How To Find Your Dream Home In Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia’s history gives it charm and makes it feel like the sort of place where a family could put down roots, but it also offers desirable modern amenities. As a result, people are flocking to Richmond. From 2010 through 2019, Richmond grew 12%, significantly higher than the surrounding areas.

That growth means that if you’re thinking of moving to Richmond, you’re in good company but facing heavy competition. On average, Richmond homes are on the market for just 26 days. If you’re interested in scoring your dream home in this growing city, you’ll need to be ready to move quickly.

We’ve gathered tips from Richmond real estate experts, collected advice from locals, and scoured through national data to come up with this comprehensive guide. Knowing where and when you should be looking for your new home as well as what to know about common building flaws and pest issues will help give you a leg up on other home shoppers in this charming city.

Whether you’re looking to move to Richmond, or want to stop dropping rent into an apartment but aren’t sure where to start, here’s how to begin your journey to finding the right home for you.

Money to buy a house in Richmond.
Source: (NeONBRAND/ Unsplash)

How to set a realistic budget in Richmond

The cost of homes in Richmond is surprisingly reasonable given the popularity of the area. The median price of homes sold in Richmond during 2018 was $257,000, according to Richmond.com.

Most of those are existing-home sales, but when we separate new home purchases from existing-home sales, the prices look considerably different. The average sales price for new homes in Richmond in 2018 was $364,600, while the average price for existing homes was $233,300 according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Though there is a large range of home prices in Richmond, most are centered around that median, and it’s not unreasonable to expect to find a great home at that price.

Considering Richmond is one of the largest metropolitan areas in Virginia, it’s incredible that you can buy a home and it doesn’t cost significantly more than it does in Virginia’s smaller cities and towns.

The convenience of metro living is not totally without cost, though. Property tax for Richmond homes is higher than average in Virginia, at a 1.2% tax rate. This has made some of the Richmond suburbs especially alluring. In nearby Henrico County, the average property tax rate is 0.87%.

Homeowners association, or HOA, dues are another detail to consider when calculating budget. Many of the neighborhoods in Richmond and the surrounding counties have HOAs. In Virginia, every housing development that has shared communal space, even a playground, needs to have an HOA, a fact that takes many from out of state by surprise. In Virginia, at least, HOA isn’t a bad word.

Because so many neighborhoods in Virginia have HOAs, the rules can vary wildly from “very strict” to “barely existent,” and the fees tend to be in line with that variety.

Andrew Boyd, secretary of a Richmond HOA, was quick to join the board of his HOA and helps to organize neighborhood trash cleanups and get togethers. While most people are worried that HOAs are very restrictive, Boyd’s HOA has only six bylaws and charges $100 a year for dues.

For that $100, the HOA maintains community open spaces, organizes get togethers and pays for food, and removes any dead trees in the area before they endanger the houses.

If you love the idea of communal areas that are well-maintained, want to meet your neighbors through board meetings, and like having a set of rules and guidelines, you may really feel drawn to a neighborhood with an active HOA, but you should include the fees in your overall budget and be sure to see a copy of the rules in advance. A good real estate agent will be able to tell you early on if a home you’re looking at has an HOA and any associated rules and fees.

A house you can buy in Richmond.
Source (re-sized): (Morgan Riley/ Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Legal Code)

Shopping for homes in Richmond: Restored historic gems, fixer uppers, and fenced-in yards

Richmond is an old city, so if what you’re looking for is old-school charm and the timeless quality of older construction, you’re in luck! There are many beautiful older homes for sale in Richmond.

Thanks to a resurgence in some of the older areas, many historic homes have already been lovingly restored.

When looking for a restoration that’s going to hold up as well as a home’s structure has, look for older styles that fit the layout of the house while incorporating modern features.

While Craftsman-style homes seem to be perennially desirable, ultra-rustic touches may not hold up as well. If you’re in a more DIY space, there are still many fixer-uppers available on the market as well. Older homes can gain new life with a few well-planned renovations.

Modern homes are available, too, and these have many other features that are considered desirable. Open floor plans, updated kitchens, and comfortable master suites with a functional and attractive bathroom are all features that will improve resale value, a good factor to keep in mind if you think you’ll want to upgrade later.

Another feature to keep an eye out for is a fenced-in backyard. Richmond is a dog-friendly city, and most people moving either have, or want, a dog of their own. Having a fenced-in yard is a nice bonus, but it’s also one of the easiest features to add and can be a great way to increase the resale value of a starter home.

In some ways, it’s nice to select a home without a fence already constructed since that gives you the freedom to select a high-quality fence made out of materials that require little maintenance.

There are some features that you may need to move to the “nice to have, but not necessary” list due to their scarcity. Those for whom a garage is a “must-have” would be best-suited to look along the outskirts of town, but don’t expect to find basements no matter where you’re looking.

Richmond’s humidity and river proximity make basements a rarity. Most homes are instead constructed with a crawl space underneath. Crawl spaces are perhaps not as practical as a storage-rich basement, but provided they’re well-kept, they are significantly more practical when living so close to a river.

A good real estate agent should be able to help you find a home inspector who’s equipped to check a crawlspace for any moisture-related issues and make sure you’re starting out on the right foot.

A bridge near a house you can buy in Richmond.
Source: (Charles Campbell/ Unsplash)

Navigating Richmond’s diverse array of neighborhoods

Richmond has worked hard to reinvent itself and attract young people. In the process, it’s managed to offer something for everyone. In addition to a wealth of museums and historical landmarks, Richmond has added a lively downtown, numerous budding breweries, and a bevy of high-tech companies that have created opportunities for the sharpest minds. Richmond has also become home to a rapidly growing arts scene.

Though Richmond is host to the Broadway performances, live musical acts, and boutique one-of-a-kind-stores that make metropolitan life so appealing, it’s also in the center of some of Virginia’s most beautiful natural attractions.

The James River runs through the center of the city, providing spectacular waterside views. Located within easy driving distance to Virginia Beach as well as the Appalachian Mountains, Richmond makes sure you never have to decide whether you’re a beach or mountain person when you’d rather be both. Even within the city itself, Richmond has a rich supply of activities for nature lovers, whether you’d prefer to walk through the massive Lewis Ginter botanical garden or any of the many parks that Richmond has scattered across all 107 of its neighborhoods.

Each of Richmond’s neighborhoods has its own distinct feel and predominant home style. Given the variety of this relatively intimidating number of potential homes, there’s a perfect home for almost every taste within the city, but finding it can be a challenge.

Richmond’s diverse array of neighborhoods means that there is something here for you. Whether you imagine yourself living in a farmhouse-inspired two-story with your own organic garden or prefer a modern condo where you can see all the action of the city from your window, you’ll find it here.

Naturally, budget is an important part of the homebuying equation, and it’s important to strike a balance between desirable features and an affordable mortgage. This is one of the areas where location is most important.

Homes around the outskirts of the city tend to offer more acreage and square footage for a lower price tag and are great finds for new families with young children. These up-and-coming neighborhoods often have backyards that are perfect for after-school play but are also located near parks and within easy travel distance to the museums and parks downtown.

The proximity of these neighborhoods to the major highways, 64 and 95 especially, can either be a blessing or a curse. For those commuting into Charlottesville, Lexington, Williamsburg, or other nearby cities, living near the highways makes for an easy commute, and makes Richmond a great central home location for partners with jobs in different locales.

Though there are over a hundred neighborhoods, they can roughly be divided into six areas: Downtown, East End, Near West, West End, North Side, and Southside. Thankfully, naming the divisions after the cardinal directions makes it easy to visualize what group of neighborhoods you’re looking at.

Downtown

Downtown Richmond is at the heart of the city, where the oldest neighborhoods collide with the historic landmarks that Richmond is known for.

Main neighborhoods: Court End, Jackson Ward, Monroe Ward, The River District, and Shockoe Slip

Notable landmarks: The Virginia State Capitol, Richmond Ballet, The National, the Richmond Coliseum, and Brown’s Island.

Benefits: The benefits of living in downtown Richmond include living within walking distance to some of Richmond’s most notable attractions. If you love the sounds of the city and the hustle and bustle of excited crowds, you’ll love leaving your windows open and hearing the sounds of the world around you.

Downsides: The roads of downtown Richmond are tight and difficult to navigate. Many of the landmarks in Downtown Richmond are tourist attractions, which means that weekend traffic can be especially crowded. Additionally, homes in this area are limited, and tend to have a price tag that’s reflective.

East End

East End neighborhoods have been the target of a lot of recent development. In particular, Fulton Hill has seen massive changes. Stone Brewing, a popular brewery, has made Fulton Hill the hub of its East Coast operations, and Tobacco Row, which now has more lofts and museums than Tobacco, is also centered here. Church Hill is another notable neighborhood that’s been renovated substantially, and it is a great neighborhood for those looking to retire.

Main neighborhoods: Church Hill, Fairmount, Fulton Hill, Libby Hill, Shockoe Bottom, Tobacco Row, and Union Hill.

Notable landmarks: The Edgar Allen Poe Museum, Virginia Holocaust Museum, and Richmond National Battlefield Park.

Benefits: Historic buildings that have been recently renovated are common in East End. East End also has many properties that fall outside of the city lines and are considered part of the surrounding counties, lowering asking prices and property taxes.

Downsides: Homes in this area tend to be smaller; you’ll see a lot of one-story bungalows in this area. Flooding affects this area more than some other areas in Richmond, due to its close proximity to the river. Historic preservation is a key value of many neighborhoods in this region, and modernity is best kept behind perfectly preserved doors.

Near West and West End

Near West and West End are usually lumped together due to both their close proximity and similarity as well as the fact that the actual border between the two is much-disputed. The western side of Richmond is home to Carytown and the Museum District as well as The Fan. Scott’s Addition is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in all of Richmond, partially due to its high walkability factor and partially due to its vibrant nightlife scene.

Main neighborhoods: Byrd Park, Carver, Carytown, The Fan, Uptown, Newtowne West, Oregon Hill, Randolph, Scott’s Addition, Three Corners District, and Windsor Farms

Notable landmarks: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Science Museum, Byrd Park, Maymont Nature Center, and the Byrd Theatre

Benefits: There’s no shortage of things to do on this side of town, but if you do find yourself longing to explore the other parts of Virginia, this side of Richmond is proximally located to multiple major highways, including interstate 64. There’s a variety of different prominent architecture styles, so whether you prefer something Victorian or something modern you’ll be able to find it in this area.

Downsides: As these neighborhoods continue to grow, it becomes more challenging to find housing. The more centrally located the individual neighborhood within the West End, the more expensive they tend to be, with homes in the Fan and Windsor Farms typically being among the most expensive.

Northside

Northside is predominantly residential, which means that there’s fewer attractions that are easy to walk to. It also means that there are a large variety of homes in well-established neighborhoods.

Main neighborhoods: Barton Heights, Bellevue, Chestnut-Hill Plateau, Ginter Park, Rosedale, Washington Park, Highland Park, and Sherwood Park

Notable attractions: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Bryan Park, Richmond Raceway, and Three Lakes Park and Nature Center.

Benefits: Since it’s predominantly residential, streets tend to be quieter, and there are more abundant residences to view. Arts and Crafts-style bungalows are popular in this area, and traveling further into Richmond during the weekends is easy. There is easy access to interstate 95 or interstate 64, making traveling outside of Richmond easy as well.

Downsides: Northside is less walkable than many other neighborhoods, and there are fewer recent renovations, leaving many homes in need of updates.

Southside

Southside is almost like an entirely different city. Although it’s a part of Richmond, the southside is separated from the rest of the city by the James River. Many love having this kind of separation, and enjoying all of the conveniences of living in Richmond with a little separation is seen as desirable.

Benefits: Southside has a history all its own, and though it’s as storied as the portions of the city north of the River, the city developed very differently. The museums and events of Richmond are just over the bridge, but not so close that tourists are likely to be photographing your house.

Downsides: Homes in this area tend to be very expensive. Additionally, the Southside has a reputation of being a little aloof, which can be off-putting for newcomers. Thankfully, that does seem to be changing.

Source: (Charles Campbell/ Unsplash)

Common home inspection issues you’ll encounter in Richmond

During the initial walkthrough, Tommy Sibiga, a top real estate agent who’s helped buy or sell 245 single-family homes in Richmond, advises his clients to pay attention to four crucial details: windows, roofs, siding, and the HVAC. These represent the four areas that can quickly eat into your budget and can be deal-breakers.

If windows won’t close correctly or have signs of cracking around the frame, that can be indicative of foundation problems. Less obviously, though, windows that aren’t well maintained or appropriately sized can cause major problems with heating and cooling a home in Richmond.

Virginia is very much a four-season state, and summers can be dangerously hot while winters routinely bring sub-zero temperatures. This is why having a good HVAC system is also an important consideration when evaluating a home in Richmond.

Roofs and siding can be expensive to repair, and usually require rapid repairs in order to ensure that there aren’t more issues to consider later.

The issues affecting roofs, siding, windows, and HVACs are pretty common, but one issue that is unique to Richmond are the problems that can affect crawlspaces.

Finding a home inspector who is crawlspace-knowledgeable is a crucial detail that many fail to follow through on. A crawlspace with moisture issues is a common occurrence, and installing a new moisture barrier is a good line item for closing or an important first maintenance procedure.

Radon, a huge issue in homes closer to the mountains or with an enclosed basement, is almost a non-issue for much of Richmond. Though it’s unlikely that radon will present a problem, many still advise doing a radon test as part of the closing inspections. These tests are relatively inexpensive and can offer peace of mind.

Termites are certainly a concern, especially in homes with older construction. Though getting a termite inspection is useful and is a good condition to add to an offer, many in Richmond choose to subscribe to a pest control service. Pest control services offer continual treatment to keep termites and other common household pests at bay. There are a variety of pest-control services that can also help if you’re in need of assistance with bat removal or raccoon trapping. The average cost for bug and pest control is around $152.83, depending on the size of your house.

An hourglass to represent buying a house in Richmond.
Source: (Nathan Dumlao/ Unsplash)

When to buy in Richmond

The traditional wisdom of shopping in the spring doesn’t really apply to Richmond, where homes are in high demand year-round.

Buyers looking to find a hidden gem that offers champagne details on a grape-juice budget should focus on flexibility rather than seasonal shopping.

If anything, the conventional wisdom that spring is the best time to shop has made it the worst time to house-hunt since there will be so much homebuying competition, which can add stress and make it harder to negotiate. Already, Sibiga advises his clients to be ready to make up their minds quickly.

Obviously, it’s ideal to have time to sleep on a large decision, but a good real estate agent can help you keep your “must-haves” at front of mind and won’t urge you to put an offer in on a house that they think will be a poor fit or that’s a bad deal.

Because homes move very quickly, with an average on-market time of only 26 days, buyers need to be ready to make quick choices when something great comes on the market.

This is one of the areas where it’s helpful to have an agent who is familiar with the local market. Agents who know the different features of the neighborhoods and are quick to spot houses that are about to hit the market in addition to poring over the most recently added picks can help match buyers with their perfect home without a lot of shopping around.

Finding a real estate agent in Richmond

Having a real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of life in Richmond can be invaluable, which is why hiring a top agent is so desirable. Make sure to ask potential agents the right questions to make sure you’re on the same page.

In addition to preserving your budget, a real estate agent who understands the home styles, feelings of different neighborhoods, and is aware of the potential pitfalls of houses can help to steer you in the right direction and make sure that you’re the first in line when your dream home is available. Plus, a top buyer’s agent in Richmond saves buyers an average of $17,377 on their home purchase — that’s a lot of craft beer you could be buying!

Getting started with a real estate agent is as simple as talking through your must-haves and can’t-stands and establishing a budget, from there they’ll help to offer guidance and direction on what your next steps are for buying a home in Richmond.

Header Image Source: (Sean Pavone/ Shutterstock)

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