10 Great Places to Retire in the U.S.

Bankrate.com

Your retirement planning may include visions of a home close to the beach, mountains or a lake. Or maybe you're hoping for a Main Street kind of place, a walkable community or a budget-friendly locale.

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Bankrate researched median home prices in some of the United States' top retirement spots, as outlined in "America's 100 Best Places to Retire," edited by Elizabeth Armstrong.

Median home prices in the 10 places Bankrate selected from the book's "top" lists range from $125,000 in Danville, Ky., to $639,500 in Carlsbad, Calif., with many homes priced in the high $100,000s to the low $200,000s.

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Here's what you can expect from among the best places to retire in the U.S.:

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Danville, Ky.

Price: $125,000
Area median price: $125,000

Features
• 3 bedrooms, 2 baths
• 1,456 square feet
• One-car detached garage
• Covered deck, open patio

This three-bedroom, two-bath ranch house built in 1950 has 1,456 square feet and is situated on a lot just more than four-tenths of an acre. The home is typical of what buyers can expect in Danville at the median price range, though for the same money, home shoppers can find three- and four-bedroom homes ranging from 1,300 square feet to 2,320 square feet.

Retirees buying in Danville typically are able to spend more -- in the low $200,000s, says Benjamin Guerrant, principal broker with Prudential Guerrant Real Estate.

Danville earned a spot among the "top 10 budget towns" with some of the lowest utility costs in the nation, Guerrant says. But the lifestyle here isn't just for the frugalati. Danville is home to Centre College, and its performing arts center brings in shows that rival what you'd see in Lexington, Louisville or Cincinnati, Guerrant says. "I've seen Mikhail Baryshnikov, Dolly Parton and 'The Wizard of Oz,'" he says. "It's a tremendous draw for talent."

Danville also ranked as a "top 10 Main Street town," thanks to a well-planned downtown with four lanes and parking on both sides of the street, Guerrant says. "That has been very crucial to the success of businesses downtown," he says. What's more Main Street than a band? The Great American Brass Band Festival is held in Danville every June.

Danville is the kind of place where people stay and often work in the family business, says Guerrant, who is the fourth generation in the family real estate business. The town's funeral home has provided income for at least three generations, and the town bakery is into the fifth generation, he says.

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Annapolis, Md.

Price: $350,000
Area median price: $396,330

Features
• 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths
• 1,524 square feet
• Close to downtown Annapolis

For $350,000, you could get this two-story Cape Cod built in 1967 with a timeless floor plan. The home includes 1,524 square feet, two bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a sunroom, a fireplace and a basement, all on a one-fifth acre lot. This house was originally listed near the area's median price, at $387,900, says listing agent Maria Smith of Long and Foster Real Estate.

"You're in walking distance of the U.S. Naval Academy stadium, food shopping, banking, doctors, restaurants -- all within a mile," Smith says. "You can walk to the harbor and watch boats come in and out. Annapolis is a small town, just like the ones many people grew up in."

Annapolis was rated one of America's "top 10 four-season towns," but great living here is not so much about the weather as the location and lifestyle that go with it. What really draws people are neighborhoods within walking distance of downtown Annapolis, the U.S. Naval Academy and Annapolis Harbor.

In this price range, homeowners are typically looking for a two- to three-bedroom home with at least a bath and a half and a good-size yard, says Realtor Judy Lemmons of Long and Foster Real Estate.

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Woodstock, Vt.

Price: $375,000
Area median price: $375,000

Features
• 6 bedrooms, 3 baths
• 3,580 square feet
• Built in 1850, partially renovated
• Fronts on a brook
• Detached garage/barn

This antique six-bedroom, three-bath home on just under one-quarter acre has been partially renovated to incorporate modern infrastructure and function. It sold for the median price of $375,000. It's an easy walk to the village center, says broker Robert Wallace of Robert Wallace Real Estate.

Woodstock, distinctive as a "top 10 undiscovered" and "top 10 small town," is set in the foothills of the Green Mountains. The town population is a mix of year-round and part-time residents, with people from many walks of life with diverse experiences, Wallace says.

[The Fastest-Growing American Cities]

The town has a legacy of historic preservation, many antique homes and a protected historic district. "The community is centered around a central village core with a fine assortment of shopping, restaurants and services that are very uncommon for a small village setting," Wallace says. "Woodstock offers a pleasant mix of a relaxed pace combined with the availability of recreational and cultural amenities."

Asheville, N.C.

Price: $199,900
Area median price: $192,500

Features
• 3 bedrooms, 1 bath
• 1,515 square feet
• Fireplace
• Two acres
• Covered front porch, rear deck

In the North Carolina mountain town of Asheville, this 1,515-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bath house with hardwood floors, wood fireplace, covered front porch, rear deck, all on about 2 acres, sold for $199,900. That's just a bit over the area's median price of $192,500, says broker Jason Brodsky of Asheville Holistic Realty at Keller Williams.

Asheville, on two lists for "top 10 mountain towns" and "top 10 college towns," has a very high quality of life to cost-of-living ratio, Brodsky says.

Asheville offers amazing diversity and natural beauty," he says. "There is an abundance of culture, from traditional Appalachian crafts and music to world-class dining and entertainment." Asheville is home to the award-winning Mission Hospital. As for higher education, the city offers UNC-Asheville and Warren Wilson College, both recognized by Princeton Review and The New York Times as superior schools, Brodsky says.

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Saugatuck-Douglas, Mich.

Price: $207,000
Area median price: $204,000

Features
• 2 bedrooms, 1 bath
• 1,003 square feet
• Deck
• Small pond, waterfall
• Oversized garage with loft

This two-bedroom, one-bath, 1,003-square-foot home with a pond and waterfall sits on just under one-fifth of an acre and is within walking distance of downtown Douglas, says broker Sandy Jo Shanahan of Shoreline Realtors. The garage has a loft perfect for a home office or studio.

Saugatuck-Douglas is marketed as a perfect getaway destination for a weekend or a season, but some people put down roots here. Named a "top 10 lake town" and "top 10 small town," the resort community boasts 19th century architecture, rolling dunes and lush orchards, as well as lakeshore activities and art galleries galore. In fact, it's often called the "art coast of Michigan."

"The best part about living here is that you are living in a community that others take their vacations to," Shanahan says. "You never have to go home -- you are. It's life as it should be lived."

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