Housing & Real Estate

Last Updated :

Planning Your Move

Relocating to a new home can be one of the most stressful situations in life. Whether moving across town or across the nation, preparation and organization can make all the difference. First, decide to use a professional moving company or make it a do-it-yourself (DIY) move.

For a DIY move, consider distance, labor help and the costs to rent the moving van, gas, lodging during the move and insurance. A transportable storage unit can bridge a professional and DIY move. When the unit is delivered to your residence, you load and secure it for transport and then unload it at your new residence.

Whatever the method, be sure to obtain as many quotes from professional movers as possible as well as cost estimates for a DIY move. Next, compare the costs involved for each type of move, weighing the stress and physical exertion involved. Ask any company you are interested in for references and use them to inquire about reliability and customer service.

Regardless of which method you choose, the first step in moving should be to take inventory of your personal belongings. The list, with
photographs of any valuables, will be important for both insurance purposes and to help keep you organized during transit.

Plan for one full day to pack each room — the kitchen and garage may take longer though. Make a rough estimate of your packing schedule and then add 50 percent more
time. It always takes longer than predicted
to pack. Toss or donate unused items to
lighten your load. Visit, or www.clothingdona for locations near you or to arrange a pick up.

Pack for success:

• Consider what you’re packing and control box weight. Books should go in small boxes while bedding can easily fill a larger box.

Wrap fragile items with cardboard dividers, tissue paper or bubble wrap.

Use bright colors when wrapping small items so they don’t get thrown out accidentally.

Use crumpled paper or newspaper to line the top and bottom of boxes.

Tape a copy of your inventory list to boxes to identify what’s inside and where it should go.

Buying Versus Renting

The decision to buy or rent is the most important step in your relocation process. Purchasing a home entails a long-term emotional and financial commitment with various pluses and minuses attached. The advantages include the possibility of building equity and the freedom to design and decorate your property or landscape. And don’t forget the tax benefits. Disadvantages involve upkeep, property taxes and fluctuating property value.

Renting, on the other hand, makes moving easier and someone else maintains the property. Amenities, such as laundry rooms, exercise rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts, vary from one rental complex to another. The main disadvantage is loss of control over the residence. Some complexes, for example, restrict or prohibit pets and personal touches such as painting. And the landlord or property managers can also raise the rent with proper notice.

Before determining your best option, account for all of your needs, review your financial situation and research your options thoroughly.

Finding an Apartment

Find local apartments listed in chamber
of commerce membership directories (, http://virginia, local newspaper
classifieds, online or through referrals from family or friends.

Be prepared when you meet with the leasing agent, property manager or owner. Bring a list of what you are looking for in a rental; it is important to be clear about your needs and to get all of your questions answered. You will also need to provide information and verification about your job, your income and your past rental history. Dress to make a good impression and treat the meeting as though it is a job interview — be polite and arrive on time.

Before you decide to rent, inspect the
apartment with the landlord. Look for the
following problems:

Cracks, holes or damage in the floor, walls or ceiling

Signs of leaking water, leaky fixtures or water damage

Any signs of mold or pests

Lack of hot water

Inadequate heating or air conditioning

Use a written checklist with the landlord to document the condition of the rental before you move in, and keep a copy of the completed checklist to use when you move out.

Buying a Home

Hampton Roads is a prime mid-Atlantic location in southeastern Virginia. Since 1983, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has recognized Hampton Roads as a group of communities having economic and social integration. It encompasses two areas: The South Hampton Roads region includes the cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach — often referred to as the Tidewater area — and the Peninsula consists of the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Williamsburg and the counties of Gloucester, James City, and York.

The term “Hampton Roads” is a centuries-old reference that originated when the region was a struggling British outpost nearly 400 years ago. It was designated in the 17th century as the name of the large natural harbor where the James, Nansemond and Elizabeth rivers pour into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay; signifying the safety of a port, “roads” in nautical terminology means “a place less sheltered than a harbor where ships may ride at anchor.”

Unlike many of the metropolitan areas across the country, Hampton Roads’ population nucleus is not confined to one central city but is spread among several growing cities of significant size. The area was recently recognized as the nation’s most diverse region, with a population of 1.6 million people, according to the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

Enlist the help of a reputable real estate agent to help you sort through the area’s diverse home options. The Hampton Roads Realtors Association is a central source of local real estate information and services. Its members can provide expertise and professional services for those interested in purchasing a new home. Visit for more information.

Buying a home is a complex process and, as the recent housing crisis demonstrated, requires a thorough education on the part of the buyer. First, fully understand your financial position — credit score, available savings, monthly income and expenditures. Subtracting your expenditures from your income, for instance, will yield the amount you can afford for housing.

Be sure to account for all insurance costs associated with owning a home, possible home owner association fees and property taxes in your monthly expenditures. According to, loan program rules vary on the percentage of your income used for housing-related expenses. Most conventional loans allow 28 percent, with FHA at 29 percent and VA at 41 percent.

Next, research the different types of home loans to determine the right fit for your financial situation and discuss your options with a lending professional. Lenders are diverse today, and not all home buyers obtain their mortgage loans through their banks and credit unions. For example, you may choose to work with an Internet lender, a mortgage broker, a home builder or a real estate agency lender. To determine which lender is best for you, get recommendations from friends and family members and check credentials as well as Better Business Bureau ratings.

A preapproved loan before starting your search for a home can determine your spending limits and signal any potential issues in the way of receiving a loan.

Knowing your monthly budget and the amount of your loan are invaluable during the next phase, especially finding the answers to questions before the hunt for a home begins.

First, determine your home preferences. Do single-family houses, condos, town houses and duplexes fit your needs and budget? Do you prefer a new home, an existing home or to build one? Though new homes generally cost more, existing homes may come with maintenance issues and renovation costs. What is the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like? Do you want an attached garage? Will you live in the city, a suburb or in the country? How close to work, school, shopping or public transportation do you want to be? Answers to the majority of these questions will greatly assist your search and the next stage — hiring a real estate agent.

The ideal agent will help find your ideal home and guide you through the purchase process. First, interview potential candidates to ensure they understand your needs, know your home-buying preferences and neighborhoods and are readily accessible.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Hampton Roads Communities


The City of Chesapeake’s heritage stretches back to Colonial times, but the independent city itself is relatively new, coming into being only in 1963 when the city of South Norfolk and the former Norfolk County consolidated and voters picked the name “Chesapeake.”

Developed enclaves alternate with protected farmland, forests and wetlands; a large portion of the Great Dismal Swamp lies within the city limits, and so does the Dismal Swamp Canal, the nation’s oldest continuously used man-made canal, which George Washington helped survey.

Chesapeake is a quiet and family-friendly town; many of the homes have ample yards for play, and numerous military retirees opt to stay or to return. View Chesapeake’s Citizen’s Guide to City Services at www.cityofchesa


The City of Franklin is a manufacturing and productive farming community. It began modestly as a railroad stop on the Blackwater River in the 1830s but its real financial growth kicked off in 1887 with development of a sawmill, and with World War I’s demand for lumber, its future was assured. The sawmill-based operation merged in 1956 with a New York paper bag company and thrived until 1999, when the operation was purchased by International Paper. The International Paper Mill along the Blackwater River produced lumber, pulp and paper products, and chemical byproducts until it shut down in May 2010, but it has since resumed limited operations.

Franklin ranks as the 13th most profitable and 12th largest farming community in Virginia. Its location along its lifeline river has also made it vulnerable to flooding, particularly after hurricanes. In 1999 in the wake of Hurricane Floyd, downtown Franklin was sunk under 12 feet of water from the raging Blackwater.

Visit the city’s website at for more information.


The City of Hampton is the hub for Hampton Roads. The waterfront city is known as “America’s First” — it was the first point of
land touched by the English colonists who continued upriver to settle Jamestown and, after being settled in 1610, Hampton became the country’s first continuously English-speaking settlement. Today, Hampton strives to be a regional shopping and entertainment destination and boasts easy access to more than 100 attractions.

The City of Hampton offers several resources to help newcomers make a well-informed decision when considering home-buying options in the local area. For new resident information, visit

Newport News

The City of Newport News — on the Virginia Peninsula, midway between Williamsburg and Virginia Beach — started as a tiny fishing settlement on the north side of the James River, but today it is home to one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Newport News, Norfolk and Portsmouth constitute the Port of Hampton Roads.

The city is home to one the largest municipal parks in the U.S. Newport News Parks offers hiking, biking, boating, fishing, archery and camping.

To view the Newport News Newcomer’s Guide online, visit


The City of Norfolk has been rated No. 2 in the country for military retirees in a joint study by, and the financial services firm USAA, and the city hosts the world’s largest naval base and the busiest port on the East Coast.

It’s a bustling place, jam-packed with people in a hurry. All that bustle crowds the roads: A
joint study by Avis Rent A Car, Motorola
and Sterling’s Best Places ranked the Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach as the nation’s 10th-worst in ease of navigation.

Residents praise the weather (warm and humid, but with sea breezes and no winter to speak of), the beaches, especially Ocean View, and the Norfolk Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

The housing stock skews older, and gentrification is in full flower; those who have always yearned for a Victorian cottage with porches should be able to find one. Norfolk has more than 300 well-established neighborhoods to choose from. View the city’s New Residents Guide online at


The City of Poquoson is an eclectic mix of new and old. New homes contrast with old farm houses, and families whose roots are generations deep mingle with newcomers looking to escape big city living. This former fishing village at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula is surrounded by water on three sides and revels in more than 84 miles of shoreline on Chesapeake Bay.

In 2011, CNBC rated Poquoson No. 5 among its list of Ten Perfect Suburbs, based on ratings for affordable housing, good schools, educated neighborhoods, low crime, employment and reasonable commutes, according to the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

View the city’s online Poquoson Tourbook for more information about local education, quality of life, real estate and relocation and the business community at


The City of Portsmouth was born as a shipbuilding town when John Wood, an early English colonist, recognized its potential and asked King James I for a land grant to build a shipyard in 1620. These days the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth builds, remodels and repairs naval vessels, and the city has in addition busy port facilities and much waterfront along the Elizabeth River, part of the harbor of Hampton Roads. The U.S. Coast Guard named Portsmouth a “Coast Guard City” in 2009.

The Olde Towne section contains one of the greatest numbers of historically significant homes between Alexandria, Va., and Charleston, S.C., and since 2000, the downtown has been undergoing urban renewal. Tree-lined streets lead to a charming waterfront.

See for newcomer information.


The City of Suffolk, birthplace of Mr. Peanut and the largest city in Virginia by area (400 square miles of land) was founded by English colonists in 1742 as a port on the Nansemond River, and the city always has been a land transportation gateway, with highways, trains and, of course, its waterways.

Early on, the colonists’ major cash crop was tobacco, but they later turned to mixed farming. In 1912, Planters’ Peanuts set up shop, and peanut growing became a major industry, aided in national marketing by introduction of the company’s mascot, Mr. Peanut. For many years, the call letters of local WLPM, Suffolk’s AM radio station, stood for World’s Largest Peanut Market.

More recently the city’s economy has diversified into high-tech areas, thanks to the location there of various major military commands.

View the city’s Newcomers Guide at

Virginia Beach

The resort City of Virginia Beach, population 442,707 in 2011, had more residents in 2012 than any other city in Virginia, and was the 39th largest in the U.S. Its major industry is tourism, and hundreds of motels, hotels, restaurants and high-rises line the miles of oceanfront beach (the Guinness Book of Records calls it the longest pleasure beach in the world).

The sleepy little vacation community of Virginia Beach didn’t really take off until the late 19th century, when railroad, electricity and the Princess Anne Hotel all began service. The resort incorporated as a town in 1906.

The city is blessed by its location north of the pummeling from southern storms and south of blustery northern weather systems, giving it a languorous, subtropical climate that marks the northern limit for Spanish moss. Mild winters are rarely marked by snowfall, and any that does fall is light.

The website has more information.


The City of Williamsburg, onetime capital of Colonial Virginia, stretches along a high, wooded spine occupied by the original Middle Plantation between the James and the York rivers on the Virginia Peninsula, and these days is a mecca for history buffs, retirees and ardent golfers.

Its elevation worked against it in the early days when transportation was arduous and mostly along waterways, and the railroads came late. In general, history rushed by without touching the city harshly, but now its restored Historic Area, Colonial Williamsburg, is one anchor of Colonial Virginia’s Historic Triangle, along with Jamestown and Yorktown, and draws more than 4 million tourists every year.

Williamsburg is a college town as well, site of the prestigious William & Mary
College, founded in 1693, and the Williamsburg Regional Library is known as one of the best
in the country. In 1698 Williamsburg became the capital of Colonial Virginia, a position
it held until 1780 when then-Gov. Thomas
Jefferson moved state government to
Richmond because he believed Williamsburg was more vulnerable to British attack.

The first hospital for psychiatric patients in the nation was built in Williamsburg in the 1770s — the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds — and continues today as Eastern State Hospital.

Find Williamsburg new resident information online at