10 Best Places to Live in Virginia 2021

Virginia is an amazing place. Where else can you find mountains and beaches, high-end horse-racing communities and small towns with neighbors who travel by wagon — all within a two-hour drive?

There are mid-sized rural towns here with just as much art and culture as urban communities adjacent to Washington D.C. Virginia is home to so many different lifestyles that there is most definitely a place for everyone.

Some Common Factors

All of the communities described here have certain characteristics in common. Here are a few:

  • Taxes. Virginia has a progressive state income tax that ranges from 2% to 5.75%. For comparison, the national average state income tax is 4.6%. The state and local sales tax combined rate ranges from 5.3% to 7%, compared to the national average of 6.2%. Virginia has relatively low effective property tax rates at 0.8%.
  • Climate. Most of Virginia is subtropical: humid, with hot summers and cold winters. It snows often, but not always, and there is an average amount of rainfall. We will mention any specific climatic anomalies for specific areas if they exist.

 

For each community below, we assign a HOMEiA Score, which provides an overall assessment of its safety and appeal as a place to call home.

1. Alexandria

HOMEiA Score: 91/100

  • Population: 159,467 | Rank Last Year: #4
  • Cost of Living: 40% above the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $572,900/$100,939 = 5.68 (buying homes is expensive)
  • Income to rent ratio: $100,939/$20,964 = 4.81 (renting homes is affordable)

Alexandria is located approximately 7 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. on the western bank of the Potomac River. With easy access to Interstate 495, Interstate 395, and Route 1, Alexandria is also adjacent to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

a. Size and Population
Alexandria has a population of 159,467 (2020) spread over a 15.35-square-mile area. The population density is 10,388.7 per square mile.

The population in Alexandria grew by 13.9% from April 2010 through April 2020, above both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Alexandria.

ALEXANDRIA MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $100,939

Alexandria Cost of Living

  • 40% Above the U.S. National Average
  • 13% Lower than Arlington, Virginia
  • 17% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 31% Higher than Chicago, Illinois

Alexandria Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters
(Rent & Utilities)
$572,900 $33,276 $20,964

Alexandria shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 5.68, based on a median home value of $572,900 and a median household income of $100,939. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is expensive to buy homes in the Alexandria area.

Alexandria shows an income to rent ratio of 4.81, based on a median household income of $100,939 and an annual spend of $20,964. Therefore, it is affordable to rent properties in Alexandria.

In Alexandria, 43.3% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Alexandria

The best neighborhoods to live in Alexandria include those listed below:

  • Taylor Run (Average Home Value: $275,000 to $1+ million)
    Taylor Run is an attractive area for families and young professionals with parks, restaurants, and coffee shops. Most residents own their homes here and there is a small-town feel in the middle of the city.
  • Potomac Yard/Potomac Greens (Average Home Value: $300,000 to $1+ million)
    Located within Alexandria’s Historic District, Potomac Greens is a stylish townhome community located along the Potomac River. With shuttles available to the nearest metro station, easy access to bike trails and bus stops nearby, this community is ideal for young families and professionals who want to enjoy local shops and restaurants and the beauty of the waterfront.
  • Northeast (Average Home Value: $250,000 to $1.25+ million)
    A quaint neighborhood off the beaten path, the Northeast community of Alexandria offers beautiful cottage-style homes. Downtown shopping and restaurant areas are easily walkable, with well-lit streets and sidewalks. Families can thrive here with community events, friendly neighbors and parks and bike trails nearby.
  • Eisenhower East (Average Home Value: $400,000 to $800,000+)
    Eisenhower East is a busy area with a more urban feel. Full of offices, apartment complexes and hotels that surround the Hoffman Town Center Complex, it is great for young professionals. Located between Duke St. and Interstate 95, it is home to the National Science Foundation and the African American Heritage Park.
  • Old Town (Average Home Value: $500,000 to $800,000+)
    The over 9,000 residents of Old Town Alexandria are mostly highly educated and own their homes. A low percentage have children, although the schools here are highly rated. This historic district has many restaurants, parks and museums with charming cobblestone streets and an active waterfront used regularly since the early 1700s.

 

c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Alexandria is 5.4% (June 2021), which is below the U.S. national rate of 5.8% but above the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 10.3%, is below the national average of 10.5% but above the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The largest employers in the Alexandria area include two large federal agencies — the Department of Defense and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office — and two large non-profits headquartered here — the Salvation Army and the Society for Human Resource Management. Other private employers include VSE and ST Engineering North America.

The Alexandria area has an average commute time of 31.9 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

Alexandria, founded in 1749, is just a stone’s throw away from Washington, D.C. and has a unique history of its own. Throughout the past centuries, it has held a tobacco trading post, was part of the District of Columbia, was one of the 10 busiest ports in America, acted as the Union’s supply center during the Civil War, and contained the largest firm of slave traders in the country while it was simultaneously home to a large community of formerly enslaved people.

With the town’s long history of presidents who lived here, its war efforts, and the communities of African Americans who escaped slavery and built their lives here, Alexandria and its history are to be treasured.

  • Nature: Take a river cruise or enjoy one of the many parks, walking trails and biking paths along the river. Alexandria also has many nature preserves, including Dora Kelley Nature Park, Clermont Natural Park and the Winkler Botanical Preserve.
  • Attractions: Take the King Street Trolley over to Spite House, where you can take a walking tour of the skinniest historic house in America. Make your way to the Torpedo Factory Art Center, the Alexandria Archeology Museum and the oldest farmer’s market in the U.S., then go dine along the historic Old Town Alexandria waterfront. Don’t miss Gadsby Tavern and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, as well as many tributes to Black history in Alexandria.
  • Shopping: Shopping is available in many boutique shops in Old Town as well as shopping centers and larger stores in the more modern areas. Notable shopping areas include the Potomac Yard Center, the Old Town Shop, the Village at Shirlington and the Plaza at Landmark.
  • Sports: The city of Alexandria sponsors youth recreational leagues and programs for several different sports. With multiple parks, fields and athletic centers, there will always be a place for soccer, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, football, rugby, baseball and roller derby in Alexandria. Adult leagues are also available.
  • Waterfront: Old Town Alexandria has a welcoming waterfront where you can find restaurants from fine dining to sports bars. There’s an art center in an old torpedo factory, live music and a picturesque promenade to stroll along. Here you can easily catch a water taxi to National Harbor, Georgetown, Nationals Park, the Wharf, the National Mall or Mount Vernon.

 

e. Education

There are 61 public schools and 151 private schools in the Alexandria area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are 13 public and 12 private schools.

Overall, the Alexandria area is known for an excellent school system compared to similarly sized metro areas.

Alexandria boasts of many nationally and internationally ranked universities, including George Washington University, Georgetown University, the University of Maryland and George Mason University.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Alexandria was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was almost double the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

There are five highly rated hospitals in the Alexandria area, along with numerous other types of medical facilities. These include INOVA Alexandria Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Alexandria Medical Center.

Alexandria has 1.84 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, below both Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 and the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 15.82 property crimes per 1,000 residents, below both Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 and the U.S. national median of 21.00.

2. Arlington

HOMEiA Score: 87/100

  • Population: 238,643 | Rank Last Year: #7
  • Cost of Living: 62% above the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $705,400/$120,071 = 5.87 (buying homes is expensive)
  • Income to rent ratio: $120,071/$23,640 = 5.08 (renting homes is affordable)

Arlington is situated along the southwestern bank of the Potomac River in Northern Virginia and is directly across from Washington, D.C. Major roadways in Arlington include Interstates 66 and 395, Route 7 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Arlington is home to the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, Reagan National Airport, and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, among many other notable places.

a. History, Size and Population

Arlington has a population of 238,643 (2020) spread over a 26-square-mile area. The population density is 9,178.6 per square mile.

The population in Arlington grew by 14.9% from April 2010 through April 2020, well above both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Arlington.

ARLINGTON MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $120,071

Arlington Cost of Living

  • 62% Above the U.S. National Average
  • 15% Higher than Alexandria, Virginia
  • 4% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 50% Higher than Chicago, Illinois

Arlington Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters (Rent & Utilities)
$705,400 $36,132 $23,640

Arlington shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 5.87, based on a median home value of $705,400 and a median household income of $120,071. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is expensive to buy homes in the Arlington area.

Arlington shows an income to rent ratio of 5.08, based on a median household income of

$120,071 and an annual spend of $23,640. Therefore, it is affordable to rent properties in Arlington.

In Arlington, 42.7% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Arlington

The best neighborhoods to live in Arlington include the ones below. The prices mentioned below are typically for single family homes, most of these neighborhoods also feature less expensive condominium units.

  • Ballston (Average Home Value: $300,000 to $1+ million)
    Ballston is a top neighborhood in Arlington that features one of the nation’s highest concentrations of scientific research organizations, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research and the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute. Ballston also offers metro service through the orange and silver lines of the Washington Metro.
  • Bluemont (Average Home Value: $600,000 to $1.5+ million)
    Bluemont is a suburban neighborhood in Arlington with highly rated schools where most residents own their homes. There are many restaurants, parks and coffee shops, and with Capital Bikeshare and easy access to the metro, it is an attractive place for families and professionals.
  • Crystal City (Average Home Value: $400,000 to $1+ million)
    Crystal City is an urban neighborhood in Arlington that is unique because, with the extensive practice of residential and professional buildings using underground corridors, it is easy to travel from place to place without going aboveground.
    Essentially, a large part of Crystal City is underground. The United States Department of Labor, the United States Marshall Service, Reagan National Airport and several satellite offices for the Pentagon are in Crystal City.
  • Clarendon (Average Home Value: $450,000 to $1.25+ million)
    As one of the D.C.s area’s most desirable places to live, Clarendon is known for its lively nightlife, a draw for the younger crowd. The Crossing Clarendon is a favorite shopping and entertainment center as well as an upscale residential area with parks, walking trails, playgrounds and coffee shops. And with such a convenient location, residents can easily walk 10-15 minutes and be in the heart of Georgetown. Clarendon has the perfect balance of residential areas and amenities. There is something for everyone.
  • Colonial Village (Average Home Value: $275,000 to $1+ million)
    Colonial Village is a historic garden apartment community in Arlington with over 1,000 apartments which have now mostly been converted to condominiums. Described as an urban oasis, these stately colonial revival-style red brick buildings are linked by a series of beautiful, winding pathways with mature trees and landscaped gardens. The community is within walking distance of over 25 restaurants, bars, a movie theater and a farmer’s market, along with a Capital Bikeshare station and a subway station.
    Colonial Village was the first apartment complex funded by the Federal Housing Administration. It was considered a model development for other areas. It is now considered an Arlington County landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Arlington Forest (Average Home Value: $400,000 to $1+ million)
    A rare find in an urban area, the Arlington Forest Historic District is home to 852 single-family homes in west-central Arlington. Built on and around farmland, forests and pastures in the Lubber Run watershed, the neighborhood surrounds Lubber Run Park. The park is full of mature trees, streams and bridges, with an amphitheater, shelters, a playground and a rec center. Arlington Forest is also home to Arlington Forest Park and Glencarlyn Park.
    Arlington Forest has an elementary school and a small shopping center. It is a tight-knit community that holds neighborhood yard sales, has live music at the farmer’s market, shows outdoor movies during summer block parties and holds Halloween trick-or-treating for kids. The Lubber Run Amphitheatre is Arlington’s only open-air performance venue, and community members can enjoy regional and nationally recognized performers right in their own neighborhood.
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c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Arlington is 5.4% (June 2021), which is below the U.S. national rate of 5.8% but above the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 7.6%, is below both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The top employers in the Arlington area include a large number of government departments, such as the Departments of Justice, Interior, State and Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency and local government bodies. Among private employers, the largest include Lockheed Martin, Deloitte, Marriott International, Booz Allen Hamilton and US Airways.

The Arlington area has an average commute time of 29.2 minutes.

d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

  • Parks: Arlington has over 160 parks, fitness centers and community centers. Seventy-three have playgrounds, 21 have nature trails (with nine of those having water features), and 51 provide a place for sports.
  • Nature: The urban Arlington area has a surprising amount of nature: large trees, streams, forest animals, wetlands, walking trails, and much more. Arlington Parks and Rec provides Explore Nature programs for visitors from kids through adults to learn more about the nature and history of the area. Programs include meeting a naturalist or historian to view artifacts and learn about the plants and animals native to the area.
  • Arts: The arts are a part of the culture in Arlington. This is an area where Arlington thrives, as the arts build a sense of community and enrich the lives of those who live there. The community supports the growth of local artists provides resources while creating inspiring artistic experience
    There are at least 26 individual Arlington arts organizations, numerous performance venues, shows and performances year-round, with something for every taste.
  • Attractions: There is no shortage of attractions in Arlington, beginning with Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. There is also Gravelly Point, where you can watch the airplanes taking off and landing at Reagan National Airport; the W&OD Trail; the Netherlands Carillon Bell Tower, which hosts memorial concerts, and nearby Mt. Vernon Trail. There are literally hundreds of other things to do and see in Arlington, not to mention that it is only a short hop over the Potomac into Washington, D.C.
  • Shopping: Shopping options are everywhere, with several malls, shopping centers and farmer’s markets within city limits. Notable places include the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, The Crossing Clarendon, Ballston Quarter, Crystal City Shops and Pentagon Row.
  • Sports: Arlington has every type of youth sports league available through the Parks & Rec department, as well as adult leagues with organizations like D.C. Fray. And within a few miles outside of the city, D.C. has many professional sports for all to enjoy.

 

e. Education

There are 40 public schools and 74 private schools in the Arlington area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are 12 public schools and one private school.

Overall, the Arlington area is known for an excellent educational infrastructure compared to similarly sized metro areas.

The Arlington area has multiple nationally and internationally renowned colleges and universities, including George Mason University (Arlington campus), Virginia Tech, Cornell University, Washington University of Virginia and Georgetown University.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Arlington was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was more than double the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

Major hospitals in Arlington include Inova Mt. Vernon Hospital, Inova Alexandria Hospital, the Virginia Hospital Center, Dominion Hospital, and Kaiser Permanente Alexandria. Arlington County Health provides behavioral healthcare, public health services, school health services and many more.

Arlington has 1.27 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, below both Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 and the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 14.39 property crimes per 1,000 residents, below both Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 and the U.S. national median of 21.00.

3. Virginia Beach

HOMEiA Score: 88/100

  • Population: 459,470 | Rank Last Year: #6
  • Cost of Living: 3% above the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $280,800/$76,610 = 3.67 (buying homes is affordable)
  • Income to rent ratio: $76,610/$16,404 = 4.67 (renting homes is affordable)

Virginia Beach is a coastal city located in southeastern Virginia where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is accessible by Interstate 64 and several state routes, one of which crosses the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel. The closest major airport is in Norfolk.

a. Size and Population

Virginia Beach has a population of 459,470 (2020) spread over a 497.5-square-mile area. The population density is 923.6 per square mile.

The population in Virginia Beach grew by 4.9% from April 2010 through April 2020, below both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Virginia Beach.

VIRGINIA BEACH MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $76,610

Virginia Beach Cost of Living

  • 3% Above the U.S. National Average
  • Comparable to Chesapeake, Virginia
  • 39% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 4% Lower than Chicago, Illinois

Virginia Beach Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters
(Rent & Utilities)
$280,800 $21,912 $16,404

Virginia Beach shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 3.67, based on a median home value of $280,800 and a median household income of $76,610. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is affordable to buy homes in the Virginia Beach area.

Virginia Beach shows an income to rent ratio of 4.67, based on a median household income of $76,610 and an annual spend of $16,404. Therefore, it is affordable to rent properties in Virginia Beach.

In Virginia Beach, 63.7% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Virginia Beach

The best neighborhoods to live in Virginia Beach include the following:

  • Sandbridge (Average Home Value: $350,000 to $1+ million)
    Sandbridge is located a few miles south of the Virginia Beach Boardwalk on a strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay. It is a peaceful, secluded community hidden away among the sand dunes and sea oats with easy access to the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park.
  • Pungo (Average Home Value: $200,000 to $1+ million)
    One of the original seven boroughs of Virginia Beach, Pungo is a rural farming community located in the southern part of the city. Eat at one of the charming local restaurants or stop by the Military Aviation Museum to see the restored WWI and WWII planes and hear their stories.
  • Oceanfront (Average Home Value: $175,000 to $600,000+)
    The Virginia Beach Oceanfront area is full of the hustle and bustle of the beach with live music, street performers, water sports, street vendors and, of course, the 3-mile Boardwalk, perfect for biking, rollerblading or just a short stroll. The Oceanfront area is not just for vacationers, as many condos, apartments and even single-family homes are nearby.
  • Chic’s Beach on the Chesapeake Bay (Average Home Value: $225,000 to $850,000+)
    Chic’s Beach is known to locals as a peaceful, relaxing community. It’s location on the Chesapeake Bay means gentler waves, calm waters and beautiful sunsets over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel. The main stretch of Shore Drive features local restaurants and breweries and is infused with the laid-back atmosphere common to the area.
  • Alanton & Baycliff (Average Home Value: $250,000 to $1+ million)
    You will find the Alanton-Baycliff neighborhood in the northeast part of Virginia Beach, near First Landing State Park and Broad Bay. Described as a 1960s ranch-style neighborhood, this community was built on farmland and still has that rural feel. Kids play in the local schoolyard and swim in the community pool. Yet despite the country feel of the neighborhood, it is a part of the Great Neck area, which has the best shopping, restaurants and entertainment.
  • Bay Colony (Average Home Value: $400,000 to $1+ million)
    The Bay Colony neighborhood is unique in that it is a quiet community away from the noise of traffic, but it is close enough to the beach to bike there. With large homes and long winding driveways, Bay Colony has the residential feel of the countryside while in the middle of the city.

 
c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Virginia Beach is 5.1% (June 2021), which is below the U.S. national rate of 5.8% but above the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 7.3%, is below both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The largest employers in the Virginia Beach area include two large federal installations: the Naval Air Station Oceana, Dam Neck Annex and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek–Ft. Story. Private employers include the likes of Sentara Health Care, GEICO, General Growth Properties and Gold Key/PHR Hotels and Resorts.

The Virginia Beach area has an average commute time of 23.6 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

  • Attractions: Besides the beach itself, Virginia Beach has many things to offer, including pier fishing, boating trips, the beachfront family-friendly entertainment program “Live! On Atlantic,” the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, the National Aquarium and over 20 museums and monuments throughout the city. There are also several farmer’s markets and the ViBe Creative District near the oceanfront.
  • Nature: Nature is found in abundance in Virginia Beach, from the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the False Cape and First Landing state parks. The Virginia Aquarium Sea Adventures will take you whale- and dolphin-watching, or you can zipline or conquer 13 different ropes courses at the Virginia Aquariums Adventure Park.
  • Arts: Virginia Beach is a haven for the arts, featuring numerous art galleries as well as art schools like the Art Institute of Virginia Beach and the Virginia Beach School of the Arts. Artistic performances can be found at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, and just as easily in the ViBe Creative District on the Boardwalk, where you can find colorful street art and live sidewalk performances.
  • Shopping: You will find plenty of shopping opportunities in Virginia Beach, from shopping malls to artisan boutiques and shops on the boardwalk. Notables include Town Center of Virginia Beach, Lynnhaven Crossing and Sandbridge Commons. Check out the Bayside Artisan Shoppes, where you can find local artisans selling their unique gifts.
  • Sports: You can find just about any sport being played in Virginia Beach. From rec leagues through the professional level, the multiple sports centers offer a safe place for them all. The Virginia Beach Sports Center, Fieldhouse, and Sportsplex and Mt. Trashmore Skate Park are just a few of the available venues. And of course, the beach itself plays host to volleyball and soccer tournaments throughout the year.
  • Waterfront: The Virginia Beach waterfront is extensive, with the 3-mile boardwalk being just a small part of it. The rest of the coastline stretches to the Chesapeake Bay and to several smaller lakes and bays, such as Lake Bradford, Little Creek, Lynnhaven Bay, Back Bay, Broad Bay, Linkhorn Bay, Rudee Inlet, Lake Redwing and Lake Tecumseh.

 
e. Education

There are 90 public schools and 187 private schools in the Virginia Beach area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are 20 public and 14 private schools.

Overall, the Virginia Beach area is known for an excellent educational infrastructure compared to similarly sized metro areas.

The Virginia Beach area has many good colleges and universities, including the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University and Christopher Newport University.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Virginia Beach was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was above the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

Sentara Princess Anne Hospital and Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital have both received various accolades for their quality. Notably, Sentara Princess Anne Hospital received the America’s 100 Best Hospitals Award in 2021, as well as the 2021 Patient Safety Excellence Award.

Virginia Beach has 1.32 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, below both Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 and the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 17.57 property crimes per 1,000 residents, above Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 and below the U.S. national median of 21.00.

4. Chesapeake 

HOMEiA Score: 92/100

  • Population: 249,422 | Rank Last Year: #2
  • Cost of Living: 3% above the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $273,700/$78,640 = 3.48 (buying homes is affordable)
  • Income to rent ratio: $78,640/$15,348 = 5.12 (renting homes is affordable)

Chesapeake is in southeastern Virginia’s Hampton Roads area, extending from the Virginia/North Carolina border almost to the Chesapeake Bay. It is the second largest city in Virginia. It is easily accessible via four major highways: Interstates 64, 264, 464 and 664 all converge here. The closet major airport is Norfolk International, though Chesapeake does have a regional airport as well.

a. Size and Population

Chesapeake has a population of 249,422 (2020) spread over a 350.95-square-mile area. The population density is 710.7 per square mile.

The population in Chesapeake grew by 12.2% from April 2010 through April 2020, above both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Chesapeake.

CHESAPEAKE MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $78,640

Chesapeake Cost of Living

  • 3% Above the U.S. National Average
  • Comparable to Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • 39% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 4% Lower than Chicago, Illinois

Chesapeake Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters
(Rent & Utilities)
$273,700 $22,404 $15,348

Chesapeake shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 3.48, based on a median home value of $273,700 and a median household income of $78,640. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is affordable to buy homes in the Chesapeake area.

Chesapeake shows an income to rent ratio of 5.12, based on a median household income of $78,640 and an annual spend of $15,348. Therefore, it is affordable to rent properties in Chesapeake.

In Chesapeake, 71.4% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Chesapeake

The best neighborhoods to live in Chesapeake include:

  • Deep Creek/Grassfield (Average Home Value: $150,000 to $500,000+)
    The Deep Creek/Grassfield neighborhood is a suburban area with large single-family homes. About 4.1% of employed workers here are active military, and 14.3% are employed by the government. An above-average safety rating and good-quality public schools make this area attractive to families.
  • Riverwalk (Average Home Value: $200,000 to $450,000+)
    The Riverwalk neighborhood is a quiet suburban area that is close to the city’s amenities. Family-friendly, this tight knit community, located in a hardwood preserve, enjoys a community pool and clubhouse with walking trails, tennis courts, playgrounds, and boat access to the Elizabeth River.
  • Great Bridge (Average Home Value: $225,000 to $550,000+)
    Great Bridge is a family- and pet-friendly neighborhood where kids are free to play outside. There are wetland parks, walking trails, and even the Chesapeake Planetarium. The area is highly rated for safety and is close to the Elizabeth River. It has been described as sleepy suburbia, with excellent schools and close to shopping.
  • South Norfolk (Average Home Value: $100,000 to $300,000)
    South Norfolk has been called one of Chesapeake’s unique treasures. Its central location and history help shape its current climate with a strong sense of identity. Affordable housing along with civic organizations encourage community involvement and revitalization.
  • Greenbrier East (Average Home Value: $225,000 to $750,000+)
    Greenbrier East is a community well-suited for young families. With brightly lit streets and sidewalks in the residential areas, you will see people out walking their dogs and taking their kids to one of the many parks nearby. This is a friendly community within 2 miles of the heart of the city.

 
c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Chesapeake is 5.1% (June 2021), which is below the U.S. national rate of 5.8% and above the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 8.6%, is below both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The largest employers in the Chesapeake area include the City of Chesapeake, Chesapeake City Public Schools, Chesapeake General Hospital, Walmart and MAC Services.

The Chesapeake area has an average commute time of 26.7 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

Chesapeake was established in early 1962. Planners got to work soon after creating a web of city services, including police and fire, schools and libraries, parks and recreation, health and utility services, transportation and land-use planning.

Economic growth occurred in the 1980s as large corporations chose Chesapeake as their home. Today Chesapeake has a lot to offer: excellent schools, both rural and urban centers, good healthcare, and cultural strength and diversity.

  • Community Sports: Chesapeake is full of community centers, playgrounds and more than 80 public parks, for walking or hiking on the almost 30 miles of multi-use trails, or even boating on the numerous rivers and lakes. From the smallest playgrounds to venues such as Chesapeake City Park, large events and numerous water activities, Chesapeake has your outdoor fun covered.
  • Museums: The first English settlement in the area that would become Chesapeake began in 1620 along the banks of the Elizabeth River. As it grew into what it is today, Chesapeake became a destination full of value. With a number of museums, art galleries, wildlife refuges and memorials, it is worth exploring.
  • Water: Beyond the endless number of water sports available in Chesapeake, the waterways were historically part of businesses, industries, and transportation; in fact, they still are today. Chesapeake sits next to the Norfolk Naval Station, while within the city limits the 22-mile-long Great Dismal Swamp Canal connects Virginia to North Carolina and is a part of the Intercoastal Waterway.

 
e. Education

There are 51 public schools and 119 private schools in the Chesapeake area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are 13 public and nine private schools.

Overall, the Chesapeake area is known for an excellent educational infrastructure, compared to the average for similarly sized metro areas.

The Chesapeake area has a number of colleges and universities, including Troy University, Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University and Regent University.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Chesapeake was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was above the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

There are numerous medical facilities and urgent care centers in Chesapeake. The nearest major hospital is the Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.

Chesapeake has 4.57 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, above both the Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 and the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 22.67 property crimes per 1,000 residents, above both the Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 and the U.S. national median of 21.00.

5. Leesburg

HOMEiA Score: 89/100

  • Population: 48,250 | Rank Last Year: #5
  • Cost of Living: 50% above the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $434,300/$114,444 = 3.79 (buying homes is affordable)
  • Income to rent ratio: $114,444/$19,488 = 5.87 (renting homes is very affordable)

Leesburg sits at the base of Catoctin Mountain, close to the Potomac River and approximately 33 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. It has become a popular D.C. suburb for commuters. State Route 267, known as the Dulles Greenway, is a private toll road connecting Leesburg to Washington Dulles International Airport and areas beyond. Route 7 is also a major commuter route from Leesburg into Washington, D.C., and Route 15 provides easy access from Interstate 66.

a. History, Size and Population

Leesburg has a population of 48,250 (2020) spread over a 12.47-square-mile area. The population density is 3,869.3 per square mile.

The population in Leesburg grew by 13.2% from April 2010 through April 2020, above both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Leesburg.

LEESBURG MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $114,444

Leesburg Cost of Living

  • 50% Above the U.S. National Average
  • 3% Higher than Herndon, Virginia
  • 11% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 39% Higher than Chicago, Illinois

Leesburg Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters
(Rent & Utilities)
$434,300 $29,772 $19,488

Leesburg shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 3.79, based on a median home value of $434,300 and a median household income of $114,444. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is affordable to buy homes in the Leesburg area.

Leesburg shows an income to rent ratio of 5.87, based on a median household income of $114,444 and an annual spend of $19,488. Therefore, it is very affordable to rent properties in Leesburg.

In Leesburg, 72.3% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Leesburg

Most homes in Leesburg fall in the $300,000 to $800,000 range, though home values above $1 million are not uncommon. While Leesburg tends to lack defined neighborhoods, there are some distinctions among different areas of town, as described below.

  • Beacon Hill
    Beacon Hill offers elegant homes with breathtaking views from atop Catoctin Mountain. It is one of the largest neighborhoods in Leesburg and has several million-dollar homes. Clairvaux at Beacon Hill is an upscale equestrian center adjacent to the Beacon Hill neighborhood that caters to riders who want to improve their performance for competition.
  • Beauregard Estates
    Beauregard Estates has large, beautiful homes and townhomes with a reasonable price range. The neighborhood is beautiful, with paved sidewalks and nicely kept yards. This sought-after community is close to shopping, restaurants, entertainment and major highways.
  • River Creek
    River Creek on the Potomac is a unique gated community with large townhomes, single-family homes, and patio homes that attract retirees and small families. The 600-acre community offers a prestigious championship golf course and many other amenities and is proud to maintain 50% of the land as undeveloped community property. The community also boasts Confluence Park, at the meeting of the Potomac River and Goose Creek.
  • Raspberry Falls
    The Raspberry Falls community is home to 200 private residences in the northern part of Leesburg, only 1 mile west of White’s Ferry on the Potomac. The homes are large, with 1-acre yards, and attract many large families to the community. The neighborhood surrounds the Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club, which offers club membership and golf lessons and hosts weddings and corporate events in a beautiful venue with first-class amenities.
  • Historic Selma Estates
    Located north of Leesburg off of Route 15, Historic Selma Estates features spacious homes minutes from downtown Leesburg and close to shopping, restaurants and other amenities. Enjoy the mountain views and wooded privacy these beautiful homes afford.

 
c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Leesburg is 5.4% (June 2021), which is below the U.S. national rate of 5.8% but above the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 5.0%, is substantially below both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The top employers in the Leesburg area include Loudon County, Loudon County Public Schools, the Federal Aviation Administration, Costco, Walmart, Wegman and Stryker. Leesburg area residents occasionally work for employers in surrounding areas, such as Vienna, as well.

The Leesburg area has an average commute time of 31.3 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

  • Nature: There are many opportunities to enjoy nature in Leesburg. Rust Nature Sanctuary and Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve are just the beginning. Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park is very popular and offers a complete nature experience; it was also the site of a Civil War battle. The park offers guided tours and living history events. Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park offers much of the same and has spectacular views of the Potomac.
  • Arts & Culture: The town of Leesburg has long been the cultural hub of Loudoun County. Visit the Loudoun Museum to learn about local history. Visit historic landmarks such as Dodona Manor. Enjoy live music on the Town Green and peruse local artisan offerings while wandering through one of the many art galleries in Leesburg. Don’t forget to visit one of Leesburg’s local restaurants or pubs.
  • Attractions: There are many things to do in Leesburg. One well-known attraction is the Leesburg Animal Park. Here you can feed the baby goats, take a pony ride and see exotic animals like the two-toed sloth, Bennet’s wallaby, white-handed gibbons, African serval cats and zebras. Outside of the animal park, there are city tours, walking tours, vineyards, wineries, and several historical mansions to explore.
  • Shopping: Leesburg Premium Outlets is a destination for locals and visitors alike with its upscale collection of outlet shops. If antiques are more your style, head downtown to the Black Shutter Antique Center. Next, head on over to the 138-year-old restored Old Lucketts Store for some vintage furniture and accessories. The highly rated Village at Leesburg has more than 75 restaurants, boutiques and entertainment experiences to enjoy.

 
e. Education

There are 23 public schools and 49 private schools in the Leesburg area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are eight public and three private schools.

Overall, the Leesburg area is known to have a good educational infrastructure compared to similarly sized metro areas.

The Leesburg area has a number of colleges and universities within a 30-mile radius, including George Mason University, Georgetown University, Montgomery College, American University and Northern Virginia Community College.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Leesburg was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was significantly above the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

Inova Loudoun Hospital and its surrounding specialty clinics nearby make up many of the county’s healthcare offerings. INOVA Primary Care and several specialists are also available to those who need it.

Leesburg has 1.9 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, below both Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 and below the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 10.61 property crimes per 1,000 residents, substantially below both Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 and the U.S. national median of 21.00.

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6. Staunton

Staunton, Virginia

HOMEiA Score: 81/100

  • Population: 25,750 | Rank Last Year: #10
  • Cost of Living: 18% below the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $169,000/$52,611 = 3.21 (buying homes is affordable)
  • Income to rent ratio: $52,611/$10,332 = 5.09 (renting homes is affordable)

Staunton is a small town located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, between the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains. It is 40 miles west of Charlottesville off of Interstate 64. It borders Interstate 81, and is approximately 160 miles from Washington D.C. The Shenandoah Valley Airport is the closest medium-sized airport to Staunton; major airports farther away include Richmond International, Dulles, Reagan National and Baltimore Washington International.

a. Size and Population

Staunton has a population of 25,750 (2020) spread over a 19.98-square-mile area. The population density is 1,288.8 per square mile.

The population in Staunton grew by 8.4% from April 2010 through April 2020, above both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Staunton.

STAUNTON MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $52,611

Staunton Cost of Living

  • 18% Below the U.S. National Average
  • 8% Lower than Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • 52% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 24% Lower than Chicago, Illinois

Staunton Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters
(Rent & Utilities)
$169,000 $14,460 $10,332

Staunton shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 3.21, based on a median home value of $169,000 and a median household income of $52,611. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is affordable to buy homes in the Staunton area.

Staunton shows an income to rent ratio of 5.09, based on a median household income of $52,611 and an annual spend of $10,332. Therefore, it is affordable to rent properties in Staunton.

In Staunton, 57.3% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Staunton

Most homes in Staunton fall in the $150,000 to $700,000 range, though home values above $800,000 are not uncommon. While it is a small town that tends to lack defined neighborhoods, there are some distinctions among different areas of town, as described below.

  • Dogwood Hill
    Dogwood Hill is a suburban neighborhood near the southern end of the town with small to medium-sized homes and apartments. It is a mixture of old and new. Described as quiet and peaceful, it is a popular place for retirees.
  • Staunton Park
    The Staunton Park neighborhood is on the west end of town. Small to medium-sized homes at very reasonable prices line the streets, while swim clubs, schools and churches fill the area. The crown jewel of this neighborhood is the well-loved Gyspy Hill Park, with its numerous activities: a swimming pool, fishing, a mini train, a skate park, and a bandstand on which many a thrilling Fourth of July concert has been held, complete with fireworks.
  • Woodlee
    The Woodlee neighborhood is on the northeastern side of Staunton. It is a fairly quiet area with a mix of seniors and college students. It is near schools and the College Park area.
  • College Park
    The quiet and desirable area of College Park is convenient to schools and features Cape Cod, cottage and ranch-style homes.
  • Baldwin Place
    A quiet, village-like neighborhood near downtown Staunton, Baldwin Place is a desirable neighborhood convenient to the historic downtown and Interstates 64 and 81. The homes are built with Williamsburg-style architecture on spacious lots not far from Mary Baldwin University.

 
c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Staunton is 3.8% (June 2021), which is below both the U.S. national rate of 5.8% and the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 11.1%, is above both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The top employers in the Staunton area include Hollister Incorporated, The Hershey Company, Daikin Applied and McKee Foods.

The Staunton area has an average commute time of 21.6 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

  • History: Staunton abounds with history, which is displayed prominently through its many museums and monuments. Notable museums include the Frontier Culture Museum, the Jumbo Antique Fire Engine Museum and the Augusta County Historical Society. The Beverly Historic District, the Wharf Area Historic District and the Stonewall Brigade Band Bandroom all have stories to tell.
  • Culture: Cultural events fill the city on a regular basis. The Stonewall Brigade Band is the oldest continuing community band in the nation, and it performs in a concert series at Gypsy Hill Park every Monday night during the summer. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library invites guests to foster a passion for history through visits, historic gardens and online educational programs.Downtown Staunton is a trendy and admired place full of history and culture. The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind is located here.
  • Arts & Entertainment: Staunton has a rich history of culture and the arts going back to the 19th century, when the town was a rail junction and travelers would stop and enjoy music, vaudeville and opera.
    Today, the American Shakespeare Center, the Heifetz International Music Institute, the Staunton Music Festival and the Virginia Hot Glass Festival provide regular entertainment. For a small town, Staunton is rich in theaters, festivals, art galleries and performing arts centers.
  • Parks and Rec: Staunton has several parks, the most notable being Gypsy Hill Park, whose bandstand is often used for community events. The Gypsy Mini Train, duck pond, pool, picnic shelters, sports fields, garden center and playgrounds make this a favorite destination for families. The Nature Ridge Natural Playground in Montgomery Hall Park is also popular.

 
e. Education

There are 18 public schools and 22 private schools in the Staunton area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are eight public and five private schools.

Overall, the Staunton area has an average educational infrastructure compared to similarly sized metro areas.

The Staunton area has a few colleges, including Mary Baldwin University and Blue Ridge Community College.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Staunton was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was also above the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

Augusta Health in Fischersville is the hospital closest to Staunton. Other options include UVA Medical Center in Charlottesville and Sentara in Harrisonburg. The most well-known and highly rated of the three is UVA, about an hour’s drive from Staunton.

Staunton has 2.25 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, above Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 but below the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 18.97 property crimes per 1,000 residents, above Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 but below the U.S. national median of 21.00.

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7. Vienna

Vienna, Virginia

HOMEiA Score: 92/100

  • Population: 16,473 | Rank Last Year: #3
  • Cost of Living: 78% above the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $743,500/$161,196 = 4.61 (buying homes is expensive)
  • Income to rent ratio: $161,196/$24,972 = 6.46 (renting homes is very affordable)

Vienna is a town in Fairfax County located north of Interstate 66, west of the Interstate 495 (the Capital Beltway) and, south of Route 267 (Dulles Access Rd.). Route 123 passes through town. The Washington & Old Dominion trail winds through Vienna, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is nearby. Washington Dulles International is only 10 miles away, and Washington National Airport is just 12 miles. Baltimore Washington International Airport is also less than an hour from Vienna.

a. History, Size and Population

Vienna has a population of 16,473 (2020) spread over a 4.41-square-mile area. The population density is 3,735.4 per square mile.

The population in Vienna grew by 5.0% from April 2010 through April 2020, below both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Vienna.

VIENNA MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $161,196

Vienna Cost of Living

  • 78% Above the U.S. National Average
  • 23% Higher than Herndon, Virginia
  • 6% Higher than New York City, New York
  • 66% Higher than Chicago, Illinois

Vienna Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters
(Rent & Utilities)
$743,500 $40,752 $24,972

Vienna shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 4.61, based on a median home value of $743,500 and a median household income of $161,196. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is expensive to buy homes in the Vienna area.

Vienna shows an income to rent ratio of 6.46, based on a median household income of $161,196 and an annual spend of $24,972. Therefore, it is very affordable to rent properties in Vienna.

In Vienna, 83.3% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Vienna

Most homes in Vienna fall in the $350,000 to $1.2 million range, though home values above $1.5 million are not uncommon. While it is a small town that tends to lack defined neighborhoods, there are some distinctions among different areas of town, as described below.

  • Wolf Trap Woods
    Adjacent to the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, this neighborhood of 225 homes offers wooded trails, bridges and outdoor recreation on 117 acres of forested land. It is only half a mile from the Spring Hill Metro Station and Tyson’s Corner.
  • Four Corners and Tysons Green
    Predominantly made up of medium to large homes and high-rise apartments, the neighborhood of Four Corners and Tysons Green is one of the wealthier communities in Virginia, it is fairly ethnically diverse compared to other places. Luxury cars are common in this area, and Tyson’s Galleria is right next door.
  • Stonewall Manor
    Stonewall Manor consists of 425 homes near Tysons Corner and the W&OD Trail. Within walking distance of the Dunn Loring Metro Station, this community connects through community yard sales, food drives and a Garden Club that beautifies schools and nursing homes while providing educational programs and tours of historical interest.
  • Shouse Village
    Shouse Village is a family-oriented neighborhood in Vienna that has been rated as one of the top five places to live in the country. A walking-friendly community, it has sidewalks, trails that circle the neighborhood and woods that abut Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Amenities include a clubhouse with playground, a large pool, a beautiful lake, two tennis courts and a basketball court.
  • Hunters Valley
    The 600 acres of Hunters Valley is a combination of 2-acre homesites, recreational facilities and trails for walking and horseback riding. The Hunters Valley Riding Club is an important part of the neighborhood and has a network of trails which connect to the Fairfax County Park Authority Trails – a rural oasis in the center of the city.

 
c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Vienna is 5.7% (June 2021), which is below the U.S. national rate of 5.8% but above the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 2.8%, is substantially below both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The top employers in the Vienna area include Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Air Force, Booz Allen Hamilton, Marriott International, Capital One, Georgetown University and the University of Maryland.

The Vienna area has an average commute time of 28.9 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

  • Arts & Culture: Arts and culture are huge in Vienna. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is a treasure. It provides year-round live performances for all ages at three different Wolf Trap venues. There are art studios, theater companies, dance academies, percussion ensembles and art schools to enjoy.
  • Nature: Vienna has several parks that offer sports facilities, water features, playgrounds, hiking, horseback riding and wide-open spaces. Nottoway Park, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens and Wolf Trap Loop Trail are a few of the favorites.
  • Attractions: There are too many attractions in Vienna to list, so here are a few favorites.
    A major attraction in Vienna, of course, is the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts with their wide-ranging selection of entertainment and over 100 performances every summer.
    The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park, built on the roadbed of the W&OD railroad, provides 45 miles of paved trails for walking and hiking in addition to 32 miles of gravel trails for horseback riding.
    The Vienna Farmer’s Market is not to be missed, with the highest quality fresh food plus local entertainment, giving guests a small-town community feel.
  • Shopping: Shopping opportunities abound in Vienna. From the Vienna Shopping Center to all manner of specialty shops, wine stores, record stores, bike shops and coffee shops, visitors can easily find what they need. One unique stop is the historic Freeman Store and Museum, a museum and gift shop.

 
e. Education

There are 14 public schools and 36 private schools in the Vienna area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there two public and three private schools.

Overall, the Vienna area is known to have a good educational infrastructure compared to similarly sized metro areas.

The Vienna area has multiple nationally renowned colleges and universities close, including George Mason University, Virginia Tech, Columbia College, Washington University of Virginia and the University of Fairfax.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Vienna was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was below the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

Major hospitals near Vienna are the Inova Fairfax Hospital complex and Children’s National Northern Virginia. Many specialty offices and after hours care clinics are available in the area.

Vienna has 1.27 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, substantially below both the Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 and the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 9.95 property crimes per 1,000 residents, below both the Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 and the U.S. national median of 21.00.

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8. Herndon 

HOMEiA Score: 82/100

  • Population: 24,655 | Rank Last Year: #8
  • Cost of Living: 45% above the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $442,700/$111,371 = 3.98 (buying homes is affordable)
  • Income to rent ratio: $111,371/$21,684 = 5.14 (renting homes is affordable)

Herndon is located in northern Virginia, adjacent to Dulles International Airport. It is located near Routes 7, 28, 286, and 267 (Dulles Access Rd.). Herndon Pkwy encircles the center of town, and Sterling, Reston and Chantilly are located nearby.

a. History, Size and Population

Herndon has a population of 24,655 (2020) spread over a 4.29-square-mile area. The population density is 5,747.1 per square mile.

The population in Herndon grew by 5.9% from April 2010 through April 2020, below both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Herndon.

HERNDON MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $111,371

Herndon Cost of Living

  • 45% Above the U.S. National Average
  • 19% Lower than Vienna, Virginia
  • 14% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 35% Higher than Chicago, Illinois

Herndon Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters (Rent & Utilities)
$442,700 $28,224 $21,684

Herndon shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 3.98, based on a median home value of $442,700 and a median household income of $111,371. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is affordable to buy homes in the Herndon area.

Herndon shows an income to rent ratio of 5.14, based on a median household income of $111,371 and an annual spend of $21,684. Therefore, it is affordable to rent properties in Herndon.

In Herndon, 60.3% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Herndon

Most homes in Herndon fall in the $250,000 to $750,000 range, though home values above $1 million are quite common. While it is a small town that tends to lack defined neighborhoods, there are some distinctions among different areas of town, as described below.

  • Franklin Farm
    With 850 acres, the Franklin Farm community has 1,770 homes, six ponds for fishing, two swimming pools, 14 tot lots, sports fields, 13 miles of trails and 180 acres of open space. The town strives for a community feel by hosting community fairs, festivals and a marketplace for local small businesses. Community standards for the upkeep of homes, yards and common areas help make this a very attractive place to live.
  • Dranesville
    Located in the northern part of the city, along Route 7, the Dranesville neighborhood is one of the more expensive places to live. Most homes are owner occupied and the area boasts medium-sized to large homes. Sugarland Park runs through the neighborhood; it has beautiful views and a 3-mile-long paved walking/biking trail along the creek.
  • Hastings Hunt
    Featuring beautiful upscale homes, Hastings Hunt is convenient to historic downtown Herndon, the Reston Town Center, Great Falls Park, the W&OD Trail, Dulles Airport and easy commuter routes. The neighborhood is well established and offers many amenities for prices that are reasonable for the area.
  • Hiddenbrook
    The Hiddenbrook community was built in the 1970s with a mixture of contemporary and traditional homes. Close to schools and shopping, the neighborhood also offers a swimming pool, tennis club and clubhouse.
  • Reflection Lake
    Reflection Lake is a family-friendly community that consists of 388 townhouses and 198 detached mid-sized, competitively priced homes. Amenities consist of playgrounds and a pool, along with community activities including National Night Out parties, community yard sales, senior citizen days and many others.

 
c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Herndon is 5.4% (June 2021), which is below the U.S. national rate of 5.8% but above the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 5.9%, is substantially below both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The top employers in the Herndon area include Bechtel, Exelis, Volkswagen Group of America and Paragon Systems.

The Herndon area has an average commute time of 26.9 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

  • Nature: Herndon is home to 11 neighborhood parks, along with two walking trails, the W&OD and Sugarland Run Trails, virtually bringing nature to each resident’s doorstep. Herndon’s Parks & Rec offers nature programs, scout badges, popular summer camps and Nature Fest — a special hands-on nature experience.
  • Attractions: Art galleries, self-guided walking tours of historic Herndon, Frying Pan Farm Park, the Historic Herndon Depot Museum, theater companies, antique stores, breweries, and the Herndon Farmers Market top the list of what to do in Herndon.
  • Shopping: Reston Town Center, an upscale mall nearby, is very popular with Herndon residents. Down the road, the World Gate Center and the Village Center at Dulles are ready for the savviest shoppers. For a more downtown experience, Elden Street Tea Shop and Herndon Marketplace are admired for their trendiness and home-town feel.

 
e. Education

There are 13 public schools and 55 private schools in the Herndon area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are three private schools and one public school.

Overall, the Herndon area has a good educational infrastructure compared to similarly sized metro areas.

The Herndon area has a limited number of colleges in its immediate vicinity, including Potomac College. There are multiple larger campuses within a 50-mile radius; these include the College of William and Mary, Marymount University, Northern Virginia Community College and Strayer University.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Herndon was below the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was above the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

Reston Hospital Center and Stone Springs Hospital Center are the closest hospitals to Herndon, though not within the city limits. Herndon itself has several clinics and medical facilities available.

Herndon has 2.64 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, below the Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 and above the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 11.02 property crimes per 1,000 residents, substantially below both Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 and the U.S. national median of 21.00.

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9. Bridgewater

Bridgewater

HOMEiA Score: 94/100

  • Population: 6,596 | Rank Last Year: #1
  • Cost of Living: 7% below the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $234,300/$62,870 = 3.73 (buying homes is affordable)
  • Income to rent ratio: $62,870/$10,752 = 5.85 (renting homes is affordable)

Bridgewater is located southwest of Harrisonburg on Routes 42, 11 and 257 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Appalachians to the west, Bridgewater and its surrounding communities have quite a unique environment in which to thrive. The nearest airports are the small Bridgewater Air Park and the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.

a. Size and Population

Bridgewater has a population of 6,596 (2020) spread over a 2.52-square-mile area. The population density is 2,617.5 per square mile.

The population in Bridgewater grew by 16.9% from April 2010 through April 2020, substantially above both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Bridgewater.

BRIDGEWATER MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $62,870

Bridgewater Cost of Living

  • 7% Below the U.S. National Average
  • 4% Higher than Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • 45% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 14% Lower than Chicago, Illinois

Bridgewater Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters
(Rent & Utilities)
$234,300 $15,384 $10,752

Bridgewater shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 3.73, based on a median home value of $234,300 and a median household income of $62,870. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is affordable to buy homes in the Bridgewater area.

Bridgewater shows an income to rent ratio of 5.85, based on a median household income of $62,870 and an annual spend of $10,752. Therefore, it is very affordable to rent properties in Bridgewater.

In Bridgewater, 61.8% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Bridgewater

Most homes in Bridgewater fall in the $175,000 to $500,000 range, though home values above $750,000 are not uncommon. While it is a small town that tends to lack defined neighborhoods, there are some distinctions among different areas of town, as described below.

  • East College St.
    East College St. in Bridgewater has a range of demographics, with Bridgewater College on one end and quiet retirees living on the other. Fun things to do in the area include mini golfing at Sandy Bottom Park and shopping and dining at the specialty shops, restaurants and pubs on Main St.
  • Oakwood Drive
    One of the newer neighborhoods in town is off Oakwood Drive. This neighborhood has single family homes, mostly larger than the rest of Bridgewater, with updated styles. Young families enjoy this area on the northern edge of the town, surrounded by farmlands and near Cooks Creek Arboretum and the schools.
  • West Bank St.
    The area surrounding West Bank St. leading to Wildwood Park is a quiet neighborhood with a mix of older and newer homes, a few with in-ground pools. Being so close to North River and hearing the sounds of the waterfall in the park make the area very enjoyable and relaxing.
  • Bridgewater Retirement Community
    Directly across Dinkle Avenue from Bridgewater College is the Bridgewater Retirement Community, which of a large nursing home and rehab center as well as assisted living apartments and an entire section of homes for those who just need someone nearby. This community has served the area well for several decades and has a very high satisfaction rating.
  • Dayton
    Dayton is a very small rural town on the northern outskirts of Bridgewater and is one of the oldest settled communities in Rockingham County. Shenandoah University began in Dayton before moving to Winchester in 1960, and at least three historic homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.The Dayton Historic District encompasses 154 contributing buildings. Surrounding Dayton is a community of over 1,000 Old Order Mennonites, and it is a normal occurrence to see horses pulling buggies around the town.

 
c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Bridgewater is 4.1% (June 2021), which is below both the U.S. national rate of 5.8% and the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 6.0%, is substantially below both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The largest employers in the Bridgewater area include Bridgewater Home, Inc.; Tenneco Packaging; Shenandoah Growers, Inc., and Riddleberger Brothers, Inc.

The Bridgewater area has an average commute time of 17.3 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

  • Nature: although the town is less than 3 square miles in size, Bridgewater has 12 parks. Partially bordered by the North River, a few of the more popular parks have river access, picnic areas, playgrounds and even mini-golf. Bridgeview Park, Edgebriar Park, Sandy Bottom Park and Wildwood Park are favorites. Wildwood has a waterfall, bridges, a playground and shelters for picnicking. It even has a hitching post for Mennonites who visit in their buggies.
  • Attractions: Bridgewater has many beautiful spots to enjoy as well as a whole host of restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops as well as specialty shops, banks, car care, salons and event venues. Nearby Bluestone Vineyard has stunning mountain views surrounding the winery. The Dayton Farmer’s Market, offering something for every taste, has been a top tourist destination for over 30 years.
  • Arts and Entertainment: With two colleges within a stone’s throw, the arts are supported in this community. The Sipe Center in Bridgewater hosts many live performance events as well as movies for the town’s residents and guests. Community events such as the annual lawn party, parades and Christmas tree lightings and concerts show Bridgewater’s hometown pride and sense of connection.

 
e. Education

There are two public schools and four private schools in the Bridgewater area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are two private schools and one public school.

Overall, the Bridgewater area is known for an excellent educational infrastructure compared to similarly sized metro areas.

The Bridgewater area has many good colleges and universities, including the Virginia Military Institute, the main campus of the University of Virginia, Bridgewater College and James Madison University.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Bridgewater was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was significantly above the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

The largest major hospital near Bridgewater is Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg. In addition, there are several smaller medical practices within town limits and even more between Bridgewater and Harrisonburg. Augusta Medical Center is a few miles south. The University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville is also a popular destination for those seeking care in Bridgewater.

Bridgewater was once ranked as the safest city in Virginia by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, and it was ranked #2 on the SafeWise list of Virginia’s 20 Safest Cities of 2021.

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10. Warrenton

Warrenton, Virginia

HOMEiA Score: 82/100

  • Population: 10,057 | Rank Last Year: #9
  • Cost of Living: 34% above the U.S. national average
  • Home price to income ratio: $342,600/$73,402 = 4.67 (buying homes is expensive)
  • Income to rent ratio: $73,402/$15,768 = 4.66 (renting homes is affordable)

Warrenton is in the Piedmont region of Virginia, in Fauquier County, near the Blue Ridge Mountains where U.S. Highways 15, 17 and 211 converge. The closest interstate, I-66, is only 20 minutes away, and the closest major airport is Dulles, which is about an hour’s drive away. Surrounded by wineries, historic buildings, museums, parks, and horses, Warrenton has a rich history and is a beautiful place to be.

a. Size and Population

Warrenton has a population of 10,057 (2020) spread over a 4.38-square-mile area. The population density is 2,296.1 per square mile.

The population in Warrenton grew by 4.6% from April 2010 through April 2020, below both the overall U.S. rate of 7.4% and the Virginia rate of 7.9%.

b. Median Income, Cost of Living and Housing Market Characteristics

The numbers below show the median income, the cost of living and the annual spending on housing for owned and rented properties in Warrenton.

WARRENTON MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME (2019): $73,402

Warrenton Cost of Living

  • 34% Above the U.S. National Average
  • 22% Lower than Middleburg, Virginia
  • 20% Lower than New York City, New York
  • 25% Higher than Chicago, Illinois

Warrenton Housing Costs

Median Home Value Annual Spend for Homeowners Annual Spend for Renters
(Rent & Utilities)
$342,600 $23,844 $15,768

Warrenton shows a home P/E (home price to income) ratio of 4.67, based on a median home value of $342,600 and a median household income of $73,402. The U.S. average is 4.0. Therefore, it is expensive to buy homes in the Warrenton area.

Warrenton shows an income to rent ratio of 4.66, based on a median household income of $73,402 and an annual spend of $15,768. Therefore, it is affordable to rent properties in Warrenton.

In Warrenton, 61.0% of residents own their homes.

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Top Neighborhoods in Warrenton

Most homes in Warrenton fall in the $250,000 to $650,000 range, though home values above $700,000 are not uncommon. While it is a small town that tends to lack defined neighborhoods, there are some distinctions among different areas of town, as described below.

  • Brookside
    Brookside offers spacious homesites with large, beautiful homes. The neighborhood has four lakes with catch-and-release fishing, ball fields, tennis courts and a community pool — all within walking distance. Near three new schools, this neighborhood boasts easy access to the northern Virginia/D.C. corridor, yet in a natural setting with expansive wildlife preservation areas.
  • Olde Gold Cup
    The Olde Gold Cup neighborhood in Warrenton is a well-established community of large single-family homes. With the high school on one side and the popular Rady Park on the other, this community has easy access to town amenities and is well-liked in the area.
  • Snow Hill
    A rural community just north of Warrenton with rolling hills and large, mature trees, Snow Hill has the feel of being in the country, despite being only 45 minutes from Washington, D.C. Snow Hill has expansive homes, large lots, and reasonable prices.
  • Vint Hill Farms
    A former Army base, Vint Hill Farms now holds two unique communities: Vint Hill Estates and Vint Hill Manor (for active adults 55 and up). With 350 homes near parks, ball fields, community swimming pools and walking trails, there is a lot this area has to offer. Vint Hill also boasts a café, shops, a microbrewery and a winery.
  • Warrenton Chase
    Warrenton Chase offers half-acre wooded lots with charming new homes less than one mile from Old Town Warrenton. With tree-lined streets, tennis courts and a neighborhood pool and clubhouse, having a beautiful home within minutes of everything in Warrenton definitely adds to the appeal and makes Warrenton Chase a great option for families.

 
c. Employment Prospects

The unemployment rate in Warrenton is 5.4% (June 2021), which is below the U.S. national rate of 5.8% but above the Virginia rate of 4.3%. The poverty rate, at 6.0%, is substantially below both the national average of 10.5% and the Virginia average of 9.9%.

The largest employers in the Warrenton area include federal and local government bodies, including the Fauquier County Government and Fauquier Hospital, as well as some private employers, such as the Fauquier Bank, R.L. Rider and Trinity Plastics.

The Warrenton area has an average commute time of 38.8 minutes.

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d. Unique Attributes and Lifestyle

  • Nature: Warrenton is surrounded by open spaces, and residents thrive on enjoying the natural amenities on all sides. Just a half-hour drive takes you to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Skyline Drive. Within town limits, the Warrenton Branch Greenway, built on the original Orange and Alexandria Railroad line, has been designated a National Recreation Trail.
    Nearby, the 148-acre Whitney State Forest offers the opportunity for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking with 7 miles of trails. Wildlife watching and nature photography are also popular here.
  • Community Sports: Warrenton is a very sports-positive community, and there are several local rec leagues available. The Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility (WARF) is a very popular community center that offers swimming, a kid’s pool, a lazy river, a weight room, fitness classes, sports fields, walking trails, roller hockey and a “Fun For All” playground, focused on serving all kids, especially those with disabilities.
  • Parks: There are five parks within town limits, most of them offering pavilions, grills, playgrounds, restrooms, trails and sports fields. Right outside of Warrenton is the county’s largest lakeside park, C.M. Crockett Park, which offers boat rentals, fishing, concessions, picnic shelters, a cross country trail and a playground. The park also offers an environmental education program for schools and other interested groups.
  • Museums: The Fauquier History Museum at the Old Jail was voted the Best Local Museum by the Fauquier Times 2018-2020. The jail was built in 1808 as the sixth jail in Warrenton, but it was closed after only 15 years due to poor conditions. It now houses the Fauquier History Museum. The Cold War Museum at Vint Hill provides a venue for exhibits and a series of speakers from the intelligence community who discuss their Cold War experiences to a delighted crowd.
  • Attractions: Warrenton is also surrounded by several wineries and vineyards – notably, Mediterranean Cellars and Molon Lave Vineyards, as well as the Wort Hog and Old Busthead breweries. Downtown Warrenton itself is a destination, with specialty shops, farmers markets and bakeries, a quilt shop and local pubs. Right outside of Warrenton is the very popular D.C. Skydiving Center.

 
e. Education

There are eight public schools and 24 private schools in the Warrenton area, based on data from GreatSchools.org. Among high schools, there are two public and four private schools.

Overall, the Warrenton area has a good educational infrastructure compared to similarly sized metro areas.

The Warrenton area has mostly smaller and community colleges, such as Lord Fairfax Community College, San Joaquin Valley College and Northern Virginia Community College.

Over the 2015–2019 period, the high school graduation rate in Warrenton was above the U.S. national average of 88%. The population of adults above 25 years of age with a college degree was also above the national average of approximately 32%.

f. Healthcare and Safety

Fauquier Health is the main hospital in Warrenton. It also offers specialty services, including a new cancer center, a cardiac catherization lab, orthopedics, a weight loss center, a family birthing center, an intermediate care nursery, and even a robot-assisted surgery center. Nearby hospitals related to the University of Virginia are located in both Culpeper and Haymarket.

Warrenton has 1.4 violent crimes per 1,000 residents, below both Virginia’s statewide median rate of 2.08 and the U.S. national median rate of 4.00. It has 10.87 property crimes per 1,000 residents, also below both Virginia’s statewide median of 16.43 and the U.S. national median of 21.00.

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Conclusion: Virginia has many fantastic places to live. The ten we’ve presented here have diverse characteristics that enrich the lives of the people who live in them. From fun-filled beach towns and busy cities near the nation’s capital to small rural communities and some of the most expensive neighborhoods in the nation, Virginia has it all.

HOMEiA is a city living guide site where visitors can find detailed information about communities of interest. HOMEiA’s City Living Guides, created in partnership with local writers, are curated lists of the best, safest, and most affordable places to live. The guides feature the HOMEiA Score, a proprietary index that rates communities on such factors as housing costs, education and employment.

HOMEiA.com aims to be the premier site for people planning to relocate, providing them with insightful content and connecting them with skilled real estate professionals.

We also empower real estate professionals to establish or strengthen their web presence by highlighting their experience, knowledge and achievements. If you’re selected to join our list of certified real estate professionals, you will distinguish yourself from your peers — and earn HOMEiA’s support.

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I’m an avid writer who often focuses on real estate, business consulting, economics and finance. Before leading business and investment advisory services for over 25 years, I got a Ph.D. in Economics and taught at the university level. I have lived in Houston, Texas and Chicago, Illinois for a combined 35 years. I also traveled to 40+ states on business and pleasure, and love writing about the great cities and small towns across the US. Read more >>
I am a freelance writer who has lived in the beautiful state of Virginia since the age of 2. Growing up, I lived in a small town in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, surrounded by mountains, music, outdoor activities, kind people, and generations of cherished family members. Now living in the Piedmont Region of Northern Virginia, I am a busy mom, grandma, and small business owner, spending my weekends on the side of whichever field, court, or stage that my grandchildren… Read more >>