Here’s where Fairfax County ranks among the ‘Best Counties to Live’ — and the neighbor it couldn’t beat

Fairfax County is the healthiest county in Virginia, according to the data platform Niche (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County fared well overall in recently released rankings of the best places to live in America, but it couldn’t quite compete with neighboring Loudoun County.

Fairfax County was named the 25th best county to live in nationally and the third best in Virginia by Niche, an online data platform that reviews localities with the goal of helping families choose schools and neighborhoods.

“Fairfax County is one of the best places to live in Virginia,” Niche said in its profile of the county. “…Most residents own their homes. In Fairfax County there are a lot of restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. Many families and young professionals live in Fairfax County and residents tend to be liberal. The public schools in Fairfax County are highly rated.”

In the 2023 rankings published on March 20, Fairfax County trailed Loudoun, which placed at No. 12 in America and at No. 1 in Virginia, and York County (No. 15 nationally, No. 2 statewide).

The primary culprit in Fairfax County’s lower ranking appears to be housing, where it scored a “B” compared to the “A” given to Loudoun and “A-” for York.

Niche says the housing grade is calculated based on home values, property taxes, housing costs, local schools and more. Housing is among the most heavily weighted factors in the Best Counties to Live ranking, behind the percentage of residents with a higher education degree and the cost of living.

According to Niche, Fairfax County has a median home value of $569,100 and a median rent of $2,033 — about twice as high as the national averages of $244,900 and $1,163, respectively.

The county also trailed Loudoun when it came to jobs, getting a B- where its neighbor got an A. Those scores were based on employment rates, job and economic growth, and cost of living, where both counties earned C grades.

Fairfax County received marks of A or A+ for its public schools, health and fitness, diversity, family-friendly living, and outdoor activities. It got A- for nightlife, B- for weather and C+ for commute times and methods.

With its high grades for schools and health, Fairfax County snagged the top spot on the list for Healthiest Counties in Virginia and the No. 2 spot for Counties with the Best Public Schools in Virginia, behind York County. Nationally, it landed at No. 6 for health and No. 32 for schools.

Niche has named Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania, a neighborhood of Philadelphia, as the best place to live in the country for four consecutive years.