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Becoming the retiring place

by Alecia Warren
| April 12, 2010 9:00 PM

Barbara Gilliland admitted she and her husband hadn't been thinking about buying a home when they visited family in Coeur d'Alene last summer.

But there was one thing that changed their minds.

"The prices," said Gilliland.

When the Pennsylvania couple had tried to buy a home for their retirement three years ago, the Coeur d'Alene prices were prohibitive, she said.

Not anymore.

"The price was reduced about $275,000," the 58-year-old Gilliland said of their Black Rock Bellerive condo, where the couple plans to live during the summer when they leave the working world. "It's in a great location. I can only see it appreciating over the years."

Retirees don't have to shell out their whole nest eggs to buy a haven for their retirement.

At least not in Coeur d'Alene.

The Lake City was among eight cities highlighted by "Where to Retire" magazine as an ideal retirement location with great real estate deals.

The special feature "Ready for the Rebound: Hot Spots for Retirement Real Estate Discounts," appearing in the May/June issue, spells out how retired folks can snap up homes in scenic areas for record buys right now in Coeur d'Alene, thanks to low pricing and reduced interest rates.

"For active baby boomers and retirees, Coeur d'Alene is an excellent choice for retirement. It's an escape from urban hassles yet large enough to have amenities," said Mary Lu Abbott, editor of the magazine. "Now all that comes at a savings, with bargains in home pricings."

According to data the magazine obtained from the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors, Abbott said, the average home price in Coeur d'Alene has lowered from $240,000 in 2006 to about $186,600 in 2009.

"Affordability is a key factor today for many retirees," Abbott said. "'Where to Retire' research shows Coeur d'Alene has a very low overall tax burden for retirement."

Rick Vernon, executive officer of the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors, agreed that now is probably the best time to buy because interest rates will likely only go up from here.

He added that while Coeur d'Alene boasted only about 50 homes under $160,000 in 2006, there are roughly five times that now.

"We're really at about 2003 (price) levels," Vernon said.

Even lakefront property prices have declined, though not as much as in other areas, he said.

"It's pretty much across the board," he said.

Jordeane Dent, 51, knew Coeur d'Alene was the spot for her early retirement when she visited a friend in 2006.

"The weather, the terrain, the mountains, the access to the water," she said. "It's a wonderful environment for retirement."

She had moved in immediately to Harrison Flats, she said, but has just upgraded to new home in Bavis Park outside Coeur d'Alene.

"It's a wonderful little place with a big yard for gardening," she said. "It's the life."

She couldn't have afforded it in a normal market, she added.

"I got a fair deal. It is a buyer's market," she said. "So I'm very happy and tickled pink."

Todd Christensen, president and CEO of the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce, said the area is a retirement magnet because of the proximity to the Spokane International Airport and the healthcare options available at Kootenai Medical Center.

"There are a variety of items here, ranging from outdoor recreation to a growing arts and cultural environment," Christensen said. "On top of that, you have a very dynamic mix of businesses like a world class resort and a world class golf course."

Abbott added that Coeur d'Alene also offers activities for all four seasons, which more folks are looking for these days.

"Retirees choose all kinds of destinations today, not just places in the Sun Belt," she said. "The scenery and bountiful recreational opportunities around Coeur d'Alene, including hiking and biking trails, are a big attraction."

That's what lured Gilliland to Coeur d'Alene, where she and her husband can indulge in their love for biking and boating.

"I tell so many people about Coeur d'Alene," she said with a laugh. "I know I shouldn't, because then everybody will be moving there."

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