If there is a post I feel comfortable in writing, it is this one — and probably the reason this post is so lengthy.
If you are in this business long enough, you will help folks to relocate here from all over the country (and world!) Sometimes people can only offer a description of a feeling of what they want (‘I want something old and classy’) while others come armed with research and specific areas (‘I want to be a 4 bedroom colonial on a cul-de-sac in the Cosby District for the IB program’). Regardless, helping people grasp our marketplace is the most rewarding part of the job.
Table of Contents
- Definitions and Geography
- Cost of Living (with a tool to compare where you are coming from to RVA)
- Richmond’s Home Price Hierarchy
- Suburban Richmond
- New Homes
- City Neighborhoods
- Development Trends
- The James River (pronounced ‘Rivah’)
The comments throughout the post are candid and represent my opinions of my 40+ years in RVA and my 20+ years as a Realtor in RVA.
Just so you realize, I have lived in Richmond for my entire life, including time living in the City, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover, and even spent my collegiate years at both University of Richmond (undergrad) and Virginia Commonwealth (grad) … so I know my way around. It is this combination of being a ‘Richmonder’ and being a Realtor gives me insight into this centuries-old city and it is this experience which allows me to help those with far less experience understand why Richmond has developed the way it has.
Definitions and Geography
Metro Richmond is primarily comprised of the City of Richmond, Henrico County, Chesterfield and Hanover County, which represents about 75% of the approximately 1.3M people in the region. Interstates 95, 64 and 295 connect the region with the James River providing Richmond commerce, entertainment and relaxation. Richmond is home to four institutions of higher learning:
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- Virginia Union University
- The University of Richmond
- Randolph Macon College (in Ashland)
Richmond VA is also home to:
- Federal Reserve Bank
- The State Capitol
- Two NASCAR races
- Multiple Festivals (our Jazz Festival rocks and we even have a ‘Bacon’ festival…)
- Multiple Breweries
- Some really amazing nationally-recognized restaurants
- Great Museums
- The James River …
… and a ton of other awesome things to do, people to meet, and places to see.
You will love it here.
The Big 4 of the Richmond Region (Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover)
The City of Richmond is the home to over 200,000 residents, the State Capitol, a Federal Reserve, Virginia Commonwealth University and numerous properties built prior to the formation of the United States of America. Bisected by the James River, Richmond is a collection of many neighborhoods, both residential and commercial (and mixed-use) largely built from early/middle 1800’s into the middle 1950’s.
- For Sale in the Downtown Neighborhoods, The Fan and Church Hill
- For Sale in the Near West End
- For Sale in Northside
- For Sale South of the James
Henrico County forms the City of Richmond’s northern border and surrounds the city along the James River’s north banks. With over 300,000 residents, Henrico is home to much of the region’s most upscale retail and suburban office parks. Henrico also offers excellent interstate access with I64, I295, I95 and Route 288 all within its borders.
The development of Henrico County began in earnest in the early 1900’s with much of its housing built post 1940. A great deal of housing is still being built in Henrico.
- For Sale in the Far West End
- For Sale in Glen Allen and Short Pump
- For Sale in Lakeside
- For Sale in Varina and Sandston
Chesterfield County is the most populous county in the region with well over 300,000 residents. Located south of the James River and along Richmond’s southern border, Chesterfield is connected to points north via Powhite Parkway, Route 288 and I95. Housing in Chesterfield is generally more affordable than Henrico with both rural and suburban options.
Chesterfield’s housing stock is mostly 1950’s or later with much of the development beginning in earnest in the 1970’s. Chesterfield’s development continues today and will for some time as massive tracts of land are still available along much of the 288 corridor.
- For Sale Bon Air and Northern Midlothian
- For Sale in Moseley and Southern Midlothian
- For Sale in ‘Chesterflield,’ Chesterfield Courthouse and Chester
Hanover County is located on Henrico’s northern border along the 295 corridor and bisected by I95. Hanover is known for its rural nature to the west and its more dense Mechanicsville to the east. With roughly 100,000 residents, Hanover is the 4th most populous municipal in the Richmond region. With more rural options, the real property tax rate is also one of the lowest. Hanover County is really two distinct areas, divided by I95, with tremendous development in the eastern sections and far less to the west. The housing is largely 1960’s or later with isolated instances of historic homes throughout the county and in the town of Ashland.
- Goochland County (West of Henrico) | For Sale
- Powhatan County (West of Chesterfield) | For Sale
- Amelia County (SW of Chesterfield) | For Sale
- New Kent County (East of Richmond/Henrico) | For Sale
- Prince George County (South and East of Richmond/Chesterfield) | For Sale
- Louisa County (North and West of Goochland and Hanover) | For Sale
- Caroline County (Directly North of Hanover County) | For Sale
- City of Hopewell (South and East of Richmond along the James River) | For Sale
Cost of Living
Richmond VA is somewhere near the middle of the pack when it comes to cost of living. However, when viewed next to the proximity to some of the most expensive places to live in the US, especially along the East Coast, Richmond provides good value. Housing prices are especially benign comparatively.
Roads, Travel and Distances
Richmond is well served by the Interstate system as well as larger thoroughfares to handle traffic around the Metro keeping commute time generally less than 30 minutes.
- Richmond is bisected by Interstates 95 (N/S) and 64 (E/W).
- 295 forms a beltway around the city from the west side near the Henrico/Goochland border, along the Hanover County line and around to the east where it ends into I95 far to the south below Petersburg.
- Route 288 completes the loop around the west side of the city and joins Henrico to Chesterfield. Its completion in the 1990s spurred tremendous growth along its path, especially in Chesterfield.
- The Powhite Parkway (Route 76) and Downtown Expressway connect the interchange of 64 and 95 to both Downtown and ‘South of the James’ via multiple tolls.
- Route 60 (Midlothian Turnpike), Route 360 (Hull Street to the West and Mechanicsville Tpke to the East) and Route 250 (Broad Street) connect many residential developments to retail shopping and the highway system.
- Chippenham Parkway (Route 150) connects runs along the City/Chesterfield border and connects I95 to Parham Road at the Willey Bridge.
Commutes and Travel
Richmond’s commutes are generally less than 30 minutes even from outlying locations to the city center. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine ranked Richmond’s commute as 4th best in the country. The same fact contributed to CNNMoney.com making Richmond the 5th least stressed out cities in America.
The Richmond International Airport is 20 minutes east of Downtown and while it has some direct flights, many flights connect through Charlotte and Atlanta.
Richmond is close to much of both the Northeast Corridor and the Mid Atlantic:
- 100 miles from Washington DC
- about 100 miles from Virginia Beach
- 180 miles from the Outer Banks of NC
- 70-90 miles from Charlottesville and the Blue Ridge Mountains
- The ‘Research Triangle’ of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill is about 2.5-3 hours by car
- Charlotte NC is about 4-5 hour car ride
- New York is about an hour flight or a 6 hour train ride
Chesapeake Bay Region
The Chesapeake Bay and the rivers of Eastern VA are anywhere from about 45 minutes to 2 hours by car, depending on which river you seek to enjoy. To explore the Bay and rivers of the Eastern Region, you may search our sister brokerage’s detailed site, Bay Properties in Mathews VA.
Richmond’s Geographic Home Price ‘Hierarchy’
Richmond VA has an ingrained western bias.
For a multitude of reasons, some geographic, some historical and some development-based, Richmond has grown west with far more vigor than it has grown east. Richmond is located at the furthest point inland where the James River became unnavigable and thus, the warehouses of Manchester and Shockoe were built to house the large number of goods being offloaded during our country’s earliest years. The rock falls which roughly begin at the Mayo (14th Street) Bridge prevented ships from moving any further west and now provide some of the most visually stunning river vistas in Virginia.
As with many East Coast cities, Richmond developed to the west as that is both where the fresher water and fresher air were located. With the prevailing winds taking the pollution to the east and the water less polluted ‘up-river’, developing to the west made sense.
Since Richmond initially developed on the north banks of the James River (and bridges of any scale were still years away), land values along the north bank tended to be higher than those south. Additionally, flood plains were more common along the south banks (other than in the Shockoe Bottom area) creating more demand for points north until connectivity between both sides of the River became more prevalent.
As you look at the property values across the region, you will generally find:
- West of Downtown > East of Downtown
- North of the River > South of the River
- Close to the River > Far from the River
In MLS terms (and these are generalizations, and thus, will have many exceptions):
- The Western Zones in the City and Henrico of 10, 20, 22 and Zone 34 west of Staples Mill tend to hold the most expensive properties
- Zones 64, 62, 54, 36, 44 and Zone 34 east of Staples Mill generally trade at a discount to the zones listed above for comparable homes. Zone 64, especially along the River, does contain many valuable properties on par with Zones 22 and 34.
- The Eastern and Southern Zones of 42, 40, 50 and 52 will generally provide more affordable housing than the MLS zones located to the West.
- North/Central Zones 30 and 32 are interesting in that the impact of I95 and Route 301 (the ‘Original Highway’) make these zones harder to understand as property values can shift rapidly in very short geographic distances.
A Distribution of Values Across the Region
Below is a heat map indicating the tax assessments across the region. Tax assessments tend to follow market values and thus are an indicator of the relative property values in the Metro. The red coloring indicates higher values and blue indicates lower values.
Below is a heat map indicating ‘Assessment Price per Square Foot’ from across the region during the same time period (computed by dividing the assessment by the property size.)
While there are exceptions to these rules of thumb for values across the region, they do hold mostly true as the most valuable property in Richmond is generally considered to be along the River’s north bank and west of Downtown. Some of the more value-oriented residential property can be found east of Downtown (once again, with several notable exceptions, Shockoe and Church Hill, specifically) and south along the 95 Industrial corridor.
Suburban Richmond, by Common Name
Only Realtors speak in MLS Zones or Zip Codes. Most buyers and sellers speak in more familiar terms.
‘I have a friend who told me I should live in Midlothian … or Short Pump … or Downtown’ means more than ‘My friend told me to buy a 4/2.5 Zone 34 transitional’ to the large majority of people. Some of the commonly used names for the various suburban areas in the RVA Metro are as follows:
- Glen Allen For Sale – Northwest Henrico, near 295/64/288, Short Pump Town Center and Innsbrook | MLS 34
- Short Pump For Sale – Far Western Henrico mostly centered along Broad Street | MLS 34 and 22
- The West End For Sale – West of the City and south of Broad Street | MLS 22
- Lakeside For Sale – Central Henrico | MLS 32
- Sandston/Highland Springs/Varina For Sale – Eastern Henrico, close to the Airport | MLS 40 and 42
- Ashland For Sale – Along 95/Route 1 and the railroad tracks | MLS 36
- Mechanicsville For Sale – Eastern Hanover near I295 and Route 360 | MLS 44 and 36
- Atlee For Sale – Central Hanover near 95/Route 1 and Route 301 | MLS 36
- Beaverdam and Montpelier For Sale – Far Western Hanover | MLS 36
- Old Church For Sale – Far Eastern Hanover | MLS 44
- Doswell For Sale – North Central Hanover near Kings Dominion theme park | MLS 36
- Hanover Courthouse For Sale – North Central Hanover County along 301 corridor | MLS 44
- Midlothian For Sale – North and West in Chesterfield surrounding the ‘Village of Midlothian’ | MLS 64 and 62
- Bon Air For Sale – Abuts the City along Huguenot/Jaknke and Buford Roads | MLS 64
- Chester For Sale – Souther Chesterfield along Route 1 and I95 approcahing Colonial Heights and Petersburg | MLS 52
- Chesterfield Courthouse For Sale – Central Chesterfield along Route 10/Rt 288 near the Chesterfield County Courts/Government Complex and the Chesterfield municipal airport | MLS 54
- Moseley For Sale – Western/Central Chesterfield between Midlothian Turnpike and Hull Street | MLS 54 and 62
Understanding Suburban Richmond is Understanding the Public Schools
The statement above is pretty self explanatory.
If you look at the highest valued homes, they can generally be found in the school districts ‘ranked’ the highest, at least in suburban Richmond. The City of Richmond behaves differently than suburban Richmond as much of the school-aged populous in the Western sections of the City attends private schools.
For a list of homes broken down by High School in Henrico:
- Deep Run HS | Glen Allen/Nuckols Road – Deep Run Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Godwin HS | Far West End – Mills Godwin Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Freeman HS | Near West End – Douglas Freemen Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Glen Allen HS | Glen Allen/Staples Mill Road – Glen Allen Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Tucker HS | Parham Road/Near West End – Tucker Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Hermitage HS | Glen Allen/Central Henrico – Hermitage Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Henrico HS | Central Henrico – Henrico Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Highland Springs HS | Eastern Henrico – Highland Springs Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Varina HS | Eastern Henrico – Varina Rankings | Homes For Sale
For a list of Homes broken down by High School in Chesterfield:
- Midlothian HS – Midlothian – Midlothian Rankings | Homes For Sale
- James River HS – Robious Road/Bon Air – James River Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Cosby HS – Western Chesterfield/Moseley – Cosby Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Clover Hill HS – Southwest Chesterfield/Brandermill – Clover Hill Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Monacan HS – Central Chesterfield – Monacan Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Manchester HS – Southern and Central Chesterfield – Manchester Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Meadowbrook HS – Southeast Chesterfield – Meadowbrook Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Thomas Dale HS – Chester – Thomas Dale Rankings | Homes For Sale
- LC Bird HS – Chesterfield Courthouse – LC Bird Rankings | Homes For Sale
- Matoaca HS – Southern Chesterfield – Matoaca Rankings | Homes For Sale
Private High Schools:
- Benedictine Rankings
- St. Christopher’s Rankings
- Collegiate Rankings
- St. Catherine’s Rankings
- Steward School
- St. Gertrude’s Rankings
- Veritas Rankings
- Trinity Rankings
- Goochland Rankings | For Sale
- New Kent Rankings | For Sale
- Prince George Rankings | For Sale
- Hopewell Rankings | For Sale
- Powhatan Rankings | For Sale
- Caroline Rankings | For Sale
- Amelia Rankings | For Sale
- Louisa Rankings | For Sale
The New Home Market
The news homes in Richmond are being built primarily along the 295 Corridor and along the 288 corridor. As discussed above, as you move from the east to the west, prices tend to increase, and this largely holds true for new housing as well.
New Housing ‘Nodes’ in the RVA Region
Beginning along the I295/Rt. 360 (eastern Hanover) and 295/301 corridor along the Hanover/Henrico border, a great deal of new housing is being built (Hanover HS and Lee Davis HS districts). Located within the greater Mechanicsville sub-market, the new homes are mostly of the 4 and 5 bedroom/2200 to 3000 SF variety located on typical suburban subdivision lots with public utilities.
There are still pockets of building in the Atlee area and into Western Hanover County (MLS Zone 36), but large scale development is less common (Rutland is one notable exception.)
As you move west towards the Route 33 (Staples Mill) and Nuckols Road Corridor (Glen Allen/Deep Run/As yet to be named HS along Kain Road), you will find a more expensive cluster of new homes close to the region’s most upscale retail, most successful office park and near the intersection of 64/295 and 288, making interstate access some of the best in the Metro. The newly constructed homes in Glen Allen tend to be more expensive (especially along the Nuckols Road corridor) than those to the east or those to the south.
As you cross the James along 288, many of Chesterfield’s largest and most upscale neighborhoods are being being built. The Robious Road (Rt. 711) corridor offers some of the most upscale in the area, Route 60 (Midlothian Turnpike) and Route 360 (Hull Street) each offer a wide selection of homes, neighborhoods and amenities in a variety of neighborhoods. Probably the greatest density of new homes being built in the region exists between Route 60 and Route 360 along 288 in western Chesterfield.
As you move further south along the Route 10 (Iron Bridge Road) and into the Chesterfield Courthouse corridor, you will find a slightly less expensive version of the housing mentioned above with a few more larger lot subdivision options, albeit in a more remote setting.
New Houses in City of Richmond
- City of Richmond Less Than $250k
- City of Richmond Between $250k and $350k
- City of Richmond Between $350k and $500k
- City of Richmond Over $500k
New Houses In Henrico County
- Henrico County Less Than $250k
- Henrico County Between $250k and $350k
- Henrico County Between $350k and $500k
- Henrico County Over $500k
New Houses In Goochland County
New Houses In Chesterfield County
- Chesterfield Less Than $250k
- Chesterfield Between $250k and $350k
- Chesterfield Between $350k and $500k
- Chesterfield Over $500k
New Houses In Hanover County
- Hanover County Less Than $250k
- Hanover County Between $250k and $350k
- Hanover County Between $350k and $500k
- Hanover County Over $500k
New Houses In New Kent County
New Houses In Powhatan County
Other than the behemoth of Ryan Homes/NVR, the RVA building community is largely comprised of local builders. Ryan is known within Richmond for building large numbers of town homes and can usually deliver some of the least expensive housing in the Metro.
The larger local builders include:
- Eagle Construction – Part of the Eagle/Markel partnership. Builds mostly in Henrico but will cross the River and occasionally found in Hanover.
- HH Hunt – Developer/builder known for large planned communities (Rutland, Wyndham, Twin Hickory).
- StyleCraft Homes – Builds single-family, town homes and also a lot of ’empty-nester’ homes throughout the Metro.
- Lifestyle Builders – Builds mostly single family detached housing in neighborhoods throughout the Metro, with their biggest footprint in Chesterfield.
- Main Street Homes – Builds mostly single family detached housing all over Richmond.
- Boone Homes – Builds upscale single family homes and many ’empty-nester’ homes. Known for heavily decorated models and a unique exterior look
- RCI Builders – Owned by the partners of Hometown Realty. Very heavily vested in Hanover and points north/east and usually in subdivisions they developed.
All of these mid-sized builders build in many neighborhoods throughout the Metro. Other smaller builders (10 or fewer homes per year) provide more niche styles and personal attention. A complete list of builders can be found here at the HomeBuilders Association of Richmond.
Overall, it has been my experience that the quality of construction in Richmond holds up quite well compared to many other comparable regions.
The City Neighborhoods
The City of Richmond contains a wide array of neighborhoods of various styles and ages. A breakdown and brief description is below (pricing | walk score):
Home to the world famous Monument Ave. Neighborhoods within the Fan include Uptown near VCU, West Ave and West Grace Street. Many consider it to be the most walkable neighborhood in Richmond as well as one of the most stable.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Richmond, the stock of historic housing is ample. Church Hill is the most dominant neighborhood east of Downtown and home to Libby Hill Park with some of the most powerful and captivating views of Richmond.
With the Museum District being home to Carytown (Richmond’s quirky and authentic shopping district), the WalkScore of 85 is arguably low. The district takes its name from the numerous museums along the Boulevard.
Jackson Ward connects east and west Richmond and borders City Hall, the State Capitol, VCU and MCV and Historic Broad Street. The ‘J-Dub’ is home to many festivals including Broad Appetit, 2nd Street Festival and First Friday Art Walk
Carver | $$$ | WS 92+
Located north of Broad Street and forms VCU’s northern border. Carver is home to a great deal of development momentum. As the western edges of Carver redevelop near Scotts Addition, the area should experience additional appreciation.
Richmond’s first suburb, it began the trend towards larger residential lots. Spectacular residential architecture is a signature of Ginter Park. Bellevue and Laburnum Park are are also neighborhoods within the greater Northside/Ginter Park area of Richmond.
Tucked away near Byrd Park, Fountain Lake and Maymont as well several entry points to the James River Park System, the Byrd Park/Carillon neighborhood offers privacy and access. A mix of smaller homes as well as some spectacular architecture (Rugby Road/Westover Road) makes the area diverse and interesting.
Windsor Farms anchors some of the most spectacular homes along Cary Street and the neighborhoods along the River.
Abutting U of R and supported by the shopping along Grove and Libbie, the Westhampton area is one of the areas most sought after.
Abutting Downtown on the south banks of the James, Manchester is home to both residential single family development and massive adaptive re-use of the 100 year old warehouses.
Strategically located at the intersection of 64/95/Powhite, Scotts is the furthest west warehouse district in the city and currently under massive redevelopment with multiple large properties being converted to large apartment complexes. The redevelopment of the Interbake Foods property at the corner of Broad Street and the Boulevard is important to the area.
Picturesque and dense, Westover Hills offers smaller single family homes affordably with access to the River and Fan/Museum District via the Nickel Brdge
Affordable and historic, Woodland Heights bridges the gap from Manchester to Westover Hills along Semmes Avenue
The Condo Market
The condo market is a primarily a Downtown market with condos centered in the neighborhoods of Downtown, Church Hill, The Fan, Manchester and Jackson Ward.
Other Condos For Sale
The Importance of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to Richmond’s Housing Market
The importance of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) on Richmond cannot be understated. With over 40,000 students amongst the undergraduate, graduate and medical schools, VCU drives much of the city’s need for housing.
Divided into two separate campuses (VCU Monroe Park along Belvidere and The Medical College located Downtown), VCU not only underpins the housing market, it also has an insatiable appetite for development for its facilities. Since its aggressive growth path beginning in 1990, VCU has expanded across both Broad Street and Belvidere and helped revitalize both neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods with ‘Historic’ designations become eligible for the Historic Tax Credit programs at both the State and Federal level. These credit programs drive much of the development in Richmond. The areas with the highest level of development currently are as follows:
- Manchester News
- Scotts Addition News
- Midtown/Monroe Ward/Downtown News
- Jackson Ward News
- Historic Broad Street News (includes all of Broad Street)
- Carver News
- Church Hill News
- The Boulevard News
- VCU News
Additionally, suburban development is seeing instances of the ‘new urbanist’ movement to balance the traditional suburban development:
- Rental Properties in MLS
- Legend Property Managment
- Clachan Properties
- Shockoe Properties
- Fountainhead Development
- Property Results
- Great Richmond Rentals
- Richmond Loft Company
- Dodson Property Management
- Genesis Properties
The James River bisects the city and separates Henrico County from Chesterfield County. While much of the land abutting the river is owned by the railroad, the following properties and areas may offer proximity, access and potentially views of the River: