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Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in The Villages, Florida

Updated on May 19, 2017
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Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Golf cart bridge over US 27/441.  The Villages development began life as a mobile home park.  It is now the fastest-growing small city in the USA and immensely popular with retirees looking for some sunshine.  There are disadvantages also, however.
Golf cart bridge over US 27/441. The Villages development began life as a mobile home park. It is now the fastest-growing small city in the USA and immensely popular with retirees looking for some sunshine. There are disadvantages also, however. | Source

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 typical scene in The Villages: palm trees and sunny streets.  Many people find the development idyllic and believe that the advantages vastly outnumber the disadvantages, but others are more critical.
A typical scene in The Villages: palm trees and sunny streets. Many people find the development idyllic and believe that the advantages vastly outnumber the disadvantages, but others are more critical. | Source

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.

The Villages has multiple leisure and sports facilities, including nine country club golf courses.  Pictured is the 18th green at Tierra Del Sol.  Shopping, restaurants, and other facilities are all generally withing range of a short golf cart ride.
The Villages has multiple leisure and sports facilities, including nine country club golf courses. Pictured is the 18th green at Tierra Del Sol. Shopping, restaurants, and other facilities are all generally withing range of a short golf cart ride. | Source
The Central Florida city of Orlando is just 45 miles away from The Villages, close enough for a day trip.  Nicknamed "The City Beautiful", Orlando is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and offers multiple events and attractions
The Central Florida city of Orlando is just 45 miles away from The Villages, close enough for a day trip. Nicknamed "The City Beautiful", Orlando is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and offers multiple events and attractions | Source

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 golf cart is the preferred method of transport for many in The Villages.  Some carts  are street-legal, and some are solar-powered.  There are golf cart lanes for easy and safe driving, and tunnels have been built to cross major highways.
The golf cart is the preferred method of transport for many in The Villages. Some carts are street-legal, and some are solar-powered. There are golf cart lanes for easy and safe driving, and tunnels have been built to cross major highways. | Source

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

There are certainly plenty of leisure and sports options in The Villages, particularly if you like golf and tennis.  They are typically very easy to access too, usually by golf cart.  Swimming pools are also plentiful.
There are certainly plenty of leisure and sports options in The Villages, particularly if you like golf and tennis. They are typically very easy to access too, usually by golf cart. Swimming pools are also plentiful. | Source

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

© 2015 Paul Goodman

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      Pat Humphrey 2 months ago

      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

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      mike palmieri 4 months ago

      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...!