The Villages’ active lifestyle continues to attract new residents at an impressive rate, even as market forces have affected many other communities across the country. The Villages once again reigned as the No. 1 master-planned community in the United States in 2022, according to RCLCO, an international real estate consulting firm based in Bethesda, Maryland. This comes as no surprise to RCLCO director Karl Pischke. This is the sixth year in a row that The Villages has been the best-selling community. The Villages also ranked No. 1 on the firm’s 2010 Best of the Decade list after leading the nation in sales nine of 10 years from 2010-19. “Much of The Villages’ enduring success can be attributed to the lifestyle they have created for their residents,” said Pischke. “Few other communities in the country have been able to support such a unique environment that utilizes both the physical amenities and commercial infrastructure, along with the programming and sense of community created by the many clubs and organizations that exist there.”
The Villages maintained strong sales in 2022 despite inflation and supply chain issues taking a hit in the property market.
The Villages topped the list with 3,923 home sales in 2021, down 2% from the record year of 2021, according to RCLCO data. However, sales among RCLCO’s top 50 communities were down 20% for the year. “Even some of the largest and most successful communities have seen a significant decline in the pace of sales this year as rising interest rates and economic uncertainty have affected consumers,” Pischke said. “So for The Villages to see sales decline by just 2% compared to their record 4,000 home sales in 2021 would certainly suggest they have some level of immunity to broader market conditions.”
The numbers of villages far outshine any other community. Lakewood Ranch, a multigenerational community near Sarasota, came in second with 1,846 new homes sold, a 28% decrease from 2021. Another Florida community, Silverleaf, in St. Augustine, ranked third with 1,034 homes sold. No other community has surpassed 1,000 homes in 2022.
The master plan provides every resident – no matter where they live in the community – with convenient access to recreation, golf, entertainment, shopping, dining, medical services and more. And it’s all easily accessible by golf cart thanks to a network of 150 miles of multimodal roads, including tunnels and bridges, that connect the entire community from north to south.
Planning that goes into every aspect of The Villages is key to making it different, said John Rohan, director of The Villages Recreation and Parks Department.
“This is a world-class community that provides its residents with an outstanding lifestyle that is second to none,” he said. “This is the pinnacle of community design. There is synergy with the vision of what the developer has created to enable residents to stay active and healthy. You see this with the availability of recreation centers, plazas and restaurants, churches and other support centers conveniently located within the community.” The Villages boasts over 3,100 resident lifestyle clubs run by resident volunteers, 729 holes of golf – more than anywhere else in the world – 112 recreational facilities with 110 swimming pools, 241 loading courts and 15 softball fields. But it’s the residents who make the community come alive, Rohan said.
“We achieve this through the abundance of recreation centers and amenities, our dedicated lifestyle volunteers, our dedicated and professional staff, and we love what we do,” he said. “We are all committed to our goal of helping to improve and enrich the lives of our residents.”
A huge number of options won over Jodi and Mark Zwayer, who bought a home in the Village of St. Johns and moved from Columbus, Ohio in August 2022.
The couple had attended The Villages since the early 2000s after Jodi’s aunt and uncle moved to the community. But they did their due diligence before deciding to become permanent residents, Jodi said. “Our kids are spread out all over the country, so whenever we would visit any of them, we looked at the 55+ communities in the area,” she said, adding that they looked in Arizona, Texas and the Carolinas.
“But the number of recreation centers and swimming pools and the wide range of activities made it an easy choice. Most places have one relaxation center, one pool, one golf course. When you come here, you can get involved to any degree. There’s no limit to what you can do.”
The sense of community was the draw for Kenda Summers and her husband, Jim Wanda, to move to The Villages in April 2022.
This inspired Summers to purchase a second home in Richmond Village later in the year after her husband’s death.
“My story is a mix of happiness and sadness,” Summers said. “We came to Florida after my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We wanted to be able to take advantage of all that The Villages has to offer while it still has some time left. And my husband didn’t want me to be in a place where all I had to do was sit in the house and feel sorry for myself. He wanted me to be somewhere with all the clubs and have the opportunity to immerse myself in any activity you want.”
Summers said the support she has received has been immeasurable.
“I love where I live,” she said. “I get to take my golden retriever, Stella, to the dog park every day and we love the trail. It’s about a mile and a half loop that we walk every day. To be honest, I’ve delved into some grief support groups, which have been a big help. And I started taking a photography class at The Enrichment Academy. I feel like this is really where I was meant to be.”
Specialties Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347 or [email protected]