After living there for 13 years, I think I can also vouch for the salaries not being too hot in the Hampton Roads area. A lot of it is because as a PP said, it's a military area and there's often a lot of turnover. People will leave after 2-3 years because their family is being stationed elsewhere, or spouses who get a full-time job while the active duty member is being deployed will cut back to part-time or even quit when said spouse returns. Plus, it seems like most military spouses are either nurses or teachers, since both careers are rather portable.
Cost of living...well, VA Beach is a tourist trap, so prices there can run higher than if you went west/north. I don't know about apartment rents, but I own a house there and my mortgage is about 1,500/mo. When we lived there, it was possible--tough, but possible--to get by on one salary. It took a lot of creative budgeting, though not incurring any school debt helped tremendously (I opted for the less costly ADN). I rent it out now and get $1800/mo for it, but it is a large house.
As far as finding work as a new grad, Sentara (the largest hospital chain) and Bon Secours (second) both have their own nursing programs
, so guess who gets first priority for the new grad programs in their facilities? After they place their own graduates first, then outside grads get a chance...and that was told directly to me by a Sentara recruiter. I imagine Bon Secours works similarly.
ETA: I forgot about Riverside...which also has its own nursing program.
Plus, there's several nursing programs in town whose students have done clinicals at these and other facilities, so you'll have competition. Not impossible to get hired in a hospital as a new grad--I did--but don't expect to land that job within a week or two.
Not telling you to discourage you, but to give you a heads-up so you know what you're getting into. Your healthcare experience will give you an advantage over the new grads who just have clinical experience to go on.
Best of luck.