Many retirees dream of starting over in a new city or state after they stop working. Maybe they want to move somewhere warmer, or to a place that has more restaurants and cultural events. Either way, it’s a popular goal. Three in five Americans dream of spending their golden years in another state or city, according to a 2015 Bankrate survey.
But choosing a new home involves much more than just throwing a dart at a map. Retirees, especially, must think about how easily they can age in their new locale and if they have the connections and support they might need as they grow older.
Here are five details retirees should consider about a new home before packing up the moving van.
1. Does it fit your budget? The first consideration is financial. Before uprooting, find out what cost-of-living adjustments you may need to make. Property, income and inheritance taxes should be on the checklist, says Mark Germain, a financial planner at Beacon Wealth Management. Check out online cost-of-living calculators by city to determine if you’re going to pay a lot more for mundane necessities like food, toiletries or haircuts, reducing your quality of life on a fixed income. If so, consider other nearby, but more affordable towns.
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2. Check out the medical facilities. As you age, you’re likely going to see more doctors, so make sure you have access to good ones. Use resources like state health scorecards from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Research local hospitals using Medicare’s database. Think about any specialists you need along with a primary physician and dentist who will be taking care of you long term. Make sure there are enough in your area who take Medicare or your insurance.
3. Can you build a support network? “The most successful relocations require having a support system at the new location,” says Hui-chin Chen, a financial planner with Pavlov Financial Planning in Arlington, Virginia. “When you move for work, you are more likely to build that community through work initially. But if you move to a brand new location during retirement without family and friends, it will take some effort to rebuild your community.” To help with the transition, look into local clubs, churches or volunteer groups. Being near relatives can help, but don’t depend on them for your social life.
“Be sure to relocate for something other than where your adult kids live,” says Kristin Sullivan of Sullivan Financial Planning in Denver. “They won't be there to entertain you all the time, and they may move.”
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4. Does it have the amenities you need? Think about what activities and infrastructure you need to make your new location work for you. For instance, look for a home near good public transportation if you can’t drive or have restrictions, such as no night driving, says Marguerita Cheng, CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, Maryland. She had one client who had to move twice in six months after relocating to Palm Beach, Florida, because her first home wasn’t located in a walkable neighborhood. Germain of Beacon Wealth Management recounted a client who relocated to Florida from New York City who later regretted her decision because her new home lacked “the same caliber of restaurants and cultural experiences.”
5. Give it a test run. Before making a permanent decision to move to a new location, consider a long-term vacation rental for six months, says Blake Street, the chief investment officer of Warren Street Wealth Advisors in Tustin, California. That way, you can check out the social scene, different neighborhoods and seasonal weather patterns. “Some folks are surprised by these things,” Street says, “as you don't get a full preview with just a short-term visit.”