The Best Places to Live in North Carolina

Be it the Outer Banks or the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina calls out to many people looking to make a new part of the country their home. The Southern state offers warmer temperatures than much of the U.S., and its varied terrain, including both mountains and coastal areas, offers something for everyone.

North Carolina is the ninth-most populous state in the U.S., with nearly 10.5 million residents as of 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s also a state that’s seeing significant growth: The Raleigh and Durham, Charlotte and Asheville metro areas are among the 25 fastest-growing in the country, based on net migration between 2013 and 2017.

Out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., five are located in North Carolina. Based on the data used to determine the Best Places to Live in the U.S. ranking, which factors in cost of living, job market, desirability, net migration and overall quality of life, we’ve compiled the details that will help you determine which North Carolina metro area is the one you should call home.

Best Places 2019 Rank: 66
Metro Population: 751,590
Median Home Price: $142,758
Median Annual Salary: $43,310

Located in the northern portion of the state, Greensboro ranks 21st out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its college readiness among high school students, based on data from the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings. Additionally, the cost of living in Greensboro requires 22.54% of the area’s median annual household income, which is below the national median cost of living of 23.58%. Greensboro is just a couple of hours’ drive from both the mountains and the coast, with interstates 40, 85 and 73 among some of the highways that can easily take you in and out of the metro area.

Best Places 2019 Rank: 31
Metro Population: 658,195
Median Home Price: $145,725
Median Annual Salary: $44,910

Slightly west of Greensboro is Winston-Salem, which boasts an even lower cost of living, requiring just 22.18% of the median annual household income. Winston-Salem’s population skews slightly older than most other metro areas: The area’s median age is 40.4 years, while the national median age is 37.8, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Winston-Salem’s metro area has seen moderate population growth due to net migration, with an increase of 2.31% between 2013 and 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Best Places 2019 Rank: 20
Metro Population: 2,427,024
Median Home Price: $213,983
Median Annual Salary: $50,150

Charlotte is seeing much more rapid population growth and is the fastest-growing North Carolina metro area on the Best Places to Live list. Between 2013 and 2017, Charlotte’s population increased by 7.06% due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median annual salary for the area is $50,150, and the unemployment rate, at 3.6%, is below the national average of 3.9%.

Best Places 2019 Rank: 16
Metro Population: 445,625
Median Home Price: $248,500
Median Annual Salary: $41,210

If you’re looking for a relatively small metro area and a mountain setting, consider Asheville, which is known for attracting artists and art lovers with its ample galleries, studios and art installations. Asheville is the most expensive of the five North Carolina metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, with residents spending 24.15% of the median annual household income on housing. Still, Americans consider Asheville an ideal place to live, placing it 16th for desirability on the overall Best Places to Live list, based on a series of SurveyMonkey surveys asking U.S. residents where they would prefer to live.

Best Places 2019 Rank: 10
Metro Population: 1,824,266
Median Home Price: $249,294
Median Annual Salary: $53,788

The highest-ranking North Carolina metro area is Raleigh and Durham, taking the No. 10 spot on the Best Places to Live list. Requiring just 21.447% of the median annual household income to cover housing costs, Raleigh and Durham is the most affordable North Carolina metro area out of the five on this list. Known as the Research Triangle for the ample research and technology jobs found at universities and companies headquartered among the three cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, the metro area has an unemployment rate of just 3.4% and a median annual salary of $53,788, which is above the national average of $50,620.

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