Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in The Villages, 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.
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
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 67
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 66
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 61
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 61
What is evening quiet time in The Villages? Is it after 10 p.m.?
Neighborhoods are mostly quiet by nine or ten, but there are bars and other entertainment venues open later.Helpful 60
© 2015 Paul Goodman