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Phoenix: Still a Popular Retirement City

Ken Teegardin Written by Ken Teegardin
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Chief Editor | Caregiver

The Phoenix area continues to attract a steady stream of retirees. And why wouldn’t it? The area is still relatively affordable, there’s something here for everyone, and the sun shines seemingly every day.

Even the financial crater left by the housing market crash seems to be filling itself in as of late. House prices are steadily rising and the inventory of foreclosures is falling.

If you’re thinking about retiring to the “Valley of the Sun”, we’ll show you what you can expect from things to do, to cost of housing to the weather.


When we say Phoenix, we mean the entire metro area, which includes Maricopa and Pinal County and a number of cities such as Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Paradise Valley and Tempe among others.

The City of Phoenix is home to 1.4 million residents, while the Phoenix Metro area includes over 4.3 million making it the 13th largest metropolitan area in the country.


The weather is a big attractor—in more ways than one—for retirees, especially those coming from the Midwest and Northeast who have endured cold, wet winters and hot, humid summers for years. Now they want sunshine and mild winters, which Phoenix offers in abundance. The summer heat, however, can be shocking.

Haven’t you heard, it’s a dry heat. While certainly true (for some months), dry or not, the summers still consistently reach temperatures of 100 plus every day. Again, 100 degrees nearly every day for about five months. More on that in a minute.

Phoenix sees an average of 211 clear days a year, 70 cloudy and 85 partly cloudy days. That means about 300 days where you’re seeing the sun. The yearly relative humidity is 42% with the winter months of Dec-Feb seeing the highest percentages. You can also expect 167 days where the thermometer hits 90 or more.

The days that are over 100 can feel especially oppressive. Imagine standing by the open door of your oven and you’ll get the feeling. If you like to stay active outdoors, the best times to be out are early in the morning before the sun has time to bake the landscape.

You can escape the heat by driving 2.5 hours north to Flagstaff, which sits at 6,910 ft. Another option is Payson at just 1.5 hours north. Here you’ll find outdoor activity at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, golfing, the Mazatzal casino, and summer temperatures well below those of Phoenix.

If you can adjust to the summer without melting, you’ll be nicely rewarded with the winter months. In December the average high is 66 with lows in the 40s. January sees similar temperatures with February and March offering highs in the 70s and lows in the low 50s.

Monsoon Season

It sounds like something out of India but the Monsoon season is very much an Arizona meteorological phenomenon. Beginning in June and lasting until late September, Arizona experiences afternoon thunderstorms, producing lightning, heavy rains, high winds and the occasional flash flood and apocalyptic-looking dust storm called a “haboob.”

During the winter, wind normally flows from California and Nevada. In the summer, that direction shifts to “a southerly or southeasterly direction. Moisture streams northward from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This shift produces a radical change in moisture conditions statewide,” says Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences.


One very popular feature for retirees is Arizona’s overall low tax burden. As an Arizonan, you’ll pay a tax burden of just 8.42%, or $3,006 per capita in state and local taxes—the national average is 9.9% according to the Tax Foundation.

The general sales tax is 6.6%, average local sales tax is an additional 2.56% and the gas tax is 19 cents.

Maricopa County (Phoenix) determines your property tax using 10% of the assessed value.

Social Security is tax exempt and up to $2,500 of civil service, military, and Arizona state/local government pensions are also exempt. Out-of-state government pensions are taxed.

There is no inheritance or estate tax.


There’s good news and not-so-good news with the Phoenix housing market. The good news is that prices are rising and the inventory of foreclosures is falling. This is good for Phoenix residents who are either looking to sell or just want to see an increase in their homes’ values. For those moving to Phoenix, it means their dollars won’t go as far.

Here’s a snapshot of where the market was and is right now.

Starting in 2007, the housing market tanked—over-valued homes, heavy consumer leveraging of homes, and double-digit unemployment all fed the downward spiral.

And several years ago, the Phoenix housing market wasn’t just in the doldrums, it was at the bottom of the ocean. The number of homes on the market in 2011 peaked at over 40,000 while the median selling price was $110,000 (Compare the peak median selling price in mid-2006 of $265,000).

Prices continued to drop along with home sales until the bottoming out in 2011.

In 2013, the housing market seems to be rising like, well, a Phoenix. According to ASU’s WP Carey School of Business report on the greater Phoenix housing market, it’s rebounding.

The average selling price of single family homes jumped from $134,900 to $175,000 between 2012 and 2013. The number of single family new homes increased 37% while normal re-sales shot up by 67%. Homes sold as investor flips, as pre-foreclosures, and those owned by banks were significantly lower than the previous year suggesting the Phoenix market is recovering.

While these numbers are good news if you’re a seller, they aren’t quite as nice for the nest eggs of retirees looking to move here. Still the prices are considerably lower than other metro areas (take your pick in the Northeast) and the smoothing out of the market should bring peace of mind to a once dismal situation. In addition, today’s ridiculously low interest rates can also mean the difference between an affordable mortgage and one “out of our price range.”


For those wanting or needing a senior-centered environment, there are hundreds of options from independent living to assisted living to nursing homes. Our database lists 170 options for metro Phoenix alone—this doesn’t include cities like Mesa, Peoria, Scottsdale , Sun City and Glendale.

The average cost of assisted living in the U.S. is $3,450 a month. The average cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is $207 a day while a private room is $230 a day.


Most seniors want to stay in their homes as long as possible. But for those who eventually need some kind of care assistance, Phoenix is a relatively good deal. Here is what you can expect to pay for care in the Valley of the Sun, according to the 2013 Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey:

Type of Care

Average Cost

Minimum Cost

Maximum Cost


Assisted Living




Nursing Home (semi-private room)




Nursing Home (private room)




Adult Day Health Care




Home Health Aide






The Phoenix area is known for its serious golfing with nearly 200 courses throughout the metro area. You’ll find plenty of municipal, public, private, and resort golfing to fit every budget, taste, and ability. Papago Park, owned by the City of Phoenix, is one of the most popular public courses in the state known for its beauty, good value and challenging play.

Opened in 1939, the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden features themed walking paths and more than 50,000 desert plants. You’ll learn how the native people survived in this often unforgiving climate.

Phoenix is home to the largest municipal park in the country—the 16,000-acre South Mountain Park and Preserve. The park offers fantastic views of the valley and actually sits on three mountain ranges—the Ma Ha Tauk, Gila and Guadalupe. There are 50 miles of trails to explore and over 150 species of animals to be found here along with the remnants of the ancient Hohokam Indians.

ThePhoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area is a system of parks in the Phoenix area and includes Piestewa Peak, Papago Park, Camelback Mountain, Lookout Mountain Preserve, and North Mountain Preserves. These parks provide city dwellers a way to escape the urban island and explore the Sonoran Desert surrounding. You’ll find plant species such as pincushion, jumping cholla, saguaro and hedgehog and animals such as the coyote, jackrabbit, Gila monster and rattlesnake.

Birders will love exploring the parks and preserves in and around Phoenix—home to more than 400 species of birds. Here are just a few of the birding hotspots in the area: Gilbert Water Ranch Riparian Preserve, Tempe Town Lake and Lopiano Habitat, Rio Salado Habitat, and the Desert Botanical Garden.


Phoenix is a sports town. It’s only 1 of 12 cities in the U.S. to have four major sports—the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB), Phoenix Suns (NBA), Arizona Cardinals (NFL) and the Phoenix Coyotes (NHL).

In addition, there are 3 professional soccer teams, arena football, women’s professional basketball, and a men’s semi-pro basketball team. Then there’s the Cactus League where 15 MLB teams come each spring to train and play practice games before the start of the regular season.

Arizona State University fields 20 varsity sports from Sun Devil football, to baseball to water polo.


Phoenix has all the cultural offerings you’d expect from a world-class city: Phoenix Symphony Hall, the Phoenix Art Museum, Center for Creative Photography, the Heard Museum and the Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park.

If you want to be entertained and enlightened, check out the four floors of the Arizona Science Center—Planetarium, IMAX theater, Forces of Nature Theater, and more than 300 hands-on natural experiences.

Experience the sights, sounds and feel of the Musical Instrument Museum, a 200,000 square foot space devoted to the history of musical instruments. The collection features instruments from over 200 countries from China to Russia to the Congo. You’ll be immersed in the sounds of big band, mariachi, tribal, folk and other forms of music that have entertained and bonded cultures for centuries.


If you ever need to get out of Phoenix, you have some excellent options for adventure within the state within only a few hours’ drive. Grand Canyon National Park has to be at the top of anyone’s list, whether you just want to be awed by its enormity from above or want to descend the canyon on one of the trails that snakes to the bottom. With reservations made in advance, you can camp at the bottom under the stars or in a cabin at Phantom Ranch.

Sedona and its surrounding red sandstone formations is another Arizona gem. Known for its New Age tourist industry, the town also features some excellent hiking, bird watching and mountain biking as well as hosting jazz, bluegrass and international film festivals.

Flagstaff, sitting along historic Route 66, is another popular get-away. In the winter, you can enjoy skiing at Arizona Snowbowl and cross country skiing at the Flagstaff Nordic Center. There are also hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain bike trails nearby as well as camping, boating and horseback riding.


If you like what you’ve read about the Phoenix area so far, the next thing to do is schedule a visit. Ideally, you’ll want to go in the summer so you can experience what 100-plus temperature days feel like. Drive around the city to get a feel for the traffic and the layout. Visit the different metro cities. What does each have to offer in terms of attractions, housing and culture?

How close do you want to be to the city of Phoenix? Do you want to live in an area where you can walk to everything? Would you rather be away from the urban sprawl? How does the desert make you feel? How do you feel about the lack of greenery (e.g. lots of trees)?

Spend as long as you can in the area and also try to take day trips to Flagstaff, Tucson and other parts of the state.


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