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10 questions to answer before choosing where you retire

If you have decided to retire, you’ll be asking yourself, where do I want to live in my retirement?

21 October 2020

3 Kinloch Esplanade, Kinloch, Taupo

For many, the pandemic has rather focused the mind on what’s really important in life. For those nearing retirement age, continuing full-time work may not be the most important thing anymore. If you own a business, you’re thinking why not move on to the next phase, retire earlier, but keep your hand in and work from home to ease into it.

Independent economist Tony Alexander says technology means people can do a bit of a “test run retirement.”

In his research this year, he’s been hearing that some people are buying their retirement properties earlier than expected. Some will rent them out and use them as holiday homes before retiring there permanently, he says.

A number of provincial centres will benefit from this, he predicts, from New Plymouth and Havelock North and the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, to towns out of Auckland like Warkworth and Wellsford.

If you, or a relation, have decided to move ahead on this next phase of your life, you’ll be asking yourself, where do I want to live in my retirement? It might be near a favourite holiday location, it might be closer to family and friends, or it might be at a suburb in your city but not in school zones which you’ll be paying extra for.

With a long post-retirement period of up to 30 years ahead, the fiscally cautious among you will be keen to sell your city home for a good price and then buy in another place where homes are cheaper. But you should do your due diligence before landing on a town where you will spend the next few decades.

Choosing a retirement home: questions to ask

1. Is there a hospital nearby?

It’s all very well to sell up and retire to the beach, but you’ve got to think of future health considerations. The older you get, the more you’ll need access to health care so don’t choose somewhere that’s a four hour drive away from a hospital, says a CFFC spokeswoman.

2. Will you know anyone there?

Think hard about going to a new place where you have no family or friends. “You want to have at least one of those social connections,” she says. “If you’ve stopped working, life can get pretty lonely pretty quickly.”

3. Will there be wheels to take you places?

What’s the public transport like in your chosen town? You might find that something happens to you healthwise and you can’t drive, making you reliant on public transport. A lot of small towns don’t have great public transport and it can be where cities come into their own, says the CFFC spokeswoman.

4. Will the town have work or volunteer possibilities?

If you want to work part time or volunteer, then it’s a good idea to look for towns which have organisations where you can help or work on a part time basis.

5. Is it going to be a cheaper place to live?

What kind of cost of living does your chosen town have? Do a search online and you’ll find some estimates. Are you wanting to go out for dinner or go to shows from time to time, or will you be happy pottering in the vege garden. A town’s amenities will be important to you with that free time.

6. Is it easy to travel back and forth to family and friends?

If you have family and friends in a larger city that you might want to visit, how expensive is it going to be to hop on a plane to see them?

7. What’s the weather like all year round?

What’s the weather like? And not just in the fun seasons like summer and spring. Pick a place where the weather will suit you, and note that if you pick a chillier clime, in the beautiful South Island, for instance, then your energy bills might be higher.

“Climate is more important than you might think. If you’ve spent all your time in the north, and you’re moving to Dunedin, it might be quite a shock,” says the CFFC spokeswoman.

8. What are the town’s demographics like?

If you still feel young, do you want to choose a town known for its friendliness to retirees or do you want somewhere that also has young people and families.

If you don’t want to go to a town that has a mainly retirement population, check the demographics of the places you are looking at. StatsNZ is always a good place to start, or local real estate agents will be on top of that. It can be nice to have families and young singles in your city. On the other hand, would Dunedin’s student population be a bit much if you relocated there?

9. Are you moving to free up money?

Ask yourself why you’re thinking of moving. If it’s to free up more money, make sure you do the sums. If you’re moving locally, and you decide to sell the family home to downsize, you may find that that nice two bedroom small section home you have in mind, is in demand and will go for a similar price to your family home. If you want to release some money you’ll have to go further out, says the CFFC spokeswoman.

10. Are you really ready to retire?

If you’re thinking of retiring early, don’t do anything too rash, says financial adviser, Lisa Dudson. The younger you retire, the more likely it is you won’t take to it and you’ll get bored, she says. Sometimes, all you need is a break of six months or so.

You may be tired of working life now but think about what keeps you stimulated mentally and physically. “Is it the beach or the city?” she asks.

The Acumen consultant suggests more of a semi-retirement, and rather than selling up and buying in a new location, putting your sale money in the bank and renting initially to see if your chosen area is really to your liking.

Whangarei becoming more attractive to many types of buyers

Meanwhile, a number of towns and cities around the country are reporting a heightened interest from would-be retirees.

In Whangarei, Bayleys agent Helen Dwane, says she’s getting a lot of inquiry from people looking to retire, as well as those simply looking to move out of Auckland.

Ms Dwane says Whangarei makes an ideal retirement location.

‘I think you’ve got the best of many worlds here, there are so many beaches and if you do want to go back to Auckland for concerts, it’s only a two hour drive away on a four lane highway,” she says. 

70 Mains Avenue, Kensington, Whangarei

And, if you’ve come from Auckland, you’ll definitely end up with some change in your pocket. Ms Dwane is marketing a pretty villa that wouldn’t look out of place in Grey Lynn or Mt Eden which she’s expecting to sell in the $700,000 to $800,000 range. It’s within walking or scooter distance from a new block of shops and you can easily walk to a big Countdown, a New World and the CBD.

Whangarei has good amenities including a hospital, she says. “We have everything apart from ballet and wineries.”

The Bay of Plenty – a retiree favourite

The Tauranga suburb of Bethlehem is a very popular retirement location but you’ll have to move quickly on any opportunities.

After sending out a letter drop to local neighborhoods about some new houses coming up in the Crossroads development, the nicely-designed freehold homes with cathedral ceilings have all been snapped up by local residents, says Eves’ agent, Julie Parkinson.

97 Carmichael Road (Crossroads), Bethlehem, Tauranga

Bethlehem is very desirable, she says. “It’s just got a shopping centre, it’s got the doctors, a skin centre, you can get your blood test done. And then there’s pilates and beautiful walkways through the Gordon Carmichael Reserve. And it’s just 5 km from the CBD where there’s fine dining,” says the Eves’ agent.

“I think active retirees still want to have the facilities around them, but they don’t want to get caught in traffic,” she adds.

Retirees want independence, yet security and companionship, she says. They also appreciate a flat walk to shops and church, and everything to be there so they don’t have to leave the suburb.

And you’ll free up some money if you’re moving from Auckland to Tauranga. A three bedroom two bathroom home at Crossroads is priced at $895,000.

The alpine air of Taupō

Of course Taupō has long been a favourite retirement place for Aucklanders and Wellingtonians.

Bayleys agent Helen Webb, sells to retirees in the picturesque village of Kinloch, 20 km from Taupo, on the most northerly bay of Lake Taupō.

People like the air in Taupō, says Ms Webb. While Auckland’s air can be quite sub tropical, the air in Taupo is, by contrast, sub-alpine. It is, after all, 350 m above sea level, with Mt Ruapehu not far away.

3 Kinloch Esplanade, Kinloch, Taupo

You can get both high end and very affordable homes in Kinloch from a waterfront luxury place likely to reach in the $3 million plus price range to modern, lock ‘n leave homes currently being built on subdivisions. You can buy a new three to four bedroom home with two living rooms and a single garage for around $850,000 to $900,000, says Ms Webb.

Kinloch isn’t just for retirees, says the Bayleys agent. Families regularly come down for vacations, so there’s a mix of ages around.

Taupō is just a 15 or 20 minute drive away, and there are mini-buses for people who need to be driven into town, says Ms Webb.