As far as retirement communities go, The Villages is the 800-pound gorilla.
Not just in Florida, but on the national and international level.
In this article we'll explore all of the things that make life in The Villages so appealing to so many baby boomers.
Located about an hour north of Orlando, The Villages was not even called “The Villages” when it first began.
It started as a mobile home park called Orange Blossom Gardens.
Though it struggled in the early years, the community experienced staggering growth in the mid-1980’s because the community offered an impressive collection of amenities.
As that amenities-focused community continued to grow and develop, it eventually evolved into “The Villages”, which has become the premiere model for what a master-planned community should be.
Today, The Villages is known for having the largest and most diverse collection of amenities of any community on the planet.
Residents have access to an amazing collection of golf courses, recreation centers, and town squares, as well as an unparalleled number of clubs covering just about any topic you can imagine.
With all of the advantages that The Villages offers to its residents, it is no wonder that it consistently ranks as the fastest-growing community in the entire country. There were an astounding 3,923 new homes sold there in 2022.
It's a Golf Cart Life
Set foot in The Villages for the first time and you will instantly note that just about everyone here uses a golf cart for their day to day travels.
Almost everywhere you need or want to go in The Villages is golf cart accessible, which makes getting around much simpler.
When traveling in your golf cart, you will want to be sure to observe all traffic laws, including some that apply specifically to golf carts.
There are several golf cart dealerships and service centers throughout The Villages and there are also regularly scheduled golf cart safety clinics which are great for newcomers.
Free Golf for Life
The Villages has more holes of golf than any other community/facility in the world and at the time of this writing more than 700 holes of golf in The Villages spread across multiple Executive Courses and Championship Courses.
The idea of “Free Golf for Life” has been attracting people to The Villages for as long as most can remember.
All of the Executive Courses are available to residents with no greens fees whatsoever, and for a reasonable annual fee residents can have priority access to the Championship Courses as well at reduced greens fees.
You will have to pay a “trail fee” to use your own golf cart on the courses.
In addition to great golfing, The Villages also contains a large number of tennis courts. There are courts available at most of the recreation centers, and there are also three larger tennis centers located throughout the community.
The Villages Active Lifestyle
There is a whole lot more to life in The Villages than just golf and tennis!
The Villages is a great place for pickleball, which is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. There are also active softball leagues, and if you want to try something new, Dragonboat Racing is very popular.
If active competition isn’t your thing, that’s fine too. There are more than 2,200 different clubs and organizations that cover topics ranging from watercolor painting to scrabble to political debates. One of the biggest clubs is The Villages Woodworkers Club, which maintains an 8,000 square foot woodworking shop where members can design and build just about anything they like.
Dining, Shopping, and Entertainment
The active lifestyle of The Villages isn’t confined to sports, clubs, and classes either. Residents here also have plenty of opportunities to hit one of the three town squares or various other commercial areas for great dining, fantastic shopping, and plenty of fun entertainment.
Depending on your location in The Villages, you might prefer the Santa Fe plaza feel of Spanish Springs Town Square, the beautiful lake views at Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, or the rustic feel of Brownwood Paddock Square. Each of these town squares contains great restaurants and shops.
Cost of Living in The Villages
A popular question that many people researching The Villages will have is, “How much does it cost to live in The Villages.”
The answer to that question is actually a bit tricky. Like any part of the country that you might be considering moving to, you will have to compare the costs of just about everything in your monthly budget, and those costs are different for everyone.
If you request an information package from The Villages, you will see that the estimated amenities fees, utilities, taxes, and insurance cost a little over $1,000 per month. But, unless you plan to lead a relatively Spartan lifestyle, I believe that amount is quite a bit off.
If you are looking for a more realistic breakdown, you will want to check out all of the expenses covered in more detail in this article, which also includes a great budget worksheet.
Buying Real Estate in The Villages
Once you are sold on The Villages as the ultimate place to spend your retirement, the next step is to begin finding a home in The Villages.
There are two options here: buy a new home or a resale. There are pros and cons to each, which you will certainly want to explore further.
Because the developer controls pretty much everything in The Villages, buying and selling real estate here is a little bit different than it is in the rest of the country, so you will want to do your homework.
If you plan to buy a new home, your only option is to do so through the developer. Unlike in most places, you cannot have a Realtor help you do this. Actually, you can have them help you, they just won't get paid anything by the developer.
On the resale side of things, the developer's resale arm controls 60-70% of the resale inventory. Again, if you want to buy a home in that 60-70%, the developer will not pay an outside agent to assist you.
The remaining 30-40% of resales listed by agents can be found in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), on-line through sites like Zillow and Realtor.com, and those types of transactions would proceed like the ones you are probably accustomed to wherever you live now. You can get a list of available Villages resales here.
The Villages HOA, POA, and CDD's
As you further explore real estate in The Villages, you are likely to encounter a few acronyms that you will want to be aware of.
The Community Development Districts (CDDs) are a tool that the developer uses to pay for infrastructure that needs to be developed.
The CDDs issue bonds that are then repaid by the homeowners through their taxes over the following 20-30 years.
This is a very complicated issue, and I’ve got an entire chapter in my book devoted to giving you a thorough understanding of this, as well as the costs involved.
Unlike typical Homeowner's Associations you might be familiar with that actually make a lot of the community decisions, The Villages Homeowners Association (VHA) and Property Owner’s Association (POA) were formed as watchdog groups to ensure that the best interest of residents are taken seriously by the developer.
Visiting The Villages
I could go on for days here, but the best way to see what The Villages is all about is to visit it yourself. For doing that, you've got several options.
The “official” way for prospective buyers to visit is to take part in The Villages Lifestyle Preview Program.
The Villages Lifestyle Preview allows prospective residents the opportunity to come live like a Villager for anywhere from 4 days to two weeks.
For longer stays, you could find a rental. Some people opt totally out of buying altogether, and just rent here for several months a year.
Alternatives to The Villages
After taking a good look at The Villages you may decide that it’s not for you. That’s o.k., The Villages isn’t for everyone.
Over the years I've written several articles comparing The Villages to other similar communities in Florida:
- The Villages vs. Citrus Hills
- The Villages vs. On Top of the World
- The Villages vs. Solivita
- The Villages vs. Tradition
More articles like those are in the works.
Ready to learn more?
As you can probably tell, this rough overview of The Villages just barely scratches the surface of all of the information you are going to want to consider before making the decision to pick up and move here.
There is an incredible amount of information you are going to want to know about The Villages that goes well beyond the scope of this article.
The next step in continuing your education about The Villages is to order and read through my book Inside the Bubble which covers all of these topics in much greater detail.