Since graduating university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and educator. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
A Review of The Villages: Pros, Cons, and FAQs
The Villages is a booming retirement development in north-central Florida that, between 2010 and 2017, was widely acknowledged to be the fastest-growing small city in the US. In the 2010 United States census, The Villages were reported to have a total population of 51,442. This was an increase of 43,109 since the 2000 census, which counted only 8,333 residents. That's about a 517.33% population growth in only 10 years!
I have operated a business in The Villages area for a number of years and know the people and the place very well, so I thought it would be interesting to put together an article that lists the pros and cons of this unique community and answers some commonly asked questions.
There can be no doubt that many people love living in The Villages, but tastes vary, and there are definitely some disadvantages to residing there as well. If you are from out of state, you may also wish to consider the pros and cons of living in Florida in general (e.g., lots of sunshine and no state taxes to pay but high humidity and plenty of bugs to contend with).
In This Article
- Advantages of Living in The Villages
- Disadvantages of Living in The Villages
- Frequently Asked Questions
- A Brief History of the Development
Positives of Living in The Villages
- Weather: You'll see sunshine almost every day and experience very mild winters. There will be no need to deal with lots of ice and snow. You can play golf and tennis, cycle, and socialize outside pretty much all year round if you wish.
- Housing Prices: The housing is affordable compared to many places in the US. There are also options available to suit a variety of budgets.
- Local Amenities: The area features quick and easy golf cart access to all kinds of shopping, restaurants, and other services.
- Reputation: The developers have a track record of providing an excellent and fun environment for those in the senior age group.
- Activity Level: The community is lively and active. On an average day, you'll see people running, cycling, walking, and riding in golf carts.
- Neighborhood Characteristics: Most residents live alongside people in their own age group, so there's very little disruption, and there are plenty of people to socialize with. The Villages' population comes from all walks of life and professions.
- Safety and Cleanliness: Gated communities that are clean and safe mean that there is little to worry about in regard to trash, crime, or vandalism.
- Public Transportation: The area boasts excellent public transport, including The Villages shuttle, which is operated by Sumter County Transit, and the connecting bus to Jacksonville and Lakeland, which is operated by Amtrak. There are also plenty of options for those who need to travel between The Villages and Orlando International Airport.
- Proximity to Beaches: You are never far from beautiful beaches and blue seas when you live in Florida. Plus, the cities of Orlando and Ocala are close by.
- Supportive Community: Residents often provide mutual support for friends and neighbors suffering from illnesses, mobility issues, and other challenges associated with aging.
Negatives of Living in The Villages
- Heat and Humidity: The heat and humidity in Florida can be overbearing, uncomfortable, and energy-sapping at times. Only the visiting tourists deliberately soak it up; the long-term locals avoid the sun and outdoors for most of the year and keep within range of the air-conditioning as much as possible.
- Lack of Diversity: If you like to socialize with a varied, cosmopolitan crowd, The Villages may not be the place for you. Pretty much everyone you will meet will be white, financially comfortable, and older.
- Private Ownership: Although this isn't often discussed in the community, the developers own almost everything as far as The Villages go, and the residents have very little civic power according to author Andrew D. Blechman (see quote below).
- Reputation: Certain tabloid newspapers have focused attention on what they portray as the seedier side of The Villages. The UK's Daily Mail, for instance, wrote that with ten women for every man, a black market trade in viagra and cheap alcohol exists. Some say there is a thriving swingers scene as well.
- Political Issues: The owners of the development and many of the residents are republicans who are politically conservative, which can be challenging for some residents who are democrats or have more politically liberal ideologies.
- Bugs: Regardless of where in the state you live, there are lots of bugs in Florida, and many of them are quite large.
The government is owned by the developer. Everything's privatized — and they're happy with that. You know, they've traded in the ballot box for the corporate suggestion box.
— Andrew D. Blechman
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In this section, I'll answer some of the most common questions asked by prospective residents of The Villages. If you have additional questions, feel free to ask in the comments.
Where Is The Villages, Florida?
The Villages is in north-central Florida about 20 miles south of Ocala and 45 miles northwest of Orlando. The development is spread across Sumter, Lake, and Marion counties. The nearest beach is about 70 miles away on the Atlantic coast (Daytona Beach area). St. Augustine is roughly 80 miles away by road in a northeasterly direction. just over 40 miles to the west by road is Crystal River, which is famous for its warm Gulf water, natural springs, and manatees.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Live in The Villages?
The Villages is an age-restricted community. Usually, there must be at least one person aged 55 years or older in the household. To qualify for an exception to the Housing for Older Persons Act prohibitions against discrimination, The Villages needs over 80% of its residents to be over 55.
Residents below the age of 19 years are generally not permitted to live in The Villages unless granted an exemption. However, there are three subdivisions that have been designated as "family units" where the age minimum doesn't apply. As of 2016, 2% of residents were under 5 years of age, 7.1% were under 18, and 56.3% were 65 or older.
What Is the Cost of Living?
The cost of living in The Villages is above average for the USA, mainly due to the cost of housing. At the time of this writing, the median home price in The Villages was $268,600. Things like groceries, health, and transportation compare well with the US average in terms of affordability.
How Many Homes Are There in The Villages?
At the last count, the number of households was over 60,000. The Villages covers roughly 32 square miles.
Does The Villages Have Its Own Police Department?
No, The Villages is policed by local and county law enforcement. There are also plenty of safety and security measures, such as gated entries and community watch, making it a generally safe place to live with a low crime rate.
Is There a Downtown Area in The Villages?
There are actually three—Brownwood Paddock Square, Lake Sumter Landing Market Square, and Spanish Springs Town Square. These areas take the form of themed town squares and are designed as social venues where residents can eat, shop, and be entertained.
Does The Villages Have Its Own Local Media?
The Villages developers operate three media properties:
- The Villages News Network, or VNN (aired on the local Comcast cable network)
- A local newspaper called The Villages Daily Sun
- A Fox News Radio affiliate (station WVLG AM 640)
A Brief History of The Villages
The roots of The Villages development go back to the 1960s when a Michigan businessman named Harold Schwartz started selling pieces of land in the area via mail order. A federal law banning the sale of real estate via mail order was introduced in 1968, however, scuppering the business plans of Schwartz and his partner, Al Tarrson.
Left owning large areas of Florida land, Schwartz and Tarrson then tried developing a mobile home park in Lake County, which they called Orange Blossom Gardens. The venture was not very successful, however, and they had only managed to sell 400 units by the early 1980s. At this point, Schwartz opted to buy Tarrson out and bring in his son, H. Gary Morse, as a partner.
Morse researched some of the more successful retirement communities and found that many gave their residents plenty of amenities to use nearby. He upgraded, made improvements, and bought up more land in Sumter and Marion counties to plan an expansion. Sales increased, and Morse changed the development's name to "The Villages."
The development is still largely run by descendants of Schwartz and Morse. Morse transferred the majority of direct ownership in the company to his three children in 2006 before his death in 2014.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: How wealthy are the people who live in The Villages, Florida?
Answer: Incomes can vary from household to household, but generally, most live comfortable lifestyles. The median household income between 2012-16 was calculated to be $52,594.
Question: What age do you have to be to move into The Villages?
Answer: Generally speaking, there must be at least one person aged 55 years or older in the household in order to live there. As The Villages markets itself as an age-restricted community, they need over 80% of residents to be over 55 in order to qualify for an exception to the Housing for Older Persons Act prohibitions against discrimination. Residents below the age of 19 years are generally not allowed to live in The Villages unless granted an exemption. That said, there are three subdivisions that have been designated as "family units", where the age minimum doesn't apply. As of 2016, 2% of residents were under 5 years of age 7.1% were under 18 years, and 56.3% were 65 years and over.
Question: What is evening quiet time in The Villages? Is it after 10 p.m.?
Answer: Neighborhoods are mostly quiet by nine or ten, but there are bars and other entertainment venues open later.
Question: Is it true business owners in The Villages refer to the property management as The Villages mafia?
Answer: I haven't heard that, although it is possible. The Villages is a private development and as such, they make their own rules. There is less civic power and democratic accountability than you would expect in a regular city.
Question: Are any children allowed to live in The Villages with their parents?
Answer: It really depends on the ages of the children. Generally speaking, there should be one resident aged 55 or over in each household and persons aged under 19 are not allowed unless they have an exemption. Persons under age 19 (such as children or grandchildren) are allowed to visit, but can't stay for longer than 30 days within a calendar year. The only major exception is the three subdivisions in The Villages that have been designated as "family units" where age restrictions don't apply.
Question: Are motorcycles allowed in the Villages of Florida?
Answer: Yes, motorcycles are popular in the Villages and there is even a motorcycle club.
Question: Are pets allowed in The Villages retirement community in Florida?
Answer: I am not aware of any restrictions on cats and dogs, both of which are commonly owned there, but I do know that you aren't generally allowed to have a fenced yard in The Villages, which can affect some dog owners.
© 2015 Paul Goodman
BH on August 06, 2020:
Anyone moving to The Villages needs to check out the health care situation first. Good physicians are few and far between and difficult to find. A physician told me today that general practitioners in the area are "sketchy." The much touted Villages Health Care system only accepts United Healthcare Advantage plan for primary care. The Villages Health care doctors sign 2-year non-competes. So, even if you have the correct insurance, if your dr. quits or is terminated by The Villages Health Care, you are out of luck if you want to continue seeing that physician because they are no longer permitted to practice medicine in the area.
David Dupont on July 02, 2020:
I have been to The Villages many times. I love the activity and social interaction. I turned 55 in Nov, have since divorced and looking for a place in Florida to live. I am considering living in The Villages. Will I fit in well as a single 55 yr old male? Do younger individuals (that are single) do well in The Villages?
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida, USA on March 04, 2020:
There are retirement communities all around that area of north-central Florida. There are some communities in nearby Summerfield, for example, that are very similar but not part of Villages. Also others around that are independent and more affordable but with less facilities than you get in the Villages.
The gated communities in the area tend to be 55+. There are other types of community and neighborhood around but they are outnumbered in that area. Ocala is about 45 minutes away and is a regular small city with a varied demography.
MaryannFloridabound on March 03, 2020:
Are there 55+ communities on the outskirts of the villages that are similar (but perhaps not on such a grand scale). OR is there a community near by that is 55+ but on the younger side?
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida, USA on February 18, 2020:
Gainesville, a college town about 100 minutes drive north of The Villages, is maybe the closest thing to that in north-central Florida.
P on February 18, 2020:
Is there a florida community for semi liberal to liberal democrats of acadrmic background such sd myself and friends. Not a maga cap in sight?
Bob Merkt on January 05, 2020:
My wife and I are snowbirds from Ohio and are here for a month to see if we would like it. We have been here a week and these are my observations. First of all, the orientation was very marginal. Getting a map of this place is a challenge. The Villages App using the GPS is a piece of garbage but it does have the golf cart path but you will make many wrong turns because it does not provide a directional legend. So, then most people would gravitate toward using Google maps or Siri. For some reason, unless you pick up a weekly paper at a recreation center, you cannot get a street address of anything and often that includes business locations. So you are lost a lot. Taking off in a golf cart without knowing where you are going and using the villages app, is quite irresponsible. If you are interested in real estate from their advertised paper publications, good luck with that; they do not put the street address so therefore you cannot easily drive there. Another thing I have noticed, many residents have a short fuse and will make comments if you are playing pickleball and your ball goes near their court and since they are talking at the net, you trespass over to kindly pick up your ball instead of rudely disturbing them. Also, that includes driving a car or golf cart. Enter traffic circles and unless you are going immediately right, take the middle lane. Also, be very aware of out of towners who are not used to driving here and be defensive. There is a social stratus here, especially when it comes to participating in sports. You need to participate where you belong. Not necessarily a bad thing! But all in all, people are nice but the community has little to any diversity.
John Savakis on October 25, 2019:
Paul Goodman if you think living in a Conservative community is negative, then that is “YOUR” own personal opinion. If you have issues with “Whites” or “Conservatives” why did you move to, or near The Villages to begin with? That is like moving close to an airport, and complaining about the noise.
Boo on October 08, 2019:
With a 100,000 or more homes being built south of Hwy 44 the area is soon to be overly congested. Traffic will worsen (especially during the snowbird season) Its almost impossible to get into a restaurant, so I hope you enjoy cooking. There is almost an accident daily because many cant maneuver the round-a-bouts. Golf carts run you down on the walking path and its not the friendliest home town in America, there are many of grouchy people who are inpatient and entitled. Limited diversity and mediocre entertainment. People are always rushing, I do not know why because they are supposed to be retired. They vote primarily in block and if your not a Fox News fan you feel out-casted. So please make an informed decision before moving to the villages. Do your research carefully.
Maggie P on February 22, 2019:
Paul, your article provided a great insight for people thinking of making The Villages home. I will agree that the lack of diversity can be a drawback for many people, such as myself, but one thing I will say, is like any community, you can find people of varying backgrounds and opinions...it just takes more effort in The Villages. One additional thing I recommend to anyone looking is check out the lifestyle tour or contact people already living there! It can help you get a better and first hand feel for the community without moving. I recommend checking out Talk of The Villages to see what locals say, and to ask your own questions. Beware though...they do like to complain there.
Once again, thanks Paul for the wonderful article.
Paul Goodman (author) from Florida, USA on December 14, 2018:
There are certainly pressures at times created by the rapid expansion of The Villages and the increasing numbers of people living there. Generally speaking, though, it's not a problem. For instance, I would say that it's easier to get a game of pickle ball there than anywhere else in the country!
Ellen on December 14, 2018:
With so many people living in the villages I heard it was hard to get tee times and join clubs. No one talks about that.....is it true? Almost makes sense..... considering retiring to the villages because of all the clubs and activities defeat the purpose if can’t join in on activities such as clubs, golf pickle ball. Please give me the real scoop.
Abi on December 10, 2018:
What do you think to start a business there, would it be profitable? and what business would you suggest?
rob on May 28, 2018:
We have lived here for 8 years and I have seen one lie after another from the "developer" aka as the Morse family who run this place with an iron fist. They are expanding the development beyond belief. Yes more economic gain for them and local government, but the residents face increased traffic congestion, crime and pollution. Forget it from January through April when migrants, aka as snow birds are here. Again long lines for everything, forget getting a tee time for four.
Ray on May 19, 2018:
im interested in golf how hard is it to get on the big courses and how much is it.....
Linda Murphy on April 10, 2018:
The flooding, etc., referred to in this thread is the afternath of Hurricane Irma.
Pat Humphrey on September 18, 2017:
No access to golf cart bridge for a week and counting. Villagers are without access to stores, appointments anything on the other side of highway 441. It's flooded, no one has any answer as to when it will be open. So if your thinking about buying on the historic villages because all you need is a golf cart to get around, think again. The major reason I moved here was because I don't drive. I purchased a golf cart and was able to get to stores, doctors, pharmacies, entertainment etc NOT for the passed week. Historic side consists of Orange Blossom and Silver Lake, that's where the Villages began. Mostly manufactured homes, but new site built home are being added rapidly. Help I'm trapped .. It's funny but mostly sad. Pat Humphrey
mike palmieri on July 11, 2017:
Live here with ma wife sheri and we really like it..of course it's not chicago..new york..baltimore...and all that those cities have to offer..but we love it anyway...!