Virginia’s 25 cheapest places to live, from waterfronts to retirement oases


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When comparing the cost of living by state, Virginia ranks 32nd out of 50. While the state as a whole is not inexpensive, there are bargains to be had.

Virginia has a number of popular and affordable towns and cities. If you’re trying to get the most for your money, consider locations like Big Stone Gap or Covington. Those who prefer city life may want to check out Richmond, which offers plenty of culture and entertainment at an accessible price point. Families searching for a quieter lifestyle might be drawn to a town like Culpeper with its relaxed pace of life.

As you consider the best places in Virginia to live, here are some options to explore.

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Best Affordable Places to Live in Virginia

While busy cities like Alexandria and Virginia Beach get all the attention, smaller, lesser-known towns, such as the ones below, tend to be the most affordable to live in.

1. Martinsville

  • Population: 13,725
  • Median Household Income: $36,832
  • Cost of Living: 86.0% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,000
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.49
  • Average Property Tax: 0.92%

Located roughly 50 miles from Roanoke, the town of Martinsville is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. That means there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, like hiking and camping as well as watersports on one of the nearby lakes. There are also cultural attractions, such as the Virginia Museum of Natural History and an award-winning art musem.

Housing Affordability: Homes are quite moderately priced in Martinsville at around $184,200, which may make buying easier for many. And these tips to qualify for a mortgage could help get you on the path to homeownership. For those who are thinking about renting, apartments are very affordable at about $1,000 a month.

Image Credit: martinville by Sleddog116 (None).

2. Big Stone Gap

  • Population: 5,153
  • Median Household Income: $57,431
  • Median Rent Price: $550
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.31
  • Average Property Tax: 0.66%

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains and located near Kentucky and Tennessee, Big Stone Gap offers those who love to be outdoor lovers an endless variety of things to do, including fishing, mountain biking, and hiking in the nearby national forests. A former coal mining town, Big Stone Gap has a quaint main street with restaurants and shops.

Housing Affordability: Big Stone Gap has the most inexpensive rentals of any town on our list, with a median monthly rent price of $550. At $190,000, the average home value is also affordable. The median household income is fairly high, however, which could make the housing market more competitive. If you’re looking to buy in Big Stone Gap, you may want to go through the mortgage preapproval process so that you’ll be well-positioned when you find a house you like.

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3. Bluefield

  • Population: 5,001
  • Median Household Income: $57,895
  • Median Rent Price: $889
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 2.96
  • Average Property Tax: 0.67%

Bluefield is a small town located on the border of West Virginia. It’s known as “Virginia’s Tallest Town,” and claims to be the highest town east of Denver, Colorado. It’s a quiet place — there aren’t a lot of restaurants or stores here. However, Bluefield is affordable and offers the benefits of small-town living, such as knowing your neighbors. And when you need your city fix, Roanoke is less than two hours away.

Housing Affordability: Renting in Bluefield is quite affordable ($889 median monthly rent), and prospective home buyers also have a good chance of finding a house within their means here. Bluefield’s home price-to-income ratio is 2.96, the second-lowest on our list.

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4. Covington

  • Population: 5,679
  • Median Household Income: $52,783
  • Median Rent Price: $900
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 2.74
  • Average Property Tax: 0.76%

Located in western Virginia, near the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley and along the Jackson River, the small town of Covington has a number of natural attractions, including waterfalls, a lake, and river trails. The downtown area is being revitalized, and there are events and activities for residents of the area. When you need the amenities of a city, you have options. Covington is within two hours of Charlottesville, Roanoke, and Lynchburg.

Housing Affordability: Prospective homebuyers have a good chance of finding an affordable home in Covington. The town has the lowest home price-to-income ratio of any city or town on our list, meaning homes are relatively reasonable compared to the typical income. Renting in Covington is slightly more expensive than some of the other towns featured, but rentals are still affordable.ç

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Image Credit: Covington by Smash the Iron Cage (None).

5. Pulaski

  • Population: 8,904
  • Median Household Income: $50,417
  • Median Rent Price: $815
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 3.96
  • Average Property Tax: 0.63%

If you’re a baseball fan, Pulaski could be the home run you’ve been looking for. Historic Calfee Park, the ninth oldest professional in-use Minor League Baseball park in the U.S., is now home to the Pulaski River Turtles, a summer collegiate baseball league. When you’re not at a game, you can hike or fish in one of the many nearby state parks.

Housing Affordability: Average housing costs in Pulaski are under $200,000, which means that buying a home is fairly affordable. Plus the property tax rates are low. Prefer to rent? The median rental price in Pulaski is $815.

Image Credit: Pulaski by Kipp Teague (None).

Best Places to Live in Virginia for Families

Parks, cultural and entertainment activities, affordability — Virginia has a lot to offer parents and kids. Here are five of the best places to live in Virginia for families.

1. Williamsburg

  • Population: 15,909
  • Median Household Income: $63,015
  • Median Rent Price: $2,100
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 7.47
  • Average Property Tax: 0.76%

History and charm abound in Williamsburg. The town is known for its multitude of things to do. Colonial Williamsburg offers kids an opportunity to learn about history, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a premier amusement park in Virginia. And parents here appreciate the area’s good school systems. Plus Williamsburg is less than a half hour from the city of Newport News.

Housing Affordability: At more than $450,000, home values in Williamsburg are fairly high. The home price-to-income ratio could be tough for some families to meet, but for newbies, first-time homebuyer programs in Virginia might help make a down payment more affordable.

Image Credit: Greg Meland/istockphoto.

2. Culpeper

  • Population: 20,764
  • Median Household Income: $95,746
  • Median Rent Price: $1,625
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.91
  • Average Property Tax: 0.61%

Culpeper is located just 70 miles from Washington, D.C., but it feels like a world away. The town has a long history, and in fact, it changed hands 78 times during the American Civil War. Today, Culpeper offers families a walkable downtown with shops and restaurants and plenty of outdoor spaces and parks for kids to run around. Residents also appreciate the area’s good schools.

Housing Affordability: Although the average home value is above $450,000, Culpepper also has a higher median household income, which makes the home price-to-income ratio a quite reasonable 4.91. And rentals are fairly affordable, too.

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3. Harrisonburg

  • Population: 51,158
  • Median Household Income: $51,055
  • Median Rent Price: $1,650
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.58
  • Average Property Tax: 0.68%

This medium-sized city offers families plenty to do, including cultural events, museums, sports, and restaurants. It’s in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, which means residents are surrounded by mountains, and there are miles of trails for walking, biking, and hiking. James Madison University is in Harrisonburg, which gives parents access to college students for babysitters and tutors.

Housing Affordability: Living in Harrisonburg is affordable, which makes it another draw for families. The average value of a house in the city is about $284,900, and rentals can be had for a median price of $1,650. While the median household income is lower here than it is in some of the other cities on our list, the cost of housing could make it easier on a family’s wallet.

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4. Virginia Beach

  • Population: 455,618
  • Median Household Income: $81,810
  • Cost of Living: 95.9% of the U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $2,100
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.83
  • Average Property Tax: 0.93%

The most populous city in the state, Virginia Beach offers good schools, plenty of job opportunities, and endless entertainment to keep your kids — and you! — busy. There’s the beach, the boardwalk, state parks, museums, and an aquarium. Your family can hike, bike, kayak, and even paddleboard for fun.

Housing Affordability: The cost of living in Virginia Beach is near the national average. The average home value is just shy of $400,000, and rentals can be found for a median price of $2,100. Good job prospects mean that the median household income is high, which keeps the home price-to-income ratio of 4.83 affordable.

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5. Charlottesville

  • Population: 45,373
  • Median Household Income: $63,470
  • Cost of Living: 102.7
  • Median Rent Price: $1,995
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 9.37
  • Average Property Tax: 0.79%

This college town (the University of Virginia is located here) has something for everyone in the family. There’s history, a vibrant arts community, museums, a zoo, and shopping, not to mention the beautiful natural landscape. Families are attracted by the area’s good school system, and the city boasts 26 parks and all kinds of recreation for kids and their parents.

Housing Affordability: Charlottesville has one of the highest home price-to-income ratios of the places on our list. Depending on a family’s household income, buying an affordable house might be challenging. Talking to a home loan help center about your mortgage options may be worthwhile. Renting is another option. Charlottesville rentals are fairly affordable at a median price of $1,995.

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Best Places to Live in Virginia for Young Adults

Young adults looking for a place to live with an active social scene and plentiful job opportunities will likely want to stick closer to Virginia’s cities. However, in some cities, it may be more affordable to rent than buy. Just keep in mind that smaller cities can offer opportunities to save on housing costs.

These are some of the best places to live in Virginia for young adults.

1. Arlington

  • Population: 237,300
  • Median Household Income: $128,145
  • Cost of Living: 140.8% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $2,700
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 6.16
  • Average Property Tax: 1.05%

Because it’s just outside Washington, D.C., Arlington is a hotspot for young adults who work in D.C. There are lots of restaurants, bars and shops, plus concert venues, and parks. Young adults can live an active lifestyle and have an active social life here. And they can pop over to D.C. to visit the Smithsonian, the National Zoo, and the national monuments whenever they like, since these attractions are free of charge.

Housing Affordability: There’s no way around it: Housing in Arlington is expensive. The area has a high median household income, and housing prices reflect that. However, there is a thriving rental market here, and many young adults choose to rent while living in Arlington. The median rent price is $2,700 a month.

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2. Virginia Beach

  • Population: 455,618
  • Median Household Income: $81,810
  • Cost of Living: 95.9% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $2,100
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.83
  • Average Property Tax: 0.93%

Virginia Beach has a lot to offer young adults. The beach is a large draw, and the area also has good employment opportunities, a vibrant nightlife, lots of restaurants and shops, plus concerts and other activities.

Housing Affordability: Virginia Beach has average housing affordability. And residents tend to earn a good income. The median rental price is $2,100, and the average home value is less than $400,000. Young adults who want to purchase a house may want to look into first time homebuyer programs that could help them in their house hunting.

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3. Roanoke

  • Population: 97,847
  • Median Household Income: $48,476
  • Cost of Living: 92.0% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,596
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.40
  • Average Property Tax: 1.02%

With nearly 100,000 residents, Roanoke is a medium-sized city in the southwestern part of the state. It’s in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so there are plenty of outdoor activities for young adults, like hiking, biking, and camping. There is also a large local brewery scene in Roanoke, along with plenty of restaurants and bars, so young adults can enjoy an active social life here.

Housing Affordability: Homeownership in Roanoke is reasonable. The average home price is about $214,000, and rentals are $1,596. Young adults will have affordable options for buying or renting, depending on their income.

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4. Richmond

  • Population: 229,395
  • Median Household Income: $54,795
  • Cost of Living: 96.8% of the U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,500
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 6.39
  • Average Property Tax: 1.12%

A vibrant college town (Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond are both located here) Virginia’s capital draws many young adults. There are plentiful employment opportunities, along with trendy restaurants and bars, shops, museums, and festivals. Whitewater rapids run through downtown Richmond, and it’s the only city in the country that can claim this distinction.

Housing Affordability: Buying a home in Richmond is fairly expensive; the average home value is about $350,000. That explains the city’s home price-to-income ratio of 6.39. If a house is out of a young adult’s price range, they can rent instead. The median rent price is affordable at just $1,500 a month.

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5. Charlottesville

  • Population: 47,477
  • Median Household Income: $63,470
  • Cost of Living: 102.7% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,995
  • sHome Price-to-Income Ratio: 9.37
  • Average Property Tax: 0.79%

Another dynamic college town in a beautiful setting, Charlottesville offers young adults a multitude of outdoor activities, a lively music scene, and numerous breweries and wineries. There are also many nice restaurants and bars. The city’s Downtown Mall is a popular gathering spot and a good place to people-watch and meet others.

Housing Affordability: Buying a home in Charlottesville is expensive, and may be out of reach for young adults who are just starting out in their careers. The average home value hovers just under $600,000. Instead, young adults may want to rent. The median rental price is $1,995, which is affordable for a city.

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Best Places to Live in Virginia for Retirees

Retirees will find a lot to like in Virginia. There are many affordable towns and cities to choose from, glorious scenery, and outdoor and indoor activities that offer a chance to meet others.

1. Danville

  • Population: 42,229
  • Median Household Income: $38,904
  • Cost of Living: 87.7% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,500
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.63
  • Average Property Tax: 0.72%

On the border of North Carolina, Danville, with its rolling countryside and a river that runs through it, has the qualities of a small town and the amenities of a city. Cultural attractions include a fine arts museum, a theater company, and a symphony orchestra. Many retirees live here because of the relaxed and affordable lifestyle.

Housing Affordability: Danville has very affordable housing, whether retirees choose to buy or rent. The average house value is about $180,000,and the median rental price is $1,500. Plus, property taxes are low.

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2. Martinsville

1. Martinsville

  • Population: 13,725
  • Median Household Income: $36,832
  • Cost of Living: 86.0% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,000
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.49
  • Average Property Tax: 0.92%s

Situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, retirees can live an active life here, with hiking, boating, and biking. There are also museums and other cultural attractions for them to enjoy in town. For those times they want to go to the city, Roanoke is about 50 miles away.

Housing Affordability: Martinsville is a very affordable place to spend your retirement. The median rent price is only $875, and the average home sells for well under $200,00. Plus, property taxes are reasonable.

Image Credit: martinville by Sleddog116 (None).

3. Staunton

  • Population: 25,904
  • Median Household Income: $53,041
  • Median Rent Price: $1,600
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 6.60
  • Average Property Tax: 0.82%

Retirees who choose to live in Staunton can enjoy all that Charlottesville has to offer (The city is just 40 minutes away) without paying Charlottesville prices. Staunton itself is known for being friendly. The town has museums, parks, shops, and restaurants, so there’s plenty to do close to home.

Housing Affordability: Staunton is more affordable than Charlottesville. Average home prices are about $350,000. Retirees on a fixed income may want to explore the different types of mortgage loans to learn their options. Renting is another way to go to help keep costs down: Median rent prices are $1,600.

Image Credit: Jon Bilous/istockphoto.

4. Blacksburg

  • Population: 45,610
  • Median Household Income: $43,804
  • Cost of Living: 95.2% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $1,795
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 8.92
  • Average Property Tax: 0.8%

This medium-sized city has a bustling culture and arts scene. Virginia Tech University is located here, and retirees could choose to audit classes. The town is cradled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains, so there are plenty of outdoor activities to participate in, as well as gorgeous scenery to enjoy.

Housing Affordability: Although Blacksburg has a high price-to-income ratio, this may be due in part to the large number of students and retirees here who have lower household income. Blacksburg is fairly affordable, with a median rental price of $1,795, an average home value under $400,000, and low property taxes.

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5. Williamsburg

  • Population: 15,884
  • Median Household Income: $63,015
  • Median Rent Price: $2,100
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 7.47
  • Average Property Tax: 0.76%

Williamsburg has history and charm, which can be a draw for retirees. Plus, there’s lots to do, including exploring the city’s museums, and dining and meeting friends in the many restaurants the area offers.

Housing Affordability: Home prices in Williamsburg are fairly high. The average home value is more than $450,000, and the home price-to-income ratio is 7.47. Rental prices are also on the higher side, but still, some retirees who are drawn to the city may find it more cost effective to rent than buy.

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Best Places to Live in Virginia Near the Beach

Virginia has over 7,000 miles of shoreline, including near the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, and tidewater rivers. Always dreamed of living by the water? These are some of the best places to live in Virginia near the beach.

1. Hampton

Population: 138,037

Median Household Income: $57,041

Median Rent Price: $1,660

Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.73

Average Property Tax: 1.26%

Hampton has 26 miles of shoreline along the coast of the Chesapeake, including four public beaches. The waterfront city also has historic attractions, museums, restaurants, and shops. It’s conveniently located near a number of other cities, including Newport News.

Housing Affordability: Home prices in Hampton are average, which is good news for buyers, and the home price-to-income ratio is 4.73. Renting is also affordable with a median rent price of $1,660. However, property taxes are higher than they are in other areas.

Image Credit: tmersh/istockphoto.

2. Chincoteague

  • Population: 3,262
  • Median Household Income: $52,159
  • Median Rent Price: $2,000
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 8.80
  • Average Property Tax: 0.55%

Chincoteague Island is located off Virginia’s Eastern Shore. There are wildlife refuges, miles of coastline, and many outdoor recreational activities. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has wild ponies, as well as over 14,000 acres of beaches, dunes, woodlands and marshes.

Housing Affordability: Chincoteague is small, with only 3,262 residents, but many vacationers flock to Chincoteague during peak season. That has helped to drive the home price-to-income ratio to 8.80. However, the average property tax rate is low for those who can find a housing deal here.

Image Credit: Kimberly A White/istockphoto.

3. Virginia Beach

  • Population: 461,763
  • Median Household Income: $81,810
  • Cost of Living: 95.9% of U.S. average
  • Median Rent Price: $2,100
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 4.83
  • Average Property Tax: 0.93%

Located where the Chesapeake meets the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach is a fun, family-friendly beach city, with three miles of boardwalk. The city is filled with restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, and an aquarium.

Housing Affordability: Housing in Virginia Beach is affordable. The average home price is under $400,000, and the median rent is $2,100. Both buyers and renters should be able to find something that suits their needs, and their pocketbooks, in this waterfront community.

Image Credit: Tim Pennington /istockphoto.

4. Norfolk

  • Population: 232,995
  • Median Household Income: $56,244
  • Cost of Living: 95.9
  • Median Rent Price: $1,500
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 5.78
  • Average Property Tax: 1.17%

Norfolk has over seven miles of public beaches along the Chesapeake Bay. The city has a rich history and its home to the largest naval base in the world. Because of this, you’ll see plenty of naval ships and commercial vessels near the port.

Housing Affordability: Norfolk is an affordable place to live. The median rent is $1,500 a month, which is the lowest of the beachfront cities on our list. The average value price is under $300,000. The market in Norfolk is hot, however, so if you’re thinking of buying, now might be a good time to start looking.

Image Credit: Sean Pavone/istockphoto.

5. Colonial Beach

  • Population: 4,024
  • Median Household Income: $56,244
  • Median Rent Price: $1,795
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio: 6.03
  • Average Property Tax: 0.80%

Colonial Beach is a very small town on Virginia’s Northern Neck peninsula with over two miles of public beachfront, including the second-longest public beach in Virginia. The town is surrounded by water on three sides and boasts numerous marinas. There are many restaurants and shops and lots of events to keep residents busy.

Housing Affordability: Because Colonial Beach is so small, affordable housing can be limited. The average home value is about $340,000, which is why the home price-to income ratio is fairly high. However, rentals are reasonably priced and may be a good option for those who aren’t ready to buy.

Image Credit: raksyBH/istockphoto.

The Takeaway

If you’re thinking about moving to Virginia, there are plenty of great locations to choose from, including the best places in Virginia for families, young adults and retirees.

Before you settle down, be sure to investigate such factors as job prospects, entertainment, and commuting time. Fortunately, Virginia offers many affordable towns with plenty to offer for those looking to purchase a home.

If you’re ready to start the home-buying process in Virginia, you can learn about the different mortgage options available, including jumbo mortgage loans, to help choose the right mortgage for you.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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