One of the oldest English settlements in the nation, Norfolk, VA, has evolved into a vibrant and diverse city. Home to the largest naval base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, and a NATO Strategic Command headquarters, the city is considered a key transportation and military site. But in addition to the military presence, Norfolk is known as the financial, urban, historical, and cultural center of the area. Because Norfolk is the hub of the nine cities that make up the Hampton Roads metro area, many people come from beyond the Hampton Roads region enjoy Norfolk’s concerts, operas, and museums.
Norfolk is surrounded by water on almost three sides. The Elizabeth River forms the southern and western boundaries, and the Chesapeake Bay forms the northern. Virginia Beach creates the eastern border, and the city of Chesapeake forms a small section of the southern border. You’ll find attractive and charming historic neighborhoods along miles of inlets, riverways, creeks, and the bay. If you’re a fresh or saltwater enthusiast, you’ll love all the options for sailing, swimming, cruising, kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing – or maybe you are happy with a relaxing day at the beach.
Hiring movers can make your move and your transition to Norfolk a heck of a lot easier than if you try to do it all yourself. Check out the professional Norfolk moving companies we can connect you with, then use this guide to learn about the weather, transportation, cost of living, the housing market, economy and so much more. We even provide information on the best Norfolk neighborhoods to give you an idea of all your housing and lifestyle options.
Living in Norfolk, VA: What to Know Before Moving to Norfolk
Norfolk is the second-largest city in Virginia, with a population of around 246,000. Combined with Virginia Beach, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Williamsburg, Newport News, and Hampton, the region is referred to as Hampton Roads. The Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area has a population of about 1,719,000 people, and Norfolk is considered the central business hub of the entire metro area.
Pros and Cons of Living in Norfolk
Every city has its advantages and disadvantages. To help you decide whether you should live in Norfolk, we’re listing some of the pros and cons to consider.
First, the good news:
- Great Nightlife: Norfolk is the Hampton Roads destination for great night clubs, shows, and other entertainment.
- Military Friendly: If you’re in the military or work for a government contractor, businesses everywhere roll out the red carpet to earn your loyalty.
- Mediating Ocean Influence: Seasonal temperatures are slightly milder due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Reasonable Cost of Living: Norfolk is generally a cheaper place to live than Chesapeake or Virginia Beach.
- Lots to Do: Locals and tourists enjoy Norfolk for its museums, art galleries, fine dining, boating, and many outdoor activities.
And, the not so good news:
- Flooding: Norfolk is at and in some cases, below sea level, so flooding can occur during high tides or stormy weather.
- Crime: While there are some lovely neighborhoods in Norfolk, there are also some pockets of high crime.
- Pollution: Along with heavy industry comes heavy contamination. The local government is working on this but has a long way to go.
- Schools: The quality of education provided by Norfolk Public Schools is generally mediocre.
- Traffic: Interstates and thoroughfares get jammed at rush hours.
- Property Tax: Norfolk charges a property tax rate of 1.055%. For the average home worth $192,000, expect to pay $2,026 in annual property tax. This rate compares favorably to the national average rate of 1.211%.
- Sales Tax: The Norfolk sales tax rate is 6%, which reflects a combined rate of 4.3% state tax, a 1% city rate, and a special rate of 0.7%.
- State Income Tax: Virginia charges 3% on incomes of $3-5,000; 5% on incomes between $5,000 and $17,000; and 5.75% on incomes over $17,000.
One of the many great things about Norfolk is the reasonable housing costs. According to Best Places, about half of Norfolk residents own their homes. If you’re planning to purchase a home, expect a median home value of $189,100 and a median list price of $200,000. Home values rose 2.4% in 2018-2019 and according to Zillow, are expected to go up 1.3% in 2020.
Many homes are either waterfront or have access to water. Styles vary from small two-bedroom vintage cottages to lovely two-story Georgian style homes with sweeping front porches. Many properties feature mature trees and lush green surroundings. Newer sophisticated condos and apartments are also available.
Those who choose to rent can expect a median rent price of $1,339 per month compared to the US average of $1,566 per month. In general, the cheapest places to live in Norfolk are in Ocean View, and near Norfolk State University.
Cost of Living
Overall, the cost of living in Norfolk is average. Best Places uses an index of 100 as the national average, and Norfolk is rated 99.9/100. Virginia’s overall average is 113.8/100. In Norfolk, healthcare runs 117.2/100 and miscellaneous expenses run 104.2/100, making them the most expensive basic items. Groceries at 93.4/100 and transportation 95.9/100 are the cheapest essentials. The median household income is $44,150 annually. Families of two adults and two children need $81,400 to live modestly.
Weather & Natural Disasters
Locals enjoy four mild seasonal changes in Norfolk’s humid subtropical climate. Temperatures vary from an average high of 48 degrees Fahrenheit in January with lows of 33, to an average high of 87 degrees in July with lows of 72 and high humidity. Extreme temperatures can occasionally occur – winter weather can sometimes dip to near zero, and in the summer temperatures can reach the low 100s.
Precipitation is fairly consistent year-round, but you can usually expect up to five inches of snow in December through February. Rain is heaviest June through September, and the average annual rainfall is 46.5 inches. The ocean and bay provide welcome climate-moderating effects.
Mainly between mid-August to the end of September, hurricanes and tropical storms with high winds and heavy rains can result in flooding. Many parts of the city are below sea level because the land is slowly subsiding. At high tide, some areas flood regularly. Be sure to keep your flood insurance up to date. Luckily, Norfolk has developed a well-planned disaster response program, largely due to the extensive military presence. You can find Norfolk’s disaster preparedness website here.
Economy and Job Market
Norfolk’s economy is strong. As of summer, 2019, the 3.7% unemployment rate is equal to the US average of 3.7%. Major industries include military, defense contracting, cargo ports, transportation, government contractors such as shipbuilders, health care, education, and tourism.
Major employers include the US Department of Defense, the City of Norfolk, Old Dominion University, Maersk, Norfolk Southern railways, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, and its subsidiary NASSCO. In the fully-civilian sector, the healthcare industry has a large presence with Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Bon Secour’s DePaul hospital, and Eastern Virginia Medical School.
The demand for manual labor jobs remains high. Manual labor includes both defense contractor jobs and activities such as road, bridge, and commercial building. Jobs in healthcare and the education sector are also in demand. Education jobs are fairly easy to come by if you have the right credentials and service industry jobs tend to be in demand more frequently in the summer. To land a civilian job in the defense industry, it’s best if you have or can obtain a security clearance.
Traffic and Transportation
Highways I-64, I-264, and I-664 keep Hampton Roads well-connected. Together, they form the Hampton Roads Beltway. I-64 runs from Hampton down to Norfolk and around the edge of the city to Suffolk. I-264 starts in Virginia Beach near the Atlantic Ocean and runs west to downtown Norfolk where it crosses the Elizabeth River into Portsmouth. I-664 is an extension of I-64 that provides an alternative bridge between Newport News and Suffolk, though there’s an exit that one can use to reach Norfolk.
Several main roads in Norfolk include East Virginia Beach Blvd which starts downtown near city hall and runs east to west. Northampton Blvd connects Norfolk with the Eastern Shore via Virginia Beach. Granby Street, a major commercial thoroughfare, runs north-south.
Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) serves Norfolk and the Hampton Roads with bus, light rail, ferry, and paratransit options. The Norfolk Electric Trolley serves the downtown area.
Norfolk has a slightly below-average walk score of 45/100 and a transit score of 36/100. This score means that commuting and most errands require a car, however central business district residents will have a better chance of managing to commute or run errands without a car.
Norfolk residents need to be aware of rush hour. All the interstates and major thoroughfares are jammed during high peak commuting times. If there is a game or major event, plan to get stuck in gridlock.
Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is a major commercial airport and Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) provides direct international flights. Amtrak runs rail service at its downtown Norfolk station. The Half Moone Cruise Terminal provides passenger cruise ship services.
What to Do in Norfolk, VA
Norfolk is a cultural hub. Festivals, annual events, museums, and performing arts attract residents from all over the Hampton Roads regions.
Norfolk’s galleries and exhibit spaces appeal to various tastes. Art lovers will enjoy the Hermitage Museum and Gardens, an old estate with artwork dating back to antiquity, and the Chrysler Museum of Art, a major collection considered one of the best in Virginia. Scientific minds can visit Nauticus, a maritime museum which includes the USS Wisconsin. Families enjoy the Virginia Zoo and the Norfolk Southern Museum, which celebrates the making of American railroads.
If you love entertainment, you’ll enjoy plenty of options. Norfolk’s Scope Arena hosts everything from circuses and concerts to trade shows and includes Chrysler Hall where the Virginia Symphony Orchestra plays. Smaller musical acts often play at the NorVa, which is a more intimate concert venue with a full bar and limited menu available. Like opera? You’ll love the Harrison Opera House, home of the Virginia Opera Company. There are also a variety of theatres throughout the city.
The Norfolk Botanical Garden, which provides a beautiful buffer between the city proper and Norfolk Airport, is open to the public and operated by the City of Norfolk. The garden is a popular venue for various private events. Another popular spot is Town Point Park, where Norfolk celebrates its annual July 4th.
Sports fans have some options as well. The Norfolk Admirals is a minor-league hockey franchise that locals love, and the Tides is a minor-league baseball team that feeds the Baltimore Orioles. Both teams play downtown. Other sports opportunities include collegiate games involving Norfolk State and Old Dominion University.
Schools and Universities
Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) serves around 33,000 students and is generally considered a mediocre district. Great Schools rankings range from above-average to poor. Virginia’s education quality reports place NPS below average, and with individual schools, quality is very hit and miss.
However, there are some alternative public school options. The Diocese of Richmond operates several Catholic schools in Norfolk and throughout Hampton Roads, and many of these are quite good. Norfolk Christian Schools is another option for those who want a faith-based education for their children. Secular options include Norfolk Montessori Academy, Ghent Montessori School, and the Governor’s School for the Arts. For gifted children, there’s Norfolk Academy, a prestigious preparatory school that dates from the 18th century.
Beyond high school, Norfolk offers one private university and three public. Virginia Wesleyan College, offering liberal arts, is a small private college. Old Dominion University (ODU) is a state school known as the teacher’s college and offers any major you might want. Their athletic teams are excellent, and many people follow ODU football. Norfolk State University, a historically African-American institution, is known for a wide range of liberal arts studies, social work, nursing, and engineering. Eastern Virginia Medical School is an exclusively health-sciences school and fairly prestigious on the East Coast. Tidewater Community College with a downtown campus offers two-year degrees.
Norfolk has a lot of great things going for it, but its crime rate isn’t one of them. Neighborhood Scout indicates that Norfolk is safer than only 7% of cities in the US. Although that’s still a lot safer than the infamous Detroit, it’s much less safe than New York City.
However, that isn’t the only part of the story: Best Places reports that Norfolk’s violent crime index is 24.5, only modestly higher than the national average of 22.7. Property crime is a much bigger problem: the index is 55.5 compared to the national average of 35.4. Overall, this means that Norfolk has about the same number of assaults, rapes, and murders as other cities, but various types of theft and arson are much more common. Crime is concentrated in the farthest south sections of the city near Chesapeake, Denby Park, and east/central Norfolk, away from the downtown business districts.
Before you arrive at your new Norfolk home, be sure to open your new utility accounts.
- Gas Service: Provided by Virginia Natural Gas, who also does service calls. Click here for setup information.
- Electric Service: The local electric monopoly is Dominion Energy, which does business in several states. You’ll want to go to their website to start service and click Virginia to start.
- Water Service: The City of Norfolk provides both water and sewer service. Here is their website. You’ll have to send them an email or call them at 757-664-6700.
- Trash and Recycling: The city of Norfolk provides these services, with automatic curbside pickup on a designated day every week.
- Internet, Phone, and Cable: Verizon Fios is available, and they provide all three services in one package. Cox Cable does the same thing, as does Spectrum. All three companies have mobile phone service available through their cell phone division. AT&T provides phone and internet while partnering with DirecTV for television services. Dish provides the same services but offers discounts for seniors and military. All of these services are reached primarily through the links provided.
Best Neighborhoods in Norfolk, VA
Choosing the right neighborhood to live in is a complex decision. Where you work, the amount of space you need, your preferred type of neighborhood, and budget considerations are all important factors in choosing the right home. To help you with this, we’ve found the eight best neighborhoods in Norfolk, VA to consider.
Ghent is a poster child of neighborhood revitalization. For decades it was the commercial center of Norfolk until ‘modern’ life in the 1960s and 70s shifted much of the economic activity away from urban cores. More recently, the area has undergone a successful revival, and now Ghent is a thriving urban community of young professionals and medical students in the heart of downtown. West Brambleton Avenue, Redgate Avenue, and West 23rd Street border Ghent.
If you end up working at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, or the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, you’ll be able to walk to work if you live in Ghent. Other employers include the Chrysler Museum of Art, shopping centers, and restaurants.
Because so much of Ghent consists of apartments and commercial property, the majority of the 7,400 residents rent their homes. They have the privilege of being able to walk most places, whether that’s to a sidewalk café or the grocery store. 74% of residents are single, and the median age is 32. Just 39% of Ghent residents own their homes. The median household income is $56,916, and 69% of residents are college-educated.
Attractions in Ghent include Botetourt Gardens, Jeff Robertson Park, Weyanoke Wildlife Sanctuary, and Van Wyck Mews Park. Some of Ghent’s restaurants are iconic: Doumar’s Cones and Barbecue and the 80/20 Burger Bar are popular spots for a quick meal. An interesting fact: Doumar’s was the inventor of the waffle ice cream cone.
Would you like to live here? The median sales price is $323,750. Keep in mind, however, that there are million-dollar mansions with waterfront views in the neighborhood, as well as small apartment-sized condos and townhomes. The median rent price is $1,950.
Students attend Norfolk Public Schools: Taylor Elementary (great schools rating 3/10), Blair Middle School (4/10), and Maury High (4/10).
Located off Hampton Blvd in the heart of Norfolk, West Ghent is the more residential cousin to greater Ghent, and about 2,900 people live here. There are several parks for the kids, including Graydon and Jeff Robertson Parks, plus a tennis club. Since the neighborhood is just north of Eastern Virginia Medical School, this is a great area to move to if you work there. It’s also a nice area to raise a family because there are a lot of affordable, yet large houses with yards.
Marine Hydraulics and Norfolk Plumbing are some industrial employers. Little Theatre of Norfolk is an indie playhouse, a real plus if you’re into live theater. A few medical offices and stores also dot the area.
55% are homeowners, and the median household income is $65,167. 67% of residents are college-educated, and 50% are single. If this is your type of neighborhood, you’ll find it’s a bit less expensive than neighboring Ghent. The median sales price is $310,500, and median rent is $2,117. Apartments aren’t as available, and you’ll have to drive or take public transportation more often because there are few appealing amenities.
Generally, the homes are larger, so for households with children, West Ghent is the better choice. Children attend the same schools as Ghent residents: Taylor Elementary (3/10), Blair Middle (4/10), and Maury High (4/10).
Just north of W 49th Street and bisected by Hampton Blvd, Larchmont-Edgewater is a peninsula surrounded by inlets on three sides. Larchmont is especially known for being the northernmost end of the Old Dominion University campus and home to Rollins Hall and Ballard Stadium where collegiate athletes play. Although students don’t generally live here due to the cost, Larchmont is home to plenty of ODU faculty and staff.
Besides ODU, local employers in this neighborhood of around 6,000 residents include the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Payment Alliance International, and a movie theatre. Residents use their cars to run many of their errands because there aren’t many shopping options in this suburban neighborhood. However, you’ll likely be able to walk to local Myrtle Park, Virginia Park, a dog park, and a library.
With much of the housing reflecting an established neighborhood, this is a great neighborhood if you prefer older construction. You’ll find some lovely apartments and many vintage homes built in an attractive neo-classical or Georgian style. Although some homes are very modest one-story cottages, others are beautiful two-story freestanding houses with porches, sitting among lovely yards with mature trees. Streets are quiet north of the ODU campus unless there’s a game going on. 70% of households own their homes, and you can expect a median list price of $385,000; rent runs around $2,390 per month.
Larchmont-Edgewater is an excellent neighborhood for young families. Schools are NPS: Larchmont Elementary (7/10), Blair Middle (4/10), and Maury High (4/10).
Bordered by Waterside Drive, St Paul’s Blvd, and E Virginia Beach Blvd/Duke Street, this neighborhood of around 7,000 people is in the center of Norfolk. Urban in nature, Downtown is where people come from all around Hampton Roads to see a show or concert, attend a convention, shop, or enjoy a museum.
Major attractions include MacArthur Center mall, the Scope Arena, NorVa, Chrysler Hall, MacArthur Memorial Museum, and Norfolk Southern Museum, among many others. As with many urban areas, the traffic is awful here during rush hour, and tourists show up in droves during the summer.
You’ll find lots of employment opportunities in the hospitality industry, city offices, and several large law firms. US Customs and the IRS have offices in Downtown, and there’s a major US Courthouse and federal building on Granby Street. No matter your profession, there’s probably some related employment opportunity waiting for you in Downtown.
Due to the location, many neighborhood homes are small apartments and apartment-sized condos. However, there are a few homes with yards scattered along smaller streets. Although minimal, green spaces do exist.
If this is the type of neighborhood you prefer and are looking to buy a home, expect a median sales price of $252,000. Rents run about $1,450 per month but keep in mind rentals tend to be smaller apartments. 50% of residents own their homes, and the median household income is $45,107.
Although not a lot of households are families with children, available schools are Tidewater Park Elementary (2/10), Blair Middle (4/10), and Maury High (4/10).
Colonial Place is in the northeastern section of downtown near ODU. Its boundaries are between Mayflower Road and Holley Avenue, north of W 38th Street. Granby Street cuts through the neighborhood, which is framed by water on two sides.
There are about 4,200 residents in Colonial Place, and although the neighborhood has an urban feel, many residential streets are quiet, and you’ll find homes with yards. Many properties have water views or are on the waterfront. Because it’s so close to ODU, Colonial Place is a good choice for faculty and staff who prefer some peace and quiet, and don’t want to drive very far to work. Also, it’s a neighborhood that also appeals to young professionals. Only 19% of households have children. The median household income is $75,138.
If you enjoy strolling and walking your dog, you’ll be close to Colonial Place Greenway, a long narrow park with a dog run at one end, and several mini-parks are inside the traffic circles. Consulate Care of Norfolk, a nursing home, is the only large employer. Lots of shops and restaurants along Granby Street plus the Longshoreman’s Union Hall and a magic theatre are additional features of the neighborhood.
According to niche.com, it’s the #4 ‘Best Neighborhood to Buy a House in Norfolk,’ and homes are fairly affordable. The average home value is $271,000 for a detached house with a yard. Rents run about $1,240 a month, though that price can include some fairly large houses in addition to apartments. This neighborhood is fairly stable, with about half of households owning their homes. Children attend Granby Elementary (4/10), Blair Middle (4/10), and Maury High (4/10).
If you’re relocating to Norfolk because of a transfer to the Naval Station Norfolk, you’ll find North Shore is a convenient place to live with lots of great advantages. Located north of Downtown, the naval base forms North Shore’s northern border and to the south is water. Granby Street is the western border.
About 5,100 people call the North Shore home and the neighborhood, considered a family-friendly place to raise children, has a suburban vibe with fairly quiet and safe streets. However, North Shore appeals to young professionals as well.
Home types vary between apartments, some attractive high-rise condos, and lovely single-family homes with yards. The median home value is $281,000, and rent runs about $1,100 per month. 59% of residents choose to rent their housing. One downside to the North Shore location is the daily airplane noise from takeoffs and landings at the base.
Because this is primarily a residential neighborhood, there aren’t a lot of employment options. However, many residents work on the base and don’t have much of a commute. Most of the area businesses include small restaurants and household shops; however, major shopping and nearly any recreational activities will require a drive. For the right family, this is a great place to live. Children would attend Sewell’s Point Elementary (8/10), Blair Middle (4/10), and Maury High (4/10).
Just north of Colonial Park and west of Granby Street, Talbot Park is home to 3,700 residents. This small neighborhood is surrounded by water on three sides, putting many properties close to or on the waterfront. Norfolk Collegiate School and Norfolk Christian Schools are in this neighborhood, and the community contains a hybrid of residential and business areas. The largest employers here are the DePaul Medical Center, and the many satellite medical offices. If you’re a medical professional, this is a great neighborhood for both convenience and quality of life.
Talbot Park is home to several churches, including the Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and also boasts large Jewish population. It’s also convenient to the naval base. With a more urban vibe, you won’t find much green space except at Caton Park and Granby Street Park.
Homes are a mix of apartments and free-standing houses in a variety of sizes, from small homes on postage-stamp lots to large four-bedroom houses with family-friendly back yards. The median listing price for a home is $319,900, and rents run about $1560 per month. For children, the schools are Granby Elementary (4/10), Blair Middle (4/10), and Granby High (3/10).
Where Norview Avenue dead-ends into Tidewater Drive you’ll find the Roland Park neighborhood with 1500 residents. Wayne Creek surrounds most of the neighborhood. Because it’s far from downtown, this neighborhood, with well-maintained mid-century prefabricated houses, is an economical choice, while still being a safe neighborhood for your kids. There’s a single, fairly large apartment building just off Tidewater Drive, but other housing consists mainly of small to medium-sized single-family homes. Most residents are homeowners, and it’s no wonder: while the average house sells for only $171,000, the average rent is expensive in comparison at $1,550. For most, buying a home in Roland Park is a better financial option than renting.
Known as a quiet neighborhood, not much goes on here, but that’s a good thing in a city which tends towards a higher property crime rate. You’ll have to drive for commuting, shopping, and recreation but there’s a playground for the kids. Even though there are a few small businesses, the only major employer here is Norfolk Community Services, the Norfolk social services agency.
Families with kids will attend average schools: Willard Elementary (5/10), Norview Middle (6/10), and Maury High (4/10).
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