Don’t Buy a Retirement House Served by a Not-Great Hospital

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Make healthcare quality one of your initial screens in a home search

Jacksonville and Gainesville, Florida, aren’t at the top of many lists of best retirement towns. But guess what? They’re home to the best and second best, respectively, hospitals in the state, the Mayo Clinic and the University of Florida Health-Shands Hospital, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Guess what else? Housing in those two cities is far cheaper than in the most popular and highly ranked Florida retirement destinations:

Jacksonville price per square foot: below $175 for single family homes; for a condo/townhome, below $190.

Gainesville price per square foot: about $175 for single family homes; less than $140 for condo/townhome.

Sarasota price per square foot: $308 for single family homes; $498 for condo/townhomes. True, Sarasota tops the U.S. News list of best places to retire. But its healthcare system scored just 6.2 on a scale of one to 10.

Naples price per square foot: about $360 for single family homes; $300 for condo/townhomes. It’s No. 2 on the best places to retire list, though its healthcare is rated just 5.8 by U.S. News.

Tampa price per square foot: $245 for a single family home; $215 for a condo/townhome. Tampa also ranks high on the best places to retire list, though its healthcare is rated 6.4 by U.S. News.

An abundance of sun and fun are typically high on the list of anyone considering relocating when they retire. No argument with that. But at the risk of being the wettest of rags, what also should be high on your list is quick and easy access to quality healthcare. The remote mountain retreat that is calling to you in your 50s and 60s, might not be your retirement dream home later on when you need emergency care, and it takes EMTs 40 minutes or more to trek to you.

On a practical level, as your 60s slide into your 80s and beyond, the likelihood of needing quality care, and possibly emergency care, becomes more likely. And planning for that today ought to deliver some nice peace of mind.

House hunting: access to quality hospitals

U.S. News & World Report’s Best Places to Retire draws on data from its Best Hospital rankings. For the retirement rankings, healthcare gets about a 20% weighting in the ratings. For the retirement rankings, U.S. News scores metro areas on a scale of one to 10 (best)  on the quality and quantity of health facilities within 50 miles, 100 miles and 250 miles of a metro area.

Arizona retirement and healthcare data

For the warm-weather seekers, Arizona is another popular retirement relocation state, but in Phoenix (5.7) and Tucson (5.1) access to quality healthcare isn’t a given. For easiest access to the best care, your best bet is a manageable commute to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, which is rated highest in the state by U.S. News. In the 85054 zip code, average home and condo prices are in the $320 per square foot range.

In nearby Scottsdale, a popular retirement community, you will need to pay up a bit. Stand-alone homes recently are fetching more than $400 per square foot. Townhomes and condos are in the $350 per square foot range.

Bundle up for highly rated healthcare

In U.S. News’ rankings, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is rated #5 overall, and its healthcare score is a strong 9.3. The price per square foot in Lancaster is less than $175 for a home and around $140 for a townhome condo.

The college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, comes in at #9 overall, with a strong 8.4 score for healthcare. The price per square foot is around $300 for homes and condos.

Looking for a spot with an abundance of quality healthcare? Both Philadelphia (#19 in overall retirement rankings) and New York City (#32 overall) land a perfect 10 score for healthcare.

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