Make a Checklist When Pondering a Move

Relocation specialists offer these tips for making a successful retirement move:

* Define exactly what you're looking for in a town and in your life. List what you like and don't like, and what's important. Then rank everything. Considerations might include a mild climate, low crime rates, good hospitals, a low cost of living, and low state and local taxes.

* Compile a list of prospective retirement towns and look into them.

* Schedule a visit to the town. Start with the chamber of commerce. Ask for a relocation packet. "The chamber of commerce often reflects a community's attitude about outsiders," says Alan Fox, publisher of Where to Retire magazine. "If you're treated coldly by the chamber of commerce, it may be that this town sees retirees as a negative."

* Check the cost of living. See how your expenses will change when you move. What are the tax consequences of retirement relocation?

* Schedule an hour or two with a real estate agent. Ask which areas to visit and which to stay away from.

* Ask about local opportunities for lifelong learning.

* Before buying a house or a condo, consider proximity to grocery stores and shopping. Also ask the owner for heating bills - highs, lows, averages. Ask questions about water and heating systems.

* Have a subscription to a city's newspaper sent to your home.

* Get to know the town before buying.

"For some people, the biggest regret is wishing they had chosen a different neighborhood," says Mr. Fox. "Not a different town, but a different neighborhood. Too much research stops at the city limits."

* If you're not sure whether you want a house or condo, consider renting at first.

* Visit the town at different times of the year. Don't move to Florida without checking out the summers.

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