Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in The Villages, Florida
Widely acknowledged to be the fastest-growing small city in the US, The Villages is a booming retirement development in north-central Florida.
The Villages was reported to have a total population of 51,442 in the 2010 United States Census, an increase of 43,109 on the 8,333 counted in the 2000 Census, that's a massive 517.33% growth.
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 a pros and cons list.
There can be no doubt that many people love living in The Villages, but tastes vary, and there are definitely some disadvantages as well as advantages to residing there.
If you are from out of state there are also some more general pros and cons of living in Florida, that you may wish to consider, such as no state taxes to pay, but high humidity and lots of big bugs to contend with.
Below is a brief history of the development, followed by lists of the advantages and disadvantages of living in The Villages.
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 business partner, Al Tarrson.
Left owning large areas of Florida land, Schwartz and Tarrson now 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 out Tarrson and bring in his son, H. Gary Morse.
Morse researched some of the more successful retirement communities and found that many gave their residents plenty of amenities to access nearby. He upgraded, saw improvements, then bought up land in Sumter and Marion counties, with a view to expansion. Sales increased and Morse changed the development's name to The Villages.
The development is still largely run by the 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.
Advantages of Living in The Villages
- Sunshine almost every day and mild winters. No need to deal with lots of ice and snow. You can play golf, tennis, cycle and socialize outside pretty much all year round, if you wish.
- Affordable housing compared to many places in the US. There is also a price range to suit a variety of budgets.
- Quick and easy golf-cart access to all kinds of shopping, restaurants, and other services.
- The developers have a track record of providing an excellent and fun environment for the senior age group.
- The Villages is lively and active. There are people running, cycling, walking, as well as riding in golf carts.
- You typically live alongside people of your own age group, so there's very little disruption, and there are plenty of people to socialize with, from all walks of life and professions.
- Gated communities that are clean and safe mean that there is little to worry about in regard to trash, crime, or vandalism.
- Excellent public transport, including The Villages shuttle, operated by Sumter County Transit, and the connecting bus to Jacksonville and Lakeland, operated by Amtrak. There are also plenty of options for those wishing to travel between The Villages and Orlando International Airport.
- You are never far from beautiful beaches and the sea when you live in Florida. Plus the cities of Orlando and Ocala are close by.
The Villages Local Media
The Villages developers operate three media properties:
The Villages News Network (VNN), aired on the local Comcast cable network
A local newspaper called: The Villages Daily Sun
A Fox News Radio affiliate, Radio station WVLG AM 640
Disadvantages of Living in The Villages
- The heat and the humidity of Florida can be overbearing, uncomfortable and energy-sapping. 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.
- If you like to socialize with a cosmopolitan, varied crowd, The Villages is not for you. Pretty much everyone you will meet will be white, financially comfortable, and older.
- It's an area not much discussed, but according to author, Andrew D. Blechman, the developer owns almost everything as far as The Villages go and the residents have very little civic power (see quote below).
- Some of the 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, cheap alcohol, and a thriving swingers scene, there is a lifestyle of debauchery for some.
- The owners of the development and many of the residents are Republicans and Conservatives, which can make life challenging for Democrat residents.
- Wherever you live in Florida, there are lots of bugs everywhere, many of them big.
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
Questions & Answers
How wealthy are the people who live in The Villages, Florida?
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.Helpful 7
What age do you have to be to move into The Villages?
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.Helpful 9
Are any children allowed to live in The Villages with their parents?
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.Helpful 5
Is it true business owners in The Villages refer to the property management as The Villages mafia?
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.Helpful 4
Are pets allowed in The Villages retirement community in Florida?
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.Helpful 4
© 2015 Paul Goodman