Kerrville, Nestled in the Colorful Texas Hill Country, Beckons with Its Appealing River Culture, Casual Way of Life and Friendly Residents
Cost of Living: Below the National Average
Unassuming Kerrville (population 23,500) is tucked in the lush, rolling Texas Hill Country, about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio. On the fertile banks of the Guadalupe River, it is a growing but casual place that exudes Texas friendliness and matter of factness. A major in the Texas Revolution, John Kerr, platted the new town in 1856, and for years it thrived as a cattle ranching, goat ranching and lumber producing hub. These days it attracts professionals and families, but it has also caught on as a popular retirement spot, with nearly half of its residents age 45 or better. It has a diverse population, and it is a conservative place. This is, after all, Texas. Twenty-seven percent of locals have at least a four year college degree. The city has blossomed by 32% within the last decade or so.
The cost of living is 7% below the national average, and the median home price is $168,000. Older but comfortable two to three bedroom, two bath ranch ramblers with an updated kitchen and great Hill Country views are for sale in this price range. More modern construction often sells for more, and large homes in the $300,000s and $400,000s make up much of the newer housing stock. Condos and town homes are available, too, and apartments are plentiful. The median rent is about $900 per month. Most neighborhoods are tidy and well-kept.
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 $168,000 residence are approximately $3,025. The state sales tax is 6.25%, but food and prescription drugs are exempt.
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With the wide, gentle Guadalupe rolling through the middle of town, Kerrville is sprinkled with pretty parks and plenty of wildlife. Hills are all around, and tall cypress trees line the river, which is a popular recreation venue for people of all ages. In fact, many locals consider the river the best reason to live in Kerrville. During summer, young and old float down the water on inner tubes, enjoying lazy days and sunny skies. Canoeists, kayakers and trout fishermen (and women) also enjoy the river. When it comes to bird watching, several rare and endangered species make their home in and around the water, including the golden-cheeked warbler, the black-capped vireo, the green kingfisher and the zone-tailed hawk.
Kerrville has six golf courses, and 500-acre river park Kerrville-Schreiner Park is the place for swimming and RV camping. Downtown's Louis Hays Park is a great spot to picnic, and nearby spring-fed lakes are perfect for fishing and boating. In the spring, colorful wildflowers, mostly Indian paintbrush and bluebonnet, bloom in abundance across open meadows and empty fields.
The Kerrville Folk Festival, the Texas State Arts and Crafts Fair, the Kerrville Fall Music Festival, the Down by the Riverside Festival, Mardi Gras in the Park, Kerr County Market Days and summer Friday and Saturday night rodeos are just a few of the events that keep residents busy when they are not on the river. The Holiday Lighted Parade each Christmas is a particular delight.
The Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, with 600 member artists, is also a town highlight and has three art galleries as well as classes and education programs. Playhouse 2000 is a local theater group and produces a handful of shows each year in the beautiful Cailloux Theater, which is also home to the Symphony of the Hills and the Hill Country Youth Orchestra. The Hill Country Arts Foundation offers theater events along the river and under the stars, and the Museum of Western Art features depictions of the American cowboy in all his dusty glory. The somewhat unfortunately named Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library has an interlibrary loan program, an afternoon book club, book sales and free wifi.
Schreiner University, a small liberal arts college, supports lifelong learning through its Center for Innovative Learning (CIL) which presents non-traditional classes and workshops. These include, among many others, its Monday Night Fiction series, which is patterned after the literary salons of days past, and the Texas Writers' Conference, which sometimes includes a poetry slam. The CIL is not geared specifically for people age 55+, but baby boomers and retirees are in attendance at most events.
Steak houses, BBQ joints , family-style buffets, fast food chains, burger diners and pizza take-out places are the norm when it comes to dining out, with menus including everything from Tex-Mex, Asian and Mexican to Italian and seafood. A few restaurants offer scenic views of the river. Many retailers are locally owned, but River Hills Mall has J.C. Penney, Bealls and Belk. Lowe's, Wal-Mart, CVS Pharmacy and other national retailers are here, too. Organic grocers are not in good supply, but a farmers' market is held throughout the summer. Kerrville sits just west of Interstate 10, which leads to San Antonio (population 1.5 million), so many more shopping and dining opportunities are an easy hour away.
The popular Dietert Senior Center is open Monday through Friday and has more than 50 educational and recreational activities and events. A nominal fee is required for most of these, but a $35 a year membership allows for discounted fees and saves money for people who participate in many activities. A cloggers' club, a quilters' co-op, line dancing classes, square dancing classes, yoga and tai chi classes, a congregate noon meal and local and international trips are just a few of the offerings.
Peterson Regional Medical Center is a general medical and surgical hospital and has 124 beds. It is accredited by the Joint Commission, and Medicare and Medicaid patients are accepted. Kerrville is also home to a VA Medical Center.
South central Texas is hot in the summer, but thanks to its elevation, 1,640 feet above sea level, Kerrville temperatures are a bit cooler than in neighboring San Antonio. Still, summers bring lots of humidity and temperatures into the 90s. Winters are cool and often dry with temperatures in the 30s, 40s and 50s (and occasional sub-zero nights). The area receives, on average, 28 inches of rain and a dusting of snow each year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Kerrville comes in below the national average. The sun shines 225 days of the year. Both the air quality and water quality are above national averages. The risk of a tornado, which might be expected to be above the national average, is actually below the national average.
Kerrville, of course, has a few drawbacks. There is no public transportation. The Guadalupe River flooded in May, 2016, and it could happen again. While the crime rate is low, some areas of town are a little sketchy and should be avoided.
Yet despite these issues, Kerrville, with with its Texas hospitality and relaxed way of life, is hard to resist. After all, when the wildflowers bloom and the river calls, what can a retiree do but smile and go?
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