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Seems there are at least 100 articles about the 10 most fabulous places to retire in the US every year. These lists are a good place to start if you’ve decided you need to move but don’t have an area picked out. But that’s what they are: a start. Researching places to live used to be a chore.
Luckily we have the trusty Internet to help us narrow our searches. Here are some ideas on things to look for, and places to look, when deciding on where you would like to settle.
Time was, people quit their factory jobs in the Northeast and Midwest and retired to Florida. The idea of not shoveling snow appealed to them. Now folks are branching out through the South looking for their places in the sun.
Where do you go to find out the way the weather works in your target area? Try the National Weather Service website. Under the Past Weather heading are temperature maps you can adjust for timeframes. You can explore the site for rainfall stats, storm information and all sorts of goodies.
You could also search “TV stations in (your target area)” and find out the stations serving the places you’re interested in. Watch how they talk about weather. See whether they add information like ski conditions or marine weather. And if you have local people there to talk to, ask them as well.
Time to make like a would-be tourist. Check the state tourism office, parks department and local chamber of commerce for a start on your list of things to see. People are proud of things like museums, parks, and universities, many of which have websites of their own to explore.
Try bringing up maps of your target town from these sources. Often you can get information on public transportation, including routes and types of transportation used, and the website will tell you what it costs to ride.
On some city maps you can find businesses, schools, banks, clinics, even apartment complexes marked out. Just try zooming in a bit. I had a client moving to a southern New Hampshire city. She was worried about being able to get to a grocery store. So we looked up her apartment address on the map and found two supermarkets within half a mile of her place. (Note: you may need to know the names of chain stores in the area.)
If health care is a priority, check out one of the lists of top hospitals for your conditions of interest. I start with US News’ list. Then find out where your target health care facilities are and explore the areas around them. Chances are good you can find out quite a lot by visiting the websites of the hospitals or clinics.
You can generally get a map showing where the centers are located, a directory of departments and personnel, and information about billing and such. See if they have financial assistance for those with limited incomes.
But also check out the extras, such as a Ronald McDonald House or other hostel for families of patients. Or look through the list of support services, classes and support groups run by the hospital. See if your major health concerns are addressed to your satisfaction.
Make sure you can get there with your kind of transportation. If you drive, let’s hope they have parking. In some cities, it’s a challenge. On the other hand, in those places public transportation probably works great.
Wondering if you will be busy enough in your new area? Google up some opportunities. If giving back is your plan, check for nonprofits in your target area. That will get you a starting list of places that might need help.
If you are more business-oriented, seek out business organizations that would be helpful to you. You might be looking for an incubation site for startups, microlending groups, business education and support organizations, or just the chamber of commerce.
Don’t forget to check out the kinds of social groups and events you enjoy. Look up houses of worship to see if your preference is represented. If so, see if they show contact information so you can find out what activities they offer.
If you like clubs, Google your favorites to see if they’re there. Kiwanis, Elks, Rotary, and other clubs often put on fundraising events that entertain. Even if you don’t join, you can find out what they do in case you enjoy street fairs, barbecues and silent auctions. There could be bingo as well for those who partake.
If your tastes run to the more esoteric, find out from your current chapter or group if there’s a group to go to in your target location. Belonging to the Masons or Eastern Star would give you an instant set of new people to know.
Have your eye on a lake and wondering if your power boat will be allowed? Want to ride your ATV in the woods? Finding this out could take a bit of doing but it’s worth the trouble. Often the state website for parks and tourism or natural resources will tell you.
If your search for regulations doesn’t turn up what you want on the Internet. try asking businesses that cater to people who do what you do. Ask the marina owner on your favorite lake if you can’t find out from the state about your boat. See if someone who owns cabins in the area can put you in touch with people who know the ATV trails.
Newspapers large and small often put out seasonal special sections that feature fun things to do. You might be able to get hold of one of those by asking the paper of your target area. These special sections are full of ads from businesses that know things you want to know.
They’ll also tell you what else is available. In a snowmobiling area, they might have a snowmobile festival, races, or poker runs with prizes. The country club might host snow golf, cribbage, or bocce tournaments. The local pool might have water exercise classes. Newspapers can tell you a lot.
By now you have a pretty good idea of the fit of the areas you’ve looked at. Now it’s time to consider housing in these areas.
If you want to buy, you can feed your location into Zillow or Realtor.com. They’ll show you MLS listings of properties in the area. If you love something right away, you can contact the realtor from there.
However, it might also be a good idea to look up real estate agents in your location. They might have listings that don’t get on the big websites.
For rentals, it depends on what you want. If you are checking out urban locations, using sites like Apartment Guide or Apartment Finder will work well. They are also huge enough to list retirement apartment complexes. I like these sites because they often feature apartments with amenities such as pools, covered parking or barbecues. Plus I’m a fan of floor plans. A girl can dream, right?
In not-so-urban areas, though, you are better off with Craigslist, local real estate agents, and the local paper’s classifieds. The big sites just don’t list mom-and-pop rentals common in rural areas, and the countryside doesn’t boast many fifty-unit complexes with pool and fitness center.
Subsidized elder housing can be found through the state’s housing authority website, some apartment listings online, or through local papers. If you learn the names of the management companies that run these places in the region you can often find out what the places look like on their websites.
Now you have some ideas on how to find out more about the areas you’re considering. It can be fun researching places to live. You can take a trip to your favorite areas and see if they measure up, and maybe see some fun sites before committing. Have a blast!
Do me a favor? If you know other things to research, or other ways to get at the topics I mentioned, please do a comment for others to learn. Thanks!