Margaritaville launches laid-back retirement homes

Wastin' away in Margaritaville may be about to take on a new meaning. 

For singer Jimmy Buffett, "Margaritaville" has spawned a billion-dollar brand since he released his signature song 40 years ago. Margaritaville-branded products range from a casual dining chain to, naturally, a margarita mix. Now, Magaritaville -- the company -- which bills itself as the country's "leading lifestyle escapism brand," is about to venture into its newest product: retirement communities. 

Margaritaville is working with Canadian builder Minto Communities to create two "active adult communities," one in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the second in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Their appeal is based on Buffett's laid-back charm and the song's celebration of sitting by the beach, enjoying a cold drink. 

That approach makes sense for older adults who may not be die-hard "Parrotheads," but like the brand's message, said Margaritaville CEO John Cohlan. "We are really a state of mind," Cohlan said in an interview. "Generations have grown up to understand it's the idea of paradise and escapism."

He added, "We think we will redefine what it means to be in an active older community. It's like going back to summer camp."

The locations were selected for their weather, coastal locations and access to health care, transportation, shopping and culture, said Bill Bullock, vice president of Minto Communities. 

Even though many active adult communities skew toward residents who are about 65 years old, Margaritaville is finding its potential buyers are about 55 years old, Bullock added. The communities will include business centers because "they want to continue their career opportunities," he noted. 

Interest has been brisk, with more than 100,000 people signing up for information, they said. Model homes will be ready in 2018 at the Daytona Beach location. 

"The demographics are people who like to have fun," Cohlan said, noting that the brand does $1.5 billion in sales. "People who are Jimmy Buffett fans are part of that group," but there are other consumers who simply like the lifestyle.

Home prices will range from about the low-$200,000s to about $350,000. "We wanted to make this as obtainable to as broad an audience as possible," Bullock said. 

But some buyers have expressed interest in higher-priced homes in the $400,000 to $700,000 range, so the companies are working on properties that would fit into that more expensive category, he added. 

Buffett has visited the sales center and "was thrilled," Cohlan noted. Will the 70-year-old singer actually live in one of the communities inspired by his hit? "Stay tuned," Cohlan said.