Villages comes out on top once again

Houses fill the Village of Pine Hills and the Village of Pine Ridge south of County Road 466A and east of Morse Boulevard. Referrals from within the community are helping fuel home sales.

The Villages again is America’s top-selling master-planned community, according to the independent findings of two of the nation’s leading real estate consulting firms. Of the top five sellers, The Villages sold more homes in 2020 than Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota, Summerlin in Las Vegas, Wellen Park in Sarasota and Ontario Ranch in Riverside, California, according to RCLCO Real Estate Advisors and John Burns Real Estate Consulting, each based in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s the 11th consecutive year The Villages ranked No. 1 on RCLCO’s list of the 50 top master-planned communities. Quality homes and the community’s active adult lifestyle account for The Villages’ popularity among home buyers, said Lee Arnold, a veteran Florida real estate executive.

“They’ve developed a particular product mix as well as a culture, and the culture being as important as the product mix,” said Arnold, executive chairman of Colliers International Florida, a global real estate services and investment management firm. “In doing so, they’ve appealed to a number of like-minded people, which has borne true success.”

It’s visible success, too, Arnold said. He sees it every time he visits The Villages.

“I see discipline and cleanliness, the apparent safety and the sense of community,” he said. “The transportation being very much golf cart-driven is appealing. There’s also lots to do in The Villages. And product quality is essential for that particular demographic.”

Much of the success of any active adult retirement community actually comes from the residents, said Lesley Deutch, managing principal at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

“With active adult communities, the No. 1 source of new home buyers is referrals from within the community,” she said. “Not only does the lifestyle attract people, but they want to be near their friends for retirement.”

The Villages exemplifies that trend, Deutch said.

“I’ve seen that throughout our research and certainly in The Villages lifestyle,” she said. “The most important thing The Villages does is constantly add new lifestyle amenities. That adds to the word of mouth and the continued excitement of the area.”

The ranking also bolsters The Villages’ effort to recruit new retail, restaurants and service providers, said Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial development.

“When I started in the commercial real estate industry, the first thing I learned is that retail follows rooftops,” he said. “For businesses to thrive, the consumer demand has to be in place. Commercial development is built upon the foundation of solid consumer demand.”

It’s also easier to sell a commercial venture on The Villages because of its holistic approach to development, Renick said.

“There’s just tremendous value when you look at The Villages, with the quality of the residential and commercial development and the infrastructure in place,” he said. “Those all contribute to the overall success of the community.”

Homes in The Villages metropolitan statistical area also remain a pretty good investment, judging from new data published by CoreLogic, one of the nation’s leading providers of real estate data and analytics. CoreLogic’s home price index in The Villages MSA grew 4.14% in November.

Local data supports the firm’s research, too.

Median year-over-year single-family home prices grew 14.1% to around $302,200 during November in The Villages of Sumter County, according to a review of data available through the Sumter County Property Appraiser’s Office.

The Villages home-building operations also contributed heavily to the increase in gross domestic product over the five-year period ended Dec. 31, 2019 in the MSA.

GDP grew by 21.7% to $2.69 billion over the five-year period, ranking The Villages as Florida’s fastest-growing economy and America’s 14th fastest-growing economy.

The Villages is an important contributor to the county’s overall economic health, said Frank Calascione, the county’s economic development director.

“There is no question that the growth of The Villages community drives a significant part of the local economy,” he said. “The continued growth of new consumers drive strong retail sales, keep activity robust in the services sector and the construction sector. The continued growth of financial services, insurance, real estate, and health care are also important sectors that provide excellent careers for our local workforce and benefit from the continued expansion of The Villages community.”

Specialty Editor David R. Corder can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or