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Virginia may be for lovers, but it’s also one of the best markets to buy rental property. One of the most compelling reasons is its high concentration of colleges and universities. There are 129 institutions of higher learning within just 42,775 square miles — creating a constant demand for rental property.
Virginia is also attractive to families with younger children. Not only does the state boast stunning beaches, making it desirable for short-term and seasonal rentals, but the state’s public school system is rated 12th in the nation by US News & World Report. Parents who want to provide their kids the top-tier education without having to spend a fortune on private schools — or who are saving to buy their first home — typically begin by renting.
Yet another pool of perennial tenants are members of the United States Armed Forces. Virginia has one of the largest military populations in the United States, with approximately 115,280 active service members. Due to the transitory nature of many of their positions, many of those who live off-base opt to rent instead of buying.
To find the best markets, we evaluated investment opportunities for Virginia's five most populous cities according to:
- Investment Potential
- Rental Rates
If you're ready to invest in Virginia real estate, the first step is connecting with a local real estate expert. Our friends at Clever Real Estate make it easy to meet qualified, pre-vetted realtors from trusted brokerages including Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and Coldwell Banker.
Clever is a free, no-obligation agent matching service that helps you find the best local real estate agents and save big on your next real estate transaction. Clever Cash Back puts up to 0.5% of the purchase price back in your pocket after closing. In Virginia, where the median price for a single-family home is $447,500, that's up to $2,200!
1. The Best Place to Buy Rental Property in Virginia: Virginia Beach
When it comes to real estate for rentals, Virginia Beach edges to the top. This coastal city is perfect for investment purposes because it has a strong combination of features. It's got classic boardwalks, long stretches of beaches, a top-notch marine science center, and a whole host of beautiful parks, making it among the best cities for Airbnb investments as well as year-round renters. Virginia Beach has more than a dozen universities and colleges, too, attracting thousands of students from all over the country.
It’s no surprise, then, that Virginia Beach has a robust rental population. According to Zillow, the average home value has risen from $259,000 in 2015 to $367,667 in 2022. RentCafe reports that the average rent for a 970 square foot apartment in Virginia Beach is $1,492.
Alexandria is a charming historic city on the bank of the Potomac River, just outside of Washington D.C. Alexandria's cobblestone streets and row houses hold a trendy dining scene and high-end boutiques, all within an easy Metro commute into D.C. Fans of Real Housewives of Potomac and Wonder Woman 1984 may recognize filming locations!
Because Alexandria is an affluent city with plenty of amenities, many young professionals find its riverfront real estate too pricey to purchase. Zillowreported the average home value in Alexandria at $478,000 in 2015, rising to $641,415 in 2022.
Still, renters can enjoy Alexandria's perks — according to RentCafe, the average monthly rent is $1,944.
The county seat of Loudoun, Leesburg was established in 1758. Its well-preserved Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it has one of the most charming downtowns on the East Coast. Leesburg is close enough to Washington D.C. that it draws people who work in the nation’s capital who also desire the safety and security of a smaller town.
Leesburg has always been a tony town, but the average home prices have escalated in recent years. Although the average home value was $506,000 in 2015, it's spiked to $761,419 today, according to Zillow. These higher home values are also reflected in the rent. According to RentCafe, the average rent for an apartment in Leesburg costs $2,057.
Norfolk is a coastal city on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s the destination for anyone who enjoys outdoorsy pursuits, from sailing to crabbing to lounging on the beach.
The neighborhoods in Norfolk attract families, retirees, and seasonal residents. With large universities including Old Dominion, Norfolk State and Hampton, students comprise a substantial part of the population.
With average rent at $1,263, Norfolk is one of the more affordable cities on our list — and that translates to home values as well. You can purchase a typical single family home in Norfolk for around $272,000 — much less than Alexandria or Leesburg — while still expecting steady appreciation.
As Virginia's historic capital city, Richmond has a reputation for elegant beauty, art scene, museums, gardens, and stately homes four centuries in the making.
Jobs are abundant here, with large employers including Virginia Commonwealth University Health System and HCA Virginia Health System, as well as financial firms, such as Capital One Financial. Since Richmond is the state capital, there are plenty of government and political jobs here as well.
Richmond has seen a steep increase in home values in recent years. In 2015, Zillow listed the average home at $174,000. Today, that price has soared to $321,052. RentCafe lists the average rent in Richmond at just $1,384.
Next Steps for Your Rental Property Investment
From Virginia Beach's sunny beaches to Leesburg's historic homes, there's no shortage of real estate investment opportunities in Virginia.
If you're exploring real estate investment opportunities, our friends at Clever Real Estate can help. Clever is a free service that connects you with the best real estate agents from Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and other top-rated brokers who can help you find promising rental property opportunities.
Best of all, real estate investors who find an agent through Clever can qualify for Virginia's buyer rebate opportunities. You can receive up to 0.5% cash back at closing, which you can use to offset closing costs, get your new property ready for renters, or simply enjoy as extra money in your pocket.
What is the best place to buy rental property in Virginia?
Virginia Beach is the best place to buy rental property in Virginia, followed by Alexandria and Leesburg. Learn how population growth, job opportunities, and home values impact rental property investments.
Is rental property a good investment?
In general, rental property is considered a sound investment, but a rental property's success or failure depends on both local market conditions and business strategy. Learn how to spot good investment opportunities — and save time, energy, and money — before buying a rental property in Virginia.
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