Virginia is a great place to live, with a strong job market and low unemployment, but it lags far behind many other states in attracting new residents.

Between 2010 and 2018, the Commonwealth of Virginia grew by more than half a million residents, ranking 9th in terms of overall population growth. The state experienced strong natural population increase (i.e. more births than deaths) and steady international immigration; however, Virginia was one of only two states in the top 10 to see negative net domestic migration, where the number of people moving out of the state to other places in the U.S. was greater than the number moving in. (California was the other state with negative net domestic migration.)

Nearby southeastern states have benefited from strong domestic migration. North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee have all seen new residents flocking in from other parts of the country.

Here in Virginia, the biggest challenge has been the ability to attract and keep young workers. Between 2017 and 2018, about 6,000 more 25 to 34-year-olds moved out of Virginia than moved in from other places in the U.S. This is part of a nearly decade-long trend in the Commonwealth.

Why are fewer people moving here from other states?

This biggest obstacle facing young working households and compelling them to leave Virginia for other places is the high cost of living and difficulties in affording a home. The largest numbers of out-migrants from Virginia are leaving from some of the highest-cost areas of the state, primarily in Northern Virginia. Even though professional opportunities are attractive and wages are high, home prices have gotten so high that it is increasingly challenging for young adults to buy homes.  Many have been moving to places where jobs are still good but the cost of living is lower and it is easier to buy a home.

The solution to attract and retain young adults in Virginia is to ensure that there are sufficient housing and homeownership options available and affordable throughout the state, particularly where job growth is strongest.

There are are several ways Virginia REALTORS® can help ensure people—both young and old—can make their home here in Virginia:

  • Advocate for local land use and zoning changes that increase the supply of housing in your community.
  • Educate local elected officials and residents about the need for smaller homeownership options, including townhomes and condominiums.
  • Tell stories of young families you’ve worked with who have decided to move out of the community because they could not afford to purchase a home.

If you need local data on migration for your community, please email Dr. Lisa Sturtevant at