Asheville, North Carolina Retirement

Nestled in magnificent beauty between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smokies, and located near two rivers, Asheville, North Carolina is surrounded by national forest.  Fall colors are dazzling, and Spring blooms with dogwood, azaleas and mountain laurel.

Asheville has been a retirement haven almost since its inception in the 1790s.  It still boasts a historic district with bed and breakfast inns, graceful old homes and the 255 room mansion, The Biltmore House, erected by George Vanderbilt in 1895.  This is also where Carl Sandburg lived out his later years and where Thomas Wolfe wrote Look Homeward, Angel.  Its modest population (73,000) allows a combination of small-town friendliness and city convenience.  Of the population,  23% is age 45 to 64, and 18% is age 65 years above.

There is no shortage of recreational opportunities here.  Fourteen public golf courses and many private ones dot the area, along with 23 tennis facilities.  Hiking in the beautiful Appalachian mountains, fishing, water sports and snow skiing are available, as are minor league baseball and some outstanding horse shows.

As the western regional center for the state of North Carolina, Asheville offers amenities far out of proportion to its size and provides outstanding programs for seniors.  These include the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Asheville. It maintains the College for Seniors as well as a research institute and a senior wellness center.  The Buncombe County Council on Aging and the Senior Opportunity Center also provide an abundance of programs.

Medical care is superb and less expensive than the national average.  Asheville is said to have more doctors per capita than anywhere else in the world!  A strong concentration of hospitals and related facilities round out the medical community.

The Asheville Art Museum, Folk Art Center and various other artistic outlets in a city that has long been a haven for artists and craftspeople.  Together the Asheville Symphony and the Brevard Music Center present year-round music programs, and the Asheville Community Theater and Shakespeare in the Park represent the performing arts.  The region is also a Mecca for antique and folk art collectors.  Traditional mountain crafts such as lap quilting, corn shuck dolls and white oak basketry are demonstrated and sold at the Folk Art Center.

Most seniors say the drawbacks to living here are few but some point to high housing and utility costs.  These seem, however,  to be balanced out by low medical costs.   Summer days can get hot, but these, too, are balanced by cool nights provided by the 2,340 foot elevation.


Climate:  The average January high temperature is 48 degrees, and the low is 27 degrees.  The average summer high temperature is 84 degrees, and the low is 63 degrees.  The average humidity is between 58% and 74%.  The area receives 16 inches of snow and 38 inches of rain per year.

Cost-of-Living:  5% above the national average.  

Health Care:  Memorial Mission Hospital is the major medical center for western North Carolina.  Other facilities include St. Joseph Hospital with 24 hour emergency care and the Asheville VA Medical Center.

Housing:  The average price of a new home is $215,000.  Average price of a 2 bedroom apartment is $750, and rentals are tight.  Overall, housing costs are 20% to 25% above the national norm.

Taxes:  North Carolina is considered a tax friendly retirement state.  Social Security benefits, public pensions and military pensions are exempt from state income taxes. Some qualified private pensions and out-of-state government pensions are also exempt (the exemptions are between $2000 and $4000 depending upon the type of pension). Real estate is assessed at 100% of the appraised value, but homestead exemptions of up to $25,000 are available to homeowners age 65 and older.   Income taxes are between 6% and 7.75%.

Safety:  Asheville’s crime rate is above the national average.