Retirees Come to Central Texas and Picturesque Georgetown for its Friendly Atmosphere, Charming Downtown and Relaxed Lifestyle
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Quaint and friendly, Georgetown (population 78,000) sits along the San Gabriel River in lush central Texas, just off of I-35 and about 25 miles north of Austin, the capital city. Snuggled between the Blackland Prairie and the green Hill Country, it started as a farming and ranching community in the mid-19th century. The founding of Texas University, known today as Southwestern University and the state's oldest institution of higher learning, set the stage for a prosperous future as academics and people seeking a better life decided to make this pretty town their home. With the arrival of the railroad in the late-1800s, Georgetown also became a bustling cattle and cotton transportation hub.
Today, it is still attracting new people, the population having grown 35% over the last decade. Forty percent of locals have at least a four year college degree. The crime rate is well below the national average. Politics lean to the right. The cost of living is 12% above the national average.
The median home price is $495,000, reflecting a 14% increase over the last year. Homes range from comfortable brick ranch ramblers in leafy, established neighborhoods to beautifully restored Victorians in one of the historic districts.
Much of Georgetown's recent growth has been fueled by retirees (40% of residents are age 45 or better), thanks in large part to Sun City Texas, a popular 55+ Del Webb community. Started in 1995, it is currently home to 14,000 residents and is still being built across 4,500 acres. Three golf courses, recreation centers, clubhouses, resort-style pools, a fishing lake and a nearly endless menu of activities are reasons why Sun City is so popular. Two other 55+ retirement communities, Oaks at Wildwood and Heritage Oaks, are much smaller but also popular with retirees.
When it comes to taxes and retirement, Texas is generally a good place to be (although real estate taxes are high). The state has no income tax, so it does not tax any retirement income. Texas also offers a $25,000 property tax exemption for all homeowners. People age 65 or better may claim an additional exemption of $10,000. The average effective property tax rate (the annual tax payment as a percentage of median home value) in Georgetown is 2%. The annual taxes on a $495,000 home are approximately $9,900 without a homestead exemption.
Georgetown appreciates its past. During the 1970s and 1980s, town leaders decided to revitalize the downtown and restore its buildings to their former glory. Victorian and pre-WWI structures were renovated and refurbished, and soon Georgetown was boasting a wonderful streetscape of colorful historic storefronts, brick sidewalks and elegant homes. Today 200 buildings look just as they did a century or more ago and house a variety of businesses, including gourmet chocolate shops, cafes, banks, clothiers and some very good restaurants.
During the spring, this picturesque town bursts with color as wild flowers and red poppies bloom with abandon, creating a festive atmosphere. The Red Poppy Festival celebrates this time of year and draws attendees from around the region. The Cattlemen's Ball happens every October. The Christmas Stroll each December turns the downtown into a fairy book scene. Every First Friday galleries stay open late, and music wafts from restaurants and pubs on the Square.
There are also two farmers' markets, five city golf courses, 14 parks, tennis courts and walking trails. The Georgetown Public Library has a good menu of services, from clubs, art exhibits and live music presentations to book discussion groups. Outside of town, Lake Georgetown provides opportunities for hiking, camping and boating and fishing.
St. David's Georgetown Hospital ia accredited by the Joint Commission and is award-winning for pulmonary care, emergency medicine, general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery and stroke care. Medicare patients are accepted. Round Rock is five miles away and has three hospitals and clinics. Austin has a dozen medical centers and hospitals, including the excellent St. David's North Austin Medical Center. Temple, 35 miles away, has a VA hospital, and Cedar Park, 15 miles away, has a VA outpatient clinic.
The Georgetown Recreation Department has a good seniors' program that includes everything from defensive driving classes and yoga classes to pilot lessons and country western dance lessons. Georgetown also has two senior centers that offer congregate meals and a variety of services and activities.
More than 40 churches and synagogues are here, and Southwestern University, the small liberal arts college (1,500 students), offers the opportunity for ongoing education. Sun City Texas residents can also take advantage of Sun City's Senior University where visiting professors present classes and workshops.
CARTS (Capital Area Rural Transportation System) provides curb to curb van service throughout Georgetown and to surrounding towns, including Austin. All vehicles are wheelchair accessible, and most rides are between $1 to $6 one way. It also has a curb to curb service.
This is Texas so summers are hot. July temperatures reach the high-90s during the day and dip into the mid-70s during the evening. Winters are mild with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s. On average, the area receives 33 inches of inches of rain and a dusting of snow each year. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Georgetown comes in below the national average. The sun shines 230 days of the year.
Retirement in Georgetown has some drawbacks. The chance of a tornado is 115% above the national average and a twister touched down in 2015. The San Gabriel rose above its banks during the same storm and flooded parts of the city (local leaders have several dozen projects on the books to mitigate future flooding). Some people grumble that Georgetown, a longtime country hamlet, is growing up, becoming self-sufficient and losing a bit of its charm.
And yet, Georgetown entices. It may be growing up, but it still has enough small town ambiance, friendliness and civic pride to make it a great retirement spot!
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