Top Places for First-time Homebuyers in Virginia

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Top Places for First-time Homebuyers in Virginia

Since 2000, home prices in and around the nation’s capital have outpaced the surging values in other urban hubs. Residential real estate prices in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area jumped 112%, compared with 80% in a composite of 20 cities across the country, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

For people looking to become a homeowner in Virginia — including some places that are part of the Washington, D.C., metro area — these can be daunting figures. Luckily, there are plenty of communities in the Old Dominion that may be within reach for buyers.

To help first-time homebuyers, NerdWallet analyzed how much they could spend on a mortgage and examined the data on appreciation to find the best cities in Virginia to call home.

» MORE: Best programs for first-time homebuyers

How much can first-time homebuyers afford?

For our calculations, we assumed a first-time homebuyer in Virginia earns an annual salary of $69,658. We also assumed a personal savings rate of 4.8%, based on the U.S. 10-year average as measured by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Starting with nothing in the bank, we estimated how many years it could take to save for a 20% down payment. Of course, the actual number of years of savings will vary depending on each individual’s financial situation.
By following the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s recommendation that homeowners shouldn’t allocate over 28% of their monthly income to housing costs, we determined that a first-time homebuyer in Virginia could afford to spend $1,625 a month.

Top places for first-time homebuyers in Virginia

1. Fishersville

Apparently, word has gotten out about the top place for first-time homebuyers in Virginia: Fishersville’s population grew 8.28% from 2010 to 2013, the second-largest gain in the top 10. As well, home prices jumped 10% in the same period. Homeowners here paid a median property tax of 0.51%, almost half the median rate for all the cities analyzed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey.

2. Bluefield

This town of about 5,400 is one of the most affordable options in the state. Home values in Bluefield, which sits in the western part of Virginia, grew 10.12% from 2010 to 2013. The median home value of $103,400 made Bluefield the second-most affordable community in the top 10.

3. Forest

This Lynchburg suburb saw its population grow 7.43% from 2010 to 2013. Forest’s median home value of $212,400 is the second highest in the top 10, its median property tax of 0.55% is far below the study’s median of 0.93% and monthly ownership costs of $1,527 are below the recommended maximum.

4. Richlands

Richlands’ median home value from 2010 to 2013 grew over 44%, the biggest jump in the state. Low property taxes of 0.49% are tied for the lowest in the top 10. Another possible selling point: Richlands is outside the picturesque George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. However, 16% of families here live in poverty, which is the second-highest percentage in the top 10.

5. Abingdon

This town has become increasingly popular in recent years, as shown by the nearly 24% jump in home values. Even with that spike, homes remain affordable: Abingdon’s median home value of $203,800 is well below the median of $280,400 for all cities in this study. Abingdon’s downtown is also walkable and full of local retailers and restaurants.

6. Stuarts Draft

Stuarts Draft, located about 35 miles west of Charlottesville, has a median home value of $183,000, which is above the top 10 average of $151,610. The community’s property tax rate of 0.49% is tied for the lowest in the top 10. Stuarts Draft saw its population grow nearly 5% from 2010 to 2013.

7. Madison Heights

Madison Heights, the largest city in the top 10 with a population of about 11,000, is also one of the most affordable cities in the region. The median home value of $135,200 is below the top 10 average of $151,610, and the property tax rate of 0.49% is tied for the lowest in the top 10. Madison Heights is also in an excellent location, just across the James River from Lynchburg, one of Virginia’s larger cities.

8. Galax

The population in this community may not be growing much, but Galax’s home values clearly are: the median value jumped 24.61% from 2010 to 2013. Even with that growth, Galax remains an affordable place. Monthly ownership costs are $880, which is the lowest in the top 10. About 18% of the city’s families live in poverty, the highest percentage among the top 10.

9. Pulaski

Like the other western Virginia cities of Richlands, Abingdon and Galax, Pulaski has seen healthy growth in its home values in recent years. From 2010 to 2013, the median home value jumped 17.90% to $96,800. However, Pulaski remains the most affordable of these communities, and it would take the shortest time in the top 10 — about seven years — to save for a 20% down payment.

10. Collinsville

This community of about 7,800 in the southern part of the state could be appealing to many first-time homebuyers. A 20% down payment on a median home here is $23,120, which means a 25- to 44-year-old earning a median income could save that amount in about eight years. That compares with the top 10 average of nearly 11 years to save for a down payment.

Top places for first-time homebuyers in Virginia data

Scroll through the table below to see the data for all 183 places in Virginia.

Rank City 2013 population 2010-2013 population growth 2013 median home value Years to save for 20% down payment 2010-2013 home value growth Median property tax rate 2013 monthly ownership costs
1 Fishersville 7,228 8.28% $242,400 17.18 10.08% 0.51% $1,555
2 Bluefield 5,424 -0.02% $103,400 7.33 10.12% 0.64% $1,157
3 Forest 9,793 7.43% $212,400 15.05 2.16% 0.55% $1,527
4 Richlands 5,759 -2.83% $110,600 7.84 44.01% 0.49% $1,045
5 Abingdon 8,186 0.71% $203,800 14.44 23.74% 0.66% $1,401
6 Stuarts Draft 7,888 4.62% $183,000 12.97 2.64% 0.49% $1,208
7 Madison Heights 10,936 -0.91% $135,200 9.58 3.52% 0.49% $983
8 Galax 6,977 0.59% $112,900 8 24.61% 0.58% $880
9 Pulaski 9,048 -1.44% $96,800 6.86 17.90% 0.73% $945
10 Collinsville 7,774 9.40% $115,600 8.19 -2.53% 0.51% $1,056
11 Crozet 6,012 16.17% $302,500 21.44 -0.53% 0.72% $1,763
12 Timberlake 13,285 -5.56% $166,800 11.82 3.41% 0.44% $1,157
13 Bedford 6,052 -2.02% $146,400 10.38 5.25% 0.70% $1,165
14 Ettrick 5,898 0.10% $148,400 10.52 1.44% 0.96% $1,033
15 Bristol 17,713 0.05% $110,800 7.85 17.75% 0.78% $950
16 Vinton 8,102 0.35% $147,400 10.45 6.81% 0.97% $1,195
17 East Highland Park 14,625 4.19% $144,300 10.23 0.35% 0.79% $1,307
18 Chamberlayne 6,128 6.74% $227,300 16.11 -4.05% 0.82% $1,868
19 South Boston 8,104 -1.19% $115,400 8.18 16.57% 0.64% $1,103
20 Gloucester Point 10,147 -2.49% $227,500 16.12 1.88% 0.59% $1,462
21 Big Stone Gap 5,587 2.80% $104,800 7.43 10.32% 0.70% $842
22 Strasburg 6,419 5.56% $190,100 13.47 -8.21% 0.64% $1,459
23 Wytheville 8,225 0.76% $140,600 9.96 0.79% 0.54% $1,098
24 Christiansburg 21,170 4.35% $174,600 12.37 1.10% 0.79% $1,340
25 Williamsburg 14,579 8.63% $311,800 22.1 -9.57% 0.57% $1,461
26 Cave Spring 25,647 0.42% $208,200 14.76 0.24% 0.96% $1,435
27 Brandermill 13,525 7.61% $239,500 16.97 -5.45% 0.90% $1,623
28 Staunton 23,989 0.77% $169,400 12.01 3.04% 0.83% $1,196
29 Mechanicsville 36,897 3.56% $229,600 16.27 -5.28% 0.76% $1,612
30 Ashland 7,231 0.08% $189,700 13.44 -0.68% 0.84% $1,481
31 Harrisonburg 49,926 5.32% $208,100 14.75 -2.48% 0.59% $1,258
32 Salem 24,950 1.25% $170,300 12.07 2.78% 1.00% $1,292
33 Covington 5,880 -1.82% $66,900 4.74 1.52% 0.70% $878
34 Glen Allen 15,586 0.04% $234,100 16.59 -3.86% 0.74% $1,600
35 Chester 20,606 3.45% $211,900 15.02 -2.44% 0.86% $1,599
36 Lexington 7,026 0.52% $262,700 18.62 7.53% 0.62% $1,411
37 Hollymead 8,404 4.71% $317,600 22.51 -6.83% 0.70% $1,855
38 Marion 5,933 -1.64% $99,600 7.06 2.47% 0.71% $846
39 Charlottesville 43,663 3.30% $293,000 20.76 4.76% 0.86% $1,736
40 Blacksburg 42,864 1.70% $259,000 18.36 5.58% 0.81% $1,683
41 Bridgewater 5,745 2.94% $199,200 14.12 -6.35% 0.52% $1,381
42 Hollins 14,738 -1.24% $167,700 11.88 -1.87% 1.00% $1,314
43 Hopewell 22,429 -0.34% $139,400 9.88 6.66% 0.88% $1,180
44 Highland Springs 16,133 -1.22% $151,700 10.75 0.33% 0.82% $1,276
45 Waynesboro 21,099 1.02% $165,600 11.74 -2.42% 0.61% $1,188
46 Bon Air 16,104 1.51% $217,900 15.44 -4.68% 0.85% $1,546
47 Colonial Heights 17,481 0.05% $181,300 12.85 -3.41% 0.95% $1,340
48 Dumbarton 7,612 13.85% $157,300 11.15 -4.78% 0.87% $1,196
49 Emporia 5,773 -0.84% $104,000 7.37 6.45% 0.76% $1,223
50 McNair 18,601 22.27% $362,200 25.67 -5.31% 1.00% $2,568
51 Lynchburg 76,467 3.72% $145,800 10.33 4.82% 0.96% $1,211
52 Montrose 7,575 5.47% $129,000 9.14 -1.15% 0.75% $1,167
53 Hampton 136,957 -1.50% $195,400 13.85 2.04% 0.93% $1,517
54 Short Pump 26,508 10.29% $362,200 25.67 -7.98% 0.80% $2,198
55 Roanoke 97,355 1.63% $134,700 9.55 4.66% 1.02% $1,148
56 Reston 59,388 11.51% $436,200 30.91 -1.11% 0.95% $2,333
57 Poquoson 12,117 0.15% $302,400 21.43 -7.30% 0.76% $1,933
58 Innsbrook 7,410 1.24% $291,000 20.62 -8.06% 0.84% $1,813
59 Rockwood 8,442 7.69% $205,400 14.56 -9.95% 0.91% $1,593
60 Virginia Beach 442,151 1.41% $267,600 18.96 -3.53% 0.87% $1,831
61 Idylwood 17,888 14.11% $477,600 33.85 -1.30% 1.02% $2,339
62 Radford 16,705 2.37% $144,000 10.21 -6.92% 0.69% $1,159
63 Triangle 8,930 16.08% $378,300 26.81 0.37% 1.00% $2,743
64 Merrifield 15,434 8.20% $439,500 31.15 -2.31% 0.90% $2,551
65 Suffolk 84,842 2.78% $242,000 17.15 -4.04% 0.83% $1,874
66 Tuckahoe 46,263 2.41% $268,300 19.01 -4.25% 0.87% $1,782
67 Franklin 8,539 -0.12% $186,700 13.23 0.97% 0.74% $1,276
68 Tysons Corner 20,617 20.66% $485,700 34.42 -6.29% 0.89% $2,570
69 Pimmit Hills 6,507 4.36% $470,800 33.37 -3.98% 0.81% $2,537
70 Woodlake 7,419 -6.16% $261,400 18.53 -7.60% 0.94% $1,651
71 Woodburn 9,117 4.71% $539,800 38.26 0.33% 1.00% $2,431
72 Laurel 15,804 -1.84% $189,100 13.4 -3.03% 0.82% $1,408
73 New Baltimore 8,778 11.76% $399,200 28.29 -8.04% 0.85% $2,519
74 Chesapeake 225,597 2.89% $261,600 18.54 -4.11% 0.96% $1,863
75 Wyndham 9,710 3.89% $457,500 32.42 -3.34% 0.86% $2,586
76 Meadowbrook 18,505 -4.08% $180,800 12.81 -5.19% 0.93% $1,450
77 Huntington 11,728 13.22% $329,800 23.37 -8.26% 0.96% $2,153
78 Arlington 214,861 8.81% $584,600 41.43 2.26% 0.85% $2,724
79 University of Virginia 8,313 18.86% $275,400 19.52 -6.42% 0.60% $1,875
80 Aquia Harbour 6,771 4.52% $326,900 23.17 -11.67% 0.79% $2,187
81 Lakeside 12,491 4.08% $170,000 12.05 -2.30% 0.81% $1,343
82 Fair Oaks 31,218 13.36% $409,200 29 -4.68% 0.98% $2,436
83 Smithfield 8,126 3.27% $273,100 19.35 -7.42% 0.62% $1,868
84 Newport News 181,025 -0.44% $200,100 14.18 0.81% 1.06% $1,497
85 Laurel Hill 7,427 22.64% $451,100 31.97 -8.92% 0.96% $2,733
86 Fredericksburg 25,931 10.93% $314,300 22.27 -6.40% 0.63% $1,868
87 Manchester 10,683 -3.52% $188,500 13.36 -2.84% 0.93% $1,477
88 Danville 42,996 -1.81% $87,800 6.22 -1.46% 0.69% $965
89 Potomac Mills 5,360 13.68% $299,500 21.23 -10.17% 0.87% $2,107
90 Petersburg 32,326 0.07% $122,500 8.68 5.69% 1.01% $1,153
91 Kingstowne 15,110 4.11% $442,400 31.35 -5.00% 0.96% $2,378
92 Sandston 7,780 1.39% $148,100 10.5 -3.89% 0.81% $1,296
93 Buena Vista 6,699 0.69% $118,900 8.43 -5.63% 0.89% $1,120
94 Wakefield 12,235 5.90% $585,200 41.47 -3.10% 0.93% $2,593
95 Lake Monticello 9,513 -10.54% $227,900 16.15 -13.87% 0.63% $1,582
96 Falls Church 12,731 11.04% $660,900 46.84 2.96% 1.03% $2,977
97 Farmville 8,519 1.21% $165,700 11.74 -1.72% 0.55% $1,209
98 Woodstock 5,131 2.74% $209,300 14.83 -8.56% 0.59% $1,346
99 Alexandria 143,684 7.51% $476,700 33.78 -2.07% 0.89% $2,557
100 Herndon 23,791 4.69% $353,000 25.02 -6.47% 1.10% $2,230
101 Burke 42,233 1.83% $478,300 33.9 -4.76% 0.95% $2,487
102 Fairfax 23,027 4.39% $456,700 32.37 -6.59% 0.85% $2,398
103 West Springfield 23,048 3.48% $417,300 29.57 -8.31% 0.91% $2,311
104 Linton Hall 39,380 17.70% $370,100 26.23 -13.39% 1.07% $2,684
105 Bull Run 14,471 12.27% $206,500 14.63 -12.76% 1.06% $1,693
106 Warrenton 9,690 4.81% $296,700 21.03 -12.01% 0.87% $1,957
107 Belle Haven 6,738 2.73% $370,100 26.23 -1.20% 1.14% $2,324
108 Newington 13,672 3.48% $408,000 28.91 -7.46% 0.99% $2,417
109 Franconia 19,062 3.31% $361,000 25.58 -10.64% 0.99% $2,212
110 Bellwood 5,754 3.25% $135,500 9.6 -1.74% 0.94% $1,103
111 Bailey’s Crossroads 23,792 14.08% $321,300 22.77 -4.74% 0.88% $2,257
112 Fort Hunt 16,860 5.75% $645,500 45.75 -0.89% 0.99% $2,938
113 Hybla Valley 15,671 7.21% $334,800 23.73 -3.99% 0.98% $2,323
114 Norfolk 244,090 0.80% $202,800 14.37 -2.69% 1.00% $1,641
115 Martinsville 13,808 -1.58% $86,800 6.15 -2.69% 0.84% $944
116 Lorton 19,236 -0.13% $362,700 25.7 -10.86% 0.96% $2,427
117 Neabsco 13,256 40.65% $338,700 24 -14.69% 1.04% $2,675
118 Lake of the Woods 7,168 -8.40% $267,900 18.99 -14.30% 0.62% $1,609
119 Burke Centre 17,641 3.92% $384,400 27.24 -12.42% 0.92% $2,229
120 Lake Barcroft 9,363 3.33% $597,500 42.34 -1.57% 1.01% $2,716
121 Portsmouth 95,901 -0.91% $175,600 12.44 -2.66% 1.12% $1,525
122 Stone Ridge 7,620 26.39% $375,900 26.64 -16.80% 1.24% $2,478
123 South Riding 25,678 11.73% $509,000 36.07 -6.16% 1.08% $3,072
124 Franklin Farm 19,795 1.35% $576,300 40.84 -3.08% 0.93% $2,795
125 Mount Vernon 12,849 9.33% $571,500 40.5 -5.99% 0.90% $2,882
126 Fairfax Station 11,495 -1.82% $622,900 44.14 -1.66% 0.94% $2,985
127 Brambleton 11,215 30.48% $543,500 38.52 -10.99% 1.08% $3,245
128 Dunn Loring 9,469 2.38% $650,400 46.09 -0.50% 0.92% $3,057
129 Oakton 35,644 6.34% $553,100 39.2 -7.18% 0.95% $2,616
130 Lake Ridge 42,761 8.47% $287,300 20.36 -15.80% 1.14% $2,070
131 Vienna 15,958 3.71% $602,100 42.67 0.33% 1.09% $2,995
132 Groveton 14,658 7.51% $376,400 26.68 -10.44% 1.00% $2,184
133 Centreville 73,476 1.48% $369,200 26.17 -9.78% 1.00% $2,360
134 Gainesville 11,863 9.91% $408,100 28.92 -12.67% 1.01% $2,765
135 Cascades 12,528 3.96% $440,500 31.22 -9.77% 1.08% $2,697
136 Countryside 10,048 5.08% $356,300 25.25 -14.23% 1.14% $2,187
137 Montclair 19,354 -0.03% $347,300 24.61 -11.74% 1.03% $2,371
138 Front Royal 14,589 0.56% $178,100 12.62 -21.78% 0.66% $1,456
139 Kings Park West 13,989 -2.75% $457,700 32.44 -7.83% 0.95% $2,414
140 West Falls Church 28,209 2.18% $414,800 29.4 -10.08% 1.03% $2,432
141 Bensley 5,473 5.68% $137,700 9.76 -7.65% 0.89% $1,078
142 Mantua 7,449 -0.87% $653,900 46.34 -2.72% 0.90% $3,138
143 George Mason 9,709 9.37% $454,200 32.19 -13.90% 0.94% $2,678
144 Belmont 6,126 16.31% $659,200 46.72 -7.27% 1.08% $3,570
145 Long Branch 7,446 -6.26% $547,300 38.79 -2.51% 0.98% $2,721
146 Chantilly 23,009 4.02% $432,700 30.67 -8.37% 1.03% $2,462
147 Buckhall 16,688 8.71% $382,800 27.13 -15.29% 1.07% $2,547
148 Winchester 26,587 2.44% $224,100 15.88 -16.07% 0.77% $1,606
149 Floris 8,499 4.40% $602,700 42.71 -6.51% 0.96% $2,950
150 McLean 48,426 4.97% $901,300 63.88 0.50% 0.94% $3,830
151 Newington Forest 12,569 -4.16% $383,700 27.19 -9.95% 1.00% $2,194
152 Greenbriar 7,876 2.66% $398,000 28.21 -12.91% 1.03% $2,167
153 Woodlawn 19,358 -1.12% $270,600 19.18 -15.65% 0.90% $1,722
154 Purcellville 8,060 13.49% $392,600 27.82 -11.12% 1.38% $2,886
155 Richmond 207,878 3.00% $196,400 13.92 -2.68% 1.11% $1,534
156 Lowes Island 11,478 0.77% $527,800 37.41 -7.04% 1.12% $2,859
157 Ashburn 46,097 8.80% $425,500 30.16 -12.38% 1.16% $2,666
158 Lincolnia 22,208 7.57% $428,200 30.35 -7.78% 0.97% $2,507
159 Broadlands 12,513 16.92% $513,400 36.38 -13.92% 1.15% $3,198
160 Fair Lakes 7,480 -6.03% $461,400 32.7 -2.68% 0.99% $2,939
161 Culpeper 16,720 7.13% $196,400 13.92 -21.82% 0.80% $1,716
162 Springfield 31,025 1.56% $374,600 26.55 -13.27% 1.00% $2,317
163 Wolf Trap 16,702 0.13% $812,600 57.59 -1.25% 0.90% $3,679
164 Sugarland Run 12,030 10.16% $326,200 23.12 -16.29% 1.13% $2,129
165 Annandale 42,008 9.28% $397,400 28.16 -11.69% 1.06% $2,342
166 Crosspointe 6,000 6.69% $693,900 49.18 -8.19% 0.95% $3,428
167 Marumsco 37,608 15.99% $202,800 14.37 -30.09% 0.97% $1,833
168 Sterling 27,013 5.87% $287,700 20.39 -17.78% 1.17% $2,074
169 Lansdowne 11,394 15.99% $508,600 36.04 -16.31% 1.09% $3,425
170 Rose Hill 19,042 -3.67% $405,500 28.74 -12.93% 1.02% $2,481
171 Leesburg 44,612 9.58% $377,800 26.77 -14.14% 1.27% $2,566
172 Sudley 16,765 9.70% $237,800 16.85 -25.50% 1.07% $1,708
173 North Springfield 7,242 -0.56% $375,500 26.61 -16.01% 1.08% $2,255
174 Manassas Park 15,125 14.63% $213,300 15.12 -29.70% 1.52% $1,930
175 South Run 6,205 -7.79% $681,200 48.28 -6.72% 0.95% $3,159
176 Dale City 67,562 6.19% $246,400 17.46 -24.07% 1.12% $2,055
177 Cherry Hill 16,627 7.19% $280,400 19.87 -21.52% 1.03% $2,237
178 Dranesville 12,024 -4.21% $491,900 34.86 -11.58% 0.96% $2,566
179 Yorkshire 7,426 9.21% $235,900 16.72 -26.63% 1.09% $1,986
180 Manassas 39,317 9.01% $245,000 17.36 -24.80% 1.20% $1,873
181 Independent Hill 7,372 0.81% $398,600 28.25 -21.46% 1.08% $2,691
182 Dumfries 5,050 2.08% $162,600 11.52 -26.66% 1.12% $1,397
183 Seven Corners 8,018 -3.78% $212,500 15.06 -18.24% 1.11% $1,869

 

Methodology

We evaluated places in Virginia with populations of 5,000 or more. All housing and demographic data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Our score is based on these factors:

Value appreciation is 40% of the score. To determine value appreciation, we looked at the average growth rate for population and home value from 2010 to 2013. Within this total score, home value appreciation is 70% and population growth is 30% of the score.

Housing cost is 40% of the score. To determine housing cost, we averaged the median property tax rate, how long it would take a first-time homebuyer to save for a down payment for 20% of the median home price and the difference in selected monthly ownership costs of each location and the recommended $1,625 maximum in Virginia. Since typical first-time homebuyers are in their 30s, we looked at the 25-44 age group’s median annual income, which in Virginia is $69,658. The personal savings rate of 4.8% is from the U.S. 10-year average, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Prosperity is 20% of the score. To determine prosperity, we looked at the percentage of families living in poverty in each city.


Lynchburg, Virginia, image via iStock.