golf courses, fourteen parks, tennis courts and walking trails. The Georgetown Public Library has a good menu of services, from clubs, art exhibits and live music presentations to book discussion groups and Internet-accessible computers. Outside of town, Lake Georgetown provides opportunities for hiking, camping and boating and fishing.
St. David's Georgetown Hospital ia accredited by the Joint Commission and is award-winning for pulmonary care, emergency medicine, general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery and stroke care. Medicare patients are accepted. Round Rock (population 100,000) is 5 miles away and has three hospitals and clinics. Austin has a dozen medical centers and hospitals, including the excellent St. David's North Austin Medical Center. Temple, Texas, 35 miles away, has a VA hospital, and Cedar Park, 15 miles away, has a VA outpatient clinic.
The Georgetown Recreation Department has a good seniors program that includes everything from defensive driving classes and yoga classes to pilot lessons and country western dance lessons. Georgetown also has two senior centers that offer congregate meals and a variety of services and activities.
More than 40 churches and synagogues are located here, and Southwestern University, the small liberal arts college (population 1,500 students), offers the opportunity for ongoing education. Sun City Texas residents can also take advantage of Sun City's Senior University where visiting professors present classes and workshops.
There are many ways to volunteer. St. David's Georgetown Hospital has a dedicated program for this and recruits senior volunteers (as well as others) for everything from its gift shop to offering support services to acting as a greeter. Volunteer opportunities are also available at Sun City, the library, the schools, the chamber of commerce and the Parks and Recreation Department.
CARTS (Capital Area Rural Transportation System) provides curb to curb van service throughout Georgetown and to surrounding towns, including Austin. All vehicles are wheelchair accessible, and most rides are between $2 to $6 one way. It also has a curb to curb service.
This is Texas so summers are hot. July temperatures reach the high-90s during the day and dip into the mid-70s during the evening. Winters are mild with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s. On average, the area receives 33 inches of inches of rain and a dusting of snow each year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Georgetown comes in below the national average. The sun shines 230 days of the year. The air quality is below the national average, but the water quality is above the national average.
Retirement in Georgetown has some drawbacks. The chance of a tornado is 115% above the national average and a twister touched down in 2015. The San Gabriel rose above its banks during the same storm (steps are being taken to build a retaining wall to prevent future flooding). Not all locals are happy with the large influx of newcomers or with the fact that large box retail stores, including WalMart, have opened up on the edges of town. Some people grumble that Georgetown, a longtime rural hamlet, is growing up, becoming self-sufficient and losing a bit of its charm.
And yet, Georgetown entices. It may be growing up, but it still has plenty of small town ambiance, friendliness and civic pride, enough to make it a great retirement spot, indeed.
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