Is The Villages Right for Your Retirement: Facts and Opinions

Category: Active adult communities

January 9, 2017 — When active baby boomers start investigating places to retire, sooner or later they are going to hear about The Villages (TV) in Central Florida. The big reason is that it is the largest 55+ community in the country. As of mid 2017 over 115,000 people lived in The Villages, most of them because they enjoy its mind-boggling array of amenities and non-stop active lifestyle. The population is growing fast – it was only 51,000 in the year 2000.

Clearly the lifestyle appeals to the people who live there. For folks who like to always have something to do, make instant friends, and drive their golf cart to sports, church, and shopping – The Villages is hard to beat.

Facilities and more facilities
The Villages has every kind of amenity. There are 36 executive golf courses, most of which are 9 hole courses and where residents can play at no charge. There are 10 Championship golf courses and country clubs (where owners are automatically members), plus an amazing array of other sports, amenities, crafts, and social clubs – from archery to pickle ball, polo, Tai Chi, and theatre groups. There are hundreds of clubs, including one for every state in the Union. There are 3 downtown squares (Sumter Village, Brownwood and Spanish Springs) that have restaurants, bars, and piped in music. There is a dazzling array of neighborhoods to live in,
and there seems to be no end to the expansion plans. The Villages has 32 neighborhood centers (pools for adults and other recreation), 17 village centers (pools for families and other activities like pickleball), and 8 regional centers with larger facilities including fitness centers.

Critics including the “Leisureville” book
Yet there are critics of The Villages lifestyle. One of the most famous “exposees” of The Villages came out in a book by Andrew Blechman called “Leisureville – Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias” (the book also profiles Sun City, Arizona). Blechman is a terrific writer and weaves together a fascinating story. If you are at all interested in living in The Villages (or Sun City) you should read the book. You will get a lot of background and insight into the ownership/management structure of the place, which can be a bit murky.

The Villages

On the other hand you the book will also get a lot of opinions, most of them negative, about what it is like to live in this giant community 60 miles northwest of Orlando and south of Ocala. Knowing that Blechman is not yet of retirement age, and that he likes a good conspiracy, you won’t have to look too hard to find plenty of condescension plus a big dollop of smugness in his account. Bored at night, Blechman finds the latest-closing bar (at the bowling alley) and surprise, he finds the soft underbelly of The Villages. From here he gives you a vivid tour of a the more unusual sexual activities in the community – what life is like here for a transexual; the underground homosexual community; and particularly a Viagra-fueled, aging Adonis named Mr. Midnight. The character is highly amusing, that is for sure.

By now you have probably heard the titillating story that The Villages has the highest rate of STD’s in… (pick your place). We certainly hear it all the time. The truth is that this is just an unsubstantiated rumor, one that residents of The Villages get tired of hearing. Facts from FLHeathCharts.com bear that out, as you can see in the chart for Sumter County (where most of The Villages’ residents live), which shows that the County’s rates of STDs are far below the state averages. The orange bars are for Sumter County and the gray bars are for FL statewide.

Sumter County STDs vs Florida statewide

One thing “Leisureville” will help you learn a lot about is the situation with the Villages Community Development Districts (CDDs) (run by the developer but which spend resident money on infrastructure) vs. the Home Owners and Property Owners Associations. The latter were set up by residents to try to protect their interests vs. the developer. The Villages’ CDDs have been in disputes with the IRS over the tax-exempt structure of those bonds.

Politically speaking, The Villages is very red (conservative), although we are sure that there are some blue folks too. Every national Republican candidate makes a point of stopping by during election time.

Scene at The Villages

A much more straightforward and helpful resource for The Villages is a useful book by Ryan Erisman, the “Inside the Bubble: Unauthorized Guide to Florida’s Most Popular Community”. Ryan has also published the “Florida for Boomers- A Guide to Real Estate”. Erisman’s book should be required reading for anyone thinking about buying in TV. You will get a wealth of resources and facts about neighborhoods, costs, amenities, contracts, Home Owners Associations, and Commercial Development Districts. Ryan doesn’t have an axe to grind about The Villages. Instead he sets out to provide all the facts necessary to buy a home in The Villages – even down to the nitty gritty of Homeowners Insurance, Property Taxes, Real Estate Contracts, New Home Walkthrough Inspection, and Florida Real Estate Closings in The Villages. He also provides helpful links to everything about the place (full disclosure, Topretirements does receive a small commission on sales of this book).

Here at Topretirements we have a nice article that explains what it is like to live in The Villages, “Why The Villages Is the Best Place for Len and Ann to Retire“. The article explains how this Connecticut couple came to choose TV, buy a home there, and what daily life is like in TV for them.

Another essential resource for anyone considering moving to The Villages is Talk of the Villages (see link below). On this discussion forum you’ll get to eavesdrop on the concerns, joys, challenges, and gossip of every day life here. Spend an hour there online, it is fascinating.

For Further Reference:
Are There Alternatives to The Villages – You Bet (2 parts, East and West)
“Inside the Bubble: Unauthorized Guide to Florida’s Most Popular Community”
TheVillageRetirement.com
Wikipedia article about The Villages
Talk of the Villages Forum

Comments? Have you visited TV or did you actually retire there? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.




Posted by Admin on January 8th, 2018

14 Comments »

  1. Wow!! Some interesting reading!! Do any current residents care to comment??

    by Staci — January 10, 2018

  2. First …. whatever individuals like is great … what I like you might not, and vice versa.

    I was invited to visit a friend from Northern Michigan and did appreciatethe hospitality. He took me around “TV” and I was …. just appalled!?! It is an elderly, retirement GHETTO and I wouldn’t live there if you gave me the largest, most expensive home and then paid me a $million a year! I couldn’t wait to leave.

    Rules! Organizations! Management! …. if you like that sort of thing and think “country clubs” are neat … FINE! If you value your privacy and don’t want neighbors on top of you and want “space” – like me – think other. (Actually … when I think about it …if you like big cities maybe TV might suit you!?)

    Heaven for some – hell for others. Think long and hard about this place ….. Peace! JJ

    by JJ — January 10, 2018

  3. The third generation of the developer has managed to destroy the founders dream
    Retirement community. Growth is based on greed. No matter how wonderful they declare medical care to be…..in reality it is mediocre. So are the villages restaurants. But, there is a. Lot to do…good healthy activities. Good people are still attracted to the lifestyle but it seems as if more folks are trying to get out than in. Bottom line….haven’t found anything better. The nightmare is now the heavy and uncontrollable traffic. A

    by Andrew Ellis — January 10, 2018

  4. A Ghetto? Really? Are you sure you were in the Villages? The place is spotless. Went for a lifestyle visit in December and will going back for a month in March. Of course there are rules. I want my investment protected. Where I live now one neighbor never cuts his grass, another parks his cars on his lawn and another hasn’t painted his home in over 20 years. And believe me more people are coming into the Villages than trying to leave. Take with a grain of salt any negative comments and do your own home work. A good read is the link in the article “Why The Villages Is the Best Place for Len and Ann to Retire“.

    by TD — January 13, 2018

  5. TD – I didn’t mean “The Villages” was not beautiful or not well maintained – it is indeed that. 🙂 Ghetto: “A part of a city or region in which members of a minority group live”. Everyone is old and retired at TV (if that isn’t a “minority group” I don’t know what is!) …. not the way I want to live. Now, I AM old and retired … but want to live in a neighborhood and mixed community with working and retired people, with families with kids, with different races and religions (yes, even Muslims!), with gay and straight people, singles and couples …. it’s called “diversity”.

    No way would I ever [again] live in a “gated community” … I spent the first 3 years of my retirement in a beautiful ocean view, gated condominumum (sic) … which I’d owned for 6 years prior (it was fine when I didn’t live there and did live 1,800 miles away!) and eagerly sold to buy my single family house in a “traditional neighborhood” – twice as big, private pool, PRIVACY, and GARAGE for the same money! I looked at beautiful Florida fly-in airparks (it WOULD be nice to have my plane right there on my property in my own hangar) … BUT they were all gated and the residents were all “the same” (100% white, 90% retired, Christian, Mid-west and East Coast Republicans)… those nice folks are fine … but again …. give me a diverse community! And once again .. to each his/her own! Yes – agreed – do your own home work/research!

    Peace … JJ

    by JJ — January 17, 2018

  6. I agree with JJ…Villages concept not for everybody…..I like diversity….privacy when I want it…..etc.

    by Roberta Bengtson — January 22, 2018

  7. Although not retired yet, we purchased a home in The Villages in 2017 and are renting it out until we retire. We spent a lot of time researching before we selected The Villages. The main reason we selected The Villages is because of the active lifestyle. My husband is a “very good” softball player, and plays many other sports as well. The Villages has one of the best, if not the best, senior softball programs in the country. We plan on retiring young (in our 50’s) and being in a place that has many sports and activities is key for us. The pros: The place is beautiful, clean and well maintained. Amenity fees are about $145. a month. It has multiple town squares with nightly entertainments, restaurants, etc. that are all accessible by golf cart. In every neighborhood, they build a wide range of houses, from smaller houses called patio villas that are perfect for a single person to houses over a million dollars. There is a huge social network, many activities, clubs. The leader of the ski club is 81 and still barefoot skis! Whatever you like to do, the chances are very likely that someone else does too! The houses are close together and tend to be more expensive then other retirement communities in the area. If you but in The Villages, you are moving for the lifestyle. Although they are building a neighborhood where the house are on 5 acres and the owners can have horses. As far as them being close, we have spent many years with a bigger house and larger yard. So it doesn’t bother me to downsize in both. Cons, would probably be the traffic and size which are both growing. The Villages isn’t for everyone. If you want to live out in the country or have a more sedate lifestyle, there would probably be better choices. If Florida weather isn’t your thing, probably better choices. But that’s the nice thing about retirement you can research and see what works for you.

    by KP — February 1, 2018

  8. Well said K.P. I don’t live there but know people who do & plan to visit soon to find out what all the excitement is about. The free, live music every night sounds too good to be true. I hear there are educational classes., all kinds of classes for group exercise, a spa. Various churches. I suspect there is all kinds of ways to volunteer as well. I too like diversity. Grew up in a small town of 350. Moved to Chicago in my 20s & stayed there for over 30 years, inner city, on the north side, west side & border of south side & far west suburbs. Worked downtown. Priority’s change for some of us. I’m looking for safety, lots of physical activities to choose from. Golf carts sound safer & a lot more fun. Wherever I live, it is my choice how social or involved I want to be. Sounds like I can stay at home & read on my patio or go out dancing. Can’t wait to trade in my heavy winter clothes for flip flops.

    by Janice Kleiss — April 22, 2018

  9. I agree with you Janice…except I will be retiring to Sun City AZ and get all the perks you mentioned for the Villages…I would go there but I hate the humidity and hurricanes since I am coming from NYC.

    by Chris — April 23, 2018

  10. KP – those larger properties allowing horses – are they part of the Villages too? I know Ocala to the north of the Villages has many farms but I’ve read they have high crime there too.

    by JoannL — April 23, 2018

  11. We all know the old saying, “One person’s trash is another one’s treasure.” A slightly different version of that goes for retirement, too. There are a lot of places to retire and a lot of different retirees. Some may love the homogeneity of a place like the Villages, while others may like the diversity and cultural aspects of a more urban setting. A good question might be, “What types of people would I like to live around?” Then do your research, visit for a while and make a considered decision. You might even decide to stay right where you are!

    by Clyde — April 23, 2018

  12. Clyde- Your comment was so true at the end of your post. I am comparing areas of the country to consider for retirement and I think where I am now has a lot of advantages. It looks better all the time, however, I have just begun to really seriously look. Sometimes just staying put can make the most sense.

    by Jennifer — April 24, 2018

  13. Joann L, I can speak a bit about Ocala. Like many cities, it has areas you just don’t want to frequent, and that’s where the high crime is. There are several gated active adult communities with little or no crime, but none allow horses. There is a newer community, whose name I can’t put my finger on right now, that is being built at or near a horse arena. I apologize for not being clearer about that. If you’re interested, look it up, but don’t write off Ocala just because of the crime.

    by Laurel — April 24, 2018

  14. we have looked at phoenix, Orlando and port lucie fl. next is new mexico.4- 5 years to find a place

    by Tomi Huntley — April 24, 2018

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment