We felt it as soon as we drove down the main street: “The Tingle,” as my husband called it.
Historic New Castle, Delaware, was a vision. On our first drive down the main street, the town seemed like Brigadoon, the Scottish fantasy village that time never touched.
My husband and I were then living in an 1840s house in a historic neighborhood in urban New Jersey, and so we felt an immediate connection with this pristine town on the banks of the Delaware River. At first glance, it seemed that New Castle fulfilled most items on our checklist. In fact, I was so impressed that I immediately wrote an article about it for TravelAwaits entitled 13 Best Things To Do in Charming New Castle, Delaware.
So bowled over were we by the gorgeous and well-preserved Georgian, Federal, and Victorian-era buildings that we ignored some sage advice about renting first in order to get to know a place. We have since met folks who tried out the town before making the leap to sinking their savings into a home. We thought that renting would make it even more difficult, what with storing furniture and moving in stages, so we did not.
Now we have been living in New Castle for about six months, and I’m here to share what worked in our major life move and what didn’t — and some surprises along the way.
1. In Search Of A State With Lower Taxes
Low taxes — property tax, sales tax, income tax, estate tax — are a motivating force for retirees and others. Our property taxes dropped from more than $13,000 a year to less than $3,000 upon changing states. That was an immediate relief to our pocketbook — as well as the fact that there is no sales tax here. It is also important to note that the arrival of hordes of retirees to low-tax states has raised sale prices.
2. In Search Of Cheaper Housing
We sold our house for much, much more than our purchase price 30 years ago and bought a house for considerably less, all in the midst of the crazy housing market in 2021.
Pro Tip: If your new home is inexpensive, you may find that it will require work that will add to your outlay of funds. For example, we needed appliances, HVAC, extensive work on bathrooms, and more.
3. There Is A Price For Historic Charm
With 18th- and 19th-century houses lining the streets of old New Castle, we thought that finding a historic house would be relatively easy. Such houses are much in demand, though, and because of our timing, we were not able to purchase one.
Pro Tip: Not getting exactly what you want may have its benefits. After talking to our friends and neighbors about repairs and upkeep, we now appreciate our higher ceilings, larger rooms, and dry basement.
4. Checking Out Your Town’s Walkability
While our neighborhood is walkable, we found that we needed to drive in order to shop for food and other necessities. And because more time is spent on the road, we are also paying more for gas and tolls.
Pro Tip: Also check out walkable terrain. Our town is historic and many of the sidewalks are cobblestoned, which makes for precarious walking at night or in bad weather. This may be an issue as we age here.
5. Checking Out Culture High and Low
There are small museums and community venues here; reaching larger museums and concerts necessitates driving. We have enjoyed exploring and traveling to the numerous historic houses, gardens, and museums in the towns and cities all around us.
Pro Tip: Consider that as you age driving may become more difficult. We also checked out public transportation nearby, and although we are 10 minutes from a train station that has express service to several cities, other public transportation is lacking.
6. Finding Like-Minded Neighbors
We wanted to find a community with diversity; however, we were also looking for signs of a population with at least SOME shared political views and interests. We first started looking for places during the presidential campaign of 2020, when we could check out signs, decals, flags, and identifying markers. We ended up moving to a community in which we feel comfortable.
7. Eureka! We Found Parking
After years of fighting for parking spaces in the city, we pinch ourselves now that we have parking choices. No alternate-side-of-the-street parking!
8. Finding Medical Resources
We researched nearby hospitals, but what we were not aware of is the dearth of primary care physicians and the months people spend waiting for medical appointments here.
Pro Tip: We ended up trying out a concierge service, where we pay a fee on a quarterly basis to get personal and immediate medical care from a primary care physician. This is an added expense, but so far we have had excellent service and recommendations for specialists.
9. Finding The Best International Flights
We made sure that we had an international airport relatively close by because we love to travel. However, we did not realize until after we moved how flight costs differ between airports. When our daughter visits from London, she flies into an airport several hours away because tickets are significantly less expensive.
10. Staying Close To Family And Friends
We have found that there is far and there is FAR. Although we are within two hours via highway from most family and friends, we do see them less.
11. Junking The Snow Shovel
I had wanted to move farther north, but my husband was against moving anywhere with more snow. As it turns out, the weather where we ended up is just a few degrees warmer, and we have yet to see how that will affect levels of snow and ice.
12. Checking Out Crime Statistics
Because of our previous urban life, we also feel comfortable living in and visiting places that some of our neighbors would not. But we happily saw that delivered packages sat untouched in front of houses, and that spoke volumes about comfort and safety.
What didn’t make our planning list, but what we found ultimately important:
Social Media: A Source of Friends And Events
Social media really helped us. Because of a Facebook travel group I frequent (Over 60 Women Travel and Meetup Group), I met a great new friend on my block who even threw a party and introduced us to people in town on our first weekend here. The town also posts activities and news on social media, and we have participated in social events because we knew what was on the calendar. It might be useful to check out social media for your destination well before you move.
Meeting And Greeting: Get Out And Ask Questions
I asked around and found someone in my neighborhood who came from near where I had lived for 30 years. He and his wife told us about how they had adapted to the lifestyle here. And they reminded us that, besides the people we would meet in town, old friends and family will visit us. They and others gave us hope that we would find contentment and balance here as well.
Things We Discovered: Who You Are And Who You Can Be
Be honest about who you are. Do you see yourself as becoming part of a community or do you prefer your privacy? Do you mind driving for groceries or to visit friends? While it is true that people can change, be aware of your comfort zone and choose accordingly.
We fully expect that we will find more friends and interests as we spend more time in our new town. The town itself may change, as may our circumstances — and we will most definitely develop roots as we age here.
What we have discovered over the past six months is that — as with most decisions in life — you will probably not find a place that fulfills every single item on your list. But then again, while a list is definitely important, don’t forget the power of “The Tingle.”
Preparing for retirement? Get inspired by Carol Colborn’s Why We Chose To Retire In This City After RVing For 5 Years and the rest of our retirement content here.