Why We’re Still Happy Renters in Our 70s and 80s

Louisa Rogers

By Louisa Rogers

Jul 25, 2023

The first time that my husband Barry and I toured our apartment in Old Town, Eureka, on California’s North Coast, we fell in love with the partial view of the bay, a light-filled second floor, and the a garage — rare in this part of town. “Look, there's no risk,” I said. “Let’s just rent it for a while, until we figure out our next steps.”

Ha! So much for that short-term plan. Twenty-two years later, we're still there. Our landlord is as surprised as we are. When he showed us the apartment, Barry and I had just returned to the U.S. after traveling abroad. We gave him our card, which announced we were “lovers of Leaving,” because we never seemed to settle down.

“I’m not sure I should rent to you!” he said, as he read the card, chuckling. Now we’re his oldest tenants, in both senses of the word, and he jokes that we’ll never leave.

Our move to Eureka really began twenty months earlier, when we left our previous home in Palo Alto, wanting a radical change from the intensity of Silicon Valley. In the fall of 1999, we flew to Mexico and, from there, to Greece, the Middle East, and Ireland, starting and ending our period abroad in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Guanajuato, Mexico. We paid for our travels by renting out our Palo Alto home.

Louisa and Barry's Eureka, CA dining room and kitchen. Photo courtesy of Louisa Rogers.Louisa and Barry's Eureka, CA dining room and kitchen. Photo courtesy of Louisa Rogers.

When we returned to the U.S., ready to settle again, our house was still leased. We knew we didn’t want to go back to Palo Alto anyway — so we bought a camper van and meandered up California’s coastal Highway 1, looking at different towns along the way at possible places to live. That was when we found our Eureka apartment.

When we moved in, I told a friend that it reminded me of the second-story Russian apartment where Lara in the movie Dr. Zhivago lived, complete with a big pot of comforting soup on the stove. Our apartment isn’t elegant, but it feels very cozy, intimate, and safe.

Four years later, we sold our Palo Alto home and bought a 200-year-old adobe house in Guanajuato’s centro. To have an international base had always been our dream. Today, we love our lifestyle, divided across what we call our three "homes": our Eureka apartment; our house in Guanajuato; and our camper van, in which we roam around Northern California, southern Oregon, and beyond.

You could not pick two more different environments than Eureka and Guanajuato: moist, green, and at sea level, on one hand, and high, dry, on a 7,000-foot mesa on the other. From these different perches, we get to enjoy not only distinct landscapes, but different cultures, languages, climates, altitudes, friends, cuisine, architecture, and history. This lifestyle wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t renters.

When we bought our home in Guanajuato, I was so smitten with our colorful, vibrant, city that I felt ready to move there within the next hour. But after the "sugar high" wore off, I realized I liked the contrasts our two lifestyles offer.

Louisa and Barry on the terrace of their home in Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Louisa Rogers.Louisa and Barry on the terrace of their home in Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Louisa Rogers.

We're very happy renting in Eureka, rather than owning. As realtors say, it’s all about location. In Old Town, we walk to everything — coffee shops, two supermarkets, the library, the gym, the boardwalk, and the bay, where we paddle. If we didn’t own our Mexican home, we’d want to buy in Eureka, but the real estate market here doesn’t match our needs. Very few houses are for sale in our neighborhood, and most are much bigger than what we want. Our 900-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment is the perfect size for us. We have plenty of storage space downstairs in a room with a spare bed, plus a workshop. Outside, we have a deck, a fence framed with potato vines, and our hot tub, which we love having, since Eureka can be chilly year-round.

Unlike many other parts of California, the rent is affordable (the median rent for a two-bedroom is $1,475, according to our rental data), and we don't want the complications involved in owning two homes. Our older Guanajuato home has plenty of maintenance issues already.

Fortunately, we can manage financially without subletting our apartment when we’re in Mexico, though we’ve had friends house-sit from time to time. We do rent out our Mexican home when we’re away, which helps to cover expenses.

When there’s a problem in our apartment and we aren’t in Eureka, our friends pitch in. For example, last winter, a friend who works in a bookstore a block away checked our home after the 6.4 earthquake that rattled the area. And a couple of years ago, during heavy winter rains, our neighbors moved our basement furniture to protect it. 

At 80 and 71, Barry and I are not exactly the typical renter demographic. Will we still love this lifestyle in ten years? Who knows. For now, between van trips and paddling on our bay in Eureka, and hiking in Mexico, we’re having too much fun to think about it.

We rate and sort every listing based on fair market rent.

Start your search

Top metro areas

Albuquerque Metro Apartments

439 apartments starting at $495/month

Atlanta Metro Apartments

3,009 apartments starting at $427/month

Austin Metro Apartments

2,303 apartments starting at $500/month

Bakersfield Metro Apartments

352 apartments starting at $595/month

Baltimore Metro Apartments

838 apartments starting at $500/month

Birmingham Metro Apartments

510 apartments starting at $400/month

Boston Metro Apartments

2,993 apartments starting at $650/month

Charlotte Metro Apartments

1,352 apartments starting at $531/month

Chicago Metro Apartments

4,004 apartments starting at $499/month

Cincinnati Metro Apartments

706 apartments starting at $525/month

Cleveland Metro Apartments

841 apartments starting at $400/month

Colorado Springs Metro Apartments

687 apartments starting at $500/month

Columbus Metro Apartments

1,277 apartments starting at $545/month

Dallas Fort Worth Metro Apartments

8,825 apartments starting at $400/month

Denver Metro Apartments

1,786 apartments starting at $550/month

Detroit Metro Apartments

1,471 apartments starting at $500/month

El Paso Metro Apartments

260 apartments starting at $525/month

Fresno Metro Apartments

290 apartments starting at $800/month

Hartford Metro Apartments

256 apartments starting at $500/month

Honolulu Metro Apartments

661 apartments starting at $600/month

Houston Metro Apartments

1,180 apartments starting at $500/month

Indianapolis Metro Apartments

996 apartments starting at $480/month

Jacksonville Metro Apartments

1,493 apartments starting at $600/month

Kansas City Metro Apartments

1,180 apartments starting at $412/month

Las Vegas Metro Apartments

3,284 apartments starting at $650/month

Los Angeles Metro Apartments

6,500 apartments starting at $400/month

Louisville Metro Apartments

400 apartments starting at $525/month

Memphis Metro Apartments

1,063 apartments starting at $450/month

Miami Metro Apartments

4,476 apartments starting at $950/month

Milwaukee Metro Apartments

677 apartments starting at $485/month

Minneapolis Metro Apartments

1,610 apartments starting at $415/month

Nashville Metro Apartments

586 apartments starting at $845/month

New Orleans Metro Apartments

891 apartments starting at $406/month

New York City Metro Apartments

2,861 apartments starting at $500/month

Oklahoma City Metro Apartments

1,391 apartments starting at $500/month

Omaha Metro Apartments

470 apartments starting at $525/month

Orlando Metro Apartments

1,284 apartments starting at $550/month

Philadelphia Metro Apartments

1,817 apartments starting at $500/month

Phoenix Metro Apartments

1,841 apartments starting at $650/month

Pittsburgh Metro Apartments

1,032 apartments starting at $400/month

Portland Metro Apartments

2,073 apartments starting at $415/month

Raleigh Metro Apartments

1,254 apartments starting at $600/month

Richmond Metro Apartments

747 apartments starting at $625/month

Riverside Metro Apartments

741 apartments starting at $595/month

Sacramento Metro Apartments

974 apartments starting at $525/month

Salt Lake City Metro Apartments

782 apartments starting at $600/month

San Antonio Metro Apartments

1,632 apartments starting at $400/month

San Diego Metro Apartments

1,836 apartments starting at $590/month

San Francisco Metro Apartments

2,026 apartments starting at $575/month

San Jose Metro Apartments

769 apartments starting at $1,250/month

Seattle Metro Apartments

2,060 apartments starting at $525/month

St. Louis Metro Apartments

1,120 apartments starting at $500/month

Tampa Metro Apartments

1,101 apartments starting at $795/month

Tucson Metro Apartments

700 apartments starting at $475/month

Tulsa Metro Apartments

490 apartments starting at $475/month

Virginia Beach Metro Apartments

884 apartments starting at $775/month

Washington Metro Apartments

894 apartments starting at $685/month

Wichita Metro Apartments

390 apartments starting at $425/month