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Top 10 Places to Live in North Carolina

Written by: Lindsay Shugerman

May 8, 2012
Filed Under Places 

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Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

Top 10 places to live North Carolina
Chances are that you know someone who gave up the city life in South Florida or New York or Atlanta and moved to North Carolina.

There, amid the mountains and mild seasons, they hoped to find a slower pace of life. And most transplants love it.

If you’re thinking of joining the ranks of new North Carolina residents, you need to decide which city is best for you. After all, there are lots of places to live in North Carolina, but they are as different as the cities and towns in any other state.

We want to help! Here’s our take on the 20 best places to live, work and play as a new North Carolina transplant.

10. Raleigh

Top 10 places to live North Carolina Raleigh

If your new home needs to have a great arts community, low crime and unemployment and a progressive culture, Raleigh might top your list of one of the best places to live in North Carolina. This is a city of diversity and openness, with a much-lower-than-average unemployment rate and growing economy. And sister city, Durham, is just down the road with academic powerhouses Duke.

Housing is quite affordable by national standards, at about $248,874 for a single family home.

Population: 403,892
Median resident age: 31.9 years
Median household income: $51,969
Median house or condo value: $214,900

9. Cedar Island

Top 10 places to live North Carolina Atlantic Beach

If your goal is to truly get away from it all and your first love is the ocean, you might want to think about finding your new home on Cedar Island. One of the least developed barrier islands, this quiet community of about 400 boasts three churches, a handful of restaurants, a grocery store, a boat dock and a few other small businesses.

Houses for sale are few and far between, so it’s hard to pinpoint the “average” single home price, though it seems to run about $104,597. Still not sure? Think Nim’s Island with access to the mainland (and musician-filled Ocracoke Island) via ferry.

Population: 324
Median resident age: 41.8 years
Median household income: $39,598
Median house or condo value: $88,789

8. Charlotte

Top 10 places to live North Carolina charlotte

This city combines the charm and relaxed lifestyle of the old South with the dynamic, exciting world of art, music, technology and diversity. Charlotte is a well-educated city, too: nearly 40% of the city’s residents have a Bachelors degree or higher. The city is home to over 20 colleges, universities and trade schools, with more just 20 miles away over the South Carolina border.

Housing peaked a couple of years ago in the mid $300,000′s for single family homes, but have now leveled off around $242,828. That makes it a great deal for transplants coming from more expensive cities like Miami, San Francisco or Dallas.

Population: 731,424
Median resident age: 33.2 years
Median household income: $49,779
Median house or condo value: $175,600

7. Asheville

Top 10 places to live North Carolina Asheville

Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, this North Carolina city combines the arts, great restaurants and some of the best outdoor activities in country. If you choose Asheville, you’ll have the Blue Ridge Mountains as your backyard in one direction and a vibrant downtown in the other.

People are just discovering this friendly city, so housing prices are still low. Single family homes average $238,199 — well below the cost of housing in similar sized cities in other states. And they don’t have the mountains!

Population: 83,393
Median resident age: 38.2 years
Median household income: $34,457
Median house or condo value: $195,000

6. Maggie Valley

Top 10 places to live North Carolina Maggie Valley

When I was a kid, we had a summer cabin in Maggie Valley. I loved our time up there, but never thought of it as a place to live year-round until I started researching this article.

Turns out there are a lot of people who love calling Maggie Valley home through all four seasons. They get to enjoy the local crafts, restaurants, music and art even after the tourists go home. This is also a great place for hiking, camping, horseback riding or just enjoying the beautiful scenery.

A quick browse of available real estate shows homes from the mid $100,000′s to the upper $600,000′s. The average single family home lists for $222,560.

Population: 1,150
Median resident age: 53.3 years
Median household income: $40,304
Median house or condo value: $179,307

5. Rocky Mount

Top 10 places to live North Carolina rocky mount

Rocky Mount is the home of North Carolina Weslyan University, and a welcoming small town southern lifestyle. Housing is inexpensive, with the average single family home coming in at about $131,692, making this one of the most affordable areas in North Carolina.

Rocky Mount is only 50 miles from Raleigh, so residents can easily enjoy day trips for shopping, theatre, or a special meal.

Population: 57,477
Median resident age: 38.7 years
Median household income: $33,160
Median house or condo value: $99,442

4. Winston-Salem

Top 10 places to live North Carolina winston salem

Winston-Salem bills itself as the city of art and innovation, making this one of the best places to live in North Carolina if a vibrant, thriving city is your choice. The architecture here is amazing, with an eclectic blend of old south, colonial, ethnic and modern.

Winston-Salem is also becoming a great town for foodies…the cuisines of the world have become standard fare in the
city. Housing is very affordable, another plus. The average home sells for about $180,733.

Population: 229,617
Median resident age: 34.6 years
Median household income: $39,808
Median house or condo value: $143,200

3. Franklin



This is not the town you chose if you long for big city life. And although it’s only about 100 miles from Atlanta, it’s not a commuter city either.

Franklin appeals to a different kind of person. The kind who loves hiking and camping in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains. This is one of the best places to live if you love to head out with your camera to capture images of nature. Sure, they have the basics like national chain stores. But when it comes to Franklin, that big back yard known as the Smoky Mountains is the real attraction.

Single family homes here are affordable, with an average price of only $166,190.

Population: 3,845
Median resident age: 40.5 years
Median household income: $30,425
Median house or condo value: $167,620

2. Atlantic Beach

Top 10 places to live North Carolina Atlantic Beach

What could be more beautiful than seeing the Altantic Ocean every day? The town of Atlantic Beach (very aptly named) is one of the places where that dream can be reality.

According to the town’s oldest lifetime resident, nicknamed Capt’n Jim, Atlantic Beach started from a dream that got lost in tragedy only to re-emerge a few years late in 1887 with the construction of the first bathing pavilion.

The town has come a long way since then, although it has maintained a friendly, close size. Today’s population is estimated at just under 1,500 committed residents. Housing is scarce (most residents don’t want to leave) so prices for available properties tends to be high. Single family homes, when they are sold, average $443,048. But with the views those homes can provide make it so worth it!

This is small town coastal North Carolina living at its best.

Population: 1,495
Median resident age: 50.0 years
Median household income: $47,676
Median house or condo value: $394,539

1. Pineville

Top 10 places to live North Carolina Pineville

Just outside of Charlotte, the town of Pineville (founded in 1740) allows residents to enjoy small town living, the amenities of nearby Charlotte and a much lower cost of living, with single family housing averaging only $164,125.

With all the services, shops, schools and benefits of suburbia, a historical town and a medium-sized city, this is my winner among the top 10 list of places to live in North Carolina.

Population: 7,479
Median resident age: 35.0 years
Median household income: $38,896
Median house or condo value: $146,635

Source: all statistics from city-data.com

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