So, What is the Average Cost of Living in Alexandria VA?
Alexandria, Virginia is west of Washington DC – just across the Potomac River. Fun Fact: Alexandria used to be part of the original capital city until they decided to retrocede to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Included in the same metropolitan area as DC, Alexandria’s cost of living is very similar to DC and Arlington. The main difference in affordability can be found in real estate as well as taxes. Let’s dive in to find out where the money goes when you cross that bridge from DC.
There are two parts of Alexandria, VA. There is the City of Alexandria and then Alexandria that resides in Fairfax County.
Nerd Wallet reports that an income of $100,000 in Alexandria is comparable to an income of $115,493 in Washington DC. I broke down several other categories to compare the cost of living in Alexandria, VA.
Alexandria VA Cost of Living: Zoom In
While we typically think of DC proper as the most expensive area in which to live, here in the metro area, the cost of living in Alexandria, VA trends high overall, and can even surpass DC in categories like property taxes. Items like groceries have a negligible difference since many of the same chain stores are in the entire metro area, and they price accordingly. Other things, such as gas, will vary wildly depending in what area of DC or Alexandria you may be filling up.
Average Home Prices in Alexandria VA
The average single family home price in the City of Alexandria is $945,654. The average single family home price in DC is $1,095,465. DC house prices also include the ubiquitous rowhomes in the average so this isn’t a perfect comparison. To say that prices are 16% higher in DC across the board when compared to Alexandria would only tell part of the story.
The median home price in Alexandria is $848,500. For DC the median house price is $925,000. This is just a 9% difference. Again though, there are rowhomes included in DC’s numbers, because to remove them would skew the numbers too high for DC.
Other factors to consider about house prices, are that lifestyle and quality of life desires shifted dramatically during the pandemic. Where city living fell out of favor when life changed, places like Alexandria were a huge draw for those who didn’t want to flee the area entirely.
The huge differential is in condo prices. While condos overall lost popularity, the value to be had in Alexandria makes them a pretty appealing option. Alexandria condos aren’t suffering the same way the DC Condos are, either. Condos are often measured in price per square foot, and that number comes in at an average of $395 per sf for a 1 bedroom condo. That number in DC? $612 per square foot.
(Providing an average cost of a condo isn’t going to be a valuable or reliable metric. There are so many types of condos which vary wildly. High rises often have very high fees, and the market values are on the low side because of the monthly expenses. Garden style condos may have lower monthly fees but not be representative of condo styles across all parts of Alexandria. Condos in Old Town Alexandria may be smaller buildings – between the high rise style and garden apartment, but have a totally different valuation because of location.)
Average Rent in Alexandria VA
The average apartment rent in Alexandria, VA on 1 bedrooms $1684. A 2 bedroom jumps to $2432 and then $3005 for a 3 bedroom. Pricey, though still less expensive than DC where corresponding rents are 30-40% higher. As home ownership seems to slip out of reach for many buyers, they are getting stuck even deeper in the renting vortex.
Everyone’s favorite subject! Can’t escape death or taxes. Virginia the state, or Commonwealth, is set up so that the county governments have very little taxing authority. Neither the Alexandria City nor Alexandria in Fairfax County assess an income tax. Counties in Virginia collect revenue from homeowners for real estate assessments as well as on personal property tax. I know. You have questions.
What’s the personal property tax cover? Vehicles, boats, trailers, mobile homes and airplanes. How do they assess a value? They check the NADA Used Car Guide for the clean trade-in value for the year. Does Maryland or DC have that? They do not. Just the Commonwealth.
Real Estate Assessments are applied to 100% of the assessed property value, and may include additional taxes for other services like leaf or trash collection, community centers, or transportation services.
Healthcare costs don’t vary wildly in the region but on the index where the national average is 100, Alexandria comes in at 101.7 and DC is 95.5 on the cost of living index provided by BestPlaces.net
Alexandria VA Utilities
Alexandria VA utilities run pretty high, though when electric is isolated, the rate per kilowatt hour is much lower when compared to DC’s electric provider, Highway Robbery. I mean, Pepco.
Dominion Energy will run you $77.28 for a 2 bedroom home using 700 kilowatts. In DC the price is 6% higher, coming in at $81.62.
Overall the utilities index for Alexandria is 97.3 where DC is 106.
Grocery Costs in Alexandria
This is hard to measure. Like many other areas, there are a lot of chain grocery stores here in the DMV. Sometimes prices on specific items vary wildly, and sometimes they are very similar. The price of milk was once bouncing around so much, I actually called the local Safeway pricing to office to ask why Elsie’s milk costs more than gold. They said they price each store pretty much on an individual basis based on demand and economics of the surrounding area.
While the cost of living calculator on BestPlaces.net shows the grocery index is 112.6 in Alexandria, 114.1 in DC, there’s something worth noting. There are a lot of discount grocery stores in Northern Virginia. Produce can often be found at these stores for 30-40% less than at the usual chain stores in the area. DC doesn’t really have discount grocery stores aside from the occasional corner market. And the prices at those places are high and the groceries are usually dusty.
An average meal for 2 in Alexandria will cost $52.50. That same restaurant in DC will charge $75.00. The city of Alexandria has a lower tax on restaurant meals than Alexandria in Fairfax County.
Gas prices are currently at a reported average $4.00 per gallon in Alexandria, and $4.46 in DC. For many years, I always believed the prices on gas in Virginia were noticeably lower, due to the taxes levied. It hasn’t felt like this recently though. Currently, in 2022, the taxes in Virginia on gas are 26 cents per gallon. In 2021, the taxes were 21 cents per gallon. I went back to track the history, and from 2015 to 2019, the taxes were 16 cents per gallon. In 2014, taxes were 11 cents a gallon. So there definitely were days in the recent past where gas was noticeably cheaper in Virginia. Not anymore.
In DC the taxes on a gallon of gas were 23.5 cents. DC is the winner here because Maryland gas taxes are 36 cents.
Daycare costs are about 13% more in DC. As you get closer to employment centers, the prices of daycare sharply rise. There’s a premium to be paid for having your kiddo close to your office. Right now, daycare averages $1833 per month in Alexandria and $2077 per month in DC.
The Salary Needed to Live in Alexandria VA
The City of Alexandria’s Demographic Portal shows that the median income is $120,000. The Fairfax County demographics show both overall and when you drill down to the communities that make up Alexandria that the household income skews high. The income category with the most residents is $200,000 and higher.
The salary needed to live in Alexandria, VA comfortably depends on the area chosen and house type. If one is renting a one bedroom, typically the gauge is 36-40 times the monthly rent. At a minimum the salary needed is $68,000. of course if you’re choosing a larger home or apartment, adjustments would need to be made accordingly.
Key Takeaways on the Alexandria Virginia Cost of Living
Housing costs and taxes are going to cost you quite a bit of your income in Alexandria Virginia. Alexandria is often compared to Arlington and other nearby cities like McLean and Bethesda. Each area has its own set of taxes, but the overall high cost of goods, services and real estate in not only Alexandria but the entire Metro DC Area only rises, it does not fluctuate up and down. Ensure that you negotiate the best salary and compensation package if you are relocating to the area.