Why Hickory, N.C., Is a Great Place to Retire

Flanked by the Appalachian Mountains, Hickory's milder weather makes it pleasant to live in year-round.

Population:

40,567

Nearest large city:

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Charlotte

What $300,000 will buy:

4-bedroom, 2-bath historic home in downtown Hickory with hardwood floors, updated kitchen

The median home price in Hickory is $148,000; the entry level of the market (up to about $300,000) is very tight, but buyers have more to look at in the $300,000-to-$400,000 range. A home with a single story or most of its living space on the first level will run about $300,000 to $500,000 in a golf-course community and $450,000 to $750,000 on Lake Hickory, says Mike Kelly, a real estate agent. The area has few condos and one 55-plus community, Abingdon Glen. The median property tax in Catawba County is $957.

In 2014, Charles and Gwen Elmore, 68, formerly of Norfolk, Va., relocated to Hickory to be near his extended family. They settled on a single-story home with four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms for $319,000. “People here, as a rule, are so kind and not in such a hurry,” says Gwen. The couple love Hickory’s many restaurants and enjoy RV camping with their dogs. “Coming from the coast, I dreaded being landlocked, but when you drive down the road and see the mountains in front of you, it’s just gorgeous!” she says.

Hickory has two hospitals: Catawba Valley Medical Center and Frye Regional Medical Center, which is part of the Duke LifePoint Healthcare system. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the largest hospital in the state, in Winston-Salem, and Carolinas Medical Center, in Charlotte, are both about an hour away.

North Carolina has a flat income tax rate of 5.75%. Social Security benefits are exempt from income taxes, but most other retirement income is taxable. The state has no estate or inheritance tax.

Patricia Mertz Esswein
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Esswein joined Kiplinger in May 1984 as director of special publications and managing editor of Kiplinger Books. In 2004, she began covering real estate for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writing about the housing market, buying and selling a home, getting a mortgage, and home improvement. Prior to joining Kiplinger, Esswein wrote and edited for Empire Sports, a monthly magazine covering sports and recreation in upstate New York. She holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.