Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Are you thinking about moving to military-friendly Arlington Virginia in 2022?
Quick Snapshot of Arlington
As a native of Arlington Virginia, I can tell you that Arlington has changed a lot in 20 years. While Arlington remains a popular place to live, the pandemic has taken toll and the county is in a state of flux.
Notwithstanding, I am proud that Arlington is home to more than 120,000 civilian veterans! Our strong military community is part of what makes Arlington such a great place to live. Arlington is attractive for military personnel because of its excellent proximity to some of the most prestigious military bases in the world, including Andrews AFB, Fort Bevloir, Fort Detrick, Fort McNair, Fort Meade, JB Anacostia – Bolling, JB Myer – Henderson Hall, Marine Barracks, Naval Medical Center, Naval Research Laboratory, Navy Yard, NRO Chantilly, Quantico, The Pentagon, and Walter Reed. I will caution that when moving to the Arlington area, there are a number of important things to consider when purchasing a home:
Arlington’s “daytime” population — counting people traveling here to work — can reach upwards of 300,000 (pre-pandemic). *Daytime population change due to commuting: +60,382 (+25.5%) Workers who live and work in this place: 51,969 (34.8%). Those numbers are currently much lower and will take some time to evaluate as businesses continue to bring employees back to the office.
22 percent of Arlington households are households with children.
Median resident age: 35
Median household income: $119,755
Median house or condo value: $759,000
Median gross rent: $1,993
55 percent of Arlingtonians live within 1 mile of a Metro station.
98 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park.
Cost of Living in Arlington Virginia
Since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, like most everywhere in the U.S., the cost of living has skyrocketed in Arlington. Arlington's cost of living is easily 44% higher than the national average. Arlington's housing expenses are about 134% higher than the national average and transportation expenses like bus fares and gas prices are 6% higher than the national average. Arlington also has grocery prices that are 14% higher than the national average. However, the utility prices are 11% lower than the national average and healthcare in Arlington is about 2% lower. The cost of living is currently very high--and economists continue to posture that there are no signs of easing.
Understanding Northern Virginia by County
So, how to get started. When planning your move to the Arlington area there are a few things that are helpful to know about the culture of Northern Virginia. In particular, it’s becomes much easier to understand Northern Virginia once you understand the counties. What constitutes “Northern Virginia,” also locally referred to as NOVA or NoVA, is often loosely
described, but most locals will agree that “Northern Virginia Proper” is Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria City, and Falls Church. “Greater Northern Virginia” is Fairfax County, Arlington County, Alexandria City, Falls Church--with the added Loudoun County, and Prince William County. "Statistically speaking," Northern Virginia, according to Wikipedia for example, extends much further outward even toward Fredericksburg and Winchester City.
Thus, when looking at real estate online it can be confusing and hard to understand where to begin. For example, Stafford and Fredericksburg are "considered" Northern Virginia, though they are really not--at least not yet (even if Wikipedia says otherwise).
Understanding Counties in Northern Virginia
The point here is get to know the counties. “Northern Virginia Proper” is the prime location to live in, especially inside the 495 Capital Beltway, because of its proximity to Washington D.C. The school systems are stellar (some of the best in the United States), but housing is older and very expensive. Loudoun County is also a very wealthy area and offers excellent schools but is further west meaning your commute into the city will be much greater. You will find newer homes and more for your money, however much of Loudoun is considered prime real estate as well (Ashburn for example). Prince William County is south of Washington D.C. and also features some nice neighborhoods and school districts, but packs a hefty commute up the heavily trafficked I-66 and I-95 corridor. Currently, I-95 is probably slightly worse in terms of commute though I-66 isn’t far behind (and there’s talk of adding Express Lanes to I-66). I-95 also features variable rate Express Lanes that are often very expensive (note: the 495 Capital Beltway also features variable rate Express Lanes). However, there are VRE and Metro options that extend west and south beyond Northern Virginia Proper.
To recap the proximity point with a different example, it may seem strange, but even though Virginia and Maryland are close together, locals consider the states to be two different worlds. It is not uncommon to hear a Northern Virginian scoff at the idea of driving to Maryland! Or to hear an Arlington local scoff at the idea of driving to Loudoun County. The regions may be interconnected but Northern Virginia Proper, Greater Northern Virginia, Statistical Northern Virginia–and even Maryland are very different worlds. The main reasons for this are commuting traffic, cost of living, and population density. So even though areas are close together on a map, traveling to and from can be very difficult.
Now that you have a better sense of how to sort through the counties, here are some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a new home.
Access to Multiple Commuting Options is Paramount Purchasing a property in Arlington County offers you easy access to the Orange Line Metro, which is one of the best ways to get around the Northern Virginia-Washington D.C. Metro area. Living in Arlington also means you have the added incentive of significantly shorter commutes to work (if you want to drive), which believe me, for some people is a huge perk. With that said, you will want to check the parking situation at your workplace, assuming your workplace provides parking. It is very common in the Washington D.C. metro area for employers to only allot a limited number of parking spaces to employees (i.e. the employee to parking spot ratio is not equal) meaning you could be stuck shuttling or busing in, which can be a rude awakening on your first day! So be sure to check.
Additionally, you have to factor the cost of commuting which can include metro cost, tolls, VRE, parking, buses, and gas versus the price of the home. As outlined in my section above about analyzing Northern Virginia by county, basically the further you live from Washington D.C., the more affordable the housing gets (in theory), but at the expense of longer commute, high toll rates, and sometimes school districts with lower ratings (greatschools.org). There is also the issue of where your spouse or partner works and accommodating their work commute as well. It can be challenging to find a neighborhood that benefits everyone (and the BAH budget), but don’t worry, it is possible! In fact, many people are able to find single family homes that suit their needs, while many others opt for townhomes and condos because they simply don’t want the long commutes. It’s a tough decision but a doable one.
Choose Your Neighborhood Wisely If you are looking to live in a military-friendly community in Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, or Falls Church there are a few that are particularly popular with veterans. Some of those towns, neighborhoods, and subdivisions (in alphabetical order) include but are not limited to:
Falls Church City
Get To Know the Weather In terms of seasons, Northern Virginia enjoys all four, as in you can expect beautiful springs, crisp falls, relatively mild winters, and humid summers! However, don’t be surprised if it’s 70 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next. There are definitely some nuances. For example, if there’s even a hint of snow, you can expect a snow day. Unlike other east coast cities, Northern Virginia has a tendency to “call it” and close down the Federal Government and schools and issue telework options. Now if you’re essential personnel, that’s a different story and you’ll likely be trucking in, though you should enjoy improved free-flowing traffic on those days (minus the plows). However, for the most part we enjoy some pretty nice weather. Virginia is also rich in varying foliage varieties and features an abundance of beautiful trees and flowers. The weather in Virginia tends to be quite humid as well and we get our fair share of rain, so be sure to check the flood zones when purchasing a new home. Additionally, seasonal allergies tend to affect some people quite significantly, so be wary of that as well.
Choose Your Realtor Wisely I’ll be honest with you. When choosing a Realtor, you really need to choose a Realtor that specializes in the area where you are trying to buy (or sell) because you’re going to want that edge in the competitive Northern Virginia market where properties move FAST. And of course, now you’re expecting me to say I’m the best. Well, I’ll tell you, my client service goals are pretty specific and I’m a seasoned veteran. I’m not bragging here–I’m just very experienced and know that you have to be extremely proactive in the Arlington and Northern Virginia markets! The best thing I can tell folks looking to perform their due diligence is to just read my testimonials! And if that’s not enough, I had a successful career in law enforcement prior to becoming a broker, and I also come from a real estate family. The majority of my clients are in Federal Law Enforcement, Foreign Service, military, federal government, or are corporate relocation clients–and many are first time buyers.
Arlington tourist attractions:
About Brad Looking for an expert Arlington VA Realtor? If you are looking for a home in and around Arlington VA, I can help you. I am an expert in Arlington VA Real Estate and I can say this wholeheartedly because I am very experienced in the Arlington VA market. Clients like working with me because I am straightforward and a good listener. If you read my testimonials, you will find that people tend to say things like “quite simply, excellent,” “exceptional customer service,” “made the entire process seamless and very enjoyable,” “above and beyond,” “provided savvy counsel but we never felt any pressure from him,” “Brad was the only person that we really felt had our best interests at heart and was willing to provide a steady source of good information,” and much more. Many of my clients are Civilian and Veterans of the Military, Law Enforcement, Federal Government Employees and Defense Contractors, and Technology Professionals, though I work with a variety of clients and needs. Additionally, I assist many Real Estate Investors and Commercial clients as well.
Follow me on Facebook @Brad Winkelmann Real Estate Arlington VA, Orange Line Metro.