How to Buy a House in Virginia: 8 Steps Real Estate Experts Recommend

Lindsay Stefan

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Lindsay Stefan

January 4th, 2023
Updated January 4th, 2023

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8 Steps to Buying a House in Virginia

✍️ Editor's note: We strive to provide objective, independent advice. When you decide to use a product or service we link to, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Now that the housing market is finally calming down after the pandemic[1], buyers are facing a new challenge: Soaring mortgage rates.[2]

In Virginia, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 5.52% — up from 2021's historic lows. This raises the average monthly mortgage payment to $1,743 (assuming a 20% down payment at the median home value).

But buying a home in Virginia is still possible, even for first-time home buyers. Many markets are seeing frequent price drops and fewer offers, giving motivated buyers the upper hand in negotiating for the best price.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to buy a house in Virginia with confidence no matter what the market brings. Learn why you can trust our advice.

Whether you're actively house hunting or just starting to browse homes on Zillow, it's never too early to find a great local realtor to guide you on your search. An experienced agent can help you navigate a tricky housing market, explore your financial options, and negotiate the best deal possible.

Best of all, hiring a real estate agent comes at no extra cost to you — since the seller typically pays both their listing agent and your buyer's agent.

Ready to find a great local realtor, but not sure where to start? The best (and easiest!) option is to try a free agent matching service like Clever Real Estate. Answer a few simple questions about your home buying goals, and Clever will match you with hand-picked agents from Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and other top brokerages in your area. Find a top local agent and make your home buying dreams a reality today!

Step 1: Save for a down payment

🔑 Key takeaway:

Your down payment can be less than 20% of the purchase price — $76,592 for the typical home in Virginia — but you'll have to purchase mortgage insurance and pay more interest over the life of your loan.

Your down payment is the first part of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender will pay the remaining balance.

Typically, mortgage lenders in Virginia want you to contribute 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. That would be $76,592 for a $382,958 home — the typical home value in Virginia.

However, you have options to lower your down payment amount.

Government backed loans, like VA and FHA loans, allow you to contribute 0% and 3.5% of your home's purchase price respectively. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3-5% (though the minimum varies by lender).

Mortgage type
Minimum down payment (%)
Down payment ($)
VA Loan
0%
$0
FHA Loan
3.5%
$13,404
Conventional
3%
$11,489
Based on typical home values from Zillow (August 2022)

But making a down payment of less than 20% comes with some risks.

First, because you're borrowing more money, you'll have a higher monthly payment and pay more in interest over the life of your loan.

Down payment
Monthly payment
Total interest
Total Cost
5%
$2,070
$381,477
$764,435
20%
$1,743
$321,244
$704,202
Based on home values from Zillow (August 2022) and a 5.52% interest rate for a 30-year loan.

Second, you may have to purchase mortgage insurance.

Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance (PMI) until your loan balance reaches 80% of the purchase price. FHA loans, on the other hand, require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of your loans.

Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of your mortgage balance annually. However, rates vary based on your down payment and credit score. Typically, your mortgage insurance payment is added to your mortgage payment each month.

VA loans don't charge mortgage insurance. Instead, you'll pay a VA loan funding fee at closing, which can range from 1.4% to 3.6% of the purchase price.

» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about low-income home loans

Virginia down payment assistance programs

The state of Virginia offers several down payment assistance (DPA) programs to eligible first-time and low-income homebuyers. If you qualify for one of these programs, you could receive a grant or second mortgage to pay for a down payment or closing costs.

Here are a few DPA resources for you to consider:

Virginia Housing DPA Grant

Virginia Housing offers first-time homebuyers a grant of up to 2.5% of the home's purchase price. The grant can only be used along with a Virginia Housing loan, and home purchase price and household income limits apply. You can review all the eligibility requirements here.

Virginia Housing Plus Second Mortgage

Virginia Housing offers its Virginia Housing Plus Second Mortgage program to buyers who meet credit score requirements and don't exceed household income limits. Participants can receive a loan of up to 5% of their home's purchase price, although this may vary based on a borrower's first mortgage.

DHCD DPA Program

The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) can offer financial assistance for first-time homebuyers of up to 15% of the home's sales price. Additionally, up to $2,500 may be awarded to assist with closing costs for qualified buyers.

Eligible participants are required to complete a homebuyer education course, attend housing counseling, and contribute a minimum of 1% towards the home purchase. Maximum household income and property purchase limits also apply.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD’s list of alternative DPA programs in Virginia can be found here.

Step 2: Find a great real estate agent in Virginia

🔑 Key takeaway:

Interview multiple agents to find one who knows your target neighborhoods, has experience in your price range, and communicates well.

Your real estate agent will be your main ally during the home buying process. Besides finding and showing you properties, your agent will help you make offers, negotiate contracts, and navigate the closing process. Plus, they can recommend other service providers like title companies and inspectors to help you buy your home in Virginia.

Don't rush into choosing an agent. Instead, take the time to research and interview multiple real estate agents who have experience in the neighborhoods you're interested in. You should pay attention to a realtor's:

  • Years of experience
  • Number of transactions in the last year (the more the better!)
  • Experience in your price range
  • Overall review score
  • Individual reviews and complaints

👋 Find the best realtors near you!

Finding a great real estate agent shouldn't be complicated. Let Clever Real Estate do the hard part and match you with experienced local realtors who are experts in your market.

Enter your zip code below to compare top agents from trusted brands like Keller Williams, Berkshire Hathaway, and Coldwell Banker, then choose the best fit for you. It's 100% free, and there's no obligation.

Step 3: Get preapproved for a mortgage

🔑 Key takeaway:

Once you're preapproved for a mortgage, it's imperative that your financial situation doesn't change. If your credit drops, it can derail the process and keep you from closing on your house.

Here are some easy ways to ensure your credit doesn't change after you receive your preapproval letter:

  • Avoid opening new credit accounts
  • Don't close any accounts that have been open for a long time
  • Make all of your credit card payments on time

» LEARN MORE: What factors do mortgage lenders consider?

A mortgage preapproval letter is an offer to lend you up to a certain amount of money to purchase a home. It shows sellers that you are a serious buyer who is financially qualified to make an offer on a home.

Most sellers in Virginia will require preapproval before showing you their home.

You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and preapproval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best terms when you buy your Virginia home.

Step 4: Choose the right location

🔑 Key takeaway:

Search for neighborhoods where:

  • Home prices are within your price range
  • Home values are on the rise
  • The local amenities support your lifestyle

Currently, the typical home value in Virginia is $382,958, but don't worry if that doesn't perfectly match your budget. Home prices vary dramatically from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood!

Also, look at past home value trends. This will give you an idea of how much your home's value could go up over the next few years.

To give you an idea of how appreciation could impact what your house is worth in the future, consider these examples from three neighborhoods in Virginia Beach:

Home value appreciation in Virginia Beach

Neighborhood
2015
Current
Appreciation
Princess Anne
$312,421
$468,136
33.3%
Kempsville
$216,555
$316,337
31.5%
Salem
$246,386
$376,943
34.6%

Step 5: Start house hunting in Virginia

🔑 Key takeaway:

Hunting for a house in Virginia may be a challenge, as inventory dropped in the last year while listing prices crawled up. Not only will there be few options on the market, but they might also be a bit more pricey than you expected. If you’re bent on buying in the state, work with your agent and keep an open mind. Check out their suggested listings, even if it may not be exactly what you wanted. It might surprise you with they find if you temper your expectations and stay flexible with your requirements.

Searching for homes in Virginia is the fun part of the home buying process! You'll get to look at a variety of homes and discover what you really want in a home.

Make a list of everything you want in a home and prioritize them. At the top of the list should be the items that are most important to you. This will help you separate your "must-haves" from your "nice-to-haves."

Your agent can help you understand if your wants are realistic for your budget and favorite neighborhoods or if you need to rethink what you're looking for.

Look at current housing inventory

The timing of your house hunt in Virginia can have a big impact on your number of options. For example, in Virginia, May has historically seen the most homes for sale. Searching in this season could give you more options and a greater likelihood of finding your dream home.

On the other hand, December gives you the fewest choices in Virginia. Historically, there are 52.5% fewer homes for sale than during Virginia's peak season.

Housing inventory in Virginia by season

Season
New listings per month
Spring
16,241
Summer
16,241
Fall
16,241
Winter
16,241
Based on data from Realtor.com (October 2022)

Step 6: Make an offer

🔑 Key takeaway:

Virginia’s market is very active — what little inventory is available is getting snatched up quickly, and very few listings are left open at the end of each month. Given the fierce competition, act quickly when you find a home you like. We recommend putting in an offer as soon as you view the home, and come up with a strong figure that’ll catch the seller’s attention. Your agent can help you here; they can make sure you write a competitive offer that will still be fair for you.

Once you find a Virginia house you love, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you write a compelling offer that gives you the best shot of convincing the homeowner to sell to you.

Currently, in Virginia, homes stay on the market for 64 days before going under contract. However, every market goes through seasonal changes. During busier months, homes get snatched up more quickly than others.

Historically, Virginia homes sell fastest in April, where the average property is only on the market for 49 days. If your home search falls around this time, you should be prepared to move quickly and potentially make offers on several homes before yours is accepted.

On the other hand, if you buy in January, you have a bit more time to search. Homes typically stay on the market 20 days longer than Virginia's annual average.

Average time homes spend on market in Virginia

Annual average
64 days
January
82 days
February
71 days
March
52 days
April
46 days
May
47 days
June
49 days
July
52 days
August
54 days
September
59 days
October
61 days
November
69 days
December
77 days
Based on data from Realtor.com (October 2022)

» LEARN MORE: What should an offer include?

Step 7: Inspections and appraisals

Inspections and appraisals are an opportunity for you to better evaluate the home's condition and value before officially purchasing it. You may have an opportunity after this step to renegotiate the terms of your contract with the seller if something unexpected pops up.

🔑 Key takeaway:

  • Inspections: A licensed professional checks the house for any unseen, unexpected, or potential issues.
  • Appraisals: An appraiser hired by your lender examines the house to determine how much it's worth.

Home inspections in Virginia

Having your Virginia home inspected by a licensed inspector gives you peace of mind about the condition of the property before you commit thousands of dollars to purchase it.

Your inspector should check out the following parts of the property:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system
  • Plumbing

If the home has a septic system, you should also pay for a septic inspection to make sure it doesn't have any problems that wouldn't be covered in a typical home inspection.

Virginia-specific inspections

Virginia is a “buyer beware” state, so homebuyers are strongly advised to take extra precautions before closing on a property. In addition to a general home inspection, consider having these important tests conducted as well:

  • Radon testing: Several areas in Virginia are prone to high radon levels, which can pose health risks to inhabitants. If the seller hasn't had a radon test done within the past year, you can order an inexpensive radon test kit from the Virginia Department of Health.
  • Pest inspection: Although not all lenders require buyers to have a pest inspection done, it's wise to get one completed anyway. Termites and other pests can cause serious property damage if infestations aren't treated promptly.

Appraisals

Appraisals determine the value of the property. If you're using a mortgage to buy your new home, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home is worth the money that it's loaning you.

» LEARN: 3 options for buyers after a low appraisal

Step 8: Close on your new home!

🔑 Key takeaway:

Before you close on your new home, you and your agent will do a final walkthrough of the property to ensure that it's still in the expected condition.

Before you can become the official owner of your Virginia home, you'll need to meet at the title company on closing day. Here, you'll spend a few hours completing paperwork and settling your closing costs.

Plan to spend about an hour reviewing and signing legal documents to finalize the title transfer. Some important forms you'll need to complete will include:

  • Your final loan application
  • The deed
  • The mortgage promissory note
  • The disclosure statements

Once you finish the paperwork, you'll need to pay your closing costs. The title company will collect the total amount you owe and then handle the distribution of funds. For homebuyers, these expenses can be broken down into four distinct categories:

  • Lender fees: Fees your lender charges for originating and underwriting your loan. Other expenses associated with your loan might apply as well, such as appraisal fees and survey fees.
  • Title and escrow charges: Fees the title company charges for conducting the title search and facilitating the closing. Buyers and sellers often agree to split this cost.
  • Prepaid costs: Ongoing costs of owning a home, like homeowners insurance and property taxes. Mortgage lenders frequently require borrowers to pay for these expenses in advance.
  • Other closing costs: Miscellaneous expenses that vary for each homebuyer. A few common expenses include real estate attorney fees, pest inspection fees, and natural disaster certification fees.

Buyers in Virginia typically pay 3–5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $383,000 home — the typical home value in Virginia — that's between $11,490 and $19,150!

⚡Make your home-buying dreams a reality!

Ready to make your home-buying dreams a reality? The first step is to find a top local realtor who's an expert negotiator with proven experience in your market.

Enter your zip code below to compare the best agents from trusted brands like Keller Williams, Berkshire Hathaway, and Coldwell Banker, then choose the best fit for you. It's 100% free and there's no obligation.

Frequently asked questions

In Virginia it's required for a real estate attorney to be part of every home sale. While your agent can make recommendations, remember you get to make the final decision. Interview lawyers before hiring them to make sure they have the experience you need.

  1. Save for down payment
  2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage
  3. Choose your preferred Virginia neighborhoods
  4. Partner with the right real estate agent in Virginia
  5. Go house hunting
  6. Make a strong offer
  7. Inspections and appraisals
  8. Do a final walkthrough and close

Yes! The VHDA (Virginia Housing Development Authority) offers eligible buyers up to 2.5% of their home purchase price through a Down Payment Assistance Grant.

To qualify, the borrower's credit score must be at least 620 with an FHA loan, 640 for a VHDA Conventional loan, or 660 for the VHDA Conventional No MI loan. Household income limits also apply and vary by county.

» READ: What are the top first-time homebuyer programs?

Why trust us?

Clever Real Estate is a free agent-matching service that has helped more than 82,000 people buy and sell homes. We partner with over 2,700 top-performing agents nationwide at national brokers including Keller Williams, RE/MAX, Century 21, and more. We also help buyers save money with cash back after closing — no strings attached.

We’ve earned buyers’ trust with a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot and over 1,800 customer reviews.

Our team of industry-leading researchers is committed to making homeownership more accessible by educating buyers through guides like this one. We've spent thousands of hours analyzing publicly available data, surveying consumers, and interviewing industry experts. Our research has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, Inman, Housing Wire, and many more.

Learn more about Clever.

ARTICLE SOURCES
[1]

Federal Reserve. "Housing Market Tightness During COVID-19: Increased Demand or Reduced Supply?." Accessed October 11, 2022. Updated July 08, 2021.

[2]

Consumer Protection Financial Bureau. "The Fed is raising interest rates. What does that mean for borrowers and savers?." Accessed October 11, 2022. Updated March 17, 2022.

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