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Will These House Hunters Find Their Dream Homes?

City or country? Downsize or expand? Follow 10 people through bidding wars and tough choices on the road to their new home

collage of six different types of dwellings an apartment building a tiny house and several types of other homes in different environments

Top center tiny house, Shutterstock; all others, Getty Images (5)

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Downsizing has its upsides. Research shows that older Americans who move as part of a retirement plan tend to be happier than those who stay put. Here’s a look at where and why several age-50-plus single people and couples are relocating.

We invite you to make your own picks by scrolling to the bottom of each scenario. Click on the winning home button to read about each home and see how your picks stack up against our home hunters’ final selections. (Note that in some cases the choices described reflect representative examples rather than actual properties considered, and prices are largely pre-pandemic.)

The Scenario: Small-town charm

franck and tracy louis marie stand in a living room

Photo by Theo Stroomer

House hunters: Franck and Tracy Louis-Marie, 52 and 57

The minute their nest emptied this year, the Louis-Maries decided to leave Los Angeles. “We literally wanted to blaze new trails,” Tracy says. “And drive fewer freeways!” Franck adds. On the wish list: a city on a “human scale, definitely not sprawling,” Franck says. Someplace, Tracy explains, “where people walk along a tree-lined Main Street, with public art and historic buildings and friendly mom-and-pop shops.” Also, access to the great outdoors. And after years of mostly renting in L.A., they wanted to own a two- or three-bedroom home with a big yard.

Budget: $450,000

Moving from: Marina del Rey, California, apartment rental

Family status: Married 25 years; two 20-something kids

Employment: Tracy: part-time adviser to companies on social-impact policies; Franck: art director for entertainment companies. Both work remotely.

Forever home contenders

craftsman bungalow style home in the grass valley california area

1. Grass Valley, California

ranch house in grand junction colorado

2. Grand Junction, Colorado

ranch style house in portland oregon

3. Portland, Oregon

The Scenario: Time to Super-Downsize?

betsy barbour

Reed Young

House hunter: Betsy Barbour, 66

When rising fees priced Betsy out of her condo, she needed a housing solution she could cover with partial Social Security, part-time jobs and limited savings. “I couldn’t afford to completely retire,” she says. She sold her two-bedroom condo for $75,000.

Budget: $500/month

Moving from: 1,200-square-foot Fort Myers, Florida, condo that she owned outright

Family status: Divorced; one adult son, one grandchild

Employment: Retired field linguist (she created written languages out of oral ones); working part-time jobs as a specialist in cross-cultural communications

Forever home contenders

aerial photo of fort myers florida along the coast

1. Fort Myers, Florida

white tiny house with blue trim in tavares florida

2. Tavares, Florida

apartment building in fort myers florida

3. Fort Myers, Florida

The Scenario: The Cabin Is Calling

chris and kathleen rewey

Ackermann Gruber

House hunters: Chris and Kathleen Rewey, 69 and 53

The Reweys expected to retire to a house they built years ago outside Madison. But when COVID hit, Chris obsessed about a log cabin his dad’s dad had built on a lake in northern Wisconsin. “My uncles sold it in the 1990s, leaving a hole in my heart,” he says. Meanwhile, in 2021, the couple bought a winter home in Panama City, Florida, where they could work remotely and rent during the summer. With winter covered, whither the rest of the year?

Budget: $560,000

Moving from: Madison, Wisconsin

Family status: Married 25 years; no kids

Employment: Chris: head of a software company; Kathleen:   sales executive for a social-care organization

Forever home contenders

house and yard in panama city florida

1. Panama City, Florida

house on the lake in minocqua wisconsin

2. Minocqua, Wisconsin

cabin home in eastern tennessee with views of the mountains

3. Eastern Tennessee

The Scenario: Follow the Parents or Fly Free?

laura campbell

Caleb Alvarado

House hunter: Laura Campbell, 55

Laura’s active 80-something parents regularly rented a winter place in Florida, so she decided to move south from the family’s Connecticut base and stay in Florida year-round. “It was important to me to be close to them,” says Laura, who arrived in Delray Beach in October 2019. Then came COVID-19. “My parents decided they wanted to live out their whole lives in Connecticut, where they still had so many friends. I had a big decision to make.”

Budget: $2,200/month

Moving from: Delray Beach, Florida, apartment rental

Family status: Divorced; two adult sons

Employment: Life coach and consultant

Forever home contenders

condominium building in golden colorado

1. Golden, Colorado

wide shot of an upscale apartment building and palm tree filled grounds in delray beach florida

2. Delray Beach, Florida

small house in woodbridge connecticut

3. Woodbridge, Connecticut

The Scenario: A Place for Dad

bob grant

Gabriela Hasbun

House hunter: Bob Grant, 71

Grant was living in a condo near the Vegas Strip when he had a stroke seven years ago. In California, his five children — all ex-pro athletes — rallied, and his daughter, who lives in the Bay Area, took Bob in. But after several years, she simply found it too hard to care for Grant and three (now four) young kids.

Budget: $175,000

Moving from: Las Vegas condo

Family status: Divorced; five adult kids, 10 grandchildren

Employment: Retired chemical engineer

Forever home contenders

nice looking apartment or condo building from the outside

1. Bay Area, California

hands shot of a caregiver holding hands with an older adult

2. Bay Area, California

accessory dwelling unit tiny house

3. Bay Area, California

The Scenario: Sellin’ Off, Movin’ On

quinn and vivian golden sitting in rocking chairs on a porch

Peter Ross

House hunters: Quinn and Vivian Golden, 61 and 59

“We told our kids, ‘Mom and Dad aren’t going to retire here, so grow your wings and fly,’ ” says Quinn, whose job “got COVIDed” in 2020, as he puts it. The Goldens sold their 2,200-square-foot hilltop cabin for $400,000, and sold motorcycles, boats, even a Model A Ford, to help bridge the gap until full retirement. But they needed a place to live.

Budget: $400,000

Moving from: Alton, New Hampshire, hilltop log home

Family status: Married 36 years; six adult kids

Employment: Quinn: retired paper-mill sales professional; Vivian: retired stay-at-home mom

Forever home contenders

brownstone row townhouses in portland maine

1. Portland, Maine

large jayco towable recreational vehicle

2. Everywhere Road Trip

older cottage in need of renovations in dansville new york

3. Dansville, New York

The Scenario: Eyes on the South

donna deans standing next to a mailbox

Andrew Hetherington

House hunter: Donna Deans, 68

Donna Deans arrived in New York City in 1977, right after finishing college. She had planned to live there forever. But when the pandemic shuttered the furniture company where she worked, she kissed the Big Apple goodbye, looking to the South. Her $1,700-a-month, rent-stabilized one-bedroom place was “a bargain for New York City,” she says, but not cheap enough to allow her to live off Social Security and her 401(k) for the rest of her life. Her goal: to find someplace under $1,200 a month in a modern building, with a deck or garden. And “you don’t move to the South without excellent AC,” she adds.

Budget: $1,200/month

Moving from: Brooklyn, New York, apartment rental

Marital status: Single; no kids, dating

Employment: Recently retired furniture salesperson

Forever home contenders

sanford florida aerial photo

1. Sanford, Florida

apartment home community in wilson north carolina

2. Wilson, North Carolina

exterior photo of a brick and tudor styled single level house

3. Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia

David Hochman, a contributing editor to AARP The Magazine, is a journalist and features writer based in Los Angeles. His December 2020 AARP Bulletin story on nursing homes, “18 Weeks,” has won several national awards.

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