Proximity to the coastline, low crime rates and affordable housing are the reasons why three Treasure Coast communities made the newly released "Top 100 Cheapest Places to Retire in the U.S. for 2012" book.
Stuart, Sebastian and Fort Pierce all made it into the book, authored by Thomas Corley, a certified public accountant from the Rich Habits Institute in Rahway, N.J, a subsidiary of the CPA firm Cerefice & Co.
Coming in at No. 1 on the list was Gregory, Texas. Florida had 36 communities on the list, the second most.
Corley analyzed 3,020 communities across the country and applied a scoring formula to determine which communities ranked highest for affordable retirement in the United States. Included in the formula are key factors such as lowest housing costs; property, sales and income taxes; best climate; lowest crime rate; and closest to major or regional metropolitan areas, hospitals, airports, beaches and coastlines.
"After the bottom fell out of the market in October 2008, I had so many clients asking me whether they were ever going to retire," Corley said. "They knew they had to downsize, but they wanted to know where they should go without being impoverished."
Stuart ranks 33 on the list, something that was surprising to Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce President Joseph Catrambone, when he considers the downturn in the housing market.
"It is surprising to me, especially when I look at real estate prices," Catrambone said. "But the value for your money on the Treasure Coast really can't be matched anywhere else in the country. If you take the cost of living and combine it with the quality of life we have here, I can see why we ranked so high."
Sebastian ranked 34th. In its analysis of the small city, Corley said the town's fishing village qualities and exceptional natural beauty were what attracts retirees to Sebastian, something that comes as no surprise to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Beth Mitchell.
"I've been here for 16 years and there are a number of things that community leaders did 20 years ago that provide us with this quality of life," Mitchell said. "They focused on the environmental aspects of this community and how to preserve them. It really does add to our quality of life and that's what attracts people here to Sebastian. We are now reaping our rewards."
Fort Pierce ranked 62 on the list, with Corley noting the city's outstanding cultural facilities and long heritage as two reasons for the ranking.
"Fort Pierce is rich in history and culture, and has a wonderful climate as well," said Terissa Aronson, director of business services for the St. Lucie County Chamber of Commerce. "It is really a little jewel on the Treasure Coast."
All three Chamber of Commerce officials bristled at the term "cheapest" when used to describe their communities. Aronson said she would prefer "value" for the money, while Mitchell said life on the Treasure Coast is a "deal" for retirees. And while Catrambone said he would prefer to be known as "affordable," he was just happy Stuart made the list.
"We'll take what we can get," Catrambone said.
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