The Commonwealth of Virginia is nicknamed the "Mother of Presidents" as eight U.S. presidents have been born there, more than any other state. And though the state may be relatively small—it’s the thirty-fifth largest and twelfth most populous—it features five distinct geographic regions, giving the state broad appeal across a wide range of demographics. In other words, whether you want to live in a big city or rural area, or prefer the beach or the mountains, there’s something for everyone in Virginia.
The five cities that follow are not necessarily the cheapest cities in Virginia, but are carefully chosen based upon budget-friendly and quality-of-life data points, in order to offer residents the best possible combination of livability and affordability.
Nicknamed “The Star City of the South,” Roanoke has developed a reputation as a great place to live among both young and old alike. There are more than 20 colleges and universities within a 60-mile radius of the city, and countless graduates choose to settle here, which explains why the largest segment of the population is between 25 and 29 years old. The well-educated workforce makes the city an attractive place to do business, and unemployment has remained well below the national average for at least five years running.
But affordable housing is arguably the biggest drawing card, as the median home price is just $135,600. Combine that with a temperate climate (the average annual temperature is 57 degrees) and a plethora of things to do (especially if you’re a lover of the great outdoors), and it’s no wonder that Livability recently named Roanoke one of the 10 best places to retire.
Like Roanoke, residents of the capital of Virginia enjoy reasonable housing costs, not to mention below average transportation costs. The median home value is $195,000, which is lower than the state average and something of a revelation, especially when one considers that Richmond is home to eight Fortune 500 companies and countless other major employers.
A wide variety of housing types and styles are available in city, suburban, and rural locations, and there are more than a few unique neighborhoods, including Church Hill and the Fan District, the latter one of the largest designated historic residential areas in the United States. Residents also enjoy easy access to the nation’s capital and several other major cities, as well as beaches and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The climate offers four distinct seasons, though winters are notably mild, thanks to the waters of Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Richmond also features more than its share of exceptionally walkable neighborhoods, in particular those in the vicinity of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Meanwhile, the city of Suffolk, in the southeastern part of Virginia, is the largest city in the state by area, though it’s home to just 84,000-plus residents. Aside from its low population density, Suffolk is known for its small-town charm, a diverse arts & entertainment scene, great golf courses, the outdoor recreation opportunities provided by the misleadingly named Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge, and for being the birthplace and home of Mr. Peanut, the iconic and longtime advertising symbol of Planters Peanuts. For their part, Suffolk residents enjoy a relatively high median income of almost $67,000 per year, while healthcare and grocery costs are merely average as compared to the rest of the state.
2. Newport News
Newport News is yet another highly livable Virginia city with a median home price ($194,600) that is below the state average. Settled in 1621, Newport News—approximately 23 miles long and three miles wide—boasts a rich history, and features more than its share of historic sites, museums and cultural amenities. Yet it’s also thoroughly modern, and its economy benefits from a strong local military presence, its shipbuilding industry, and a fast-growing technology sector that has been described as “new blue collar.”
Located in the heart of coastal Virginia, Newport News residents enjoy living in close proximity to Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Richmond, and the city has been honored as one of the top 100 best places to live in the U.S.
The town of Leesburg, located just thirty or so miles northwest of Washington D.C., can best be described as old-meets-new—a bedroom community built around a historic downtown area that features a diverse array of unique shops and restaurants. The median household income is exceptionally high at $101,719, yet most cost of living indicators are barely above average. Leesburg also enjoys some of the highest healthy lifestyle indicators in the state, as 88 percent of residents have health insurance and 79 percent lead an active lifestyle. In short, Leesburg is a great place to raise children, which explains why Livability named it one of the 10 best cities for families in 2015.