After Sun City, more active adults probably know about The Villages than any other 55+ community in the country. Over 60,000 people enjoy living in The Villages, located near Ocala FL, because of its mind-boggling amenities and non-stop active lifestyle. After all it has 26 executive golf courses, 9 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 2 downtown squares (Sumter Village and Spanish Springs) and dozens of neighborhoods. There are plans for 100,000 people to ultimately call The Villages (TV, to those in the know) home.
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.
Yet there are critics of The Villages lifestyle. They were given a lot of titillating ammunition in 2006 when Dr. Dr. Colleen McQuade was quoted in the news about treating an "epidemic" of STDs at The Villages. 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.
On the other hand you 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. Start with the idea that Blechman is not yet of retirement age, and that he likes a good conspiracy, and 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. But come on, in a community of 60,000 people you are bound to find a few sex-fiends.
One of Blechman's favorite criticisms of The Villages (and any active adult, 55+ community) is that they should not be age segregated - families with young children should be allowed live there (we are trying to figure out why they would want to, except in an emergency). One of Blechman's most annoying criticisms for both The Villages and Sun City is that they don't have enough playgrounds or kiddie pools: huh - they should be priorities for a 55+ community?
Nevertheless Leisureville is an interesting, if highly biased, read. You will learn a lot about 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 are now in a dispute with the IRS over the tax-exempt structure of those bonds.
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 - he understands that it is popular. From there 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.
Another essential resource for anyone considering moving to The Villages is Talk of the Villages . 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.
What do you think? Weigh in with your opinion in the Topretirements Discussion Forum on the Villages
For Further Reference:
"Inside the Bubble: Unauthorized Guide to Florida's Most Popular Community"
Wikipedia article about The Villages
Talk of the Villages Forum