Whether it's small-town charm, big-city amenities, affordable housing, or good schools, these are the best places to settle in Virginia.
While Virginia — with its charming small towns, many historical landmarks, idyllic vineyards and award-winning wineries, lakes, national parks, and beach resorts — may seem like the quintessential year-round vacation destination (and it is), the Old Dominion is also a great place to call home (or second home).
Thanks to its proximity to Washington, D.C., northern Virginia has always been a popular choice for young professionals seeking job opportunities in the federal force and private sector.
However, one of the fastest-growing areas in the state in the past two years is Richmond, which has been attracting new residents with its lower cost of living, excellent colleges, and vibrant hospitality scene. But if big-city life is not for you, there are plenty of smaller communities offering access to beautiful green spaces, like Shenandoah National Park and Great Falls Park, providing a slower pace without being too far from some of the state's largest economic hubs.
Here, we rounded up the best places to live in Virginia.
"Richmond is the perfect-sized livable city," said Margaret Wade, an agent at Long & Foster. "It has the bones of a bigger city, with world-class amenities such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and a vibrant restaurant and brewery scene, but also the feel of a smaller town, with charming neighborhoods and a welcoming Southern vibe."
As the capital of Virginia, Richmond offers plenty of well-paying jobs in government and finance (unemployment in July 2023 was just three percent), but also various ways to relax after a long work week. Its many cultural institutions, lively culinary scene, outdoor recreation (the James River runs through the city), festivals, and historical landmarks keep its residents entertained. But one of the main draws here is the affordable housing.
According to Redfin, the median home sale price in July 2023 was $388,000, lower than the national average. But real estate experts warn the market is fairly hot due to the influx of new residents and low inventory, Wade explained.
"Richmond has much to offer every homebuyer at every price point," said Jim Dunn, realtor at Joyner Fine Properties, noting there are plenty of neighborhoods to choose from in the city. "The Fan boasts historic row houses, Bellevue has a plethora of Craftsman homes, and Ginter Park offers a wide range of colonial, Georgian, and Tudor architecture. And in Bon Air, you will find mid-century modern gems."
Similar to Richmond, Charlottesville offers the perfect blend of city amenities and small-town charm. It's home to tens of thousands of college students, which has shaped its cultural life — the city buzzes with bars, restaurants, music and art venues, athletic events, and outdoor recreation.
"We are two and a half hours from [Washington], D.C., Williamsburg [Virginia], and the [Atlantic Ocean] beaches, yet only 45 minutes from skiing at Wintergreen, hiking on the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachian Trail, and a host of other outdoor activities," said Denise Ramey, agent at Long & Foster, adding that the city is at the heart of the state's wine country.
There's also good news for newcomers looking to buy their first residence here. "Inventory levels are slowly increasing, and that means there are more homes from which to choose," she said. But act fast because Redfin data shows home prices in the city have jumped 15 percent since last year, and the current median sale value is $465,000.
Home to historic architecture, a beautiful riverfront, and a charming main drag in Old Town with shops and restaurants, Alexandria often ranks among the best cities in the U.S. to visit. But this beautiful destination, located a short drive from the nation's capital, is also a popular place to relocate. With good infrastructure that includes two nearby airports and an Amtrak station, excellent employment opportunities in many public and private sectors, and real estate that's still more affordable than neighboring Arlington or Washington, D.C., Alexandria is a great place for singles and families alike.
"Alexandria has seen incredible appreciation over the years, especially with the recent addition of Amazon's HQ2 in the area, as well as the new construction of Inova's state-of-the-art hospital and cancer center and the transformation of a former coal-burning plant to a vibrant live-work-play destination," said Anne Harris, a broker with Long & Foster.
According to Redfin, the median home value in Alexandria in July 2023 was $572,000.
Jillian Keck Hogan, a realtor at McEnearney Associates, added, "The variation is amazing in style, size, and price point. Some condos sold for as low as $120,000, and a detached home sold for as high as $4.2 million — all in 2023. So, whether you're a first-time buyer or looking for ultimate luxury, Alexandria has it all."
Fairfax is one of the most popular places to live in northern Virginia, especially if you have children, as the city's public school system consistently ranks high nationally. The area's cultural diversity and recreational amenities (many geared toward families) only add to the city's allure with newcomers.
However, the real estate market is competitive, and the median sale price for July was $710,000.
"In western Fairfax County, there are several popular neighborhoods that are seeing homes fly off the market. Franklin Farm has been a top-ranked place to live for many years; Franklin Glen is seeing very quick turnover, and neighborhoods like Poplar Tree, Armfield Farm, and Chantilly Highlands are seeing multiple offers and record-setting sales prices," said Cristina Dougherty, an agent at Long & Foster.
Because of the area's long history, potential buyers will find many colonial-style homes, but also a growing number of condominium communities and even a few ranch-style abodes, according to Dougherty.
Short, scenic walks separate Arlington from some of Washington, D.C.'s most popular areas (Georgetown via the Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge and the National Mall via the Arlington Memorial Bridge). And while proximity to the nation's capital is a main draw for new residents, Arlington has plenty more in store. The city is now home to Amazon's HQ2, which is quickly changing the Crystal City neighborhood (now known as National Landing),
"More often than not, Arlington is ranked with the lowest unemployment rate in northern Virginia. About 99 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park, and in 2023, Arlington was named the fittest city in America and the number one digital county for the sixth consecutive year," said Megan McMorrow, an agent at Long & Foster, adding that her favorite neighborhoods in the city include Fairlington and Waverly Hills.
"Fairlington, in South Arlington, is comprised of a combination of Colonial Revival condos and townhomes. It was built to provide housing for the major uptick in defense workers during WWII. There's a community center, elementary school, farmers market, tennis courts, and each village has a pool," she explained. "In North Arlington, Waverly Hills is a tight-knit community just east of Glebe Road. It's walkable to elementary, middle, and high schools; shops; restaurants; and the Metro's vibrant Orange/Silver Line corridor."
Life in this town is never dull — festivals, ghost tours, Civil War sites, culinary events, family-owned shops and restaurants, and parks transform Leesburg into a vibrant destination. And while it's deeply rooted in the past, Leesburg is also rapidly growing, adding many new construction homes at various price points.
"There are so many wonderful neighborhoods from which to choose — everything from the downtown historic homes to the upscale community of Meadowbrook Farm. Western Leesburg offers the Beacon Hill, Shenstone, and Red Cedar communities. The upscale condos by Knutson downtown are highly desirable for those who want maintenance-free living," said Tanya Spotts, a Long & Foster agent.
The median sale value in Leesburg is $689,000, with more than 50 percent of homes selling above the list price, according to Redfin.
Falls Church is the smallest municipality in Virginia — hence its nickname, "The Little City." It offers a more tranquil and laid-back lifestyle than other cities in northern Virginia. Many families move here to take advantage of the excellent schools around which the city was built.
"The small-town feel permeates, even as the city builds up, taking advantage of its prime position just five miles from [Washington], D.C. Here, you can live in a park-filled community...with urban excitement and opportunities at your doorstep," said Ellen Heather of Long & Foster.
She also explained that because of the city's small footprint, there isn't much available space to build on. "It's not unusual to only have 10 to 15 properties on the market at any time, including a few lower-priced condos, not much in the middle, and then homes and townhomes in the $1 million category," she added.
As the Old Dominion's biggest city, Virginia Beach is more than a beach destination. Of course, it helps that it's blessed with 38 miles of sandy beaches, bustling with activity in the summer.
"Virginia Beach is leading the way in education, recreation, and housing accessibility. Locals love the diversity of activities all year long — disc golf, soccer, kayaking, festivals, concerts, the boardwalk, natural areas, sunrises, surfing, fishing, gardening, whale watching, and more," said Jeremy Johnson, an agent at Long & Foster, calling the city "wildly affordable" for a coastal market. He added that most neighborhoods are within a 20-minute drive from the beach.
The city's most iconic neighborhoods include Shadowlawn, just off the oceanfront resort area, and Chic's Beach along the Chesapeake Bay.
As one of Virginia's wealthiest towns, McLean caters to those seeking sprawling estate living, designer shopping (Tysons Galleria, a premium shopping mall, is located here), parks (it's a short drive from Great Falls Park), and a top-notch school system.
"Residents can enjoy several golf courses, country clubs, and fitness centers in the vicinity. Additionally, the area is home to cultural attractions like the Alden Theatre and McLean Project for the Arts," said Andre Amini of TTR Sotheby's International Realty.
While the market is competitive and known for its luxury listings that often come with price tags in the millions, Amini also explained that more affordable options, like townhouses and condominiums, are available as well.
Williamsburg needs no introduction. As the capital of colonial America, the city's roots run deep. In fact, visitors to Williamsburg and nearby Jamestown can still immerse themselves in colonial-era life.
However, to its residents, Williamsburg has a different side. Home to the second-oldest college in the country, William & Mary, the city has a thriving cultural scene in addition to its theme parks and natural beauty that includes access to three rivers and many green spaces and hiking trails.
"Williamsburg's real estate market stands out for its stability, driven by its appeal for retirees, job transfers, and military relocations. The presence of the college and tourism-related companies creates diverse employment options," said Courtney Martinez, a local agent at Long & Foster.
Understandably, colonial-style homes are standard here. "Homes constructed in the 2000s exhibit a blend of traditional and transitional styles, also featuring ranch layouts with a bonus room above the garage. Homes with basements are less common, and many have a 'walk-out' design," she added.
According to Redfin, Williamsburg's median sale price is $334,000, and homes tend to sell fast — in about 19 days on average.
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