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My visit to The Villages in Florida
Old 06-01-2008, 12:59 AM   #1
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My visit to The Villages in Florida

FYI, The Villages, that I am referring to, is a retirement community in central Florida.

Ok, I feel compelled to write this review because of some of the comments made about The Villages (in Florida) in a previous post in Feb of this year by Orchidflower. You can do a search on "The Villages" (in the title) if you want to see the thread I am referring to. Bascially Orchidflower asked if anyone had personal experience with The Villages.

I visited The Villages last week. I spent 4 days there. Iíd like to report what I found.

Before I start, I want to tell you that Iím 56 years old, I live in So California. I retired 10 months ago. My wife retired 4 months ago. My wife and I both are passionate about our hobbies. I have no relationship with anyone at The Villages.

Also, before I start, let me say something that is dear to my heart. Retirement communities are not for everyone. The Villages (like others) are designed and built for the 55+ people. There are many, many good reasons that this type of lifestyle may NOT be appealing to you. In fact, based on my unscientific research, MOST people who are at this website are probably not interested. I acknowledge that fact. But please, donít criticize those of us (the minority) that are interested in this type of community.

Following this post, there will be 6 additional posts. You can skip any you like
1. What is The Villages?
2. Why am I interested in The Villages?
3. What I did in the Villages during my visit
4. Houses for sale in The Villages
5. (Most important) What I found... the good and the bad, my personal review.
6. Summary - Are we gonna move to the Villages?
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what is The Villages?
Old 06-01-2008, 01:02 AM   #2
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what is The Villages?

. What are The Villages?

(This is my description, only) The Villages is the largest retirement community in the USA. Itís big. Itís sprawling. Itís got over 60,000 residents. To qualify to buy a house there, either you or your spouse must be 55 or older. It is a planned community. It is in central Florida. Part of The Villages is located in a city called Lady Lake (I think). It is located about 50 miles north of Orlando and 20 miles south of Ocala. It is designed for "active" seniors. That means that IF you are the type of person who wants to "do things", itís almost guaranteed that they have regularly scheduled activities for you......., or a specialized club for you. I swear to God they probably have a club for left-handed Jewish people who like to play badminton in the dark. Ok, Iím exaggerating, but the list of clubs that they have is overwhelming. The list of activities is overwhelming, too. From sports, to playing cards, to golf, to knitting, to taking classes to become a circus clown......if you have an weird hobby (like me), thereís probably a group of people (or a club) with similar interests.

One Florida newspaper described The Villages as a "Disneyland for Seniors". Iíll comment on this in my 5th post, but there are some truths to this.

What? You just want to kick back and do nothing? They have free concerts every night in the two town squares. You can just sit and listen and drink beer and "people watch".

What? Are you afraid someone will ask why youíre not participating? Give me a break. No one has the time or desire to follow anyone around to determine "who is" and "who isnít " participating in the activities. It would be unusual, however, to buy into this place if you wanted solitude. (Note: I love solitude, too. This is NOT the place for solitude).
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why i am intereste in the villages
Old 06-01-2008, 01:03 AM   #3
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why i am intereste in the villages

Why am I interested in The Villages?

I have a weird hobby. Itís softball. Why is that weird? Well, most people donít play softball, and I donít want to play softball with the 20-40 year olds. So I walk down every street in my city yelling "Hey, are you old and like to play softball?" I get no responses. I do play in a Senior softball league in the SFV in Los Angeles. Itís ok, but not great. Sorry, this may sound cruel, but I donít want to play softball with someone who is 85 years old and looks like he might die before the game is over.

In The Villages, you can be in senior softball heaven. Great facilities, great program. I could play once a week or three times a week or maybe more. It is advertised that they have 150 teams. Better than that, they have different divisions, based on skill levels. They have one skill level for those who might die before the game ends. (Ok, Iím guilty, bad joke, this is not true).

My wife likes country line dancing. There is a LOT of line dancing in The Villages. There are classes to attend (if you like) and thereís a lot of line dancers at the nightly concerts in the town centers.

It should be noted "why did we go there in the first place?" My wife wanted to go to Discovery Cove (near Orlando) and swim with the dolphins, so the 3rd day was spent entirely away from The Villages at Discovery Cove. PM me if you want info on our Discovery Cove experience. It was very good.
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what I did in the villages
Old 06-01-2008, 01:05 AM   #4
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what I did in the villages

What I did in the Villages

We stayed for 4 nights. We paid a fee to do this. We stayed in a really nice house that was much bigger than we needed. We had lunch and dinners at selected locations (for free). The meals were very, very nice. I drove a golf cart, got lost, finally found Katie Belleís restaurant. (Note: I decided that golf carts are not for me). We went to the swimming pool twice. I went to one of the Fitness Centers once. We drove our car around several neighborhoods. We visited both town centers. We attended two nightly concerts (they go each night from 5 to 9). We purchased beer and margaritas at the concerts. We danced a little at the concerts. We walked around the town squares. (For some reason, Spanish Springs appealed to us more than Sumter Landing).

I visited the softball fields and talked to one 70-year old player. I was in softball heaven.

They also included a round of golf, I passed, I donít play golf.

I should also mention that they had many, many golf courses, (that seemed to be inexpensive to play) and many, many tennis courts, as well as other sports that I am not familar with like Pickleball? And Bocce Ball? And others.

We also spent part of day 4 with a sales representative who drove us around and showed us houses. Note: there was no sales pressure.
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Old 06-01-2008, 01:08 AM   #5
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Houses for sale in The Villages

You may not agree with me, but if Iíve got a choice between a "new" $200K house and a pre-owned $200K house (of similar design and quality), I would choose the "new" house. The situation in The Villages (maybe all of Florida) is not good for the sellers of pre-owned houses. Our sales agent drove us around to several neighborhoods, but concentrated on the "new" houses being built. He said that the builders have lowered prices to keep the houses "moving". So, I get the feeling, if youíre trying to sell your 2 year old house, youíre Só out of luck Youíre gonna take a loss.

We were told that the "new" houses came with landscaping included and that closing costs were "minimal".

We saw some really nice houses in the "Designer" type. There was a $180K house that was very nice. They also had a house that was nicer for $200K, and nicer for $225K, and nicer for $250K. If you want nicer, there were more expensive houses with swimming pools and/or perhaps they were facing a golf course. They also had more expensive houses that were over $250K that we were not interested in. My wife loved the $250K house. In my opinion, the $250K house was nice, but was it $70K better than the $180K house? Iím not sure.

The sales person was very nice, very professional. He gave us all the information needed, but was not pushy at all. In short, we enjoyed his company. (Note: it turned out he was a softball player, who lived in The Villages!).

In my opinion, you can get a nice, new, basic house for $180K. To me, this is pretty good.

If I remember correctly, there is a fee that you contribute to The Villages after you buy your house. I cannot remember exactly how much it was, but it was something like $130 a month for an "amenity fee" or whatever you call it...... to help pay for all the facilities (whether you use them or not).
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my personal review of The villages
Old 06-01-2008, 01:12 AM   #6
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my personal review of The villages

What I found... the good and the bad, my personal review of The Villages.

The good: This place has been described as a "Disneyland for Seniors". There is some truth to this. The people that we encountered were friendly. They were also helpful. They were polite.

There is a certain uplifting atmosphere while walking around the town square, that I cannot properly describe. (Itís almost like The Stepford Wives). The people we met seemed very happy. They seemed to be full if vitality. There seemed to be a sense of community.

The town squares (especially Spanish Springs) had a certain "fake-ness" to their design. Still, it was very charming. Spanish Springs town center has two walls that look like something out of "The Alamo". They have fountains inside these walls. It may be fake, but itís kinda cool. Each town square has a big gazebo where the entertainment plays each night at 5pm. On all four sides of the gazebo are dance areas. Around the dance area is a section where people can sit in those white plastic chairs and watch the entertainment and the dancers. At Spanish Springs there was plenty of shade from the trees. It was very comfortable. (I assume this is the same for the other town center at Lake Sumter). Anyway, it is very nice to sit under a tree and watch the nightly entertainment and to watch the people dancing. You couldnít help but smile a bit just by taking it all in. So simple, yet unique. (Note: it kinda reminded me of an episode of the Twilight Zone where the guy gets off the train and goes into a Mayberry-like town).. Bottled beer was 2 for $3.25. Margaritas were $2.75. (Apparently they can make their own rules about walking around town with open containers of alchohol)

The best thing I can say is that the people we met seemed very happy.

The Bad:

Please remember, what is "bad" for me, may not be "bad" for you.
Originally, we were told that the average age of the people in The Villages is 62.
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Famous quote: "there are three kinds of lies: ..... lies, damn lies, and statistics"
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I have no reason to doubt that the average age is 62. Nevertheless, my wife and I both agreed that the average age of the people we observed was 70+. My wife and I rarely agree on anything. I would guess that 10% were in their 50s, 15% in their 60s, and the rest, (75%) were 70 or above.
This is a personal thing.

For me, I love softball. If youíre on my team, I could not care less how old you are. If you are green, from Mars, or your name is Rich_In_Tampa, I have no problem playing softball with you. Iíll cheer for you, no problem.

This was more an issue with my wife who felt the age difference.

Another "bad" is that there are very few young people in The Villages. You could easily go all day without seeing anyone under 55. This may be good or bad.

Another "bad" is the Florida summer weather. Several people have described July and August in Florida as "brutal". This does not sit well with me. Actually, it frightens me. In So Cal, during the summer, we usually get 2 or 3 bad stretches during the summer, but I would never describe the summer weather in LA as "brutal
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Are we gonna move to the Villages?
Old 06-01-2008, 01:14 AM   #7
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Are we gonna move to the Villages?

Summary - Are we gonna move to the Villages?

First, I want to say that I was VERY impressed with The Villages. It is a very well-planned retirement community. They should be proud of what they have built. If you like to be "active" or.............. if you have a weird hobby (like me) that you want to share with people of similar interests, this is the place for you. I would go for a visit.

That being said, I doubt weíre gonna move there. In some respects this may be a matter of your passion for your hobby. For me, I love softball so much, I would strongly consider moving here just to enjoy my hobby. I would be in softball heaven.

My wife was less enthusiastic. She might feel differently IF she was 65, but for right now, she is not ready to move here. I can understand her feelings. There seemed to be a generation gap between her and the other women...... that she could not overcome. (By the way, if anyone is interested in country line dancing in The Villages, feel free to PM me for more information).

So, Iím glad we visited. Itís a really nice place for some retirees.
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Old 06-01-2008, 05:02 AM   #8
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Informative posts but Why 6 posts? you could have put it all in one.
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Old 06-01-2008, 06:09 AM   #9
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Al, thanks for taking the time to write this up. I found it interesting!
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Old 06-01-2008, 08:22 AM   #10
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Al, you certainly did your research. It was interesting to hear about such a community. I have lived in South Florida where I went to college and have liIved for over 30 years. We have our share of retirement communites down here, however, nothing quite as large.
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Old 06-01-2008, 08:38 AM   #11
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Al, thanks for writing about The Villages! After reading your posts, I feel like I have been there.

Although the age of people doesn't bother me, I am more interested in solitude than many so it is not for me. Still, it is interesting to hear about it.

The Villages sounds like a very well-run community and especially great for anyone who has lost their spouse and feels lonely.
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Old 06-01-2008, 08:42 AM   #12
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Nice post - thanks for the insights.
It is interesting to see how others live.

"We had lunch and dinners at selected locations (for free). The meals were very, very nice."
Why were the meals free - are they communal dining rooms.
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Old 06-01-2008, 08:53 AM   #13
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You did a great summary of the Villages . Florida summers are brutal but most people spend them at the pool or the beach .
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Old 06-01-2008, 01:51 PM   #14
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"Why were the meals free - are they communal dining rooms?"

When you stay there, the house that you stay in is not "free". But when you meet with their representative, they give you an ID card so that you can visit all the facilities as if you were a home owner. Also included with the ID card are some free things. We had two very nice free dinners and one free lunch at country clubs within The Villages. The country clubs seemed very nice.

(funny, we noticed that the dinner bill included a 15% gatuity. We had to sign for the bill. In this case, the waitress is gonna get a 15% tip paid for by the Villages. Naturally, the waitress wants you to order THE most expensive thing on the menu. Still, it cost us nothing, we just signed.)
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Old 06-01-2008, 01:58 PM   #15
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uhhhhh,,,,,, "gatuity" should have been "gratuity"
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Old 06-01-2008, 02:17 PM   #16
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Thanks for the review. How large (sq. ft.) was the 180 - 250 k homes? Was the 130/mo. fee include the cost of upkeep , i.e. mowing, painting roofing, garbage,etc. or just for activities? Have you visited any other ret. comm. and how did they compare?
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Old 06-01-2008, 02:35 PM   #17
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<<How large (sq. ft.) was the 180 - 250 k homes? Was the 130/mo. fee include the cost of upkeep , i.e. mowing, painting roofing, garbage,etc. or just for activities? Have you visited any other ret. comm. and how did they compare? >>

FWIW, we have only visited Del Webb's facility outside of Nashville. At the time, it was so new that the clubhouse was still being built, so it's not a fair comparison. Nevertheless, The Villages was easily 20 times bigger.

If I remember correctly, the $180K house had 1600 sq feet and three bedrooms. The $250K house had 1900 sq feet and three bedrooms. The layout of the larger house was nicer. Still, for me, it was hard to justify the $70K difference. Many houses had only two bedrooms. The $180K house could have had two bedrooms and a "study", I can't really remember, except that (for $180K) it was a nice, entry-level house.

The $130/fee, I think was for the facilities only. You must do your own mowing and upkeep.
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Old 06-01-2008, 04:56 PM   #18
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Thanks for taking the time to post all of your thoughts on your visit to the Villages. My husband (65) and I (58) visited there in Feb. of this year. We came away with much the same observations that you make.

We currently live in an over-55 in Texas and love the life style. We were just curious about the Villages. We have a love for cruisin' so we thought it might be nice to take and move our life style closer to the cruise ships.

We were not impressed with the houses being built and the prices being quoted. The houses were cheaply built and they seemed to be asking premium prices for them.

I thought the Villages had grown just a little too big for me. Our community consists of 1100 homes and seem to be just about the right size to offer many activities, but small enough that you don't tend to get lost in the crowd.

I will agree with you that the average age in the Villages has to be more like 70. I am sure that the newer neighborhoods have a younger average age than those that have been around awhile, but the average is probably 70ish.

We haven't ruled out moving closer to the cruise ships in the future, or The Villages, but not any time soon. Maybe in about ten years or so.
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Old 06-01-2008, 09:31 PM   #19
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On our last cruise out of Miami, we met a large contingent of very active seniors (they were complaining about last call at the piano bar from the first night!) who were from the Villages. Apparently their activities also include lots of things to do "off the reservation" so to speak. Anyway, it was fun to be around this group of mostly 70ish folks who were enjoying their retirement years to the hilt!
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Old 06-01-2008, 10:09 PM   #20
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I'm not quite ready for a full time diet of the 70+ age bracket. Nothing wrong with that age, just want a little variety of all ages in where I live. The Villages apparently works well for a lot of people. Just a matter of what floats your boat.
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