The 5 Best Places to Retire in Washington State, Based on Taxes, Amenities, and More

By Kiah Treece

Posted on August 16th, 2022

Washington Retirement Taxes | Health Care for Retirees | Price-to-Income (PTI) Ratio in Washington | How to Choose a Washington City for Retirement | 5 Best Cities for Retirement | Alternatives to Washington |Tips for Selling Your Current Home | Methodology

Image of Olympia, Washington

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Retirees who love hiking, fishing, and exploring the great outdoors will love settling into beautiful Washington State that features some of the nation’s best parks, forests, beaches, mountains, and lakes.

In fact, outdoor recreation spending in Washington reached almost $51 billion in 2020. Some of our top cities like Vancouver and Olympia also offer an impressive selection of art galleries, music venues, and other performance spaces.

So how did we evaluate these Washington cities? In our study, we looked at data points including:

  • Local tax rates

  • Health care quality and accessibility

  • Home values

  • Cost of living

Then, we ranked the top five according to how good they are for retirees. Learn more about our methodology.

Whether you’re unsure which city you prefer or you’re hoping to find a good retirement community in a specific city, you’ll need some insider perspective — something hard to get if you don’t currently live nearby.

If you're looking for a local realtor who can provide on-the-ground insights into Washington's best retirement cities, our friends at Clever Real Estate help. Clever offers a free service that matches you with the best real estate agents from Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Century21, and other top-rated brokers.

In Washington, you can get up to 0.5% cash back after closing — just for finding a fantastic real estate agent through Clever! And if you need to sell your current home, Clever can introduce you to local agents who work for pre-negotiated listing fees of just 1%. The average Clever seller saves $9,000!

👋 Meet the best real estate agents in Washington's top retirement cities today!

Washington Taxes for Retirees

Washington is a medium-high tax state. A recent study by the Tax Foundation found that Washington ranked 11th in the nation in terms of low taxes, with a total state-local tax burden of 10.7%.

Washington does not tax Social Security benefits or withdrawals from 401(k), IRA, or pension distributions, making it an excellent option for retirees who want the most from their savings.

Still, state sales taxes are 6.50%, which is higher than the national average of just over 5%. When choosing a city to retire to, also keep an eye out for the local sales tax rates, which max out at 4%statewide.

For retirees who are considering a part-time job to cover additional expenses, Washington does not impose a personal or corporate income tax. However, there is a gross income — or B&O — tax that varies by business classification.

Washington Health Care

New residents will be happy to know that Washington has decent quality health care (ranking 28th out of the 50 states in a recent study) and some of the best health care accessibility in the nation.

The main disadvantage of Washington's health care is that it gets pretty pricey for Medicare recipients, with an average monthly Medicare Advantage Premium of $34.45, and the lowest monthly premium for stand-alone plans (Medicare Part D) is $7.70.

There are 75 certified Medicare providers per 100K state residents, totaling 5,641 certified Medicare providers statewide, which is far higher than the national average of 0.51.

Price-to-Income (PTI) Ratio in Washington

Price-to-income is a formula used to determine an area’s affordability based on home prices and household income. The number represents the number of years of income it would take to have enough to buy a house.

The PTI ratio generally recommended for affordability is 2.6 or lower.

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The average PTI in Washington is 6.3 — so the average Washington resident would have to work over six years in order to afford a home, and that’s without spending any of their income. In short, it's very difficult for the average person to buy a house in the state.

Here's how we calculated this number:

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How to Choose the Best Place to Retire in Washington

Every person is unique, so you might be looking for a very different atmosphere than another retiree. But whether you’re looking for beautiful hiking spots or moderate weather, we’ve put together a list to help you narrow down your choices.

  • 🏅 Looking for the best overall city to retire to in Washington? Consider a move to Vancouver, where you’ll find access to the highest number of quality hospitals, mild winters, and ample entertainment options.

  • 💰 On a budget? Check out Yakima and Spokane for their comparatively lower housing costs and cost of living, with the cheapest and second-cheapest home values on our list.

  • 👭 Looking to meet people? Consider Wenatchee, where 25% of the population is 60+.

  • 🏥 Want the best healthcare? Vancouver has access to tons of grade-A hospitals, with 13 4- and 5-star hospitals in the city.

  • 🎉 Like going out? Olympia has a huge selection of recreation and entertainment options to choose from, including 21 local hiking spots.

  • ☀️ Want great weather? Vancouver and Olympia are some of the best places in Washington with consistently moderate weather — with the highest average winter and lowest summer temps, respectively.

  • ⛰️ Love the great outdoors? Wenatchee and Vancouver offer incredible access to outdoor activities, and boast the highest and second-highest concentration of golf courses.

Buying a house in a different city or state can be tough when you aren’t familiar with the local market. A good local real estate agent will know the market front and back, and they’ll be able to help you find the perfect neighborhood and home for you.

Finding an agent you like and trust doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. Our friends at Clever Real Estate make it simple to find the best Washington real estate agents from top-rated brokers such as Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and more. Their fully licensed concierge team will learn about your preferences and goals to connect you with the right agents for your specific needs.

And in Washington, you'll even get up to 0.5% cash back after closing! For a $400,000 home sale, that puts $2,000 back in your pocket — just for finding a fantastic agent through Clever.

Get matched with local real estate agents today!

The Best Places to Retire in Washington

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1. Vancouver

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Situated just across the river from Portland, Oregon, Vancouver has the honor of being our number one pick for retirees, as well as the best option for quality of life.

Art lovers — rejoice! Vancouver is home to the highest concentration of art classes and performing arts spaces on our list, with more than five museums and almost 31 performance spaces per 100,000 residents, respectively.

There are also more flea markets and senior centers in Vancouver than in any other city we considered.

The city has the highest count of quality hospitals on our list (13) and the highest number of hospitals per 100K residents (just over 7), meaning great in-network care is likely very accessible, as well as the highest number of golf courses on our list.

Retirees who call Vancouver home can also enjoy a temperate climate year-round, with milder summers and winters than other areas in the state.

So, while home values and expenses are higher than these other cities, the access you have to recreational options and quality healthcare is unmatched.

2. Wenatchee

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Wenatchee is located in the center of the state along the beautiful Columbia River, and stands out because of the high percentage of residents who are 60+ years old — 25%. This makes the area great for retirees who want to make new friends their age and connect to a thriving retirement community.

There’s a huge assortment of outdoor activities, with a recreation score of 60 out of 100, and the highest number of hiking and golf spots available in the cities on our list. Artists and other retirees can also enjoy Wenatchee’s high number of art galleries (almost 6 per 100,000 residents), local restaurants, and Pybus Public Market’s artisan vendors.

While Wenatchee’s property taxes are the lowest of the cities on our list (0.86%), home prices are the highest with the typical single family home selling for almost $550,000. If you have room in your housing budget, though, you can take advantage of the cheapest basic utility and internet costs of the areas we considered.

3. Olympia

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As Washington’s capital city, Olympia offers retirees and other residents free public transit, though it does have the lowest walkability score on our list. The city also has the second most quality hospitals per 100,000 residents — right behind our top pick, Vancouver.

Olympia really stands out when it comes to arts and entertainment. The city offers the second most stadiums and arenas, music venues, and performing arts spaces on our list. And get ready to shop: the city boasts the second highest number of flea markets per 100,000 residents.

For those who prefer the great outdoors, Olympia residents benefit from cooler summers than the rest of the state (with an average temperature just under 63 degrees), and 21 hiking spots — the most on our list.

4. Yakima

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Not only can Yakima residents choose from the cheapest single-family home values, the city has seen the lowest percentage increase in typical home values over a 10-year period.

Yakima is also home to the most highly rated retirement homes on our list (4.2 stars). And, if you prefer to get your steps in each day, the city is tied with Spokane for the most walkable among these cities.

In addition to walkability and affordability, Yakima is home to the second highest number of hiking among our top cities. The Yakima Area Arboretum makes it even easier to enjoy the beauty of the Yakima River while exploring its 46 acres of trees, gardens, and natural areas, including its world-famous apples.

The city has an impressive 1 quality in-network Medicare hospital per 100K residents, so Yakima residents are sure to get good health care services.

5. Spokane

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If you prefer to spend free time exploring your city center, Spokane may be the best choice for you. The city is tied with Yakima for the highest walkability score on our list (49).

Spokane also has the second cheapest public transit among these cities, at $25 for a monthly pass (this is second behind Olympia, where public transit is free).

When it comes to entertainment, we can’t forget Spokane Hoopfest, the world’s largest basketball tournament that gave it the nickname Hooptown USA.

Residents can also visit one of the 15 galleries in the city, explore the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, ride in a cable car at Riverfront Park, and stroll through the sculpture walk.

Retirees will find a large community in Spokane, since 24% of the population is 60+ years old.

Spokane can be pretty expensive as far as cost of living, but the city does have the second-cheapest typical home value of these cities (right behind Yakima), along with fairly cheap internet provider rates.

Not Sold on Washington State? Consider These Alternatives

If you’re not sold on the Evergreen State, consider these other retiree destinations that might offer more of what you’re looking for!

  • Butte, Montana: If you love being outside but prefer to pay less for your home, Butte may be a good fit. More than 18% of the population is over 65, and homes are more affordable than in many areas with a typical home value just over $216,000.

  • Brookings, Oregon: Located on the coast at the mouth of the Chetco River and just across the border from California, Brookings offers coastal living and warm temperatures.

  • Sandpoint, Idaho: For those who prefer to focus on quality hospitals and retirement facilities, Sandpoint offers ample options against the beautiful backdrop of Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River.

Need to Sell Your Current Home?

Selling a home, moving, and buying a new home involves spending a lot of your hard-earned money at once — something that can particularly affect new retirees who are just cashing in on their retirement fund.

Our friends at Clever Real Estate have already negotiated with Washington’s best realtors to give you low listing fees of just 1% (a fraction of the standard 3%). In fact, the average Clever customer saves $9,000 on their home sale! That’s thousands back in your pocket to help you cover moving expenses, splurge on your grandkids, or simply save for a rainy day.

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Methodology

Home Bay compared five popular Washington cities across a number of metrics, listed below. Each metric was normalized and then graded on a 100-point scale. The combined weighted average of the scores determined the “retirement city” score upon which the final ranking was based.

The metrics used are as follows:

  • Percent of the metro area population that is 60+ years old (18.52%)

  • Count of 5- & 4-star Medicare in-network hospitals in 50 mile-radius per 100K residents (14.81%)

  • Estimated median annual property tax rate (14.81%)

  • Walkability score (14.81%)

  • Average Yelp Star Rating of Retirement Homes in the Metro (11.11%)

  • Normalized score of recreational activities based on number of options per capita and average star rating on Yelp relative to the five other cities on this list (11.11%)

  • Seasonal weather score based on highest average winter temperatures and lowest average summer temperatures for each metro (7.41%)

  • Percent increase in typical single-family home values (2012–2022) (7.41%)

  • Monthly cost of internet (3.70%)

  • Monthly cost of basic utilities for a 915 sq. ft. apartment (3.70%)

  • Cost of a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant (3.70%)

  • Cost of a monthly public transit pass (3.70%)

Sources: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Census American Community Survey, US National Centers for Environmental Information, Tax Policy Center, AARP, Zillow, Yelp, Walkscore, & Numbeo.

About Home Bay

Where your real estate voyage begins. Since 2014, Home Bay has helped thousands of readers confidently sail through their next home sale or purchase. In 2021, Home Bay was acquired by Clever Real Estate, a free agent-matching service that has helped consumers save more than $82 million on real estate fees. Research by Home Bay's Data Center has been cited by The New York Times, CNBC, MarketWatch, NPR, Apartment Therapy, Yahoo Finance, Black Enterprise, and more.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Retiring in Washington State

What’s the cheapest place to live in Washington State?

Quincy is currently the cheapest place to live in Washington State based on the average home cost, but things are constantly changing. The U.S. Census Bureau statistics are a good place to check. Learn more about affordable, quality places to live in Washington State.

What are the safest cities in Washington State?

Sammamish and the surrounding areas are the safest place in Washington State, based on recent crime rates. Learn more about affordable, quality places to live in Washington State.

Is Washington State a good place to live?

Yes, Washington State is a good place to live, especially if you don’t mind rain and love having mountains, beaches, forests, lakes, national parks, and cities with vibrant arts and culture all within one state. Learn more about affordable, quality places to live in Washington State.

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