What if you\’ve decided you\’re among the 50 percent of Boomers who say
they are planning to relocate after they retire, and, after doing some
investigating, you\’ve narrowed your list of locations to several
possibilities. Of course, there really is no perfect place, but there
are likely many locations that will mesh with your priorities.
Remember, too, that moving doesn\’t have to be a permanent decision –
you may decide you want to live in a place for several years, and then
relocate again.

Now, assuming you\’ve done your homework and narrowed your list to
several good possibilities, here are some ideas to “try them on” for
fit:

Try a discovery tour. Many communities (especially the larger ones with
long build-out time frames) offer discovery tours at attractive rates
that provide accommodations for a few nights, and allow you to take a
tour, talk with residents, and perhaps sample some of their amenities.
Two examples: Ford\’s Colony in Williamsburg, Virginia offers 4 days/3
nights lodging for two, plus either two rounds of golf per person or a
four-course dinner for two for $299. Hammock Beach in Palm Coast,
Florida offers a 3-day/2-night package for two that includes lodging at
the Club at Hammock Beach, and a personal tour of the property for $199
mid-week and $249 on weekends.

Sample all seasons. If you\’re crawling along in traffic with the hordes
of snowbirds who have flocked to your potential new home, you might
think twice about relocating there. Or, if you visit a southern
location only during the winter months, you may be in for a shock after
you move and the summer humidity sets in. The mountain community that
is delightful in the late summer may strike you differently as you
slide on the black ice during February.

Get the local newspaper. Try accessing newspapers online or at
the library, or have a subscription sent to your home. Being in touch
with the everyday events of your potential retirement haven cues you in
on the events, issues, real estate prices, and flavor of a community.

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking. Take a look at the area\’s Yellow Pages
– you\’ll get a sense of the scope of the restaurants, theaters,
hospitals, parks, physicians, etc.

Talk to the locals. Strike up conversations at a community center,
park, or casual restaurant. You may find out information that the
Chamber of Commerce or a realtor won\’t volunteer. Lydia R., for
example, found out talking to a resident about a local paper plant
that, depending on the wind direction, produced a less-than-desirable
“aroma” that could be detected in the development she was considering.

Rent or try a home exchange. It\’s a good idea not only to sample all
seasons, but also to try out a prospective location for at least six
months to ensure it\’s really for you. Organizations exist that allow
you to arrange a temporary swap of your home for one in a different
location (fees for this type of service start at $50). Examples: Home
Exchange (www.homeexchange.com), Home Link (www.swapnow.com), or
Intervac (www.intervacus.com). Want to visit on the cheap? Global
Freeloaders (www.GlobalFreeloaders.com) is a free online service that
allows you to stay at someone\’s home at no cost (but you need to be
willing to reciprocate). Another possibility is to share a residence
with an (unrelated) adult. This can be a fairly inexpensive
alternative, and if you\’re single, you may enjoy the companionship and
safety aspects. Contact the National Shared Housing Resource Center
(www.nationalsharedhousing.org) for information; there is a $20 annual
membership charge.

Have a place for your “toys.” Do you have an RV or a boat? Be
sure you have a place to store them. The Villages of Westminster in
Williamsburg, Virginia, for example, provides on-site (hidden, fenced,
and secured) storage for RVs and/or boats for a nominal yearly fee.
Many communities have covenants that will preclude parking an RV or a
boat in the driveway.

Practice retirement. If possible, try living on your projected
retirement income, and try out the activities you plan on pursuing when
you actually retire. It can be very instructive!

Of course, many different personality types exist. The methodical may
go through all of these steps; others may stumble onto a place, fall in
love, and snap up the first home they visit, and live happily ever
after (or not)!

Jan Cullinane is the co-author of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale, 2007). She gives seminars on the (primarily) non-financial aspects of retirement through her company, "Retirement Living from A to Z."