Written by Kristina Bravo
With its proximity to jobs in Washington D.C., ample natural resources and large military presence, Virginia is a popular state for homeownership. Many areas around the metro are growing at a rapid rate, with an educated workforce attracting many businesses. NerdWallet analyzed the 81 places in Virginia with a population over 15,000 to determine which have characteristics that are favorable to homebuyers. Our analysis included both incorporated areas and unincorporated Census-designated places to answer three main questions:
1. Are homes available? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess affordability and determine whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and low cost of living scored higher.
2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and a low cost of living scored higher.
3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.
For more details on our methodology, please see the "Methodology" section at the end of the report.
Best Places for Homeownership in Virginia
1. Linton Hall, Va.
Between 2010 and 2012, this Census-designated place’s population skyrocketed with a 12.6 percent growth. Low homeowner costs attract a family-oriented crowd to Linton Hall: 88.2 percent of households are families, and 61.2 percent of those families have at least one child under 18 years old, according to U.S. Census data. Conveniently, the nearby city of Manassas has a kid-friendly museum and performing arts center. Linton Hall a Census-designated place located near Bristow, Virginia, about 35 miles east of Washington D.C. Although work commute time is higher than average, the Virginia Department of Transportation has active projects designed to improve traffic in the area.
2. Buckhall, Va.
Buckhall, a Census-designated place near Manassas, ranks high in three out of the five variables we considered for our list: homeownership rate (93 percent), population growth (5.3 percent), and median monthly homeowner costs ($2,581). Locals have easy access to outdoor activities like boating, fishing, and camping, courtesy of the historic Bull Run Marina Regional Park. Buckhall is part of Virginia’s Prince William County, where the unemployment rate has trended significantly lower compared to the rest of the nation and investments by businesses are at a record high.
3. South Riding, Va.
The third-fastest growing area on our top 10 list, South Riding is a Census-designated place located near Chantilly that is ideal for raising a family. Education is a significant part of the appeal: Its three elementary schools, high school and middle school run under Loudoun County’s reputable school system. The local Dulles South Multipurpose Center also offers pre-school classes, daycare and after-school programs. A relatively affluent area, more than a third of South Riding’s households make more than $150,000 a year. Residents get to enjoy tennis courts, pedestrian trails, basketball courts, an award-winning golf course and frequent community events.
4. Montclair, Va.
Montclair is an affordable option for small town living, having the lowest median monthly homeowner costs on our list. This suburban Census-designated place located near Dale City was built around Lake Montclair, a 108-acre lake surrounded by tree-lined streets designed for jogging and cycling. It also has a golf course, tennis courts, soccer fields, swimming pools, shopping centers and parks. The neighborhood organizes many events as well, including fourth of July fireworks and 5K mudruns.
5. Fort Hunt, Va.
With homeownership costing just 21.6 percent of monthly household income, Fort Hunt is one of the most affordable suburbs near Washington D.C., which is about 15 miles away. It’s also rich in history—Fort Hunt Park, a popular picnic spot by the Potomac River, once served as a secret intelligence camp during World War II and was part of George Washington’s farmland. In addition, the Collingwood Library and Museum on Americanism houses an extensive collection of historical literature. With more than a fifth of Fort Hunt’s residents over 62 years old according to Census data, there are many senior centers in the area as well.
6. Chantilly, Va.
With its low homeowner costs (the median is $2,532), Chantilly’s population grew 5.1 percent from 2010 to 2012. The Washington Dulles International Airport is located here, as well as the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a hangar-like museum that houses aviation and space artifacts. Chantilly is also home to the National Reconnaissance Office headquarters.
7. Marumsco, Va.
On our list, Prince William County’s Marumsco has the most affordable homes with a median value of $212,400. It also experienced the highest population growth on our top 10 list, a 14.8 percent increase between 2010 and 2012. The population of the area, formerly known as Woodbridge, was 41 percent Hispanic in 2010, according to Census data. Popular among nature enthusiasts, the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge are located here.
8. Bon Air, Va.
Another affordable option, Bon Air has the lowest median monthly homeowner cost on our list at $1,575, and a median home value of $225,000. This Census-designated place is also rich in history and character—back in the late 19th and early 20th century, Bon Air served as a Victorian resort getaway for local rail railroad and business investors. The Bon Air Historical Society has made preservation efforts to maintain the National Historical District since its 1978 inception, sponsoring educational programs and social events like the Annual Victorian Day Festival and Parade.
9. Franklin Farm, Va.
Franklin Farm, a Census-designated place located near Chantilly, has the highest home ownership rate on our list at 94 percent and the lowest monthly homeownership costs as a percentage of household income at 20.5 percent. That said, the high earning power of residents definitely factor in, with 35.2 percent of households earning $200,000 or more in 2012, according to Census data. Its recreational offerings cater to families, offering 13 miles of trails, fishing ponds, tennis courts, swimming pools, and 180 acres of open space. Also nearby is Frying Pan Farm Park, a preservation of a 1920s through 1950s farm and landscape. Many shopping spots surround the area as well, including Dulles Town Center Mall, Fair Oaks Mall and Tyson’s Corner area.
10. Mechanicsville, Va.
The median home value in this Census-designated place east of Richmond is lower than most of our top picks at $237,200, with a median monthly homeowner cost of $1,605. Located in Hanover County in Central Virginia, the area has many historical battlefield sites, including the Beaver Dam Creek and Totopotomoy Creek. There are also many recreational opportunities in the region, courtesy of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Greater Richmond Convention Center, and the Museum of the Confederacy.
Rank City Nearest Big City Home Ownership Rate Median Selected Monthly Homeowner Costs Median Monthly Household Income Homeowner Costs as a Percentage of Household Income Median Home Values 2010-2012 Population Growth Overall Score for Home Owners
1 Linton Hall Washington D.C. 86.9% $2,793 $10,399 26.9% $380,600 12.6% 80.3
2 Buckhall Washington D.C. 93.0% $2,581 $10,320 25.0% $386,500 5.3% 72.5
3 South Riding Washington D.C. 87.4% $3,157 $11,611 27.2% $512,400 7.7% 70.3
4 Montclair Washington D.C. 90.4% $2,443 $10,415 23.5% $352,000 2.7% 68.2
5 Fort Hunt Washington D.C. 91.6% $2,937 $13,572 21.6% $640,500 5.0% 67.9
6 Chantilly Washington D.C. 85.3% $2,532 $10,251 24.7% $435,800 5.1% 67.4
7 Marumsco Washington D.C. 53.6% $1,852 $5,506 33.6% $212,400 14.8% 66.8
8 Bon Air Richmond 81.2% $1,575 $5,640 27.9% $225,000 4.3% 66.6
9 Franklin Farm Washington D.C. 94.0% $2,877 $14,036 20.5% $578,200 1.7% 65.6
10 Mechanicsville Richmond 81.1% $1,605 $5,818 27.6% $237,200 2.8% 64.1
11 Tysons Corner Washington D.C. 45.0% $2,628 $8,727 30.1% $495,300 17.7% 63.1
12 Dale City Washington D.C. 75.1% $2,130 $7,238 29.4% $259,700 4.7% 62.8
13 Short Pump Richmond 63.9% $2,307 $8,775 26.3% $368,200 8.5% 62.2
14 Reston Washington D.C. 63.2% $2,373 $8,815 26.9% $434,800 9.6% 62.2
15 Ashburn Washington D.C. 75.0% $2,718 $10,032 27.1% $429,700 5.6% 62
16 Lake Ridge Washington D.C. 74.7% $2,059 $8,035 25.6% $292 800 3.4% 61.4
17 Burke Washington D.C. 86.6% $2,481 $11,154 22.2% $474,200 0.0% 60.1
18 Hollins Roanoke 73.3% $1,315 $4,935 26.6% $170,300 1.8% 60
19 West Springfield Washington D.C. 78.6% $2,369 $9,354 25.3% $433,600 2.3% 59.3
20 Leesburg Washington D.C. 69.8% $2,614 $8,171 32.0% $386,200 6.1% 59
The overall score for each city was derived from each of these measures:
1. Homeownership rate made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher rate earned a higher score. The rate comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04. 2. Selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of median household income made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower percentage earned a higher score. Monthly homeowner costs as a percentage of median household income made up one-half of the affordability score. Median household income comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 03. Monthly homeowner costs come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04. 3. Median home value made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower value earned a higher score. Median home value made up one-half of the affordability score. Median home value come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04. 4. Population change from 2010 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher percent change earned a higher score. The 2010 population came from the 2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. The 2012 population data came from the 2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. NerdWallet calculated the percent change.
Only the 81 places with populations more than 15,000 in Virginia were included in this analysis.
Photo source: Morgan Riley http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html via Wikimedia Commons