Far and away the most frequently asked question I get is some variation of
What does it cost to live in The Villages?
The answer is not as straightforward as many would like, because everybody’s situation is different, and figuring out one’s cost of living is not at all like, say, inquiring about the price of a hotel room. But some folks seem to think it should be so easy and sometimes I wish it were.
In order to find out what YOUR cost of living in The Villages will be, it’s going to take some serious effort and thinking on your part. I know…the nerve of this guy, right?
But I’m hoping that the information and resources below can at least help you arrive at a fairly accurate estimate of your potential cost of living. A few disclaimers…prices are averages based on what I’ve heard, seen, experienced. Assume we’re dealing with a $250,000 home when discussing housing related stuff. Prices change all the time, etc., etc.
Let’s jump right in shall we?
I’d say well over half of the people posing this cost of living question have received their “Lifestyle Portfolio” (information package) from The Villages and most of them question the accuracy of the monthly cost of living figures presented there.
If you’ve not received the package containing this sheet it totals up the estimated cost of the amenities fee, sewer, water, power, trash, phone and cable, insurance, average taxes, and the CDD assessment and shows you a grand total of $1,039 per month to live in The Villages. (As of 10/30/2012)
While I’m sure that coming in at or close to this monthly budget number could be done, and you will no doubt hear some people say, “oh yeah, that’s pretty accurate”, it would mean living a fairly Spartan lifestyle, at least by Villages standards.
Let’s take a closer look at figuring out your monthly cost of living and decide for ourselves whether this is doable for you. What I’m going to do is present you with a list of costs that you might incur. Some of these might be ongoing monthly or yearly expenses (eg: lawn care) and others might be one time purchases (eg: buying a golf cart).
Again, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these costs are not going to apply to everyone, I’m just trying to get it all down on paper and you can pick what’s applicable and what’s not. Also, assume the figures below are for a $250,000 home. Buying a million dollar home in The Villages? Your costs will undoubtedly be higher.
This to me is a glaring omission from The Villages’ own monthly cost of living breakdown. I know many people pay cash for their homes, but many choose to carry a mortgage, even if its just for tax deduction reasons. If you visit Bankrate.com you can calculate this one using your own figures but I used a $250,000 house, with 20% down, and a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4.5% and came up with $1013.37 per month.
This cost alone almost matches the seemingly attractive monthly cost of living estimate provided by The Villages.
I think The Villages estimate of $100/month here is pretty accurate. Of course you can adjust this up or down based on how much home you intend to buy accordingly. But, even though it likely won’t be required that you carry it, I always tell people to get flood insurance too just in case. So let’s call that an additional $400/year or about $33/month to be safe.
This one is pretty straightforward. At $145 a month currently (changes tied to the CPI) this covers much of what makes The Villages such a draw. Things like golf on the executive courses, swimming, tennis, organized activities, 24 hour neighborhood watch and more.
The Villages estimates this at $250/month, which I would consider to be the low end for this price home. The actual will depend whether you qualify for homestead, and which county it is located in. But for a $250,000 home count on paying between $3,000 and $4,500 per year, which works out to between $250 and $375 per month.
The Villages lists these at approximately $97 to $448 and that’s pretty accurate.
In my opinion utilities are tough enough to estimate, let alone when you estimate them individually. You’ve got people that never set the thermostat below 80 thus they have a consistent power bill, but maybe they love their 30 minute showers leaving them with a higher water bill than others. So for simplicity’s sake lets lump them into two groups.
For water, sewer, power, and trash collection The Villages estimates $248. I’d go a little more conservative here and estimate $300-$350 AND add another $100-$200 if you have a pool to cover the costs of running a pool pump. Add even more if you have an electric or gas pool heater.
Basic cable and telephone are estimated at $104 by The Villages. Notice anything missing there? How about internet? Most companies will let you bundle these three services and you may or may not choose to do so. Also, others may forgo a landline in lieu of using cell phones exclusively. No matter which route you choose, I’d budget between $150 and $250 for phone, cable, and internet.
You might think cutting your own grass and trimming your trees and shrubs sounds like a good idea at first, but most people eventually agree its either too dang hot or they are just too dang busy to keep up with it all. So most opt for a lawn service to come.
I’d estimate $50/month for this amount of house. Of course its going to depend on the size of your lot and other factors, but we’re shooting for averages here. Note that while you will get cut more in the summer and less during the winter, most services will charge you the same each month. It just helps them keep a steady cash flow and I think it helps the homeowner too so its pretty easy to remember what to pay.
Trimming of trees/shrubs is usually additional. I think if you budget $40-$50/month here you’d be pretty safe.
Most people especially those coming from up north never think of this one. You’re going to want to have your yard sprayed for pests, as well as the inside of your home too. Some companies recommend monthly service, others say you can get by with quarterly. In either case, expect this to set you back $80-100/month.
No matter what type of home you buy, do not go without a termite bond. Count on paying at least $100-$200/yr. for this.
You might want to budget for having the outside of your home pressure washed once or twice a year, and painted every 5-7 years. Pressure washing will probably run $100-$200 per visit, and painting for a 1,800 sq. ft. home should be between $2,000 and $3,500.
I’d say grocery prices in The Villages are pretty average for Florida. There’s quite a bit of choice with Publix, Sweetbay, Wal-Mart, etc., so the competition helps keep prices in check.
Drinks and Eating out
Same for restaurant and drink prices. There are lots of choices, and the competition keeps the prices in line. You don’t have to look too hard to find coupons and deals enticing enough for just about any budget.
BUT, because of the amount of choices, many just a short golf cart ride away, most residents find themselves eating out and/or socializing with new friends more than they ever have in the past. So to be safe, add 20-30% on to whatever your budget is now for drinking and eating out, not because prices are higher, but because you will likely be doing it more often.
“Free golf for life” might just be the very thing that got your attention and attracted you to The Villages in the first place. But, it’s not quite that simple.
You do get free golf for life on the executive courses if you walk. If you want to rent a cart currently the fee is $5.00 per person for 9 holes or $10 per person for 18 holes.
If you have your own cart, (1) to (4) members of a household may purchase a six- month executive golf trail fee for $105.93 with tax and a yearly trail fee is available for $141.24 with tax. Priority members playing championship courses can pay $79.44 for six-months or $105.93 for the year.
You can find more information in this Trail Fee Application.
You’ve got several options as it relates to Priority Championship Course Memberships, too many to list here. But on the high end they are currently $925 per couple (rates are less for singles) and this includes use of the Country Club pools, your executive trail fee and tennis at Hacienda Hills. More details can be found here. You also have to pay greens fees on top of this, though you do get a slight discount with this priority membership.
This will likely be one of the first purchases you make after buying your home, and many even complete this purchase BEFORE buying their home! Prices, styles and options for golf carts are almost as varied as for homes. You can find used carts in the classifieds or in some stores for less than $2000 or you can spend more than $20,000 for a tricked-out custom cart. The choice is yours but don’t forget to budget for this expense.
You’ll also need golf cart insurance. Like anything else its good to shop around. Ask your cart dealer or salesman for a recommendation. I’ve seen rates range between $60/year to more than $200/year.
Like cars, golf carts get flat tires, dead batteries, etc. A couple companies offer roadside assitance for yearly fees ranging from about $30/yr. to $60/yr. depending on the level of service you’d like. Check out Kartaide and 24 Hour Cart Club for more details.
Entertainment and Movies
You’ll never be short on entertainment options in The Villages. You’ve got nightly entertainment in the town squares which is free. There are also ticketed shows, musical acts, Polo matches, etc. with ticket prices ranging from just a few bucks to $30+ depending on the act and the venue.
The Villages now has three movie theaters and ticket prices are currently $6.75 for residents showing a resident ID.
The Villages Daily Sun is currently about $67/year, and while you should probably subscribe just to keep up with daily events/happenings you’re not going to see any hardcore news reporting. Because of this, many also get the Orlando Sentinel which is about $33 for 13 weeks.
You can get golf tee times by phone, but some want the convenience of doing it online. If that’s you, you’ll pay $8/month for TheVillages.net. This also includes 2 @thevillages.net email addresses.
I’m a strong proponent of joining these two organizations. After a while you’ll notice they have different aims and viewpoints in many cases but both are worth being a member of. The Villages Homeowners Association (VHA) is just $15/household for 2 years, and the POA is $10/household for 1 year.
If you’re going to be a seasonal resident you’ll probably want to look into a housewatch service and these range from $35-$50/month depending on the level of service you want.
Various “One-Time” Costs
A lot of people fail to consider the many “one-time” costs they might incur when first moving to The Villages. Prices vary greatly for things like adding gutters, screening in your lanai, buying new patio furniture, adding decorative curbing, interior painting, and much much more.
Resident Parker Sykes, author of 50 Things to Think About Before Buying a Home in The Villages says that you can plan on at least $5,000 worth of this type stuff needing to be done at a minimum, and I’d agree. Just remember to take these into account when doing your budgeting/financial planning.
What did you come up with?
When I plug in some of the numbers above into the spreadsheet mentioned on page 73 of my book, I come up with a monthly cost of living (for me) of at least $4,254.37. But don’t let my number scare you. Maybe I play a little too much golf, or spend a little too much on things like groceries and eating out. Adjust your figures accordingly!
Let me hear from you
Hopefully you’ve got a better idea of what living in The Villages is going to cost you. What do you think? Is The Villages still in reach for you financially? Did this article help in some way?
Seasoned residents – What did I miss? Let me know in the comments and I’ll adjust the article accordingly.