By far the most frequently asked question I get over on my website about The Villages is some variation of “What does it cost to live in The Villages?”.
The answer is not as straightforward as many would like, because everybody’s situation is different, and figuring out one’s cost of living is not at all like, say, inquiring about the price of a hotel room. But some folks seem to think it should be so easy and sometimes I wish it were.
In order to find out what YOUR cost of living in The Villages will be, it’s going to take some serious effort and thinking on your part.
I know…the nerve of this guy, right?
But I’m hoping that the information and resources below can at least help you arrive at a fairly accurate estimate of your potential cost of living.
First, a few disclaimers. Prices are averages based on what I’ve heard, seen, experienced. Assume we’re dealing with a $350,000 home when discussing housing related stuff. Also, nothing below is set in stone…prices change all the time!
Let’s jump right in shall we?
If you enjoy this sort of thing…
In my private, member's only community for future Florida retirees, I'm breaking down the cost of living just like this for other popular Florida retirement communities. Learn more here… (opens in a new window)
What The Villages Says it Costs to Live There
I’d say well over half of the people posing this cost of living question have received an information package from The Villages sales department and most of them question the accuracy of the monthly cost of living figures presented there.
On this sheet The Villages totals up the estimated cost of the amenities fee, sewer, water, power, trash, phone and cable, insurance, average taxes, and the CDD assessment and, depending on the type of home you choose, shows you a grand total of between $807 and $1,262 per month to live in The Villages.
While I’m sure that coming in at or close to this monthly budget number could be done, and you will no doubt hear some people say, “oh yeah, that’s pretty accurate”, it would mean living a fairly Spartan lifestyle, at least by Villages standards.
What Living in The Villages Really Costs
Let’s take a closer look at figuring out your monthly cost of living and decide for ourselves whether life in The Villages is doable for you.
What I’m going to do is present you with a list of costs that you might incur. Some of these might be ongoing monthly or yearly expenses (eg: lawn care) and others might be one time purchases (eg: buying a golf cart).
Again, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these costs are not going to apply to everyone, I’m just trying to get it all down on paper and you can pick what’s applicable and what’s not.
Also, assume the figures below are for a $350,000 home. Buying a million dollar home in The Villages? Your costs will undoubtedly be higher.
Want an actual spreadsheet with this stuff?
In my book about The Villages, Inside the Bubble, you'll find a link to a spreadsheet with these items and numbers already populated for you. Easy peasy. Here's a link to order.
This to me is a glaring omission from The Villages’ own monthly cost of living breakdown. I know many people pay cash for their homes, but many choose to carry a loan, even if it’s just for tax deduction reasons.
If you visit any of the available online mortgage calculators you can calculate this one using your own figures but I used a $350,000 house, with 20% down, and a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 6% and came up with $1678 per month.
This cost alone exceeds the seemingly attractive monthly cost of living estimate provided by The Villages, but again, a lot of people buying in The Villages do pay for their homes in cash and never get a mortgage, so a mortgage payment may or may not apply to you.
The Villages estimate of $100/month here seems a little low, considering what is going on in the Florida insurance market. I'd put this figure at $200/month to be safe. Of course you can adjust this up or down based on how much home you intend to buy accordingly.
But, even though it likely won’t be required that you carry it, I always tell people to get flood insurance too just in case. So let’s call that an additional $400/year or about $33/month to be safe.
This one is pretty straightforward. At $179 a month currently, this covers much of what makes The Villages such a draw. Things like golf on the executive courses, swimming, tennis, organized activities, 24-hour neighborhood watch and more.
The Villages estimates this at $240/month, which I would consider to be the low end for this price home. The actual taxes will depend whether you qualify for homestead, and which county it is located in.
But for a $350,000 home count on paying between $3,000 and $4,500 per year, which works out to between $250 and $375 per month.
You’ll learn more about this in my book, but you’ll likely have a CDD infrastructure assessment and a maintenance assessment. The infrastructure assessment can be paid off, and many homeowners choose to do that.
You’ll see some resales advertised with the statement “Bond paid” or “no bond”. But regardless you’ll always have the CDD maintenance assessment to contend with.
The Villages estimates this at $191, but they can range from below $100 to more than $500. Again, this is going to depend on what type of home you ultimately end up with, where its located, if the bond is paid, and so on.
In my opinion utilities are tough enough to estimate, let alone when you estimate them individually.
You’ve got people that never set the thermostat below 80 thus they have a consistent power bill, but maybe they love their 30 minute showers leaving them with a higher water bill than others.
So for simplicity’s sake lets lump them into two groups.
For water, sewer, power, and trash collection The Villages estimates $258.
I’d go a little more conservative here and estimate $300-$350 AND add another $100-$200 if you have a pool to cover the costs of running a pool pump. Add even more if you have an electric or gas pool heater.
Basic cable is estimated at $60 by The Villages, but phone and internet are noticeably absent from their estimates.
Of course most companies will let you bundle cable, phone, and internet but if you do this, in my experience it will cost more than $60.
And of course some people may forgo a landline in lieu of using cell phones exclusively. But no matter which route you choose, I’d budget between $150 and $250 for phone, cable, and internet.
You might think cutting your own grass and trimming your trees and shrubs sounds like a good idea at first, but most people eventually agree its either too dang hot or they are just too dang busy to keep up with it all.
So most opt for a lawn service to come take care of it for them.
I’d estimate $50-$75/month for this amount of house.
Of course its going to depend on the size of your lot and other factors, but we’re shooting for averages here. Note that while you will get cut more in the summer and less during the winter, most services will charge you the same each month. It just helps them keep a steady cash flow and I think it helps the homeowner too so its pretty easy to remember what to pay.
Trimming of trees/shrubs is usually additional. I think if you budget $40-$50/month here you’d be pretty safe.
Most people, especially those coming from up north, never think of this one.
You’re going to want to have your yard sprayed for pests, as well as the inside of your home too.
Some companies recommend monthly service, others say you can get by with quarterly. In either case, expect this to set you back $80-100/month.
No matter what type of home you buy, do not go without a termite bond. Count on paying at least $100-$200/yr. for this.
You might want to budget for having the outside of your home pressure washed once or twice a year, and painted every 5-7 years. Pressure washing will probably run $100-$200 per visit, and painting for a 1,800 sq. ft. home should be between $2,000 and $3,500.
I’d say grocery prices in The Villages are pretty average for Florida. There’s quite a bit of choice with Publix, Winn-Dixie, Wal-Mart, etc., so the competition helps keep prices in check.
Drinks and Eating out
Same for restaurant and drink prices. There are lots of choices, and the competition keeps the prices in line. You don’t have to look too hard to find coupons and deals enticing enough for just about any budget.
BUT, because of the amount of choices, many just a short golf cart ride away, most residents find themselves eating out and/or socializing with new friends more than they ever have in the past.
So to be safe, add 20-30% on to whatever your budget is now for drinking and eating out, not because prices are higher, but because you will likely be doing it more often.
“Free golf for life” might just be the very thing that got your attention and attracted you to The Villages in the first place. But, it’s not quite that simple.
You do get free golf for life on the executive courses if you walk.
But, there is a small fee for golf cart rental. You can also use your own cart and pay a trail fee either daily, semi-annually, or annually.
You’ve got several options as it relates to Priority Championship Course Memberships, too many to list here. But on the high end they are currently $925 per couple (rates are less for singles) and this includes use of the Country Club pools, your executive trail fee and tennis at Hacienda Hills.
You also have to pay greens fees on top of this, though you do get a slight discount with this priority membership.
This will likely be one of the first purchases you make after buying your home, and many even complete this purchase BEFORE buying their home!
Prices, styles and options for golf carts are almost as varied as for homes. You can find used carts in the classifieds or in some stores for less than $2000 or you can spend more than $20,000 for a tricked-out custom cart.
The choice is yours but don’t forget to budget for this expense.
You’ll also need golf cart insurance. Like anything else its good to shop around. Ask your cart dealer or salesman for a recommendation. I’ve seen rates range between $60/year to more than $200/year.
Roadside Golf Cart Service
Like cars, golf carts get flat tires, dead batteries, etc. A couple companies in The Villages offer roadside assistance for yearly fees ranging from about $30/yr. to $60/yr. depending on the level of service you’d like.
Entertainment and Movies
You’ll never be short on entertainment options in The Villages. You’ve got nightly entertainment in the town squares which is free. There are also ticketed shows, musical acts, Polo matches, etc. with ticket prices ranging from just a few bucks to $30+ depending on the act and the venue.
At one point The Villages operated a movie theater in each town square, but for various reasons they are now down to one. Ticket prices are currently $8.50 for residents showing a resident ID.
The Villages Daily Sun is currently about $88/year. I say “about” because the price varies slightly based on where your home is located. While you should probably subscribe just to keep up with daily events/happenings you’re not going to see much hardcore news reporting. Because of this, many also get the Orlando Sentinel which is about $90 for 13 weeks if you want 7-day delivery. Less expensive options are available for Thursday and Sunday delivery, or Thursday through Sunday delivery.
You can get golf tee times by phone, but some want the convenience of doing it online. If that’s you, you’ll pay $8/month for TheVillages.net. This also includes 2 @thevillages.net email addresses.
I’m a strong proponent of joining these two organizations. After a while you’ll notice they have different aims and viewpoints in many cases but both are worth being a member of. The Villages Homeowners Advocates (VHA) is just $25/household for 2 years, and the Property Owner's Association (POA) is $10/household for 1 year.
If you’re going to be a snowbird you’ll probably want to look into a housewatch service and these range from $35-$50/month depending on the level of service you want.
Various “One-Time” Costs
A lot of people fail to consider the many “one-time” costs they might incur when first moving to The Villages. Prices vary greatly for things like adding gutters, screening in your lanai, buying new patio furniture, adding decorative curbing, interior painting, and much much more.
Resident Parker Sykes, author of 50 Things to Think About Before Moving to The Villages says that you can plan on at least $5,000 worth of this type stuff needing to be done at a minimum, and I’d agree.
Just remember to take these into account when doing your budgeting/financial planning.
What did you come up with?
When I plug in some of the numbers above into a spreadsheet, I come up with a monthly cost of living (for me) of more than $4,000.
But don’t let my number scare you!
Maybe I factored in a little too much for golf, or maybe I plan to spend a little more on things like groceries and eating out than you.
Adjust your figures accordingly!
This article was adapted from an article that originally appeared at Inside the Bubble titled Cost of Living in The Villages.