Moving To Virginia? (The Truth About Living Here)

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Virginia, known affectionately as “Old Dominion”, is one of the oldest states in the USA. It was one of the 13 original colonies, and it’s steeped in history. The land and area is ripe with relics of times past, from civil war battlefields to beautifully preserved homes, the likes of which include that of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

It’s also a state with a split personality. Northern Virginia forms part of the affluent suburbs of Washington DC, where the people are mostly liberal and progressive types, and there’s a big focus on climbing the career ladder.

Head outside of Northern Virginia and you quickly enter the rural south, which is a very distinct area in its own right. Here there is a slower pace to life, a more traditional and conservative population, and Southern hospitality by the bucket load.

The state is also home to spectacular natural beauty, from the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah National Park, to a surprisingly picturesque Atlantic coastline.

Virginia is an attractive state to move to for a number of reasons, from the fast-paced hustle of DC life, to its southern charm. If you’re thinking about making the move, this guide will help you explore everything the state has to offer before loading up the car and hitting the road.

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Where Are The Best Places To Live In Virginia?

 

The state of VA is nothing if not diverse, with unique cultures, socioeconomic attributes and ways of life throughout. Where the “best” place to live will be for you or your family depends largely on personal preference. That said, we’ve included some of our favorites below.

In no particular order, let’s dive in…

Arlington

Arlington sits just over the border from Washington DC and feels like an extension of the city itself. The city is a popular destination with both families and young professionals. The city has one of the country’s best school systems and an impressively low crime rate, but also a buzzing nightlife and a vibrant arts and culture scene.

In fact, Niche.com rated Arlington the best place to live in the whole of Virginia, and the 3rd best place in the country!

picture of Rosslyn, Arlington, Virginia, USA skyline on the Potomac River.

However, this popularity comes at a price. Since it’s such a desirable area, it’s not cheap to live here. The median home price is $607k, and renting an apartment will cost you an average of $1,827 per month before you’ve even paid the bills.

Falls Church

The historic city of Falls Church sits less than nine miles from downtown Washington DC, making it another popular choice for people commuting into the nation’s capital. For those who enjoy public transportation, it’s even got its own metro stop.

It’s an affluent area that has a great small-town feel to it, with cute little coffee shops, hip local bars and some interesting independent stores to explore.

Falls Church is highly popular with families; it boasts a low crime rate while also claiming some of the highest-ranking schools in the country. Appreciate the outdoors? The city has plenty of green spaces, including 12 parks, and since the population is just over 12,000, it doesn’t feel too crowded. It’s a great little haven if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of downtown Washington DC while still being close enough to work and a wide range of amenities.

All this comes at a price though- the median cost of a home is around $600k and renting an apartment costs around $1,813 per month.

Virginia Beach

Heading away from Washington DC to the Atlantic coast, you’ll find the vibrant tourist destination of Virginia Beach.

It has a population of around 450,000 people, but this number rises during the summer months as beachgoers come from all over the state and beyond to soak up the sun on the sandy coastline.

Since it’s such a popular area with visitors, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. The boardwalk is always open and is packed full of great restaurants, arcades, and shops. There are also some fantastic museums, as well as the Virginia Aquarium and the famous Maritime Museum.

Despite it being a great place to live, property prices are much lower in this part of the state. The average home price here is just under $260K, and renting an apartment costs around $1,200 per month.

Williamsburg

History lovers will adore living in Williamsburg. It’s a small city of just 15,000 residents, which was founded way back in the early 1600s. In fact, this was once the capital of the colony of Virginia.

There are traces of its historic roots everywhere, especially in the city’s Colonial Williamsburg quarter which is always popular with tourists- around 4 million of them every year!

picture of Colonial Williamsburg Virginia

Williamsburg puts on tours, special events and historical re-enactments throughout the year. As well as historical attractions, there’s also the world-class Busch Gardens theme park close by, and a fantastic outlet mall for shopping.

There are some pretty high-end properties in this area, which raises the average home price to $321k, but there are still some great bargains to be found in and around town.

Vienna

Heading back up to Northern Virginia, Vienna is a peaceful suburban city in the affluent Fairfax County area. It’s popular with people commuting into Washington DC and even has it’s own metro stop so you can avoid traffic.

Around 16,000 people call Vienna home, and the average household income here is an impressive $140k per year. The crime rate is extremely low and the school system is one of the best in the country, so it’s another super popular neighborhood with families that can afford it.

Although it’s a pretty sleepy and serene place to live, there’s still a great selection of local restaurants, and you’re within a stone’s throw of Washington DC if you’re looking for a more vibrant night out.

Property prices here are pretty high; the average home value is $640k, and a rented apartment costs an average of $1974 per month.

Leesburg

The historic town of Leesburg is a little further out from the hubbub of the Washington DC suburbs, but it’s still a commutable distance away.

The walkable downtown area is a beautiful cluster of original colonial buildings, packed with interesting boutiques and beautiful restaurants, giving a quaint old British vibe to the area.

Since it’s a little further from the city, property prices are more affordable here. The average home costs $380k, and you can rent an apartment for around $1380 per month.

Alexandria

This popular city sits on the banks of the Potomac River, just to the south of Washington DC, so it’s another popular commuter area.

It’s famous for its historic Old Town which has some beautiful colonial buildings that are now converted into a wide range of hip and interesting shops, restaurants and bars, all within walking distance of each other.

picture of Alexandria, Virginia: Handsome 18-19th century Federal era houses on Cameron Street in Old Town

There’s also a fantastic waterfront area, which features the well known “Torpedo Factory Art Center’- an old restored munitions factory which is now an arts center with a gallery and live studio demonstrations.

Again, like most areas in Northern Virginia, the school system is fantastic, and the crime rate is relatively low. There are some beautiful period houses that still retain their original features, as well as modern family homes, condos, and apartments. None of these come particularly cheap though; the average home price in Alexandria is $500k, and renting a one-bedroom apartment will cost around $1700 per month.

Manassas

Manassas is a great option if you’d like to settle in Northern Virginia, but don’t want to pay the hefty price tag. The town is steeped in history; two major civil war battles were fought here.  The best place to learn about the history of the area is to visit the fantastic Manassas Museum, as well as the historic battlefields themselves.

There’s also plenty of entertainment options in and around town. There’s the Hylton Performing Arts Center, which regularly puts on classical music, theatre, and opera performances, and for the kids, there are two fantastic water parks nearby. There’s also a good amount of bars and restaurants in the downtown area.

Since Manassas is a little further from DC, it’s also much more affordable than a lot of other areas in Northern Virginia. The average price of a home here is $380k, and renting an apartment will cost an average of $1350 per month.

Richmond

Richmond is the capital city of Virginia and home to around 230,000 people. In the past, the city hasn’t earned itself a great reputation, due to a relatively high crime rate and less-than-perfect public school system, especially when we compare it to Northern Virginia.

That being said, it’s a city on the rise and is becoming more and more popular with millennials due to the mix of exciting city life, and affordable housing costs. The downtown areas are being cleaned up and the crime rate is slowly starting to fall. There are also tons of trendy bars and restaurants which help to give it a real cosmopolitan city vibe.

Richmond offers much more bang for your buck in terms of property. The median price of a home here is $194k, and renting an apartment costs an average of just $890 per month.

Charlottesville

The charming city of Charlottesville is home to the famous University of Virginia, which gives it a vibrant college town vibe. With a population of 45,000 residents, there’s enough going on without it feeling like a big city. There are plenty of independent bars, cute little coffee shops, and interesting boutique stores dotted around the downtown area.

One of Charlotteville’s claims to fame is the historic Monticello plantation, Thomas Jefferson’s famous home, which is open to the public.

picture of Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville Virginia

Charlottesville has a relatively low crime rate and some high performing schools, so it’s certainly popular with families. It’s also a stone’s throw away from the gorgeous Shenandoah National Park, which is a great place for hiking, camping or taking a scenic drive.

Again, housing here is much more affordable than up in the northern part of the state. The median property price is $285k, and renting will cost just under $1000 per month.

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How Is The Job Market In Virginia?

 

Virginia is one of the best states in the country for job seekers. The unemployment rate currently sits at an unheard of 2.6%, which is well below the national average. According to analysts, the state’s job market is expected to grow by another 9.3% over the next 4 years, making the future look brighter than ever for those seeking to make the move.

Even more promising is the fact that Amazon has announced it’s 2nd headquarters will be built in Crystal City, Virginia. This is expected to add a whopping 50,000 new highly paid jobs to the already booming job market.

Top Industries In Virginia

Tech is one of the biggest industries in Virginia; almost 200,000 people are currently employed in some kind of tech-related role, and the average salary for these jobs sits at a very healthy $99,000.

picture of Top View Through the Glass of IT Engineer Working with Laptop in Virginia Data Center Full of Active Rack Servers.

Due to Virginia’s extensive school network, education is another major industry in the state. Around 240,000 people work in this field, where the average salary currently sitting at $60,000.

Other big industries in the state include healthcare, sales, financial services, and hospitality.

Top Employers in Virginia

Virginia’s biggest employer by far is the US Department of Defense. Arlington is home to the world-famous Pentagon, and there are also numerous military bases dotted around the state.

Fairfax Country Public Schools, who appear at the top of the national league tables every year, are another huge employer. There are around 20,000 students enrolled in this school system, which operates the largest school bus fleet in the entire country!

The ship manufacturer Huntington Ingalls Industries is another large-scale employer. They operate at the gigantic Norfolk Naval base, building U.S Navy aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, employing a huge amount of people.

Other Top Employers In Virginia Include:

  1. University of Virginia, 30,000, Charlottesville, Virginia
  2. Huntington Ingalls Industries, 40,000, Newport News, Virginia
  3. Navy Federal Credit Union, 17,000, Vienna, Virginia
  4. VCU Health, NA, Richmond, Virginia
  5. Altria Group, 8,300, Richmond, Virginia
  6. CarMax, 25,110, Richmond, Virginia
  7. James Madison University, 1,375, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  8. Fairfax County Public Schools, 24,137, Falls Church, Virginia
  9. Capital One Financial, 42,685, McLean, Virginia
  10. Arlington Public Schools, NA, Arlington, Virginia
  11. Northrop Grumman, 70,000, Falls Church, Virginia
  12. Inova Health System, NA, Falls Church, Virginia
  13. United States Department of Defense, 2,870,000, Arlington County, Virginia
  14. Commonwealth of Virginia, NA, Richmond, Virginia
  15. Bwx Technologies, 6,250, Lynchburg, Virginia
  16. Abbott Laboratories, 99,000, Abbott Park, Illinois
  17. Prince William County Public Schools, NA, Manassas, Virginia
  18. Sentara Healthcare, 28,000, Norfolk, Virginia
  19. CACI International, 18,800, Arlington, Virginia
  20. Ferguson Enterprises, 27,000, Newport News, Virginia
  21. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 13,000, Blacksburg, Virginia
  22. Hilton, 163,000, McLean, Virginia
  23. Loudoun County Public Schools, NA, Ashburn, Virginia
  24. Centra Health, 8,500, Lynchburg, Virginia
  25. George Mason University, 1,470, Fairfax, Virginia
  26. Fairfax County, 12,000, Fairfax, Virginia
  27. Henrico County Public Schools, NA, Henrico, Virginia
  28. Arlington County, 3,700, Arlington, Virginia
  29. Suffolk Public Schools, 2,088, Suffolk, Virginia
  30. Advance Auto Parts, 71,000, Roanoke, Virginia
  31. County of Chesterfield, NA, Chesterfield, Virginia
  32. College of William and Mary, 2,240, Williamsburg, Virginia
  33. Riverside Health System, 2,900, Newport News, Virginia
  34. General Dynamics, 98,800, Falls Church, Virginia
  35. Leidos, 31,000, Reston, Virginia
  36. Booz Allen Hamilton, 24,225, McLean, Virginia
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How Much Does It Cost To Live In Virginia?

 

Overall Costs: 3.7% higher than the national average

Housing: Renting Vs Buying

We already know that buying a property can be expensive in Virginia, but what about if you rent your home? Again, it’s all about where you live. Overall, housing comes in at 11.8% higher than the national average.

Let’s look at figures from Fairfax Country again. If you want to rent a one-bedroom apartment here, it’ll cost you a pricey $1560 per month, and if you need two bedrooms, you’ll be paying around $1890. Now, let’s compare that to Richmond; a one-bedroom here is just $1060, and a two-bedroom is not much more, at $1140 per month. In general, the further you get away from Washington DC, the cheaper your rent will be.

Groceries / Food

We all need to eat. Luckily, grocery costs throughout Virginia come in just slightly lower than the national average, but not by much. The cost of food in the state is 0.4% lower than the national average.

picture of family with shopping cart in Virginia supermarket store

Healthcare and Medicine

If you already have a medical condition, rank among the aging population, or have a family, healthcare costs are often a major consideration when making a move. The cost of healthcare in VA comes in at 2.4% higher than the national average. However, there is a Brightside. Virginia boasts some of the best healthcare facilities in the nation.

Utilities

Although some types of energy tend to be higher on the East Coast, the overall costs of energy consumption in the form of utility bills balances out quite nice, with the cost coming in just slightly below the national average at 0.7% cheaper.

Transportation

Virginia, especially Northern Virginia, is known for having impressive public transportation systems (metro). Taking into consideration both public and private transportation (gas prices), the state’s average transportation costs come in at 0.6% lower than the national average.

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How Is The Virginia Real Estate Market?

 

Overall, it’s safe to say that Virginia is a seller’s market, with demand maintaining momentum year in and year out. This is driven largely by the booming Northern Virginia economy, with the private and public sectors alike driving prices up.

Speaking of prices, real estate prices have been climbing steadily in recent years, but the last 2 years have seen an even more dramatic spike in prices, partly due to Amazon’s announcement of their HQ2 in the state.

According to Zillow, real estate prices rose 3.8% in 2018, and over the last year increased by another 4%. Although this means you’ll no doubt be paying a premium for housing across much of the state, you’ll also be making an investment that is on an upward trend.

That being said, property prices all depend on where you live. As we’ve seen when looking at the best places to live in the state, property in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia costs a heck of a lot more than it does in the state capital of Richmond.

picture of Beautiful front entrance of Southern Virginia home with covered porch.

To break it down, the median home value in Fairfax County, Northern Virginia’s most populated county which neighbors DC, is around $580k. The current median price of a home in Richmond is less than half of that, at just $222k.

The average overall home value across the state is $286k.

The Best Time To Buy a House In Virginia FAST

If you’re pressed for time and need to close on a home fast, the best month to find your new home in May. Homes listed in the month of May moved on the market in a mere 26 days. Although this means you’ll have a lot of competition, it also represents a time when more sellers are motivated to list their houses, adding to the overall inventory and available options.

The Best Time to Buy a House In Virginia and Get the Best Deal

The month of the year you purchase a home in VA can have a dramatic impact on how much it will hurt your wallet. For example, those homes sold in June commanded the highest closing price at a premium of 5.95% higher than the annual average (according to Redfin data). Generally speaking, this trend held true for late spring through early fall.

Alternatively, those homes sold in February closed for an average of $46,000 less as compared to the most expensive month (June). Home prices generally trend lower in the state from late fall through early spring.

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Is Virginia A Good Place To Retire?

 

Although it may not be one of the most obvious retirement destinations, the state has a lot to offer those approaching or already in retirement.

For one, the state has one of the lowest overall tax rates in the country, and social security is exempt from income tax here. You can also earn up to $12,000 per year tax-free, which is great if you’re considering a small side venture for a little extra income in retirement.

picture of Group of retired friends in Virginia support concept

Another perk is that all prescriptions and most over the counter drugs are all tax-exempt here. As far as perks go, Virginia ticks most of the boxes, at least tax-wise, for retirees, which helps offset the sometimes high cost of living here.

There are many other great reasons to choose The Old Dominion State as your retirement destination. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the US and the 3rd lowest violent crime stats in the country.

There’s also plenty to do here, from visiting the nation’s capital to exploring the incredible wilderness of the Shenandoah National Park and it’s the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian range.

Virginia also has some of the best medical care available in the country, with some of the best ranking hospitals nationally.   There are also two highly renowned geriatrics and gerontology centers, one in Norfolk and on in Blacksburg, Richmond.

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What Are The People And Culture Like In Virginia?

 

Virginia has two very distinct personalities and cultures. On the one hand, the traditional Southern roots of Old Dominion are still very present in the rural areas located south of Northern Virginia and continuing throughout the middle and southernmost areas of the state. Here, residents tend to be more conservative, and generally vote Republican. The locals live a slower pace of life which feels a million miles removed from their Northern Virginia counterparts.

picture of Elderly Father and mature son are saluting with the beer in front of the grill in their house backyard on a beautiful day.

Northern Virginia is effectively an extension of Washington DC, where the locals tend to be more career-driven and interested in climbing the corporate ladder. Northern Virginians live a “faster-paced” life that is more in alignment with “city life”. The area is overwhelmingly liberal, and the majority of residents cast their vote towards the left.

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Some Of The Coolest Things To Do In Virginia

 

If you decide to move to Virginia, you’ll be spoiled with plenty of interesting places to visit and fun activities to participate in.

Below we’ve put together a list of some of our favorites to inspire your next adventure…

Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive

Shenandoah is one of America’s great national parks, home to the picturesque soaring Blue Ridge Mountains. There are endless hiking trails throughout the park, as well as the famous Skyline Drive, which offers incredible views and stop-off points. It’s famous for being one of the most breathtakingly beautiful drives in the country.

Arlington National Cemetery

Some of the most famous Americans from history are buried here, including President John F. Kennedy. It’s also home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is watched over by an honor guard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Mount Vernon

This was George Washington’s home for over 45 years and has been impeccably preserved for future generations to enjoy. You can tour the grounds of the plantation and the huge 21 roomed house, and learn about what life was like for the slaves who worked here.

Virginia Beach

This family-friendly city, perched on the Atlantic coast, is the perfect place for a vacation. There’s a huge golden sandy beach, as well as everything you could want in a great resort town; bars, restaurants, aquariums, museums, arcades, water parks, and an awesome boardwalk.

picture of Sunrise on the beach in Virginia Bech Va.

Luray Caverns

Luray Caverns is an incredible natural landmark which feels like stepping into another world. Giant calcite rock formations sweep through a huge natural underground labyrinth of tunnels and chambers. There are crystal clear underground lakes as well as the Great Stalacpipe Organ, an intricate musical instrument with pipes made from the rock formations itself.

Assateague

Assateague is a barrier island stretching 38 miles long across the Atlantic front. It’s a protected wildlife sanctuary that passes through both Virginia and Maryland, full of salt marshes, forest habitat, and wetlands. The beach here is one of the most beautiful stretches of sand on the entire East Coast.  Assateague’s most famous inhabitants are a colony of wild ponies that roam the unspoiled landscape.

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The Pros And Cons Of Living In Virginia

 

Now that we’ve taken a look at what Virginia has to offer, let’s examine some of the pros and cons of moving to the Old Dominion State.

Pros

The Job Market

Virginia has one of the best job markets in the USA, and it’s only set to get better in the next few years. With 27 military bases, and over 20 Fortune 500 companies operating in the state, there’s great scope for making big money here.

The World-class Education System

Thanks to extensive funding, Virginia is home to some of the country’s highest-performing school systems. It also has two of the most highly ranked universities in the country, The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

The History

The Old Dominion State has an incredibly rich past. From Civil War battlefields and presidential estates to monuments and museums, there are endless places of historical interest to visit here.

The Mix of Conservative and Liberal Cultures

No matter where you stand politically, you’ll fit in somewhere in Virginia. Whether it’s the conservative southern parts of the state or the more liberal and progressive area of Northern Virginia, everyone can feel at home here.

The Beautiful Nature and Mild Climate (apart from the occasional Nor’easter)

From the mountains to the ocean, Virginia has scenery to rival any state in the US, and best of all, the weather to enjoy it. There are four distinct seasons here, from warm springs and balmy summers to the beautiful colors of fall and the frosty, yet still relatively mild winters.

Cons

The Traffic is Terrible and the Roadways Not Much of Help

Certain parts of the state, particularly Northern Virginia and the greater Richmond area, can be a traffic nightmare. If you’re close to Washington DC and lucky enough to be able to commute via metro, it’s well worth the ticket price.

The High Cost of Living

Housing prices are notoriously high in The Old Dominion State, especially in the northern part of the state. Renting here is also costly, averaging at least $500 more than the national average, so if you’re on a low salary it can be a struggle to get by.

The Lack of Public Transport Outside of N. Virginia

Unless you’re living in one of the larger cities, or you’re on a metro line in Northern Virginia, public transport is pretty scarce. Even in some of the DC suburbs, you’ll find it difficult to get around without a car.

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Virginia Fun Facts & Strange Laws

 

Strange Laws Still On The Books In Virginia

Every state has a few weird and wacky laws, and Virginia is no exception. Let’s take a look at some of the stranger ones from The Old Dominion State…

  • It’s illegal to swear in public. Cussing in earshot of a police officer could land you with a Class 4 misdemeanor.
  • It’s against the law to operate a vehicle without shoes
  • Traffic police are not allowed to use speed radar detectors
  • Motorists must honk their horns if they’re overtaking another vehicle
  • On Virginia Beach’s Atlantic Avenue, it’s illegal to drive past the same area twice within 30 minutes.
  • It’s illegal to hunt animals on Sundays, with the one exception of racoons.
  • In Richmond’s restaurants, it’s illegal to flip a coin to decide who pays the check.

picture of close up shot of hand toss a coin, probable and winning chances concept, fifty-fifty

Fun Facts About The State

To wrap up our overview of moving to Virginia lets take a look at some fun facts from The Old Dominion State.

  • The biggest cash crop of Virginia was, and still is, tobacco.
  • Virginia is often called ‘the birthplace of the nation’
  • The state is named after Queen Elizabeth I, England’s ‘Virgin Queen’.
  • The state flower is not actually a flower, it’s the blossom of a Dogwood tree.
  • Virginia is home to the first-ever crop of peanuts grown in the US.

Ready To Make the Move To Beautiful Virginia?

There’s no doubt about it, Virginia has a lot to offer to a lot of people. Whether you enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life, or laid back southern hospitality, this state has it all. We hope you enjoyed this guide as much as we enjoyed writing it, and that you too get the opportunity to explore all that the state has to offer.

Want a free online moving quote? See our recommendations (August 8, 2020)

 

Further Reading: Looking For More Moving To Virginia Resources? Check These Articles Out!

 

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