Why Len and Ann Think The Villages is the Perfect Place to Retire

Category: Active adult communities

May 7, 2013 — Note: This is an updated version of an article we ran in early 2012. It is basically the same content as before, but this update allows us to start over with fresh set of Comments. Our goal is to portray a variety of active baby boomer retirement lifestyles for our members, including different places to live.

Len and Ann are the kind of people that don’t like to stand still. And that’s a trait which perfectly qualifies them to be residents of The Villages, that giant, non-stop fun active community of 107,000 people near Ocala, Florida. Here is their story – we hope you find it useful to learn more about how they came about deciding to living here, and what it is really like to live in The Villages.
UPS in the Villages

What They Did Before Retirement
Len had a long career as an IT guy at SNET, the former Connecticut telephone company. He retired the first time at age 50, then became a consultant with Coopers Lybrand.

Ann, also a computer person, enjoyed her career as a data processing teacher at a state technical college. After that she owned and ran an ice cream and candy story in Connecticut for 13 years.

The Transition to Retirement
After his management consulting stint Len went on to his third career as a virtual help desk IT resource for a large insurance corporation, a job which he still enjoys doing 2-3 mornings a week. When he started that gig he and Ann began a search for a more permanent place to live. Their plan was to find a nice place in a community where they could enjoy their semi-retirement.

Their Retirement Priorities – and What They Considered
They were tired of scraping ice off of the windshield and they both agreed they wanted a place with warm winters. As they began to look around the couple’s top priorities were to find somewhere where they could enjoy golf, be close to the beach, and have quick access to a good airport. They concentrated on new construction to minimize maintenance. They soon bought and built in a Sarasota country club, where they lived for 9 years. Although they liked the community well enough, eventually they began to look around. They found the pool required a lot of work, and they worried about issues in the community down the road. Their fellow residents’ average age was older than they would have liked, and they tired of the country club social life.

A Visit to The Villages Turns into More
Some friends in their community had places in The Villages, and they talked a lot about it. So Len and Ann took a drive up there to look around. They followed that up with a “lifestyle visit” – a short stay in this sprawling community near Ocala. At that time their visit cost about $75-$100/day for a 2-3 bedroom villa or house, and which included golf, golf cart, and some restaurant meals (these lifestyle visits are still enormously popular, but now include dining discounts instead of free meals). While there they spoke with a helpful real estate agent who kept in contact with them, and eventually showed them a lot of properties. Eventually they sold their Sarasota property and purchased a home in The Villages, choosing a 2 bedroom plus den and 2 bath home as opposed to the other option, a villa (semi-detached home with fenced in but smaller yards).

What Their Home is Like
The Zillow Home Value Index for The Villages was about $180,000 in early 2013, quite different that what was reported in City-Data.com’s late 2012 median selling price was $120,000. (Topretirements.com recent 2013 search for listings at The Villages found very few homes listed for sale below $150,000). But houses are available for less than that and up about $1 million. Although they were originally all manufactured homes, most now are stick-built on site. Some have masonry sides, while others have vinyl siding. Theirs is 1800 sq ft. with a layout they love. The neighborhood is the basic structure in The Villages. Each one has an adult pool, and every 4 or so neighborhoods have a family pool (OK for kids). The pools are built around golf courses so they don’t bother homeowners. Activities like horseshoes, pool, and bocce are available near the family pools, which their 3 grandkids enjoy when they come down to visit.

Their Retirement Lifestyle
Both Len and Ann love living at The Villages, where they have now been for 2 1/2 years. Ann enjoys water aerobics as well as taking part in the great variety of activities offered by the neighborhood ladies’ group. Those include day trips, lectures, yoga, line dancing, and more. Or, she might play cards or get together in one of many smaller women’s groups. She reports that she is much more willing to try something on her own than she was in the Sarasota country club scene where they used to live.


While Ann is out having fun with her fellow women residents, Len’s big activity is almost daily pickle ball games. He also enjoys playing golf with his neighbors 1 x 2 times a week golf, plus an occasional game of setback. An avid photographer (the photos on this page are his), he also likes attending camera club meetings or the New York sports teams fan club he organized.

Their Social Life
Since everyone has moved here from somewhere else, most folks are looking to make new friends. Life at The Villages mostly revolves around one’s neighborhood, which are usually defined by the street that leads to it. Their neighborhood has 206 rooftops (homes and villas). A common social activity is a Flamingo Friday Party held twice a month in one of the community member’s driveway and garage. Together Len and Ann frequently enjoy activities like team Trivial Pursuit at the neighborhood rec center group. Or they might take part in neighborhood game night. Bridge is very big here, as is mahjong, card games, movie clubs, etc. Though there is a non-stop array of things to do here, there is no pressure; people do what they want at their own pace.

Fees
The fee for amenities is currently $145/month. Trail fees for your golf cart, if you want to us it on the golf courses, is extra. The amenities fee covers almost all amenities as well as golf on the executive courses. A few things are extra, such as classes in the recreation center and the fitness room. When you buy your home it comes with a bond (CDD fees) that costs about $20k, depending on home and area. This covers the cost of building the amenities, and it is paid down over 20 years. Here is more about cost of living and fees at The Villages.

If You Choose This Lifestyle – Some Practical Advice
Len and Ann were kind enough to share several pieces of practical advice for people considering a move here:

They learned that living in a place with so much there is a tendency to overbook themselves. For example, Len owns a Ford Mustang, so he is eligible to join 2 clubs for that – the Mustang Club or the convertible club. With almost 2,000 clubs and countless sports clamoring for their attention, they recommend you pace yourself so you don’t get overloaded.

While making friends at The Villages is remarkably easy, the couple recommended that if you buy here consider moving into one of the newer neighborhoods. That’s because everyone is in the same boat in a new neighborhood, all looking to make new friends. You will be fine if you move into an older neighborhood, they say, but it might take you a little longer to get settled in socially.

If you are interested in The Villages by all means take a advantage of the “Lifestyles” visits. Come with an open mind, talk with people, and ask them questions.

Pluses
– Len and Ann are very happy with their home and its quality. They report that when there was a problem, the builder fixed it immediately under the warranty.

– The nice thing about this place is that people don’t care where you live, how much money you have, or what you did in your previous life. All walks of life are represented here and most everyone gets along fine. Politics and religion are generally not discussed, “because we are done with all that stress and confrontation.”

– They both agreed The Villages is a great place for single women – people are accepting, and there are tons of things for them to do without feeling like a 5th wheel.

Minuses
– There are a lot of rules which you have to get used to. For example no statues are permitted in your yard, parking of boats and RVs is tightly regulated, no vehicles with advertising are permitted, garbage goes to the curb in plastic bags, and you have to take care of your own yard. They believe that the rules are effective at maintaining the lifestyle, and recommend that you read them before you come.

– Compared to where you might be moving from, you will be closer to your neighbors here than you might be used to. So don’t move here if you don’t like being around other people. Yes, you will have neighbors and your house lot might be smaller, but you will see other advantages – like a more interesting social life and less work around the house.

– They are far from the beach, a previous priority. But now they recognize they didn’t go there much anyway.

Bottom Line
Of course we had to ask Len what he thought about the semi-mythical, Viagra-powered, aging Lothario called Mr. Midnight, who was portrayed in the book about The Villages, Leisureville. As expected, Len was dismissive: “Andrew Blechman wrote about a place neither I nor anyone I socializes with can recognize.”

Len and Ann agree they haven’t seen any major pitfalls to living here. In fact, they would make the same decision to move here “in a minute”. Thank you Len and Ann for sharing your story!

Resources
These resources can help you find out more about life in TV. You might also enjoy our 2 part series, “Are There Any Large Competitors to The Villages?
List of clubs at The Villages (1,828 at last count!)
Topretirements Review of The Villages
TheVillageRetirement.com
The Villages – Facts and Opinions
Talk of the Villages Discussion Board

Comments. Please let us know what you think about The Villages. If you live here, please share your insights for your fellow members. You can also see all of the Comments made to the original version of this article here.

Posted by Admin on May 7th, 2013

12 Comments »

  1. We looked at The Villages a couple of times but decided against it. It seemed like a compound to us. Way out in the middle of nowhere. Lots of people running around on golf carts. The place reminded us of a tourist trap in South Carolina called “South of the Border.” The homes at The Villages are kinda nice but can run into the hundreds of thousdands before you are done. We do not play golf. We felt there was a little looking down on people who live in The Villages across the highway the part that was originally Orange Blossom Gardens. I think the place could be kinda cliquey with people moving around in groups to social events and restaurants. We dislike going to restaurants in groups and prefer to be by ourselves or with one other couple once in a while. The place tends to be a little heavy on the Republican side of politics and many there could be classified as teapartyers. If you like that kind of thinking maybe that would be right for you. Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott and of coarse Romney for President all made personal visits to the place. Its a place for the young at heart, who feel they will never age or be in any way restricted by any health or ambulation issue. When you’re not the picture of health and vitality there will not be a place for you in the mainstream there except in old age facilities which they are carefully building away from the view of the active. When a can or two of Red Bull won’t do the trick any more you shouldn’t live there. For those who are the picture of health, love running around with heards of people and like free golf it is the place to be. That’s not us. Look carefully at retirement places you consider. Be realistic, in a few years you will begin to age and show signs of wear. Enough said!

    by David M. Lane — May 8, 2013

  2. No mention of the fact that The Villages has the highest rate of STD’s in the state of Florida!

    Editor’s note: Sorry, but this bit of sensational information simply isn’t true. Andrew Blechman did a lot to get this story going in his book “Leisureville”. Our colleague Ryan Erisman has devoted a page on his website debunking the statement. See http://www.thevillagesfloridabook.com/sex-lies-and-the-villages/

    by Bryan — May 8, 2013

  3. I recently spent several days at the Villages doing a Lifestyle Visit. The idea of the Villages really appealed to me. I’m a single woman and felt that the Villages would be a good place for a single because of all of the activiite available, but after visiting, I’ve pretty much decided against the villages. One of the reasons I want to leave the Bay Area (besides the high cost of living) is the heavy traffic, and I was surprised by the traffic in the villages; it may be golf cart traffic, but it’s still traffic. Usually I chose to walk to the town square from where my villa was, but that meant running across the street to avoid getting hit by cars or gold carts. The evening I chose to drive the golf cart to the town square I couldn’t find a parking space. I’m also a hiker and an outdoor person and I think I was expecting to see more people out walking dogs or biking; what I saw were a lot of people in golf carts. I also didin’t find the Villages that friendly. I understand when you only spend 5 days at a place you’re only getting an overview, but I’m still looking.

    by Liz Hull — May 8, 2013

  4. Sounds like more isolation is for you. Try Hawaii. People leave you alone. You can do as you want.
    No one cares about anyone here.

    by Linda Corcoran — January 6, 2014

  5. Hey Brian
    It takes 2 to tango. Just keep it closed. You won’t get STD if you do not choose to !!!.
    Its your choice what you do. Besides how do you know it has the highest rate of STD’s.
    Wash your hands.

    by Linda Corcoran — January 6, 2014

  6. Linda – do you live in Hawaii? Can you tell us more about it? From your remark, it sounds like where you live, no one cares about anyone else?

    by Lana h — January 7, 2014

  7. Lana H
    Yes. Just like any large major city. Over populated ,unsafe roads,overpriced homes. The weather is the only positive. It has changed so much. I suggest forget Oahu unless you can afforded an average of 750,000.00 for a used home. Oh and the pit bulls are a treat oh and the grafftii . And constant construction and the infrastructure oh! and the mass transit project that is going to bankrupt the state.
    Where fast food restaurants are a luxury. And diabetes is the norm. Lock your doors for it has high property crime.

    by Linda Corcoran — January 10, 2014

  8. I went to Oceanhills in San Diego County up by Camp Pendleton. Just a perfect place. Most people still work but the quality of the place is excellent. Love San Diego.

    by Linda — January 10, 2014

  9. There is a certain kind of person for whom The Villages is paradise on earth. So much to do, so many people to meet. Permanent summer camp for adults. But then there are other folks who would chafe at the communal living and the rules for so many people to live harmoniously together. Good news is there a place for everyone!

    by Mark — January 11, 2014

  10. Hi Mark read your praising comments on villages..a couple questions..what about home owners insurance availability and cost..what about the 20000 bond each new owner must pay off as part of each monts for 10-20 year period..what about medical services ..and those are kinds of things that would be good to hear about..not in any way critizing your comments but there is more to making plans for others..so any other comments would be appreciated..from anyone..thanks

    by Robbie — January 11, 2014

  11. We visited the Villages yesterday for the first time. Some friends have a 3/2 villa that they bought several years ago. The villa had a nice layout and was a convenient short walk to one of the three town centers. We only spent about 6 hours there and got the 10,000 ft tour of the entire area. So these impressions may not necessarily completely accurate.
    The town centers each have a general theme, Key West, Spanish, and Western, the newest. I was surprised with the variety of stores and restaurants available in each of these centers. There are plenty of executive golf courses, and several 27 hole courses too. Each area has a large recreation center, all nicely decorated. There are two high end softball complexes and even have a polo field!
    The golf carts are a primary mode of transportation. Our friends said that many couples have two carts! There is every type of cart from the basic to the high end tricked out carts that look like miniature cars.
    Every nite there is live entertainment in one of the town centers. Last night the had a well known oldies band playing, which drew a huge crowd. Venders set up tents around the perimeter and sold everything from golf balls to jewelery.

    I somehow expected the overall population to be older than what we saw. That was wrong. Most people looked to be active, and younger than expected. They also seemed to be comprised of white middle class. I did not see any minority residents of any kind. I am sure there are, but I did not see any. The entire place was extremely well kept and clean. The housing seems to be somewhat on the expensive side, from what I saw. Overall, it was a nice place to visit, but not sure it would be right for us.

    by Bill Yoder — January 22, 2014

  12. Thanks Bill. This was very interresting. It’s very helpful to me to get impressions from trip reports like this one.

    by Ted — January 23, 2014

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