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.