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Retirement Buyers – Where & Why are they going?

The world is getting older and so are its inhabitants.  The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 8.2 percent of the world population is presently over the age of 65.  That number is expected to more than double in the next 40 years, reaching 17 present by 2050.  By then there will 1.5 billion seniors worldwide.

In the U.S., Baby Boomers are entering their senior years, representing 13 percent of the population as of the 2010 census.  However, many workers are forced to delay their retirement as they cannot afford to stop working and maintain their present standard of living.  According to a 2013 Employee Benefit Research Institute survey, 49 percent of American workers doubt their ability to afford a comfortable retirement.  This issue isn’t solely a U.S. issue. For example, in the U.K. the number reaches 70 percent[1].   As a result, many are beginning to ask, can I live better and cheaper somewhere else?

Seniors that consider moving abroad may come to the realization that they do not have to put off retirement and that they may be able to raise their standard of living if they are willing to relocate.  The need for highly affordable retirement housing with Western amenities has not gone unnoticed by international developers and nations with a warm client and a low cost of living.  Examples include:

  • Retiree visa programs are offered by countries trying to attract foreign retirees, including special visas, tax breaks and discounts.
  • International developers are building resorts and gated communities in coastal areas and in temperate zones further inland targeting retirees and buyers of second homes, offering activities like golf and ocean sports, security, on-site shopping and health clinics.
  • Marketers are targeting a growing segment of budget minded retirees. Most use the Internet to reach Boomers through websites and newsletters, or invitations to on-site “conferences.”

Where are people moving?

Retirees will often base their destination decisions on their lifestyle needs. Some prefer the convenience of a planned resort community, where the amenities and activities are onsite, hassle-free, and familiar. Then there are more adventurous seniors who will move to untried locations, usually for the culture or the lure of getting a great deal and an ultra-low cost of living. These buyers may prefer to purchase or rent standalone property over a planned development.  Historically, some of the most popular retirement destinations include:

  • Mexico is the most popular foreign retirement destination for Americans and Canadians.  Areas such as Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Los Cabos have become retirement, resort and second- home areas.
  • The Caribbean has drawn affluent retirees from the U.S. Canada and Europe for many years.
  • Costa Rica began courting international retirees in the 1970s; establishing a pensionada visa program with easy-to-meet requirements, tax breaks, and discounts on travel, dining and entertainment.  Property in Costa Rica remained inexpensive for many years, but as communities of American and Canadian retirees grew larger, prices increased.  Recently, the visa program has been modified, eliminating many of the senior discounts.
  • The United States, in particular, Florida and Arizona, has long attracted Canadian, Brits, and other Europeans looking to retire.  However, due to visa restrictions, most only stay in the U.S. for half a year.  While property prices are on the rise across the U.S., in comparison to many global markets, the majority of U.S. markets are still deemed affordable.
  • Mediterranean countries have long been a draw for many, especially those from Northern European Climates.  Scandinavian retirees flock to this region to escape their long, harsh winters.


Some emerging retirement hotspots include:

  • Panama                                ● Morocco                       ●    Ecuador                         ●    Turkey
  • Nicaragua                            ● Malaysia                        ●    Thailand

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