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Home | Florida | Above Average Costs | June 17, 2017

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Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!

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Reader Requested Short Review of Celebration, Florida

Celebration, with 4,105 homes and 7,200 residents, is a master-planned community six miles directly south of Walt Disney World Resort in central Florida. It was built by the Walt Disney Company to exemplify New Urbanism in the mid-1990s and has tree lined streets, quiet neighborhoods, an extensive parks system, a quaint town square and a pretty waterfront. Disney sold Celebration to a private equity firm in 2003, but the entertainment company still has a few offices here and maintains some architectural control.

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Thirty-three percent of residents are age 45 or better. Most of the people who live here consider themselves Democrats. The crime rate is below the national average. Racial diversity is minimal. More than 60% of residents have at least a four year college degree. Celebration has quadrupled in size during the last 10 to 15 years, and the cost of living is 28% above the national average.

The median home price is $340,000. The community is divided into a handful of villages, the earliest being finished in 1996, and each one has a mix of single family homes in a variety of styles (garden, bungalow, cottage and more) and condominiums, many behind white picket fences. Most single family residences have a front porch with a garage in the rear.

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Architectural influences include Mediterranean, Colonial, Art Deco and Victorian, creating an eclectic, pleasing and colorful cityscape. Neighborhoods are not only tree shaded but clean and well groomed. Residents do have to pay an HOA fee and a trash pick up fee, which combined are approximately $1,200 or more per year. Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their own yard and home exterior.

As might be expected in a community built by Disney, Celebration has a wholesome, shiny quality. The Town Center has brick paved streets, bright pastel-colored store fronts, neat rows of palm trees and lantern-type street lamps. There are several small lakes throughout Celebration, but Lake Rianhard, next to the Town Center, is the largest and is bordered by housing, merchants, green spaces and places to sit and just watch the water. It also has fish and a few alligators. This is not a gated community, and tourists often come to visit.

The Town Center brims with festivals and events throughout the year. There are holiday celebrations, art and wine walks, food tasting events, car shows, pie festivals, pet parades, concerts, marathons, sidewalk sales, a farmers' market and much, much more. In the fall, the downtown lamp posts spray leaf-shaped confetti to simulate falling leaves, and during the Christmas season, soap flakes are shot into the air to replicate falling snow while holiday tunes waft from the sidewalks.

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When Celebration first opened, Disney selected the merchants that would do business here, and today, more than 500 companies have a Celebration address. Banks, insurance companies, hotels, real estate agencies, spas, veterinarians, convenience stores, accountants, a movie theater, churches and more are sprinkled throughout the community, with about two dozen downtown. A dozen or more restaurants and cafes serve everything from sushi to Cuban cuisines. Electric cars and Segways are available to lease for traveling to local merchants.

Stetson University has a campus here and offers graduate degrees in a variety of fields. There are more than three dozen social and civic groups, including a bridge club, a veterans group, a garden club and a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Osceola County Library System has a Celebration branch, and it has free wi-fi, author talks and an interlibrary loan program.

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Orlando's public transit system, LYNX, provides bus service to and from Celebration. The standard cost to ride is $2, but people age 65 or better may apply for a discount fare card. A para-transit service is available. Orlando's public transit system, LYNX, provides bus service to and from Celebration. The standard cost to ride is $2, but people age 65 or better may apply for a discount fare card. A para-transit service is available.

The hospital is Celebration Health (200+ beds). It is is accredited by DNV - Healthcare, and Medicare patients are accepted. For military retirees, Orlando has a VA hospital.

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Summer high temperatures are in the 80s and 90s. Winter temperature highs are in the 60s and 70s, with lows in the 50s. Average rainfall is 50 inches per year with the usual summertime afternoon showers.

Retirement in Celebration has some downsides. Some people complain that the covenants are too restrictive. Cultural amenities are few. It has been said that Celebration is almost too clean, too shiny and too perfect. Some people compare it to the movie The Truman Show, a place where the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred. Tourists are here year round. The biggest drawback, though, is poor home construction in certain areas. Celebration was built quickly, and today mold permeates some homes thanks to leaking roofs. Many structures in the Town Center are physically unsound, and in late-2016 one of the HOAs filed suit against homeowners for unpaid dues.

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Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Maybe  |   Is Florida Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes

Many residents love Celebration, but others complain that poor workmanship and poor management by the equity firm that owns the community have made selling their homes difficult. So while Celebration has a lot going for it, it also has downsides that should be carefully researched before retiring here.

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