BOSTON (CBS) – Winter is coming. The real snowbirds, the Juncos, are down from Canada and are at the bird feeders.

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With the first frost I begin to hear “Let’s go someplace warm this winter” in conversations. It’s snowbirditis. You want to go south to warm your bones.

If you go; do you rent or do you buy? Real estate prices are down and renting is cheaper than ever. Both Florida and Nevada have had a very high number of people default on their mortgages the past couple of years.

Before you do either you need to do some homework. Spend as much time as you can where you think you might want to spend the winters. If you have accumulated sick time or vacation time see if you can get a month off to do a retirement rehearsal. A practice run.

Check out the area. What’s important to you? Can your family get there easily if they want to visit? Is there something there that would attract the kids to come visit more often? Recreation facilities? Beaches? Boating? Golf courses? Shopping? Entertainment? Good restaurants? Cheap good restaurants with early bird specials? The one thing retirees don’t want to do is cook!

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And what about good healthcare if you need it. We have the very best health care available in the world right here in our backyard.

What other amenities are important to you? What about traffic? More and more people are heading to Florida, Arizona, and Nevada and with more people comes more traffic. I worked in all three states this past year and there is much more traffic than there was just a couple of years ago.

If you are already retired you have the ability to spend some time looking for the right place to eventually spend your winters. I would not spend less than a month in any one place you are considering. Monthly rentals are usually cheaper than weekly rentals. For $2000 a month you can rent a two-bedroom condo in Boca Raton. Spend the next month in Destin where I found a two-bedroom condo on a lake for $800 and one on the beach for $1500. Places inland Florida are even cheaper.

Many retirees are looking for a more permanent place. The ability to build a second support system. They want to put down roots even if it is only for six months each year. But owning two places means twice the maintenance, twice the taxes and twice the insurance. And you always need someone to look after one of your homes when you are not there.

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The Juncos at my feeder are content; they know they can live in my trees and eat at my feeder all winter and I won’t charge them rent!