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About five years ago, real estate agent Dorrie Love noticed that retirees increasingly represented out-of-town homebuyers in her suburb of Atlanta.

“There has been an influx from California and the Northeast,” says Love, agent at Harry Norman Realtors in Peachtree City and president of Georgia Realtors.

She sees a number of reasons why Georgia rivals Florida as a retirement destination: “Four seasons, the mountains, the beach, an airport to see kids or grandchildren.

Another important selling point is house prices. The median price of homes in metro Atlanta was only $ 279,300 in the first quarter of 2021, compared to $ 319,200 nationally and $ 325,000 in metro Orlando, according to the National. Association of Realtors.

“You can get what you pay for,” says Oliver Radvin, senior consulting director at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

Georgia’s low cost of living and low tax burden rank the state 3rd nationally in affordability, according to The Last Best Bankrate States to Retire ranking. By comparison, Pennsylvania ranks 35th in affordability and New Jersey 43rd.

Georgia’s appeal as a retirement destination is reflected in a new wave of active adult communities in the state. Kolter, Pulte and others are building communities for retirees.

“The big builders are making communities 55 and over all over the state, and they wouldn’t be doing it if there was no demand,” Love says.

Homebuilder Kolter has developed his Cresswind communities for active adults in Peachtree City and other parts of the state. John Manrique, senior vice president of marketing for Kolter, said many of Georgia’s active adult buyers are not from out of state but from the Atlanta area.

This trend makes sense: the booming metropolitan area is home to six million people. Atlanta and its suburbs are known for a strong job market that is home to corporate headquarters such as Home Depot, UPS, and Coca-Cola.

Atlanta is also known for traffic. Kolter’s active adult communities are far enough away from the hustle and bustle of suburban Atlanta to feel slower, yet close enough that residents don’t feel like they’ve given up on their old lives.

“There are people who have lived in cities or in the suburbs for 10, 20 or 30 years,” says Manrique. “They raised their children. They need an option for this next chapter in their life.

Georgia also attracts newcomers from North and Florida. While the Sunshine State has become the third largest state in the country, it’s not for everyone – hence the trend for “halfbacks,” the nickname for retirees who move from the Northeast to Florida and then move to Georgia or the Carolinas.

“We see a lot of people coming from the South,” says Manrique.

Unlike Florida and Tennessee, which impose no state income tax, Georgia collects state income tax. Its rate is 5.75%. However, Georgia exempts Social Security retirement benefits and other pension payments for residents 62 years of age and older.

Tax break attracts retirees moving to Georgia from higher tax states, and those retiring from jobs in Atlanta and considering moving to Tennessee or Florida, says Radvin of John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

“These buyers are somewhat well off,” he said, “but they are looking for a deal.”