Reviewed by Dorn Townsend
By Barbara Corcoran, with Warren Berger
Springboard Press, 256 Pages, $24.99
Thanks to modern medicine, regular exercise and healthier diets, many New Yorkers are living longer than ever before. And thanks to a strong real estate market that reinforces their positions atop the pinnacle of global capitalism, many of these New Yorkers also possess assets worth more than ever before. Yet from their corner offices and terraced apartments, some of these lucky hard-chargers may pause a moment to ask themselves, “What if I dropped it all and moved?”
With the insistence of a Jehovah’s Witness banging on your door, Barbara Corcoran, founder of the well-known real estate agency the Corcoran Group, steps up to answer this question. Her suggestions are detailed in “Nextville,” a book equal parts travel guide, pop psychology and stubborn marketing.
Corcoran’s intended audience isn’t stay-at-home or fixed-income retirees, but those “seeking the glorious next act of your life.” The author contends that in the coming years, a privileged demographic seeking to graduate to a “next” phase will cause “another mass movement of people.”
The purpose of “Nextville” is to suggest to these affluents where to resettle. In the past, for many Americans, the answer to the question, ‘Where to retire?’ was often, “Go south, old people.” But Corcoran aims for more discernment, dismissing Florida, for instance, as “heaven’s waiting room.” Instead, she counsels Ruppies (Retired Urban People) and Zoomers (retirees who zoom to far-off destinations) to imagine retirement as a new beginning and exhorts them to “think outside the hammock.” A real estate broker to her bones, Corcoran advises that “sometimes, it takes a fresh place to make a fresh start.”
Corcoran spends the next 10 chapters identifying different types of buyers and offering suggestions on the places and types of real estate they might consider. For instance, people with a passion for bird-watching might consider moving to Essex, Conn., where the Audubon Society holds an annual Eagle Festival. Zoomers with a hankering to try their hands at the hospitality industry are advised that Saugatuck, Mich., has a “growing demand for B & B’s.”
Relocating somewhere new can be intimidating, so Corcoran advises Zoomers to surround themselves with people who
have similar interests. Austin, Knoxville and Davis, Calif., are recommended as good spots for retirees looking for hip trailer parks, unlimited boating and abundant bike paths.
Other cities are saluted for their rock-and-roll scenes. This may lose readers, since it’s hard to imagine many retirees passionate enough to move to be closer to a genre that celebrates rebellion against the so-called system.
With a no-stones-left-unturned quality to this book, it sometimes feels like Corcoran has never visited a city where she hasn’t considered plonking down and buying real estate. Corcoran finds merit in conventional places like Hawaii (the arts scene), Madison, Wis. (residents are outdoorsy), and Oregon (bylaws are green-friendly). She also sings the praises of parking in Dubai (for its over-the-top qualities) and Panama City (your dollar goes further, and it has beaches).
Corcoran differs from those magazine lists that commonly offer the 10 or hundred best places to retire because she doesn’t endorse any one of these spots more than another. Her aim is to offer suggestions on where older people who feel young at heart can go to start over or to cultivate dormant passions.
Descriptions of these places, and many others, make up the bulk of the book. As snapshots, they can be engaging, but reading “Nextville” cover to cover may seem like a chore. Corcoran believes in the “transforming power of place,” and while her breezy depictions of locales may not prompt many people to actually pick up and move (many of her depictions come across as great vacation destinations), her text may inspire people to give some thought to important questions: “Where would I be happiest? How do I discover where I belong?” While “Nextville” is geared to an older audience, these are important questions for people of any age.