Those who retire to Cape Cod find it the perfect place to spend their golden years. The region is quaint and charming yet packed with amenities and activities. There’s a wide range of recreational activities, sports, tourist destinations, fine dining, beautiful views, cultural events, and surprisingly affordable housing options.
Niche.com’s 2021 list of the Best Places to Retire in Massachusetts features many Cape towns at the top of the list, including Chatham (#1), West Yarmouth (#2), North Falmouth (#3), West Dennis (#4), Brewster (#5), Orleans (#7) and Harwich Port (#10).
How Cold Does Cape Cod Get?
The Cape has comfortable year-round weather thanks to its coastal location. The ocean’s moderating effect keeps temperatures on the Cape relatively cool and breezy in the summers and warmer in winters compared to areas further inland. Temperatures generally range from lows in the ’20s in January and highs near 80 degrees in August. These mild winters and beautiful summers make it the perfect spot for those who retire to Cape Cod and can take advantage of the good weather to be out and about in all seasons. Some golf courses are even able to operate year-round!
Scenic and Cultural Attractions
For retirees looking to spend time outdoors, the Cape features iconic sandy beaches, forested nature preserves, serene gardens, great walking, biking trails, and plenty of boating options in both fresh and saltwater. Consider a stroll on the trails at Sandy Neck Beach, a bike ride on the Shining Sea Bikeway, or a stop at the Spohr or Heritage Gardens.
Those looking to learn more about the Cape’s past will love the historic sites and museums covering a wide range of topics that dot the peninsula. Be sure to visit the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, and Cape Cod Maritime Museum. You also won’t want to miss all the historic lighthouses that can be found standing sentinel on the Cape’s shores.
Those interested in the arts will fall in love with the Cape’s many art museums, galleries, theatres, and performing arts centers. There’s lots going on in the art scene on Cape Cod and plenty of opportunities for aspiring artists to get involved. Take a class at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, visit the Cape Cod Art Museum, or enjoy a tour of the artists’ dune shacks in Provincetown.
Property Tax and Housing Market
While Massachusetts has a fairly high residential property tax rate at 1.17%, the municipal property tax rates vary across the Cape’s towns. Kinlin Grover Real estate notes that “They reach a high of $14.31 per $1,000 of assessed value in Sandwich and a low of $4.82 per $1,000 in Chatham.” They also advise researching town and water district taxes, as these are combined in towns like Mashpee to create a Real Estate Total Tax.
The housing market is bustling on the Cape at the moment, making it a great time to sell a home, though a tricky time to buy one. RedFin.com reports that home prices in Chatham in May 2021 were up 27.5% from last year, with a median price of $955K. House prices vary from high-end properties in Chatham to more affordable options in Barnstable, selling for a median price of $570K, up 52.6% since last year.
If you’re not looking to buy a property of your own, renting is an option as well. A retirement community is also a great choice if you’re looking to be around other folks your age, don’t want the hassle of homeownership and property maintenance, want extra support as you age, and are looking for lots of amenities and activities.
Assisted living costs on Cape Cod vary but average $6,338 per month, according to the Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey 2020. This is slightly higher than that state average and about $2,000 higher than that national average. While the cost may be slightly higher, the benefits of living in this beautiful area can certainly be worth it.
In addition, all Cape Cod’s towns offer various housing options for people on all kinds of budgets.
While the Cape has expensive high-end options like multi-million-dollar estates and beachfront mansions in Hyannis and Chatham, it also has cheaper options in the same or nearby towns. Expensive housing generally provides additional advantages, like a private beach or water access.
Yarmouth and Dennis can offer more affordable options, like $113/sq ft for a 2 bed, 2 bath house (Yarmouth) or a 2 bed, 1 bath for $190/sq ft in Dennis Port. Both towns have quieter neighborhoods on the north side.
Shopping markets and fine dining at five minutes’ driving distances are abundant. Yarmouth has a suburban vibe and a homely community that organizes events together too.
Nearby beaches at Yarmouth like Bayview and Colonial Acres and conservation areas provide scenic beauty whenever you need it. Located in the middle of Cape Cod, Dennis allows access to all the major towns. It is quiet in the winter and bustling in the summer. There are beaches on either side and plenty of nearby local Cape Cod restaurants and shopping areas.
The Best Healthcare and Retiree Living
Cape Cod also provides state-of-the-art healthcare. There are hospitals located in Hyannis, Falmouth, and Orleans and a number of specialists, outpatient care, and rehab centers. The Cape has a number of Cape Cod Healthcare-run urgent care centers, emergency rooms, primary care doctors. It is not far from the wealth of specialists in the greater Boston area.
Many independent living options for seniors can also help you ease into assisted living and skilled nursing care as the need arises. Those seeking care can get support and resources from their local Senior Center or town‘s Council on Aging.
In addition, the nonprofit Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation is an organization providing free healthcare for those who need it.
Fitness centers and group exercise sessions help you keep up with your physical health, and many residences provide these facilities. Lots of towns run vibrant senior centers that offer a range of classes and clubs from walking, Zumba, water aerobics, gardening or even keeping your mind active with chess and book clubs.
In addition, the numerous trails running through all the towns are an excellent way to get your daily exercise!
Cape Cod has several retiree communities for older residents.
Communities like Southport in Mashpee offer two-bedroom attached homes ranging from 1,333-1,952 sq ft in size with numerous amenities like a fitness center, a card room to play a game of bridge, a sports lounge, library, nail salon, and even a woodworking station.
Living in these communities allows you to reconnect with your hobbies and develop new ones while getting personalized healthcare and assistance, in a tight-knit community that feels like home.
Is it expensive to Retire to Cape Cod?
Cape Cod offers a range of house prices, from $294/sq ft housing to cheaper options at $51/sq ft. Cape Cod has higher insurance due to hurricane risk. The property value of areas like Truro and Wellfleet are more expensive due to the sheer nature of their location.
Located on the Cape Cod National Seashore, a prime spot for tourists and the most picturesque of all, it’s no wonder it is considered the town of luxury dream houses!
However, each town provides a variety of pricing options for houses. Whichever village you choose to settle in, you can happily budget accordingly.
Mashpee is an ideal place to settle if you’re looking for reasonable prices and an adequate number of attractions (like Nantucket Sound/Vineyard Sound), shopping places like the Mashpee Commons, eateries, and cultural and historic locations.
Also, you can always visit the nearby towns of Falmouth, Hyannis, and Sandwich.
For more pricing details, contact a realtor in the Cape Cod area.
Where should I Retire on Cape Cod?
With temperate weather (high 70’s and low 40’s) and low property tax rates that balance out the house prices, you can retire anywhere on Cape Cod. If you prefer quieter towns, you should retire in the northside of Dennis or Yarmouth, and if you like louder, bustling areas, the southside of these towns is ideal. Dennis is generally quiet during wintertime.
You should contact a realtor for prices as rates are subject to change.
Best Cape Cod Towns to Live in Year-Round
While Mashpee gives you a comforting, rural vibe, it also has everything you could need without being heavy on your wallet.
There are spectacular saltwater beaches–like Nantucket Sound–and freshwater beaches nearby with their breathtaking views of the shoreline and water activities.
Shopping and fine dining are also abundant and–if you get bored–you can go to the nearby towns of Hyannis and Falmouth.
Yarmouth and Dennis
Yarmouth and Dennis offer all kinds of living options–if you want a more homely, friendly environment, you should choose to settle in the Southern side of these towns.
The Northside is quieter and more peaceful if that’s what you’re looking for.
Yarmouth is less populated, and so the traffic there is also calmer. There are also golf courses around if you’re looking for some recreation!
It also has numerous accommodations to assist older people looking to age in place.
Dennis has lower property taxes at $6.10 per $1,000 assessed property value than some other Cape towns. Its location near the central Cape is the perfect place to retire, offering stunning views and a plethora of dining options, museums, and historic sites.
Located on the Lower Cape and near the Atlantic Ocean, Harwich is a friendly, peaceful town that’s just a half-hour trip from the gorgeous Nauset Beach.
If you’re looking for a place that is lively year-round, Falmouth is it.
With their numerous businesses that run all year, like the restaurants, theater, nightlife, skating rink and the Woods Hole Science Aquarium, this place is never shut down for business and is always bustling and crowded! And you can also take a boat ride to Martha’s Vineyard from here!
What is the least expensive town on Cape Cod?
The cost of living in places like Hyannis and Eastham is significantly less than cities like New York–while New York’s cost is 80% above the national average, these towns’ costs are 9-11% above the national average.
While the cost of living in Cape Cod is above the national average, in areas like Hyannis or Eastham, the cost of living is only 9-11% higher than the national cost of living.
Let’s look at the breakdown for one of these towns (Eastham) against New York and Los Angeles:
(Image source: salary.com)
As you can see from this graph, the energy and food costs in Eastham are significantly lower than in LA, with food going approximately 20% below the average.
As for New York, New York’s housing prices are out the roof at 50% above average, while Eastham’s might be 2-3% above average. Overall, LA’s cost is 40%, and New York’s is 80% above the national average compared to a mere 9% for Eastham:
(Image source: salary.com)
Other towns (Hyannis, Harwich, Yarmouth Port, etc.) compared to New York and LA also have much lower costs of living (11.1%, 9.4%, and 9.4% above average, respectively).
You should get in touch with a realtor for more information regarding rental laws and the taxes of the towns you’re interested in. Since tax rates keep changing and prices fluctuate, this will give you a better picture of managing your finances.
There are pretty cheap options available in the town of Dennis, starting at $51/sq ft for a 2-bedroom house.
Other towns like Yarmouth Port have housing available under $95/sq ft for 2 beds, 2 bathhouses. Towns like Hyannis and Mashpee also have living options like $222/sq ft (4 beds, 2 baths) and $300/sq ft (3 beds, 2 baths).
Cape Cod offers cheaper amenities like food, energy, and transport when compared to retiring in busy urban areas like New York or California. Lots are happening on the Cape, and you can’t beat the beaches!
If you’re looking for the bustle of a city, you can permanently settle down in prime tourism spots like Orleans. Boston is also a short trip away, either driving or taking the ferry from Provincetown. If you’re looking for a quieter spot to spend your golden years, consider areas like North Dennis.
We hope this guide helps you narrow down your preferences and choose a housing option that suits you best. Good luck and Happy Retirement!