When relocating, our advice is to evaluate a community like a climber tackling Mount Everest.
Q: You recently wrote about the merits of moving to a small town in retirement. My wife and I hope to relocate, and we are trying to narrow our list of possible destinations. Have you written about the process of visiting and evaluating a community? Is there a better or best way to do this?
A: It takes some time, but the best way to do this is to think about Mount Everest.
As you probably know, one way climbers tackle Everest is to do so in stages. They will ascend to a particular height, spend a brief time there and return to base camp. Then, they will climb to the previous height a second time and remain for a longer period. Climbers repeat this process at ever-higher altitudes, as they acclimate themselves to the mountain's thin air. A similar process works well with retirement destinations.
The first trip might last a week. It will give you a chance to drive through neighborhoods, dine at local restaurants and get an initial impression. Assuming that the first trip is promising, the second trip should last two or three weeks and take place during a different time of the year. At this point, it helps to talk with real-estate agents and prospective neighbors.
Finally, if you think you have found your retirement home, book a short-term rental and visit for two or three months. If you still like the community, put up the "For Sale" sign back home.
Yes, this is a lengthy and potentially expensive process. But few decisions in retirement are more painful than discovering you have settled in an area that proves to be something quite different from what you imagined.
As one expert on retirement migration told us: "Visit South Florida when the mosquitoes are out and the temperatures are high -- not just in February. Or visit when tourists don't come, when the towns go back to their native residents. Some people will do that and decide this is not the place for them."
In 2016, the cities below gained the most residents age 60 and older. Here are the figures from SmartAsset for net migration -- the number of people moving into the city from another state minus the number moving out of the state:
- Henderson, NV: 2,341
- San Antonio, TX: 2,306
- Scottsdale, AZ: 1,834
- Mesa, AZ: 1,793
- Las Vegas, NV: 1,320
- Gilbert, AZ: 1,256
- Surprise, AZ: 1,131
- Raleigh, NC: 1,113
- Eugene, OR: 1,088
- Peoria, AZ: 1,046