Of all the community comparison articles I've written, this is probably the one people have focused on the most.
Some people describe On Top of the World in Ocala as a miniature version of The Villages, and that's a fairly good description.
“The Villages Light” if you wish.
I think that most people living in The Villages love the size and scope of the community, but it is understandably getting too big and crowded for some people, and other communities like On Top of the World that offer the same or similar amenities might be a better fit for them.
That's why I'm doing these comparisons. So let's look at a few key aspects and help you decide what's right for you.
You can also check out these other comparisons I've written, though none are as updated as the one you are reading right now:
The Villages vs. Citrus Hills
The Villages vs. Latitude Margaritaville
The Villages vs. Solivita
The Villages vs. Tradition
One of the biggest complaints I hear about The Villages, particularly from those who have dreamed of living out their retirement years on or near a beach, is that it's in the middle of the state. This complaint is mitigated quite a bit by the fact that, really, pretty much anything and everything you'd need can be found within the community.
Residents call it living “inside the bubble”. Venturing outside the community is called going “outside of the bubble”. For some, this is great…totally what they're looking for, while others yearn for more diversity in the surrounding community.
On Top of the World is similar to The Villages in that you're likely not driving to the beach every day, but pretty much anything and everything you need is either right in the community or in Ocala.
Ocala, called the “Horse Capital of the World” because so many thoroughbred horses are raised and trained there, is one of the most scenic Florida locales, and is rich in history, culture, shopping, and dining.
Here's where the two communities are in relation to one another:
If you enjoy this sort of analysis, in my private, member’s only community for future Florida retirees, I’m comparing and contrasting other popular Florida retirement communities just like you see here. Learn more here… (opens in a new window)
The Villages is consistently ranked the safest place to live in Florida when I look through the FBI crime data each year, while Ocala tends to be further down the list.
But, I would argue that most 55+ communities in Florida have a safety profile similar to that of The Villages, and many of them, including On Top of the World might even be safer to live in because they have actual security gates as opposed to the many “push-button-to-open” gates The Villages has.
The Villages is currently home to more than 130,000 people and nobody quite knows what they'll top out at, though recently the developer has stated people can expect The Villages to essentially double in size over the next 20 years. Yowza!
On Top of the World on the other hand is slated to have around 13,000 total homes at completion, which is still pretty big compared to most other 55+ communities in Florida.
Are you looking for smaller and perhaps more close-knit, or is bigger better for you? That will likely guide your choice.
On Top of the World has most of the same amenities you'll find in The Villages, just fewer of them because there are far less people to serve.
On Top of the World has clubhouses, golf courses, tennis and pickleball courts, a woodshop, dog parks, basketball courts, walking trails, and so on. They just number a lot less than they do in The Villages.
While The Villages has multiple town squares with free nightly entertainment, On Top of the World only has one, and nightly entertainment only takes place on certain nights.
Both communities have regular farmer's markets, restaurants, coffee shops, and stores, but again, in The Villages, they vastly outnumber what's available at On Top of the World. Look at it this way, I know people who live at On Top of the World and travel to The Villages for entertainment, restaurants, and shopping. I'm not sure I've ever heard it happening the other way around.
But, one thing On Top of the World DOES have is an indoor pool … something The Villages still DOES NOT have despite numerous requests from residents over the years.
The monthly amenities fee in The Villages is $189/month at the time of this writing.
At On Top of the World fees range from about $184 to $390 per month depending on which type of neighborhood you decide to live in and what is included.
As you'll learn about below there are some neighborhoods in On Top of the World that are “maintenance-free”, meaning all your grass cutting, landscaping, and other outside items are taken care of for you, but the costs to deliver those services are rolled into your monthly fee.
If you're interested in the nitty gritty, I provide a full cost of living breakdown for On Top of the World at Florida Retirement Insider.
The Villages is the single biggest golf community in the world, with more than 700 holes of golf and the number is still growing. If variety is what you're after, I would say The Villages is your best bet in the golf department.
On Top of the World on the other hand has 54 holes of golf spread out over 3 courses, two of which are private and one is semi-private. Their semi-private course, Candler Hills, was recently named by GolfAdvisor the #3 golf course in Florida, so if quality is what you're after, On Top of the World might be the better option for you.
Clubs and Organized Groups
Both The Villages and On Top of the World offer lots of clubs and organized groups you can join, and the number of options closely correlates to the number of residents in each community.
Currently, I'm told On Top of the World has about 175 clubs, compared to The Villages which has more than 2,400 clubs and organized groups.
Both communities excel compared to most other Florida retirement communities in the realm of lifelong learning.
The Villages has led the charge among 55+ communities in terms of opportunities for lifelong learning, first with their Lifelong Learning College, which had to unwind due to a lawsuit brought by residents with hearing disabilities that felt like proper accommodations were not being provided for them.
A little while later, a new program took its place, called The Enrichment Academy. Similar concept as the Lifelong Learning College, just administered under the direction of the recreation department as opposed to being a stand-alone entity. The current course catalog lists hundreds of available classes, seminars, talks, and other opportunities.
On Top of the World has a similar program called Master the Possibilities. Master the Possibilities boasts a highly credentialed faculty with over 150 instructors, medical professionals and college professors from across the U.S. as well as a Visiting Scholars program. Their state-of-the-art facility features lecture halls, classrooms, art studios, a computer lab and more.
The Villages' own salespeople will be the first to tell you, you're not buying a house there, you're buying a lifestyle. That said, the homes there are perfectly fine for most people and you can find places priced from about the $200k's to well over a million and everything in between.
Home prices at On Top of the World are pretty similar to what you'll find in The Villages, but I've had readers tell me that they felt they got more “bang for their buck” at On Top of the World.
Here's what one reader who recently considered both communities but ultimately chose On Top of the World had to say about this:
Most homes in The Villages are quite small, as are the lots, and it’s expensive. At On Top of the World, on the other hand, the homes are much larger, the lots (for the estate homes) are .25 acre, spreading the homes out a bit, and the cost to build is very reasonable.
We've mentioned this in other head-to-head community comparisons, but one thing I know a lot of people are looking for is the concept of “maintenance-free”.
It's very hard to find that in The Villages, but On Top of the World offers entire maintenance-free neighborhoods where all of your home's exterior maintenance and lawn care is taken care of.
It's “lock and leave” convenience for those who travel frequently and/or just want less hassle with those types of issues in retirement.
Need a rental, even for as short as a few days or a week? The Villages is the place for you. In fact, much has been written about the issues The Villages is facing caused by too much short term rental activity.
While The Villages has pretty lax rental restrictions, On Top of the World's rental restrictions are pretty stiff.
On Top of the World only allows rentals of at least 6 months + 1 day or longer. This is great if you are a full-time resident and don't want to see a steady stream of strangers in and out of the houses around you, but not so good if you want to rent and do so on a short-term basis.
Which community should you choose?
This will really boil down to the features that are most important to you above and how each community delivers on those things.
Whichever way you choose, I don’t think you could go wrong with either one.
You can request more information about On Top of the World just by filling out the form below, or you can check out my book and learn more about The Villages here.
Ron C says
We visited both TV and OTOW four years ago, and selected OTOW. I thought it was a toss-up, but the wife didn’t like the crowds in TV.
We couldn’t be happier with our decision, as seems to be the case with virtually everyone we talk to here.
What I like about OTOW:
– The entry price point is lower. We bought a 1350sf Villa (row house – the older part of OTOW) for 100k four years ago and did a complete rehab. Prices across all houses in OTOW have nearly doubled since then, but I suspect still lower than TV.
– As others have said, the amenities between OTOW and TV are virtually the same. You’ll find me on the softball field, pickleball courts and the golf course. If you’re bored here it’s on you.
– Really friendly people. We’ve made many new friends.
– The Equestrian Center (think Disney World for horses) and downtown Ocala are several unique places near OTOW that we frequent regularly for dining, entertainment, art shows, etc.
What I like (liked) about TV:
– The downtowns at TV are cool and the entertainment there is better. We’ll drive to TV (30min) sometimes for a day or an evening.
– There’s a bigger variety of restaurants, golf cart accessible, in TV. Although there seems to be a couple new restaurants opening every year here (OTOW’s population is growing too).
– There seems to be a higher energy vibe in TV than OTOW. Here the streets pretty much roll up at 8:00 or 9:00pm.
I find the two communities to be more similar than different. I’d be happy in either.
Tom Royal says
My wife and I attempted to drive thru On Top Of the World and couldn’t even go around to look at houses. A real turn off to me!
Ryan Erisman says
Like I said, real gates 😉
Yep. Miss that.
Comparing OTOTW to The Villages is funny. I lived in Ocala for 19 years and TV for 12. Yes , TV is large but most people that live here do not travel the entire Villages all the time. Everyone generally has their favorite areas. When I go to Ocala and surrounding areas , I can’t wait to get back home to TV. It is a lot more organized ,much cleaner & maintained over the years. Crime is also much lower. Traffic down most main roads is much better than CR200. Nothing compares to the amenities in TV. And when the economy dropped in 2007ish OTOTW was like a ghost town and TV was still growing and home values were not drastically dropping like other areas.
Debi Yandell says
Glad to hear that OTOTW people are happy with their locale! I am a Villager and wouldn’t leave this lifestyle for anywhere else! I believe that if you believe people to be unfriendly, or a village too crowded, or not being able to get a tee time, or whatever else, then that is exactly what you will find.
I have lived here in The Villages for 3 years, and visited many times in the 7 years prior to moving here. Love everything here. I would recommend people take advantage of a Lifestyle Preview Plan at whatever retirement community they may be considering and choose the one that best fits your comforts. Resale values are spectacular here and should one find the lifestyle not a good fit then sell and relocate. Win-Win.
Timothy A says
Downside to selling every time you don’t like a place is the fat real estate commissions
Tim R says
I have been in The Villages for 8 years. It is getting very crowded. During snowbird season you have 60 minute waits for a table at most restaurants, no parking, terrible traffic, and the roundabouts are even nuttier. They are building constantly so these problems will only get worse since they focus on homes over commercial amenities like more restaurants. They also make it hard for new businesses to come in because of the Morse family tax, and there is a lot of commercal turn-over as a result. For many here, they may not care about these things and that’s fine. But for us it just isn’t what we thought we would be getting.
Fran Pacheco says
I moved from New Jersey to OTOW 3 years ago and love it. I did look at the Villages but found it too crowded and did not like the roundabout. The people in OTOW are also much friendlier!!
Navigating in the Villages is insane and dangerous. Having gone to the Villages a few times when looking for homes, I learned to hate the word ‘roundabout’! Too crowded, hard to get tee times on regulation golf courses, hard to get parking spots – we bought at On Top Of The World and have not regretted it for a minute!
Kemp Howland says
We purchased a ‘smart solar home’ in OTOW last February (2019). I don’t know which I like better: the fantastic amenities and close proximity to restaurants, shopping and entertainment… or the $11.00 monthly electric bill! OTOW is big enough to offer everything we want, and small enough to feel like a real community. And, because the developer is family-owned, home construction is superior. We could not be more pleased with our decision to purchase at OTOW.
We’re looking to purchase a home in Florida and will be visiting OTOW in September……you don’t feel that it’s too large of a community? The homes are quality? No problems?
john mullin says
My wife and I moved into OTOW April 21, 2016. We go to the Villages to the movies and eating out. We have stopped while the snow birds are here and will go back when they go home. OTOW has 12 pickleball courts and I play 6 days a week. Seldom are all the courts used at the same time. If you want a Villa then check into the original part of OTOW there are many good finds on resales. We were able to find a nice one and were able to pay cash.
Maybe the Villages are too crowded bec everyone comes there for entertainment movies etc. to me they should not let others in unless u actual live there! Cut out all the over crowding!!!
Edwin O'Brien says
We moved from The Villages to OTOW in September. We were full timers in The Villages for 5 years to the day. The Villages has become way too crowded and things have change for the worse in our 5 years there. There are just too many people in The Villages. The construction doesn’t even come close to OTOW. We are very happy in OTOW and we have already met wonderful, friendly people. Ocala offers much more than The Villages. The restaurants, Doctors, hospitals are all much better in Ocala.
Ellen Howard says
We will be visiting in March.We are thinking of becoming snowbirds.