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Cooperstown, New York

In upstate New York's Catskills Mountains, Cooperstown (population 2,000) is a picture-perfect village in an idyllic setting along Otsego Lake. The village dates from 1786, is immaculately kept and is the kind of place where residents do not lock their doors at night.

Coopertown is also home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Each year, more than 350,000 baseball fans and nearly 1,000 youth baseball teams come to visit and spend money. They are Cooperstown's lifeblood.

Samuel F. B. Morse (of Morse code fame) and Abner Doubleday (the inventor of baseball) both maintained summer homes here. To ensure that the village retains its historic integrity and remains as charming as it was in its early days, strict zoning laws and building codes are in place. Many homes are meticulously restored gems.

Locals enjoy the Farmer's Museum, a wonderful living history museum that recreates 1845 farm life. The renowned, lakeside Glimmerglass Opera mounts the second largest summer opera season in the country. Several art galleries host rotating exhibits.

Most shopping is of the boutique/tourist variety. Excellent, although touristy, restaurants are in good supply. Otsego Lake is popular with boaters, swimmers and fishermen. Two golf courses are along its shores.

Cost of Living

Cooperstown has an overall cost of living that is 35% below the national average.

The median household income is $66,250.

Real Estate

The median home price is $305,100. This is a 5% increase over the previous year. For comparison, the national median home price is currently $380,000 (Realtor).

Estimates are that Cooperstown real estate prices will increase by 1% over the next year.

The median rental price is $845 per month.


Cooperstown's population has stayed steady within the last decade.

The median age is 52. For comparison, the median age of the U.S. population is 38.

Bassett Medical Center is the local health facility.

The crime rate is well below the national average.


The combined sales tax rate is 8%.

New York does not tax Social Security benefits, and to people age 59.5 and better, it offers a $20,000 exemption for other retirement income, including IRAs, 401(k)s and private pensions. Beyond the $20,000, retirement income is taxed between 4% and 8.2%.

The average effective property tax rate (the annual tax payment as a percentage of median home value) in Cooperstown is 1.87%. The annual taxes on a $305,100 home are approximately $5,705.

Mortgage Options for Retirees

Mortgage lenders can not by law discriminate against anyone who wants a home loan as long as he or she can meet the income requirements. These requirements can be met by using current Social Security income, other retirement income and investment account income.

There are also programs designed just for seniors to help them finance a home.

Freddie Mac

The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) makes it easier for home buyers to qualify for a mortgage if they have substantial assets but a limited income. There are some caveats, but generally lenders can consider IRAs, 401(k)s, lump sum retirement account distributions and proceeds from a business sale to qualify for a mortgage.

Fannie Mae

The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) lets mortgage lenders factor in a borrower's retirement assets to help him or her qualify for a loan. If the borrower is already using a 401(k), IRA or other retirement accounts for retirement income, then the borrower must show that the income received from the asset is going to continue for at least three more years.

Investment Funds

Mortgage lenders can also determine mortgage eligibility based on the borrower's investment funds. If, though, the investment accounts consist of stocks, bonds or mutual funds, then lenders can only factor in 70% of the value of those accounts to determine how many distributions remain and if they will last long enough to cover the mortgage loan.

Asset Depletion

An asset depletion mortgage is a type of home loan designed for buying a home without a regular income - i.e., job income. It lets borrowers qualify for a loan based on their liquid assets instead of an ongoing income source. The total of the borrower's assets is divided into a monthly "income."

For example, if a person has $350,000 in savings, this amount would be divided by 360 months - the traditional length of a mortgage - and that resulting number - $972 - would be used to determine eligibility for the mortgage. This strategy usually requires a significant amount in savings, CDs, money market accounts, etc.


Finding a co-signer - often an adult child with a solid income - is a tried and true way to qualify for a home loan. Fannie Mae makes this relatively quick and easy with its HomeReady program. The caveat is that the borrower must be buying a primary residence, not a rental property or a vacation residence.

Reverse Mortgage

Homeowners 62 or better might want to consider a reverse mortgage. Offically called a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), this type of mortgage is backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and can used to buy a new home.

The reverse mortgage typically covers 38% to 71% of the new home's purchase price. The rest of the purchase price is covered by proceeds from selling a current home or by using other funds. This strategy lets a buyer get into a new home that he or she might not otherwise be able to afford.

So homebuying mortgage options exist no matter one's age. Although many experts still recommend heading into retirement without a mortgage, it is clear that many retirees are instead choosing to take out a mortgage and purchase a new home to enjoy throughout their golden years.



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