Demographics tell us that eight million more people should retire in the next decade than in the last decade. You had better pay attention to the retirement housing market!
While the active adult (55+ age-restricted, amenity-rich) home market was brisk everywhere last year, The Villages in Florida spun into a whirlwind. With 3,419 sales—up 20% from the prior year—The Villages once again outsold every other master-planned community in the country. That is an average of more than nine new home sales per day!
Picture this: 50,000 golf carts, 100 miles of cart paths, 540 holes of golf (with an estimated 5.8 million lost balls per year), 63 recreation centers, 2,200 organized clubs, and 216 softball teams.
Many developers would love to re-create the atmosphere and culture that exists today at The Villages. Below are some ways the development is achieving its success:
Referrals and segmentation. How do you lead the country in sales while selling only to those who are 55 and older? A powerful referral network, three sales centers, phenomenal segmentation, and homes priced from $100,000 to $1,000,000 certainly help.
It isn’t about location. Other than the sunshine, the Villages’ rural central Florida location is nothing special. The ocean is a long drive away through rural roads and isn’t a factor in buyers’ decision to move here. As in most of Florida, there is no topography, and The Villages is a fair distance from Orlando or Tampa, the closest large metros. The homes themselves don’t particularly stand out from others we see around the country.
It is about fun, fun, fun. The amazing recreational opportunities provided by the developer and residents are what draw people to this community. Activities span from polo to pickleball. Restaurant choices rival those of an upscale suburb. And there is lots of liquor, including daily two-for-one drinks, and music and dancing (see this amazing Mustang Sally video) at three themed mixed-use town centers that function as hubs for retail, restaurants and services.
Life in the bubble. It’s those amenities, plus an extremely controlled atmosphere residents describe as “a bubble,” that make residents fans. The developer owns the local newspaper and radio station and prints only sunny news. The appearance of children is also regulated, with restrictions on how long they can stay and guidelines on which community pools they can visit.
Capturing three-peats. The developer often sells multiple homes to the same buyers over time. During a tour last year, an insider told us that the typical Villages home buyer buys 2.5 homes—a second home to complement their primary home elsewhere, followed by a nicer primary home when they move to The Villages full-time, followed by a lower-maintenance home.
It is important to remember that this did not happen overnight. While the development has been around since the late 1960s, the majority of the community has been sold and built out since the year 2000. Critical mass was necessary to get the development to its more recent levels of success.
Successful active adult developers know that success is about selling the lifestyle. The better the lifestyle, the greater the success. And happy homeowners will become your number-one sales tool as they recruit their friends. The Villages took remote raw land and turned it into a very special place, making a fun lifestyle affordable to nearly all seniors.