"A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawnmower is broken."-James Dent-
While it's not the "oldest" state in the US (this honor goes to Maine), Florida has a much higher percentage of people aged 65 and above than the country. As per the government's 2022 population estimate, seniors aged 65 and above comprise 21.6% of the population, compared to the national 17.3%.
Unlike Maine, which ranks far lower, Florida experienced a massive population influx. A significant proportion of the people moving into Florida are retirees. This influx is one of the forces behind the rise of resort-style communities in Florida.
What are resort-style communities?
Resort-style communities offer amenities and a management style similar to vacation resorts. The amenities may include a swimming pool, golf courses, fitness centers, etc. However, the chief attraction of most of these communities is their proximity to beaches and other vacation spots.
You can also consider resort-style communities as a hybrid between vacation resorts and retirement communities. The development and management style is for permanent residence, but the primary focus is beauty, lifestyle, and activities instead of convenience and cost. You may find little difference and significant overlap between some high-end retirement communities in other states and Florida's resort-style communities, except for the proximity of warm beaches and other attractions.
While most resort-style communities follow the same principles of hospitality and management, they can vary drastically regarding available options and costs. Some relatively minor resort-style communities may lean more heavily on nearby attractions to keep their residents busy. Others focus on providing most upgrades inside, including shopping malls. There is significant variance in the available housing options, covering everything from luxurious oceanfront condos to modest single-family homes.
Factors influencing the rise of resort-style communities
Identifying the factors behind the increase of resort-style communities in Florida may give us a better understanding of this real estate segment and how it may evolve.
Abundance of gated communities and resorts
A critical factor behind the rise of resort-style communities in Florida is that it's a natural evolution for many of its gated communities. Florida has one of the country's highest concentrations of gated communities, so fierce competition exists. Offering resort-style management and amenities is one of the ways some communities started distinguishing themselves from others.
Areas in the state that experience a lot of tourist influx have a high concentration of resorts. But the resort business is seasonal, with some months attracting attention and practically no guests in other months. These resorts can develop a permanent income stream by diversifying their business model to include permanent residences.
With a significant concentration of two real estate segments that, when combined, lead to resort-style communities, the state has the right ecosystem for such conglomerates, including larger entities like developers building gated communities and resorts (and resort amenities) and service providers like pool maintenance companies.
Population growth and retiree influx
About 78,000 retirees moved to Florida in 2021 alone, more than three times the number the next-best state (Arizona) saw. Florida also tops the charts regarding people moving in and settling in Florida. However, this may change as other states (like Iowa) rank better in affordability and healthcare. Still, until now, the massive retiree influx has fueled the phenomenon of resort-style communities.
Florida's beaches, climate, carefree lifestyle, and, most importantly, the tax laws are among the top reasons retirees move to Florida. Buying a home in a resort-style community enhances many of the positive characteristics that attract retirees to this state in the first place.
"I came from Michigan seven years ago, and every year, I learn to love the winters in Florida even more."-Patrick Ennis-
Resort-style communities unburden residents from many of the responsibilities associated with homeownership, albeit at a cost. But if you can afford it, living in these communities might feel like spending your golden years in a hotel/resort. You can choose services like personal laundry, grocery delivery, room service, transportation, cleaning, handyperson services, and even personal assistants (temporary or permanent).
This lifestyle makes resort-style communities in Florida highly desirable for retirees and, in some cases, families. For developers/property managers, this leads to new revenue streams.
Variety and pricing
There is a lot of variety within the resort-style community market segment. From a pricing perspective, you can buy single-family homes within a community for as low as $300,000. If you can afford it, the upper limit can rise to several million, making it a viable option for a massive buyer pool. More buyers result in more market activity, catalyzing the rise of Florida resort-style communities.
Various amenities, activities, resort services, and even property types exist. There are condos, single-family homes, and even mansions available.
Investment is a factor influencing the rise of resort-style communities in Florida. Still, it's less significant than the other because of these communities' rental permissions/rules. A sense of community is an essential feature of these resort-like facilities, and it relies upon the idea of permanence. Since most residents live in these communities full time, they make a more concerted effort to get to know their neighbors and other residents of the communities. On the other hand, temporary tenants may feel a different need to do so. Not all communities allow you to rent your home in a resort-style community. However, the communities that enable it may also add investors to their potential buyer pool.
The future of resort-style communities in Florida
Resort-style communities comprise a sizable segment of Florida's real estate market, but it's difficult to predict whether they will keep rising or hit their peak. There are arguments for both.
The arguments for growth may consider the major shift we have seen in the job market. Remote work is gaining significant traction, and many individuals, especially in the tech sector, may work exclusively remotely. They can be a sizable new buyer pool for resort-style communities that allow them a comfortable lifestyle that's work and vacation in one.
Many resort-style communities, especially the ones designed for retirees, already offer healthcare and assistive services. Suppose this facet gains more traction and more seniors and their caretakers start trusting resort-style communities in Florida as a viable life residential choice (compared to just healthy and "Active" seniors). In that case, these communities may attract more residents.
However, the cost of living is also a factor to consider. Retirees' tax benefits in Florida can significantly offset the additional expenses that come with living here, but if the balance tips, it may hurt the future of resort-style communities. The risk of flooding and rising water levels may discourage retirees from considering Florida's resort-style communities as a good choice.
"Florida tends to be one of those places that people like to play in the winter."-Gary Bongiovanni-
This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered financial, real estate, or legal advice. The market fluctuates; therefore, not all information will remain the same. Consult a financial or real estate attorney before making significant real estate decisions.