A twist ending awaits two empty-nesters in San Francisco

After their only child left their home in suburban Sacramento to attend college in the Bay Area, Jan and Tony Massara knew what they wanted: a true city living experience.

They knew which city too.

“There is a spirit, a community, and a desire to be involved in San Francisco,” said Ms. Massara, 64. “You don’t just observe or live here — you get to be a part of it.”

So in 2017, the couple, who had lived almost all their lives in the suburbs, and grew up within a mile of each other in the San Fernando Valley area of ​​Los Angeles, gave up almost everything in their four-bedroom house in Granite Bay and rented an apartment from Two bedroom in the Inner Sunset District of San Francisco.

It has been a dramatic life change, hastened in part by Mr. Massarra’s multiple battles with cancer, which he said is now largely behind him. “It definitely made us think about the future in completely different ways,” Ms. Massara said.

The couple, who married 41 years after meeting while living in the Venice Beach area of ​​Los Angeles, moved to San Francisco immediately. But they were in no rush to buy, with enough financial reserves from Mr. Massara’s career as a bond salesman and Ms. Massara’s work as an escrow manager for the company to rent indefinitely.

(Have you recently bought a home? We want to hear from you. Email: thehunt@nytimes.com)

“The goal was, for once in our lives, to have some freedom,” said Mr. Massara, 68. “We don’t need to make a decision.”

The pandemic prompted a two-year move to the more open wine country town of Healdsburg, where Mr. Massara could safely wait out the worst of Covid. But the landlord’s imminent return means a hasty return to the city in 2022, this time to a more expensive rental (about $6,250 a month) in a 1,400-square-foot space in upscale Nob Hill.

By mid-2023, San Francisco’s notorious rental market was back in the couple’s favor, with national media coverage of crime and homelessness — a “death cycle,” in Ms. Massara’s words — driving down prices.

Having fallen in love with Nob Hill, with easy access to North Beach, Chinatown and transportation hubs elsewhere in the city, they thought they were in a position to make a better rental deal.

“San Francisco has a bad reputation right now, and as people move to the suburbs and interest rates rise, prices have come down,” said Georgina McInerney, a sixth-generation San Francisco native and a leasing agent with the Massara family’s Compass rental company. In 2022. “But smart people multiply.”

The couple knew the rentals available were plentiful, and they soon found themselves with many options. They were all pet-friendly, could accommodate her three cats, with an elevator and space to park their car.

But what they don’t know yet is what will lead them down a new path in their adventure in San Francisco.

Among their options:

Find out what happened next by answering these two questions:

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