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The Pros and Cons of Retiring to a Rural Area

What to know before surrendering the urban or suburban life

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

When I learned that rural areas, like the one where I live in the Ozarks, were experiencing an influx of retirees and others moving from the cities, I called a real estate agent I knew and asked if that meant I might have an easier time selling my house this year.

An older couple smiling in front of a log cabin. Retirement, rural, Next Avenue, health care
Retirees Gary and Donna Brown say health care can be a challenge in their new rural area  |  Credit: Gary and Donna Brown

He told me not only that it probably would, but I could ask up to $40,000 more than we'd discussed listing it for just two years prior. That's how hot the rural home market is these days.  The phenomenon started at the beginning of the pandemic and hasn't let up.

Health care is one of the few things Donna Brown, 69, and her husband, Gary, 66, said their rural area of Pearce, Ariz. lacks.

"I think we're seeing more people who recognize the opportunity to live rural, especially those people who are still working and who can now work from anywhere," said Charissa Turnbull, a real estate broker with Ankeney Real Estate in Colorado Springs, Colo., who helps people relocate to the rural mountains surrounding the area.

She's seen a huge influx of people moving in from Texas, Louisiana, California and Oklahoma to escape higher property taxes and for retirement.

Pros and Cons of Rural Retirement

But if you're considering retiring to a rural part of the country, you really need to weigh the pros and the cons.

Health care is one of the few things Donna Brown, 69, and her husband, Gary, 66, said their rural area of Pearce, Ariz. lacks. The couple sold their home in Broomfield, Colo., near Denver, in 2017 to travel in their RV with their dog, Toby. In 2019, they chose Pearce, in southeast Arizona (pop. 2,141) as their new home.

They already lived in Pearce when the pandemic struck, and were happy their rural county of 125,000 saw fewer than 2,000 cases during the height of COVID-19. Still, the Browns say the lack of easy access to a medical facility is one of their challenges.

"There's only one small clinic open Tuesday and Thursday in our town," said Donna. "There's a larger clinic twenty-two miles away and a small town hospital forty minutes away."

She had to drive over an hour for a follow-up mammogram.

Still, the Browns love Pearce.

"I currently teach two yoga classes per week and these classes only average between four to eight students per class, providing me with some socialization and exercise opportunities," said Donna. "I also run and hike in the mountains that surround our community."

Other benefits of the rural retirement life, according to Turnbull:

  • Fewer regulations on growing your own food
  •  Friendly, neighborly and helpful people
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But, Turnbull said, there can be challenges aside from health care:  

  • Grocery delivery may not be available
  • There can be long waits for curbside pickup (if available at all)
  • Lack of online delivery from sources such as Amazon
  • Supply chain issues getting items you want and need

Despite the challenges, it doesn't appear the flight to rural areas will wane anytime soon. According to Rocket Homes, the states experiencing the most population growth these days are more rural states such as Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

Photograph of Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell is a full time freelance writer and author living in the Ozark Mountains. She is the founder and administrator for the public Facebook page, Years of Light: Living Large in Widowhood and a private Facebook group, Finding Myself After Losing My Spouse, dedicated to helping widows/widowers move forward. Read More
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