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Aside from Massachusetts, Virginia is one of the most historically consequential states in the country. As the site of the first permanent English settlement, Jamestown in 1607, and the home of eight of the nation’s presidents, Virginia is a state full of natural beauty, historical significance, and political power. With a geography that begins flat and fertile at the coastline, the state slowly slopes upward, morphing into the rolling foothills of the Piedmont region, and finishing at the spellbinding heights of the Appalachian mountains and the green dips of the Shenandoah Valley. Its most populous cities are Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Arlington, Norfolk, and its capital, Richmond. The state is often thought of in two halves, Northern Virginia, or NOVA, the area surrounding the nation’s capital, and the rest of Virginia, or ROVA. The two parts are politically quite different and have vastly different costs and standards of living.
No matter the cost of housing or the political leaning of its residents, all parts of Virginia offer breathtaking natural beauty. In the northwest, Shenandoah National Park in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains has stunning views found on foot via hiking trails or by car along Skyline Drive. The park is also home to Luray Caverns, the largest caverns in the eastern United States. To the east along the coast, Virginia Beach, just east of Norfolk, is a popular destination and an easy place to view local wildlife, since both the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge are located there. Further to the south, is one of the oldest tourist attractions in the United States, the Natural Bridge State Park. It is exactly what it sounds like: a naturally occurring limestone bridge over Cedar Creek that draws visitors from around the world.
With the state’s general proximity to Washington, D.C., there is of course no shortage of historical hot spots or educational experiences to absorb, but Virginia itself is home to quite a few as well. Colonial Williamsburg, between Norfolk and Richmond, is a living history museum that recreates life in the Revolutionary Era, complete with original 18th-century structures. The site offers immersive and interactive experiences and tours. Visitors should expect to spend the better part of the day at the fascinating site. Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English Colony, is not too far away from Williamsburg, and neither is Yorktown, where General Cornwallis officially surrendered to George Washington in 1781, effectively ending the American Revolution and securing American independence. The presidential homes of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and George Washington at Mount Vernon remain major tourist attractions within the state.
Virginia was also a consequential location during the Civil War. In Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, the state capitol served as the capitol building for the Confederate States of America for a period of time. Manassas, a small town in the northern portion of the state, was the site of two brutal battles known as the First and Second Battle of Manassas (they’re also known as the First and Second Battle of Bull Run). Manassas National Battlefield Park stands on the site today.
Those looking for lighter education and entertainment can seek out the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond or the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an extension of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport. Finally, Busch Gardens near the coast is a family-friendly amusement park with a European theme.
Surprisingly, with all the attractions available, tourism, though a vital part of the Virginian economy, is not its key component. That honor goes to the service industry, which makes up 67% of the state’s GDP. This includes state, local, and federal government employees, retail, health, social, wholesale trade, technical, scientific, professional, insurance, and financial services, as well as employees of military bases, the CIA, and the Pentagon. The state is also well-known for its manufacturing sector, particularly in semiconductors and automobiles. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing also make up a large segment of the economy, particularly wineries, apple orchards, tobacco, and seafood harvesting.
Given the history of the state, it is unsurprising that the most notable architecture in the area would favor Georgian, Federalist, and Neoclassical/Palladian styles. High on the list are three sites, all designed by Virginian Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president. His home, Monticello, near Charlottesville, is a wonder of Neoclassical and Palladian forms. It’s symmetrical and proportional on the outside, with clean simple lines and little ornamentation. However, as was the style, the interior is decidedly more decorative and opulent.
Jefferson loved this kind of elegant, classical aesthetic, and his fingerprints are clearly seen at the University of Virginia (also in Charlottesville), where he designed the overall concept for the university that has been copied at campuses all across the United States. His domed central buildings, green quadrangles, and clean sharp lines can be seen at institutions of higher learning from Virginia to California. The Virginia State Capitol is also Jeffersonian in design, though he had help from French architect Charles-Louis Clérisseau. It is decidedly neoclassical, with a columned and triangular-roofed facade that calls to mind ancient Greek and Roman temples.
Stepping away from the omnipresent neoclassical buildings in Virginia, the Penn-Wyatt or Hoffman House in Danville is a beautiful example of 19th-century Victorian architecture. Built in 1876, the original owner, James Gabriel Penn was a well-off tobacco merchant. The structure features a mansard roof tower, a common attribute on Victorian buildings, and exudes a sense of opulence and wealth that was customary for the moneyed class of the day.
For a more austere and modernist aesthetic, the Scope Arena in Norfolk, a massive event venue, was built in the 1970s. It exemplifies mid-century modern style with a spaceship-like appearance and the gratuitous use of concrete. It remains the largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome in the world.
Much like the state’s public buildings, Virginia home styles tend toward the traditional. Colonial and Colonial Revival homes with their symmetrical facades, shuttered windows, and rectangular footprint are frequently seen, as are the wide porch and boxy exterior of the American Foursquare style. Smaller homes often take the form of one-and-a-half-story cottage-like Cape Cod styles or the low-pitched roofs, covered porches, and overhanging eaves of a cozy Craftsman bungalow. Newer homes in Virginia, rather than going after modern exteriors, favor Neo-Colonial styles. This means the home is traditional on the exterior, espousing the clean lines and symmetrical appearance of Georgian and Federalist homes, while the interior has a more open floor plan, modern amenities, and lighter appearance popular with today’s homeowners.
Realm’s data analysis found that homes in Virginia prize a beautiful exterior. Decks were the most popular feature in the housing market, seen in 29,887 Virginia real estate listings, while fences were third most popular, with mentions in 19,624 listings. Exterior painting was also popular, found in 16,475 recent listings. Other amenities you’ll see frequently in the Virginia housing market: wood floors were the second-most popular feature, with mentions in 26,404 real estate listings, and roofing was noted in 17,572 listings.
Despite the state’s long history, Realm’s data analysis found that most homes in the state were actually built much more recently — in 2005. This is great since younger homes typically have fewer problems. But there are a few quirks from homes in the early 2000s that buyers will want to be aware of. These homes were constructed in the middle of the American housing boom in the early 2000s, and homes built in the midst of a boom can suffer from poor quality work and materials. Many homes will be just fine, but it is possible that lower quality labor and materials were used in construction purely due to time constraints and availability.
Some things that often suffer in these situations are the drywall and carpentry work. The installation of the plumbing, insulation, or electricity may have been rushed, which opens the home up to potential leaks, higher energy bills, and possible fire hazards. The foundation and grading need to be thoroughly inspected to ensure that all is well and that the property drains correctly. Water damage can be costly and difficult to deal with.
Even though these homes are not twenty years old just yet, buyers will want to keep the age of the house in mind for larger maintenance items like the HVAC system or the roofing, which may need work if they haven’t yet been replaced or repaired.
Though many homes from the 2000s may be in good condition, they may have interior details, layouts, or features that don’t appeal to today’s homeowners. If you find a potential home that fits the bill but needs some updates, Realm’s free dashboard will give you accurate project cost estimates and show you how much value updates or renovations will add to the property.
Finally, prospective homeowners in Virginia will be comforted to know that naturally occurring floods and fires are not a likely threat. Realm’s data analysis found that 97% of homes in the state are outside of a flood zone while 100% of Virginia homes are outside of a designated perimeter for a wildfire that has occurred in the last five years.
What’s the average cost of a home in Virginia?
As of 2021, the average cost of a home in the state is close to $308,000. Buyers should remember that location plays into pricing quite a bit in the state. In areas closer to Washington, D.C., home prices are much higher than throughout the rest of the state.
Are house prices dropping in Virginia?
For now, no. Home values have risen significantly in the state, and in 2021, the median price of a home is up 11% from the previous year. Most homebuyers in the state are having to offer over the asking price to get the property they want.
Is property expensive in Virginia?
Compared to the average cost of real estate in the United States, property in Virginia is expensive. Of course, where you buy a home in Virginia plays a huge role in the cost. If shopping around the D.C. area, homes can easily soar over $1 million, but in smaller areas like Roanoke or Richmond, the price tag is more manageable, closer to the $200,00-$300,000 range.
We currently cover most standalone, single-family homes