The Hunters hit a buyer's market, improved a fixer-upper and used profits to buy their home.

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Profile: Cynthia, 68, and Dean Hunter, 73, Lakewood, Pierce County/Palm Desert, Calif.

Retired:
Cynthia in 1999 after 23 years as teacher and librarian; Dean in 1976 as an Air Force lieutenant colonel after 26 years as a pilot, and 1998 from second career as a school administrator.

Where to:
Three-bedroom, four-bath house in a Palm Desert, Calif., country club, between November and May each year. They also keep a Lakewood home — a smaller fixer-upper they downsized to after retirement.

Unlike many neighbors, they don’t rent out their desert home during months lived elsewhere; they hit a buyer’s market, improved a fixer-upper and used profits to buy their home.

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“Prices have gone up since then,” Cynthia Hunter says, “but you can live here for just about any kind of money. It costs a lot less to live farther out in Indio or Cathedral City.”

Why:
To escape Washington winters, join “half our golf friends from home” (“the other half plan to move here in a few years”), and participate in nearly a dozen military and college alumni groups, church, community-college classes, bridge, golf, the community’s 35 pools and fitness center. “Plus we have trees, flowers and water. It’s not painted dirt” like some desert settings.

Downside?
With higher gas prices, “we have only one car down here,” she says. “Our other vehicle is a golf cart.”

If you had $50,000 in Seattle, you would need approximately $41,000 to maintain the same standard of living in the Palm Desert region (includes San Bernadino/Riverside), according to bestplaces.net