Chasing Bases for Retirement

Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
I am starting to look into buying houses around the country for when I retire as bases for chasing and/or other travel. These would be just an average house that might be lived in a few days to weeks at a time. It could also serve as a base when I am not there for fellow chasers I know. I already own homes in Kansas City and in New Mexico but wanted input where you would base. I know of at least one couple that travels from overseas and has a base in Kansas and was thinking along those lines but a bit larger.

A base in Colorado would be a must as I love chasing there and it allows for chasing into WY and surrounding area. Ardmore or similar area would be good for OK/TX and Dixie.

Note when I cannot chase anymore (NEVER) these would be sold or given to others.

Thoughts?

ChasingBases.jpg
 
Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
My neighbors house will be going on the market soon but probably out of budget for a home base situation. Strasburg, CO. Likely mid $400s.

I can try to reach out if you'd like?
 
Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
My neighbors house will be going on the market soon but probably out of budget for a home base situation. Strasburg, CO. Likely mid $400s.

I can try to reach out if you'd like?
Thanks for the offer but I am thinking small towns and under $100,000 for the new additions. Not buying just for the long term hold and sell. I should add that the next property I am buying is another in KC so I will be in the market for these states within three years.
 

Dan Robinson

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Jan 14, 2011
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Look around sites like Zillow. There are always modest houses going for 50k or less in small Plains towns, many that are livable as is with minimal to no work. I have always thought of doing this someday.

As for a second home, it is really not as good of an idea as it sounds. I put together this blog post about it in 2011:

Is a "Second Home" on the Great Plains worth it? :: storm highway :: Dan's Blog
 
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Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
As I have posted before in other threads, I would never relocate someplace full-time *only* for chasing, due to the fact that chase days only represent about 10% of the days in a year. However, if I were retired and able to divide my time among more than one place, it would be a different story.

With my primary residence on the East Coast, if I were to have a second home in a place I like that also happens to be conducive to chasing, I would probably choose the Denver area.

If I were to buy a house someplace *just* for the severe season, in other words optimizing chasing geography while still being someplace I enjoy, I would probably choose Wichita.

If I truly cared *only* about a chasing base and wasn't worried about other stuff to do or any other considerations, I might choose a smaller town like Garden City or Colby.

It really comes down to exactly how many locations you actually want to have a place in, and what your personal preferences are for type of locale. I tend to think of the larger cities, and there are relatively few of them; these waypoints across chase territory are fairly obvious choices. But if you prefer small towns, then your options are endless.
 
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Dec 8, 2003
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Ha. I retired and moved to southeast CO in 2007. My zip code is Holly, but I live on 2½ acres surrounded by alfalfa fields on a dirt road out in the county. My nearest neighbor is 1000 feet away. The second-nearest is a mile away. I can wake up in my own bed at, say, 7AM and chase anything from around Childress TX to Valentine NE to Emporia KS the same day. Not to brag, but it's pretty sweet. I encourage any other chaser to move to this county (Prowers) who is able. Houses are cheap here, the lifestyle is as laid-back as you could imagine, and the people are friendly.
 
Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
Ha. I retired and moved to southeast CO in 2007. My zip code is Holly, but I live on 2½ acres surrounded by alfalfa fields on a dirt road out in the county. My nearest neighbor is 1000 feet away. The second-nearest is a mile away. I can wake up in my own bed at, say, 7AM and chase anything from around Childress TX to Valentine NE to Emporia KS the same day. Not to brag, but it's pretty sweet. I encourage any other chaser to move to this county (Prowers) who is able. Houses are cheap here, the lifestyle is as laid-back as you could imagine, and the people are friendly.
Sounds nice. I would move there, but I have to work in Denver.

I moved to Strasburg in 2014, half for the weather, half for the small town. Unfortunately, it's getting less small.
 
Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
Ha. I retired and moved to southeast CO in 2007. My zip code is Holly, but I live on 2½ acres surrounded by alfalfa fields on a dirt road out in the county. My nearest neighbor is 1000 feet away. The second-nearest is a mile away. I can wake up in my own bed at, say, 7AM and chase anything from around Childress TX to Valentine NE to Emporia KS the same day. Not to brag, but it's pretty sweet. I encourage any other chaser to move to this county (Prowers) who is able. Houses are cheap here, the lifestyle is as laid-back as you could imagine, and the people are friendly.
That is great Bob! Congratulations! I cannot wait to do the same.

Note with me I already have the NM and KC properties so at a minimum I would need something in SE CO or maybe one in the pandhandles. Worse case maybe Liberal area but hard to make it home after a WY or TX chase.
 
Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
Jun 1, 2008
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Chattanooga, TN
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Hutchinson and McPherson, Kansas both offer roads in multiple directions and large old shade trees for when one is not chasing. Believe homes would be less expensive than in Wichita. Great Bend is similar with highways, but not quite as green. Agree with James though, Wichita has more to do.

While we're dreaming. Need something on the Blue Ridge Parkway or in New England for fall. Need something in the Rockies for skiing. You'd be surprised some are not that expensive up there. Rockies is also good in summer. IDK about a beach home. What the heck, Kauai.
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
Dan, I enjoyed your article linked to above. I agree wholeheartedly. You noted that your biggest chase year featured a full month of chasing - and I assume you didn’t chase every day that month either. That’s the same thing I always say, figure about 10% of your year at most spent chasing. Just not enough of a reason to choose a place to live. It’s not like skiing or surfing, or living on a golf course, where you can do your chosen activity most days for at least part of the year, or in some places all year. Also great point that no matter where you choose a base, you cannot be in range of everything every day and are going to need hotels anyway. So it’s nice to dream, and Bob’s setup definitely sounds awesome, but I don’t know if I would be up for that year-round and would still need hotels for many chase trips anyway. If money were no object, that just makes it even more preferable to use hotels.

BTW, Dan, in that 5-10 chaser network concept, one downside is that everybody in the group is likely to end up in the same region on a given chase day, so each house needs to be big enough to hold everybody!
 
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Jun 16, 2015
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I would argue that southwestern Kansas is the epicenter of where one would want to live and/or be based out of for storm chasing. If you prefer late season, then I'd nudge up into northwestern Kansas, keeping parts of Wyoming and South Dakota within range. The great part about being in western Kansas is that opens up a lot of areas to chase within a 6-hour drive and I'd say that western Kansas itself has the best overlap of storm frequency, length of storm season, road networks, visibility and tornado counts.

Take 2016. I chased 90 days that year and 53 chases were in states surrounding/including Kansas (CO/KS/MO/NE/NM/OK/TX).

The thing about Kansas is that if you're in the western part of the state, you're disconnected from most larger cities, although Dodge City and Garden City do offer most of what you'd probably want or need. If you want a base closer to a larger city, I'd consider getting closer to Wichita. Going east a bit also opens up some room to chase into parts of the Midwest, if you choose to, like Iowa and Missouri. Amarillo, TX is another option, but I feel that if you already have a place in New Mexico, this might be a bit too far southwest.

I half joke that one day I would like to permanently retire to a small house in western Kansas. As time goes on, I lean toward more seriousness and less joking when I tell that aspiration.
 
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Jan 16, 2009
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Quincy I agree with western KS as I have the most tornadoes there and eastern CO. The big cities thing is not super important to me and the idea of a cheaper house in a small town is what would drive this for me. A base in this area would cover a lot and would really only require hotels for the Dakotas and deep into Texas chases. I like it!
 

Dan Robinson

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I'm always looking and dreaming, despite the impracticalities. Ideally I'd want something an hour or less west of Wichita for retirement (close to good medical care, services, etc).

Here's an example of what you can find on the Plains. This is actually the lowest-priced house I've seen that wasn't a total dump and actually minimally livable as-is (with some paint and new carpet): $9k for this in Arnett, OK:

 
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Todd Lemery

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Jun 2, 2014
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I’ve personally been looking into Pueblo CO. Although a bit West of where you’d ideally probably want to be (I’d rather chase towards home than turn around and head back after a long chase), it has everything I would need and only a short drive into the mountains when there is no chasing to be had. It’s also a great location for the winter when I’m trying to take the edge off of a Michigan upper peninsula winter. Housing prices are decent too.
 
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Sep 27, 2006
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(close to good medical care, services, etc).
This was going to be my point. My wife and I talk about retiring to a little island in the caribbean but, the point of issue is that as you get older, you need to see more doctors and just plain need more medical care. Smaller towns just can't provide that. You need to be in distance of a ambulance ride to decent medical care.
 
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JeremyS

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Mar 12, 2014
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I'm always looking and dreaming, despite the impracticalities. Ideally I'd want something an hour or less west of Wichita for retirement (close to good medical care, services, etc).

Here's an example of what you can find on the Plains. This is actually the lowest-priced house I've seen that wasn't a total dump and actually minimally livable as-is (with some paint and new carpet): $9k for this in Arnett, OK:

I love the numbers listed on Zillow for this house, lol!
Estimated monthly payment: $46
Property taxes: $4
Home insurance: $3
 

Robert Prentice

Enthusiast
Apr 24, 2019
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Norman, Oklahoma USA
I strongly recommend not purchasing a retirement home base for chasing. After an exhausting chase, it’s no fun or safe having to drive back home to your base, often on flooded roads at night. Day 2 often begins near the end of your Day 1 chase. Not many people want to live in the desolate Great Plains and it’s expensive to own two homes. It’s best to pony up the cash for a nearby motel.
 

James K

EF1
Mar 26, 2019
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Colorado
JeremyS said:
Dan Robinson said:
Here's an example of what you can find on the Plains. This is actually the lowest-priced house I've seen that wasn't a total dump and actually minimally livable as-is (with some paint and new carpet): $9k for this in Arnett, OK:
I love the numbers listed on Zillow for this house, lol!
Estimated monthly payment: $46
Amazing you can even get a house that cheap!
They're talking payments ... just pay cash for it. LOL
 

Dan Robinson

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After I moved to the Midwest in 2010, it took 3 years for my house in West Virginia to sell. It was a major pain to have to take care of it from 500 miles away. I had to hire someone to cut the grass and trim the weeds. A huge limb from one of my trees fell on the house and punctured the roof. I had to file an insurance claim, get a tarp put up and hire someone to fix it.

That all was pretty effective in talking me out of the second home in the Plains idea. Moving there outright (to retire for example) would be different.
 
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Jun 16, 2015
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I think that if we're being realistic, some of the best places to buy a retirement home (not a second home or chasecation home) may be on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, Wichita or Denver/Colorado Springs. In those locations, one would be close to urgent medical care, but could still live on the edge of town and be close to prime chase real estate. I understand the argument about having a long drive after a chase, but it depends. If you have a permanent home on the Plains, you don't have to go back to your home base every night. As mentioned by others, it may not be safe or otherwise worth it to do so. On the flip side, there will be many times that coming back home is not far out of the way. Case in point Oklahoma City/Wichita. Most chases will probably take place west of I-35, but as storms move east through the evening, a lot of times you'll naturally come back toward home. This is why when I chase, I end up coming back to Oklahoma City probably between 25-50% of the time, especially in April/May. If I'm debating between an extra 2-3 hour drive or a hotel stay, the drive home is preferred. If I'm on a multi-day chase trip, especially if I'm out on the High Plains or up in western/northern Kansas or Nebraska, it does not make sense to drive home, unless the next chase day is in Oklahoma.

As we get older, unless you like the snow/cold, I'm not sure a Colorado home is preferred. Taxes are also higher as well there. I know that Oklahoma's relatively low cost of living and lower tax rates are a selling point. I have also grown fond of the milder winters, having spent most of my life in New England. Yes, Oklahoma gets cold in the winter, but usually it's fairly short-lived and plenty of days in the 50s/60s pop up through the winter, even in January. I sometimes go back and forth on the Kansas idea, since it is colder in the winter than Oklahoma, but it's also closer to late season chase targets in June/July, so who knows.

I have also floated the idea of splitting a home with other chasers on the Plains, but it doesn't seem like a practical idea. There's the issue of chaser convergence in May/June, you better hope it's a big place, and then who lives there or takes care of the property in the off-season? What if someone wants to back out or doesn't keep up with their chunk (of cost and/or maintenance)?
 
Jul 5, 2009
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
I strongly recommend not purchasing a retirement home base for chasing. After an exhausting chase, it’s no fun or safe having to drive back home to your base, often on flooded roads at night. Day 2 often begins near the end of your Day 1 chase. Not many people want to live in the desolate Great Plains and it’s expensive to own two homes. It’s best to pony up the cash for a nearby motel.
@Robert Prentice OMg so awesome to see you back on here Bobby!!!
 
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