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The Ultimate Guide to Tucson

Welcome to Tucson! Whether you are moving to Tucson for retirement, job transfer, or for our climate and outdoor recreation, Tucson has a lot to offer. In this guide I will breakdown everything you need to know about moving to Tucson and living in “The Old Pueblo”.

Why are People Moving to Tucson?

Tucson’s population has continually increased decade after decade as the secret of Tucson gets out to the other states. The combination of great weather, beautiful outdoor recreation, amazing food and our affordability has enticed not only retirees to move to Tucson, but many businesses as well.

Climate

It’s a Dry Heat! Yes, it is hot during the summer months, but if you survive the summers you are rewarded with 9 months of great weather. Enjoy 300 days of sunshine  and less than 12 inches of rain per year. December and January are our coldest months with average highs in the mid-60s and lows in the low 40s. Our hottest months are June and July where the average high is 101, and the lows are in the mid 70s. But the worst days can reach 115, with lows in the mid-80s. Our wettest months are in July and August, which are known as our monsoon season.

Monsoons are incredible weather events that you need to see to believe. They are strong thunderstorms but are usually small in size. They can produce over an inch of rain in less than an hour causing flash flooding. Tucson is well designed to handle flash flooding. As you drive around Tucson you will see what we call “washes” or “Arroyos”. All the streets drain into these areas. It’s important to note that some of these washes cross streets. If you see running water, turn around, don’t drown. And when a monsoon hits, the temperature will drop from the 100s down to low 70s in a matter of minutes. Once the rain stops, the water dries up, and the temperature climbs back up into the 90s. It is truly a weather phenomenon you need to experience. And unlike Phoenix, we rarely get dust storms in Tucson.

It snows in the Desert! I know it’s hard to believe, but every couple of years it does snow. Some parts of town may get a dusting, while other parts at higher elevations may receive up to 3 inches. Fun Fact: The farthest south Ski Resort in the continental United States is in Tucson. This is Mt. Lemmon. This is about an hour drive from Tucson to the top of the Catalina Mountains to an elevation of 9,171 feet. Mt. Lemmon averages 180 inches of snow in the winter. It is also a popular getaway during the hot summer months in Tucson as the summer highs are in the 70s.

In fact, I would argue that Tucson’s growth is primarily due to its climate.

Job Opportunities

Many businesses have moved to Tucson because of the climate. In recent years, Tucson has seen an increase in distribution centers for major companies like Walmart and Amazon. Tucson’s weather limits, and almost eliminated, any weather delays for their shipments. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base takes advance of Tucson’s weather with their massive Boneyard of old aircrafts. They also use Tucson’s desert environment to train for the middle east. Tucson has also attracted a plethora of Optical Engineering Companies who benefit from Tucson’s dry climate. In fact, Tucson has earned the nickname “Optics Valley” as there are over 150 companies in Tucson involved in Optical Engineering.

Other large employers in Tucson are the University of Arizona, Raytheon Technologies, Banner Medical Center, US Customs and Border Protection, Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Mining Company, and Caterpillar.

Cost of Living

One of the main driving factors for people moving to Tucson is our low cost of living. Although in recent years, the cost of living has increased across the country, Tucson remains below the average cost of living in the United States. Tucson is 2.3% more affordable than the average US city. Out of the 100 largest Metro areas in the US, Tucson ranks 43rd most affordable. But when you compare Tucson to the largest 45 metro areas West of the Rocky Mountains. Tucson Ranks 3rd behind Albuquerque, NM and Yakima, WA. Compared to other West Coast Metro areas, Tucson is 20.1% more affordable.

One contributing factor to Tucson’s low cost of living is our low taxes. Our average property taxes are around 0.6%. This is the 10th lowest tax rate of the 56 largest metro areas. Our state income tax is also low. The average household in Tucson pays 1.2% in state taxes, and there are no city income taxes. However, Tucson does have high sales tax. Current sales tax in Tucson is 8.7%.

Our homes also cost less than average home in the United States. In 2022, Tucson’s median home price was $345,000, which is 19.4% less than the national average. Couple that with Tucson’s low property taxes, and low homeowner’s insurance rates, and you get a much lower cost of housing.

Outdoor Recreation

Tucson’s beautiful weather and gorgeous desert setting give Tucson amazing year-round outdoor recreation. Most notable is Tucson’s hiking and golf courses. When it comes to hiking you have a ton of options, whether you want a flat and easy desert stroll, or a rigorous hike to the top of a mountain. Popular hiking destinations include Saguaro National Forest East and West, Catalina State Park, and Sabino Canyon. If hitting the links is more your style, choose from 47 different golf courses in the greater Tucson area. There are plenty of Municipal and public courses to choose from, but if you are looking for a more exclusive experience, there are 10 private courses.

Tucson is also a bike friendly city. One of the gems of Tucson is “The Loop” which is a 130-mile car free bike path that takes you in and around Tucson. Tucson is also home to the “El Tour De Tucson”. Every November for the past 40 years, thousands of riders compete in a 102-mile Bicycle Race. Not only is Tucson a hot spot for road bikes, but it is also heaven for mountain bikers as well. There are a lot of trails to choose from whether you want an easy ride (Sweetwater Preserve), or an intense rock filled trail (Catalina State Park).

If you are a skier or a snowboarder, or just want to play in the snow, Mt Lemmon is only an hour drive from Tucson. Tucson is one of the rare places in the world where you can play a round of golf in the 60s and go skiing in the same day.  

Schools

The public school system in Tucson is below average according to GreatSchools.org. The average school score is 5.12 out of 10. Now, like every city there are some schools that are better than others. There are 13 School Districts in the Tucson Metro area. The highest ranked school district is the Vail School District which has an average rank of 9.44 out of 10. The lowest ranked school district was Sunnyside School District with a score of 2.94. Tucson Unified School District is the largest district in Tucson. Its score is 4.51 out of 10.

Tucson does have quite a few charter schools to choose from. Basis Oro Valley is a notable charity school in Tucson. It was ranked the 27th best school in the country by US News & World Report. Other popular charity schools in Tucson include Lehman Academy, Legacy Traditional School, Academy of Tucson, and Presidio School to name a few.

There are also private schools in Tucson. Salpointe Catholic High School is the largest private school in Tucson.

Crime

According to CrimeGrade.com Every year in Tucson there are 75.6 crimes committed per 1,000 people. 48 of those are property crimes. 5 of those are violent crimes. How does this compare to the 100 largest cities in the US? In overall crime, Tucson ranks 83rd safest. In violent crime, Tucson ranks 72nd. And in property crime, Tucson ranks 86th.

But like every large metro area, there are areas of high crime and areas of low crime. The lowest area for crime in the Tucson metro area the towns of Marana and Vail, both with roughly 22 crimes per 1,000 people. The highest area of crime in Tucson is Central and South Tucson, with 119 and 110 crimes per 1,000 people.

Housing

In 2022, the median priced home in Tucson was $345,000. The entry level to owning a home in Tucson (bottom 25%) is $222,000. For higher end homes in Tucson (top 25%) you would be looking at $599,000 or more. The most expensive housing areas of Tucson are the Catalina Foothills in North Tucson, and Tanque Verde Valley in Northeast Tucson. The median homes in these areas are $664,725 and $592,500, respectfully.

Tucson is made up of predominantly traditional single-family homes. In fact, 4 out of 5 homes in Tucson are single-family homes. Townhomes make up 10%, Condos make up 6%, and manufactured homes make up just 5%.

The average age of a home in Tucson is 34 years old. And there are still a lot of new developments popping up in Tucson. In 2022, 7% of the market was made up of New Construction homes. Most of the new construction is happening in Marana, Vail, and Sahuarita. But if you are looking for an older home with more character check out central Tucson, where you can still find early 1900s homes and many mid-century homes.

With Tucson’s growth really taking off over the last 30 years, Homeowner Associations are quite common. Two thirds of the homes in Tucson are in an HOA. One common type of Homeowner’s Association is called an Active Adult Community. These communities are age restricted, with most of them being restricted to residents 55 years or older. These neighborhoods make up 13% of Tucson. Popular Active Adult communities are Green Valley, Saddlebrook, Quail Creek, Sun City Rancho Vistoso, Del Webb Dove Mountain, and Sunflower Continental Ranch.

Another popular type of home in Tucson is acreage homes. 9% of the homes in Tucson sit on at least an acre. And are usually found on the outskirts of town. 1 out of 20 homes are zoned for horses and other livestock. Tucson has a large horse community.

Income

The median household income in Tucson in 2021 was $48,058. Which about 32% lower than the national average. In 2021, 15.1% of Tucson was living below the poverty rate, compared to Arizona average of 13.5%, and the national average of 12.6%.

The highest median household incomes can be found in the Vail, AZ ($107,470), Tanque Verde ($107,358), and the Catalina Foothills ($102,171). These three areas also have the lowest poverty rate, all under 2.5%.

The lowest median household incomes can be found in Flowing Wells ($34,054) and Central Tucson ($40,300). The highest poverty rates can be found in South Tucson (18.1%) and Central Tucson (17.4%).

Age

The median age of a person in Tucson is 34 years old. 26.3% of the population is under 18 years old, and 14.8% are over the age of 65. Tucson has a low median age due to the large presence of the University of Arizona and Davis Monthan Air Force Base.

The areas of town with the youngest median age are South Tucson (32.1 years old) and Corona De Tucson (33.9 years old). The area of town with the oldest population is Green Valley (73 years old) and Saddlebrooke (71.3 years old).

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