By Alex Hassel, Storage.com
The Villages is synonymous with retirement in Florida. The community started 50 years ago but has grown significantly in recent years. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the total population in The Villages was 51,442. By 2015, Fox Business reported that number more than doubled to 114,350. In fact, Builder, a home building industry publication, lists four neighborhoods from The Villages on its top 25 best-selling subdivisions of 2015.
Representatives from The Villages, the company under the same name that develops and maintains the retirement community, declined to comment as to why the master-planned area has grown so much. But its website says its purpose is “To create a retirement community where people’s dreams can come true.” And with amenities like 36 golf courses free to residents, live entertainment, movie theaters, shopping, and dining experiences catered to its elderly population, it’s no wonder why The Villages is so popular.
An article from Bloomberg says the area also has virtually no crime, traffic, pollution, or even children.
New residents continue to flock to The Villages all the time. Master planners are filling new developments while real estate agents like Tammy Freilich of RE/MAX Premier Realty continue to sell existing homes.
Freilich says 2016 has been a good year for home sales. Where her business typically gets busy at the beginning of the year and drops off in the spring, she says sales this year have remained consistent. “There’s lots of development,” she says. “There’s always lots of development.”
Whether retirees are moving into a summer home or their new permanent residence, spaces in The Villages are often much smaller than what they’re used to.
“A lot of them are downsizing,” says Freilich. “Some of them can afford to live in a home the same size as where they came from, but a lot of them do end up downsizing, whether it’s because they’re moving on without their family, or if it’s more affordable to get a smaller place.”
While so many retirees have migrated to the area and are downsizing, it’s created big demand in the area’s self storage market. Woody Stewart, owner of Sherwood Storage at 1214 State Rd. 44 in Leesburg, says it’s been great for business.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Stewart says. “We’ve been at 85% occupancy for nine months now. Since the Brownwood area filled out, State Route 44 has been buzzing, and we’ve gotten a lot of attention.”
Michael Girard, owner of Rolling Acres Self Storage at 175 South Rolling Acres Rd. in Lady Lake, used to run a golf practice facility on his property, but turned it into a storage business in 2014 after he noticed demand in the area. “We’ve been a little bit slower filling up, but with the growth of The Villages and the planners getting retirees to think this is their Disneyland, there’s a lot of business for self storage around here.”
Storage facilities near The Villages seem to be keeping up with demand at this time, and Girard adds that four other self storage businesses have popped up since he started. However, the general consensus is that more storage space will be needed to keep up as The Villages continues to grow.
“It’s hard to say just how much the developers will keep expanding The Villages,” Girard says. “It’s just a matter of how far they can go. I’d say any new storage space that might need to come up in the future would probably be in the south where the growth is right now.”
“There have been new facilities coming up, but everything is going to continue to grow,” says Stewart. “This place is sitting on a road that runs from the Gulf to the Atlantic. There are still things going up that are associating with the Villages. I don’t see anything coming but tremendous growth.”