Virginia Beach is a unique city that encompasses historical significance amid hip creativity. From being the site of the first English colonists’ steps on American soil in 1607 to hosting the annual East Coast Surfing Championships, the area abounds with natural beauty, culture, and things to do. Earning the honor of having ‘the longest pleasure beach in the world’ by the Guinness Book of Records, the city counts tourism as a major business along with real estate and defense. With military contractors employing a large number of civilians, the city has a well-deserved reputation for being military-centered. Businesses roll out the red carpet for defense-affiliated customers, and landlords compete for this segment of potential tenants. You’ll see American flags flying proudly everywhere.
However, the unbounded patriotism rooted in military dominance is not the only notable feature about Virginia Beach. You’ll love the wide variety of attractions and activities, both in town and throughout the region. Nightlife, fine dining, arts and entertainment, museums, history, and outdoor adventures in beautiful surroundings are all found in abundance. Residents might be found crabbing or fishing on Saturday morning, surfing, or visiting the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in the ViBe Creative District. You can see that Virginia Beach offers a great quality of life. Whatever brings you to Virginia Beach, welcome.
Living in Virginia Beach, VA: What to Know Before Moving to Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach is a resort city located in southeastern Virginia where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Its population of around 450,000 is tucked in between the cities of Norfolk and Chesapeake on the west, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and the Chesapeake Bay on the north. Virginia Beach is part of the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area that includes the independent cities of Newport News, Hampton, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk. With a population of 1,707,640, the metro area has grown considerably since the first English colonists stepped ashore in April 1607.
A distinctive aspect of the city is that it incorporates all types of land uses: the urban Town Center, rural Pungo with its farms, quiet waterside residential areas, and a sometimes boisterous resort strip along the Atlantic Ocean. People move here for all kinds of reasons, and the city has amenities to provide you with the type of lifestyle for which you’re hoping.
Pros and Cons of Living in Virginia Beach
There are many advantages and some disadvantages to living in Virginia Beach. While some aspects of living here can fall in either category, we believe this is a good summary.
First, the pros:
- Low crime rate: Unlike a lot of military towns, with their reputation for rowdy sailors running wild, Virginia Beach has the lowest crime rate in the region.
- Great climate: Being right on the ocean, Virginia Beach benefits from the climate-influencing power of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Close to the beach: If your family enjoys sun and sand, the beach is at your fingertips.
- American pride: Largely due to its large military and veteran population, Virginia Beach is proud to be American
- Lots to do: Everywhere you turn, Virginia Beach has some fun activity. Indoors or outdoors – either way, you’ll be entertained year-round.
- Great services: Because this town is large, you can get anything you need.
Then the cons:
- Traffic: If you live or work anywhere near the urban core, the daily commute can be awful.
- Pollution: Heavy industry in the Hampton Roads Metro Area has put pressure on the environment.
- Transient population: With so many military personnel, your friends and neighbors might not be here for long. This transient population can make it harder to maintain a social life.
- Airplane noise: Virginia Beach has a huge naval airbase where planes take off and land 24/7. Depending on where you live in the city, these noise levels might be unbearable.
- Tourist takeover: During the summer, the eastern part of the city is full of tourists. Traffic becomes much worse, and it can be hard to enjoy the sites.
- Military everything: About 12,000 military personnel live in Virginia Beach at any given time. Not in the military? You’ll find that just about every promotion in town caters to them, and you’re paying the extra housing costs related to frequent turnover.
Overall, for a high-income state, Virginia is a lower tax rate state.
- State income tax: Virginia has a three-tier income tax. The minimum rate is 2% after exemptions and deductions; the maximum rate of 5.75% kicks in at a taxable income level of $17,000. There is no city income tax.
- Property tax: Property taxes are fairly reasonable at 0.886% of assessed value. This rate compares favorably to the national average of 1.211% but is higher than the Virginia average of 0.797%. For the owner of a $250,000 home, the expected annual property tax bill would be about $2,200. Keep in mind that you’ll pay a “property tax” on vehicles to the municipality.
- Sales tax: Overall, the Virginia Beach sales tax rate is 6%. This rate consists of a 4.3% state rate, 1% municipal rate, and 0.7% special sales tax rate. There aren’t any sales tax “breaks” in Virginia, except for a “sales tax holiday” in August, and a 2.5% tax on food.
The housing market in Virginia Beach is fairly robust, both for owned and rented homes. Despite the large military presence, 67% of residents own their homes and 33% rent. As of August 2019, the median home value was $264,400. Home values have increased 13.2% over the last five years and 3.5% over the last year. Compare this to the national median home value of $219,700, with 37% appreciation over the last five years.
If you’ll be choosing to rent, the average cost is $1,605, compared to $1,400 nationally. As of summer, 201, rented housing is more expensive than average, starting with $1093 for a one-bedroom apartment, to $2287 for a four-bedroom home. If housing costs are a concern, your cheapest options are near the ocean outside the resort area, close to Little Creek Naval Base. The Virginia Beach end of Northampton Boulevard is also more affordable.
Cost of Living
At 115.6, living in Virginia Beach is more expensive than the national average index of 100 and slightly higher than the Virginia average of 113. According to Best Places, housing is the largest driver of the cost of living, with an index of 137. Other items priced above the cost of living average are transportation 115.3, and healthcare 117.
By contrast, certain things are cheaper in Virginia Beach: groceries are the cheapest category at 93.4 and utilities 97.1. Both of these costs are lower than the Virginia state average. For a family of four, living modestly in Virginia Beach will cost around $7,650 per month or $92,000 per year. Overall, the median income is $67,000.
Weather & Natural Disasters
If you enjoy four seasons but could do without very cold winters, you’ll love the humid subtropical Virginia Beach climate. July and August are the warmest months of the year, with average highs of 87 and 86, and lows of 72 and 71, respectively, but plan on high humidity. Rain is fairly plentiful, with 47 average inches a year falling fairly consistently year-round. Snow is infrequent, averaging 6 inches a year, usually in January or early February.
Due to the huge number of lakes, rivers, and canals, combined with a lot of annual rainfall, Virginia Beach is prone to flooding. Most residents know how to cope with these floods, which sometimes can be severe. Also, due to its location on the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach experiences fairly frequent hurricanes, thunderstorms, and other extreme weather conditions. To help citizens prepare for these events, the city has a detailed disaster preparedness site. This website includes flood and hurricane evacuation maps and links to emergency resources.
Economy & Job Market
Virginia Beach has a large, healthy economy. The unemployment rate is only 2.9%, compared to 3.9% nationally. Per capita, income is higher than average at $34,600 compared to the US average of $31,200. Family incomes average $70,500 compared to the more typical $57,700. As a result, the higher cost of living is made up for by larger family incomes. Major industries here are farming, the military, private industry, and a large number of nonprofits. For those who enjoy nonprofit work, or who have a security clearance, this town offers terrific job opportunities.
Virginia Beach is a unique city due to the many farms that are inside the city limits. Most of the businesses, industry, and housing are north of the “green line”; south of the green line is a rich patchwork of farms and preserved land.
By far the largest employer, located near the “green line,” is the master naval jet airbase, NAS Oceana. There’s also a cluster of small bases, known as Little Creek, located along the Chesapeake Bay. Also important is the Naval Exchange and related supply operations. Many Virginia Beach residents commute west into Norfolk, home to the largest naval shipyard in the world.
For those unconnected to the military, there are other abundant employment options. Perhaps the most famous non-Navy employer is Geico, known for its offbeat commercials involving geckos. Geico has a huge call center and claims handling facility here. Amerigroup, part of Anthem insurance, also is headquartered in Virginia Beach. They provide health insurance for state-sponsored payers such as Medicaid and state-employee plans. Stihl is another major employer, is a manufacturer of power tools and related products. Since Virginia Beach has a large summer tourist industry, many seasonal jobs are available in the oceanfront resorts.
You’ll find good employment options if you work in the nonprofit or education sectors. Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, with its sophisticated television broadcasting studios, and Operation Blessing providing worldwide disaster relief, are headquartered here. Regent University, Virginia Wesleyan University, and other higher education institutions are also major employers.
Traffic and Transportation
Several major thoroughfares run through Virginia Beach. Most notably, I-64 skirts the western edge of the city, while I-264 runs east-west from the beach to the Norfolk line. Virginia Beach Boulevard, Shore Drive, Northampton Blvd, and Lynnhaven Road are major east-west thoroughfares in the city. Atlantic Avenue runs north-south along the beach, and Independence Blvd, Rosemont Road, Indian River Road, and Dam Neck run north-south farther inland.
Commute times are reportedly below average, but because the majority of workers drive their own cars, there tends to be a lot of traffic congestion during rush hour. I-264 opens HOV lanes between 6 -9 am and from 4-6 pm. Unfortunately, traffic still tends to jam up on the freeway, on Indian River, Virginia Beach Boulevard, and on Independence Blvd. During the summer tourist season, traffic tends to be much worse, especially on the freeway and close to the beaches.
Public transportation, overall, is poor. Hampton Roads Transit is the bus and light rail service which serves not only Virginia Beach, but also Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Hampton, and Newport News. The light rail is called the Tide, and it runs from downtown Norfolk to Virginia Beach Town Center. Although there are a lot of bus stops, they tend to be primarily on the main roads, and it can be hard to switch from an east-west line to a north-south line. That’s why walkscore.com gives the transit system a score of 22, poor for a large city. The walk score is 33, and there are reportedly almost no bike lanes. Most errands, therefore, require a car of your own or access to one.
There’s an Amtrak and Greyhound station down by the oceanfront where the tourists gather. The Norfolk International Airport (ORF), located one mile east of I-64, serves the entire region. The Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport also serves the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area.
What to Do
Virginia Beach provides a wide variety of activities, from museums, festivals, and cultural events to beautiful long stretches of beaches and fascinating protected endangered habitats. Over 4,000 acres of parks and nature refuges, plus 120 miles of waterways, offer amazing outdoor recreation. The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a major segment of the Atlantic Flyway, providing food and resting habitat for wildlife. The First Landing State Park, which commemorates the first English settlers’ arrival to American in 1607, fronts the Chesapeake Bay and has almost 20 miles of trails through beach dunes, forest, cypress swamps, and freshwater ponds.
For those who prefer indoor cultural pursuits, the options seem almost endless. Town Center is the downtown shopping, nightlife, arts, and dining hub. The Museum of Contemporary Art features both exhibits and classes on various art techniques, while the aquarium displays aquatic life in various habitats while teaching marine science to people of all ages. For history aficionados, the Military Aviation Museum celebrates the contribution of Virginia Beach to air warfare. If you’re into live shows and events try the Amphitheater for concerts or the Virginia Beach Convention Center for exhibitions and trade shows. Fine dining and nightlife can be found in several areas throughout the city, most notably in the ViBe Creative District down at the beach, and Town Center.
Does casually riding your beach cruiser down the three-mile-long boardwalk count as a sport? Unfortunately, Virginia Beach isn’t home to professional sports teams. You can head over to nearby Norfolk to cheer on the AHL Norfolk Admirals, or the area’s two soccer teams – the men’s USL Virginia Beach Piranhas, or the women’s W-League Hampton Roads Piranhas. You can watch (or participate in) the nation’s oldest surfing contest – the East Coast Surfing Championships – held yearly in Virginia Beach. Be sure to bring your clubs when you move here – eleven public golf courses will lure you onto the greens.
Schools and Universities
Virginia Beach Public Schools is the second-largest school division in the state, with almost 90 schools serving 70,000 students. VBPS has a reputation for overall quality and the schools with highest ratings are Kemps Landing/Old Donation School, Kingston Elementary, Princess Anne Middle School, Great Neck Middle School, and Ocean Lakes High School.
If you prefer private options, you can choose from over 37 private schools, including the prestigious Norfolk Academy. Also, on the border with Norfolk, a Catholic school district includes Catholic High School with its strong academic reputation.
Over 21 colleges, universities, and trade schools provide post-secondary education to Virginia Beach residents. Some options include the College of William & Mary, the second oldest college in the US; Regent University, a liberal arts school offering many graduate degrees, including psychology, social work, and religion; and Virginia Wesleyan College, a four-year school with a wide variety of majors. ECPI University and South University have Virginia Beach campuses. The local community college is Tidewater Community College,
Virginia Beach has a low crime rate. Best Places scores Virginia Beach crime at 10.5 for violent crime, and 33.2 for property crime. The national averages are 22.7 and 35.4. Crime hot spots are in the northwestern part of the city near Norfolk, which also has cheaper housing, and on the oceanfront during tourist season.
The City of Virginia Beach provides the most utility services.
- Water, sewer, trash, and recycling are taken care of by the city, and you can find information for these on their website.
- Electricity is provided through Dominion, which serves the entire Hampton Roads area; sign up on their website.
- Natural Gas comes from Virginia Natural Gas.
- Communications: The local cable franchise is Cox, offering phone, internet, and cable. Rival Verizon also operates their Fios service here, and the triple-service bundle is available in most areas. If you prefer satellite, both Dish and DirecTV are available, depending on which satellites you can catch in your neighborhood.
Best Neighborhoods in Virginia Beach
Choosing the best place to live in Virginia Beach requires that you consider the daily commute, quality of schools, affordability, and the all-around neighborhood vibe. To help you, we’ve rounded up the eight best neighborhoods in Virginia Beach.
If you’re dreaming of a large home in a beautiful leafy neighborhood and can afford it, you should consider Alanton. This neighborhood of 59,000 residents is in the northeastern part of the city, bordered by Broad Bay to the north, and Linkhorn Bay to the east. Houses set back from gently curving streets tend to be very large and come with large yards. Some have water access or are waterfront, delighting fishing, and boating lovers. A community pool at the Baycliff Recreation Center provides neighborhood recreation, and in general, you’ll find this suburban area is fairly quiet with little traffic.
Although the neighborhood is mainly residential, Cape Henry Collegiate School, Sun Bright Coatings, an insurance agency, and a few financial advisors call this neighborhood home. Residents are car-dependent and drive to nearby Laskin Avenue for basic items, including groceries or coffee.
- Home price: median list price is $724,500
- Rent price: $1,500 per month,
- Schools: Alanton Elementary (great schools score 7/10), Lynnhaven Middle School (6/10), and First Colonial High School (5/10).
Great Neck is just east of Alanton, between Broad Bay on the east and the Eastern Branch of the Lynnhaven River on the west. With a population of 61,000, this neighborhood has plenty to do, and the properties tend to be much smaller than in Alanton. Still, many homes sit on beautiful forested lots, many with ponds, docks, or water views.
Overall, Great Neck has a middle-class family vibe, and during the summer, there are plenty of backyard barbecues and visits with neighbors. First Landing State Park is just northeast, on the outskirts of Great Neck. Great Neck Park and Recreation Center and the Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club, a major sports facility, offer plenty of options to meet your neighbors and get in some exercise.
Great Neck Road runs through the center of the neighborhood and is lined with several shopping centers with plenty of cafes, coffee places, and small businesses. Enjoy some excellent local dining, or go to the Hilltop and Lynnhaven areas for something extra-special.
- Home price: median home price $375,000
- Rent price: $1000
- Schools: Dey Elementary (8/10), Great Neck Middle (9/10), and First Colonial High (5/10).
If you’d love to live on the beach, but don’t want to contend with all the tourists, you’ll love Chic’s Beach. This neighborhood of 4,000 people is small in area but big in character. Chic’s Beach is bordered by Shore Drive (Hwy 60) on the southwest before it turns toward the middle east-west of the neighborhood and connects with the north-south running N Great Neck Rd. The Little Creek Joint Expeditionary Base is on the western border, and the entrance to Witchduck Bay borders the east. The toll booths for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel sit within the neighborhood.
You can find beachy styled townhomes, lovely single-family homes on forested lots, condos on the beach, and attractive apartments in this safe and relatively affordable neighborhood. Because of its proximity to the base, there’s plenty of shopping and dining. Beach culture dominates the restaurants, which trend toward ultra-fresh bay and seafood. Much of the shopping centers around offering basic necessities, such as groceries, coffee shops, clothing, and a bookstore. In general, you’ll need a car to get around, run errands, and commute.
- Home price: median list price $375,000
- Rent price: $1,090
- Schools: Children attend schools outside the neighborhood, including Thoroughgood Elementary School 9/10, Hermitage Elementary School 7/10, Great Neck Middle (9/10), and Cox High (6/10).
Thoroughgood is a lovely quiet neighborhood, and one of Virginia Beach’s oldest. It’s home to Thoroughgood House, one of the few remaining colonial homes in the area. Homes range from very small single-family houses to grand estates on Witchduck Bay. This established community of 7,000, with Hwy 60 at its northern border and Independence Blvd on the southwest border, has a lot of character. Although there aren’t many amenities in the neighborhood itself, the streets are very walkable and quiet.
Just a short drive away, there are all kinds of businesses ranging from pharmacies and fast food spots to a movie theatre and mid-priced dining. For more shopping, Pembroke Mall is a few miles south on Independence Blvd, and Chic’s Beach is close by to the northwest.
Families who are looking for a quiet suburban neighborhood will find single story ranch style homes on large lots, beach style homes, and larger estates on the waterfront. There are no apartments in Thoroughgood, but occasionally a home will come up for rent.
- Home price: median home value $379,000, but the current median listing price is $469,900
- Rent price: $1,800
- Schools: Thoroughgood Elementary (9/10), Independence Middle School (7/10), and Princess Anne High (7/10), which offers the International Baccalaureate program.
Middle-class and proud of it, Kempsville is a larger neighborhood of 52,000 residents. Indian River Road cuts through the neighborhood diagonally east to west, along with Lynnhaven Parkway, Centerville Turnpike, and Providence Rd. Overall, the neighborhood is located just east of I-64 and south of I-264, near the western central part of the city near the cities of Chesapeake and Norfolk.
A wide variety of businesses call Kempsville home: Regent University, Amerigroup, and CBN are located close together off Indian River Road, and many of their employees live in Kempsville. Several shopping centers make running errands handy, and lots of churches serve the residents. Kempsville Recreation Center, Kempsville Library, and a police precinct round out the neighborhood.
Housing is varied. You’ll find a choice of single-family houses, townhomes, condos, and apartments; overall, the area is affordable. Houses tend to be smaller and usually have a bit of a yard. Students live in many of the rentals.
- Home price: $260,000.
- Rent price: $1200
- Schools: Salem Elementary (8/10), Salem Middle (8/10), and Tallwood High (7/10).
At the southernmost area of Virginia Beach, Sandbridge is a retreat if you’re looking for lots of peace and quiet in a beautiful environment. The gateway to Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, Sandbridge is composed of a strip of land along Sandpiper Road and has 900 residents. Locals enjoy the beach, sipping drinks in the small restaurants, browsing beachside shops, and exploring the extraordinary wildlife refuge. Businesses other than shops or restaurants are mostly real-estate related, though there are some hotels and outdoor adventure businesses that cater to Back Bay visitors.
Living here is pleasant, even though there are inconveniences related to being out in the sticks. For instance, children will have to commute to school if you live here year-round, and any shopping beyond groceries and the drug store will require a trip into Great Neck. Nonetheless, this neighborhood is legendary for its unique quality of life.
- Home price: $650,000
- Rent price: $1700
- Schools: Local schools are Red Mill Elementary (9/10), Princess Anne Middle (8/10), and Kellam High (7/10).
Close to everything yet private, Pembroke Meadows is a neighborhood of 4,800 off of Independence Blvd at Pembroke Blvd and Whitechapel Drive. Mainly residential, this neighborhood nonetheless has a lot to offer. For one thing, there’s a shopping center off Independence Blvd that offers a little bit of everything, including a movie theater and grocery store. Several doctors’ offices are near Sentara Independence Hospital. You can find restaurants up and down Independence Blvd, and if you need to buy most other things, head over to Pembroke Mall and its surrounding shopping area.
Overall, this is a pleasant neighborhood where you can walk for a few errands, or even stroll to church. Old Donation Church, a historic Episcopal parish, is at the heart of the neighborhood.
- Home price: $314,000
- Rent price: $1,000.
- Schools: Pembroke Meadows Elementary (6/10), Independence Middle (7/10), and Princess Anne High (7/10).
Located in north-central Virginia Beach, this urban neighborhood of about 18,000 is fairly diverse. With Virginia Beach Boulevard on the southern border, the remainder of King’s Grant is surrounded by water. Lynnhaven Bay, Dix Creek, the Lynnhaven River, and Hebden Cove are just some of the waterways that give residents either waterfront access or a view of the water from King’s Grant. The main arteries, North Lynnhaven Rd, King’s Grant Rd, and Little Neck Rd, form the heart of the neighborhood.
Part residential neighborhood and part business district, there’s plenty to do in King’s Grant. Home styles vary from two-story brick colonials set back from the street on lovely lots, large estate homes, rambling ranch styles shaded by mature trees, and waterfront homes with decks and docks.
For convenience, you’ll find several mid-range chain restaurants including a Denny’s, Applebee’s, and Bonefish Grill; the central branch of Virginia Beach Library; several shopping centers; and car dealers. Brill Field and King’s Grant Park offer a welcome break from the overall urban environment. Tourists and locals alike enjoy the Barrett Street auction house and Antique Mall where you’ll be sure to find a special treasure to decorate your new home.
If you’re hoping for a more urban neighborhood, you’ll love King’s Grant. You’re close to everything, can enjoy the bustle of the big city, and plenty of shopping is just around the corner.
- Home price: $390,000
- Rent price: $1500
- Schools: Kingston Elementary (9/10), Lynnhaven Middle (6/10), and First Colonial High (6/10).
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