Guide to Best Places to Live in North Carolina

February 14th, 2023

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Guide to Best Places to Live in North Carolina

Guide to Best Places to Live in North Carolina

Are you moving to North Carolina? Let's discuss the best places to live in NC with information on population, median home price, average income, and more! 

Is North Carolina the place for you? So, what is the best part of North Carolina to live in? What is the most beautiful place to live in North Carolina? What are the Pros and Cons of living in North Carolina? You will find that this list we have compiled for you to be a guide to help point you in the right direction depending on what is most important to you.

North Carolina is known for its diverse landscape. From the sleepy Appalachian Mountain towns to the quiet coastal towns to the City of Oaks and The Queen City, this state has become a trendy place to relocate to due to its mild climate, affordable housing options, and healthy economy in the job market. So many people are moving cross country to North Carolina faster than most others because there are options that fit the needs of anyone!

Not only that, in conjunction with the wide variety of towns North Carolina offers, in general, the cost of living and housing tends to be much more attainable than most states in America while also having a very healthy economic job market. 

This article will show you some of the top places to live in the "Tar Heel State." We will also give you an idea of the population, median home price, estimated monthly expenses, average income, and the unemployment rate to help act as a guide in evaluating if North Carolina is the right fit for you!

Here are the best cities to live in NC! 

Raleigh, NC

Raleigh is the state capital and is lovingly referred to as "The City of Oaks." Raleigh has steadily been a hotspot for people to move to for various reasons. As part of "The Research Triangle Park," which spans from Raleigh to Durham and parts of Morrisville, corporate and smaller IT companies choose to make this home. Because of this, the area has become a trendy place for employers to search for employees to help support their companies. 

Some of the top IT professionals move to Raleigh to allow them a sense of stability in their field in an area booming with IT jobs. In addition, professionals in the healthcare and pharmaceutical fields will find this a very healthy job market with its abundance of hospitals and pharmaceutical companies based in the Raleigh area. 

The price of homes for sale in Raleigh is slightly higher than the national average, but, as you can see, the unemployment rate is ranking just below the national average, which is always a good sign. Raleigh is an excellent fit for any walk of life with the abundance of housing options, various restaurants, collections of art museums, and venues for theater and live music. 

Raleigh, NC skyline at night with bright lights and buildings

Population Median Home Price Estimated Monthly Expenses Average Income Unemployment Rate
469,124 $486,500 $7,349 $69,720 3.3%

*Facts and Figures from

Wilmington, NC

This seaside retreat may be the ideal match for you if you're looking for that perfect place to call home by the coast. Wilmington tends to be less expensive than areas of the Outer Banks, another popular vacation spot, but it tends to have much more to offer in terms of livability. 

Wilmington is home to several breathtaking beaches. Some of the most popular include Wrightsville Beach and Oak Island, to name a few. 

Wilmington's historic district offers an eclectic variety of shops, restaurants, and amenities, and much of the city is meant for its permanent residents lending this to be a better place to call home by the coast as opposed to the coastal towns that are merely known for their tourism during the summer months. 

Wilmington, NC- Historic District & Beaches

You will see here that the population is much smaller than our Capitol City of Raleigh, and the median home price is slightly higher. Finding that piece of real estate near the coast comes with a heftier price tag, but for many people, it is worth every penny to have that little slice of heaven!

Population Median Home Price Estimated Monthly Expenses Average Income Unemployment Rate
117,643 $529,900 $7,296 $51,137 3.5%

*Facts and Figures from

Durham, NC

Fondly referred to as "The Bull City," many residents fall in love with Durham. Durham has many attractive qualities that make this a fantastic city to call home. Durham is home to Duke University and the Duke University medical facilities. With top-notch healthcare and a rich cultural scene, Durham is at the top of the list of best places to live in North Carolina. 

Durham is home to DPAC, the Durham Performing Arts Center. Residents tend to flock to get their theater fix. Memberships are available for those who will frequent DPAC more often, allowing more opportunities to enjoy more of what you love!

For fun, Durham residents often frequent a Durham Bulls game and enjoy the finale firework show during summer. Being part of "The Research Triangle Park" offers tech employees many options to find lucrative income and enjoy living near many major tech companies, just like Raleigh! 

Durham, NC skyline during the day with buildings

Population Median Home Price Expected Monthly Expenses Average Income Unemployment Rate
285,527 $495,507 $7,218 $61,962 3.2%

*Facts and Figures from

Charlotte, NC

"The Queen City" has been a popular place for out-of-state residents to call home for many years. This well-established and sprawling city offers something for everyone! 

Charlotte is the headquarters of many different banking institutions and is North Carolina's largest city. Charlotte would be an excellent fit for young professionals looking for a thriving nightlife, families looking for a safe neighborhood with easy access to Uptown, or retirees looking to downsize. 

This will also be a good place for you if your profession involves traveling away from home due to the Charlotte International Airport. Hub to American Airlines,  you should be able to get to pretty much anywhere from the monumental airport. 

Charlotte, NC skyline buildings during sunset downtown

Population Median Home Price Expected Monthly Expenses Average Income Unemployment Rate
879,709 $425,000 $7,126 $65,359 3.6%

*Facts and Figures from

Winston-Salem, NC

Winston-Salem has become an increasingly popular place for families to call home over the years due to the low cost of housing and affordable housing. 

With its lush greenways and parks, Winston-Salem is an excellent fit for our outdoor junkies. Many residents enjoy having Wake Forest University in town and often find themselves cheering on the sidelines of sporting events during the weekend. 

Immerse yourselves in the culture and history of Winston-Salem with its large variety of museums, art exhibitions, and Theaters. This quaint small-town city has so much to offer, which puts this city at the top of our list. 

Winston-Salem, NC skyline downtown sunset car lights

Population Median Home Price Expected Monthly Expenses Average Income Unemployment Rate
250,320 $319,950 $6,180 $47,269 3.8%

*Facts and Figures from

Greenville, NC

Greenville is the smallest town on our list that we have covered so far. This smaller town packs a punch regarding the excellent amenities it offers its residents. Greenville woos its residents with its abundance of cultural attractions, social activities, and access to top-notch healthcare. 

This gem of the east is commonly referred to as "The Emerald City," and we think even Dorothy would approve of this fan-favorite college town. Be sure to immerse yourself in the Uptown Greenville scene with its rich abundance of art, live music, and culinary scene. 

Population Median Home Price Expected Monthly Expenses Average Income Unemployment Rate
88,728 $351,450 $6,760 $42,612 4.5%

*Facts and Figures from

Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC Blue Ridge Mountains

Asheville has become one of the most prominent areas on the Western Side of North Carolina. This outdoor-friendly, artistic town offers something for everyone. 

Because it's so high in demand and interest, the home prices in Asheville are slightly higher than some other towns on our list. But, after you see the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and access to its eclectic small-town charm, you will know why this is one of our top places to live in North Carolina.

You will want to immerse yourself in some of the best restaurants for foodies to try, with unique artwork displays and enough live music to keep your soul alive. 

Population Median Home Price Expected Monthly Expenses Average Income Unemployment Rate
94,067 $524,950 $7,912 $53,621 3.2%

*Facts and Figures from

Hickory, NC

By far the smallest town on our list Hickory offers a happy medium between Charlotte and Asheville. Being only one hour from each respective city, residents choose to call Hickory home for its safe and small-town feel while also being right at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

This has become a very family-friendly city because it is one of the more budget-friendly options in the state while also offering a short trip to Charlotte and Ashville. 

History runs through its veins with its iconic Hickory Tavern in town, an inn built in the 1850s under a Hickory Tree; hence, the town's charming name- Hickory!

Population Median Home Price Expected Monthly Expenses Average Income Unemployment rate
43,532 $341,400 $6,041 $48,653 3.6%

*Facts and Figures from

Even Smaller-Small Town Options

Small towns may not be for everyone, but we have selected a few of our favorites:

Davidson, NC:

Known primarily for its academic institution, Davidson College, this charming and. quaint southern town would be a great place to live and raise a family. Downtown offers a wide variety of restaurants, shopping, and recreation. Its proximity to Lake Norman is another draw to this small town, giving this a great place to spend those long and hot summer months.

With a population of just over 12,000 people, Davidson also has a higher income rate than its big sister Charlotte, which comes in at around $83,000 annually. Due to this, Davidson's real estate tends to run a little higher on the spectrum compared to the Charlotte area real estate market.

Southern Pines, NC

If you love golf and want to live in North Carolina, this is where you will want to live, hands down. Southern Pines is known for its lush golf courses and safety. In addition, Southern Pines has a very active lifestyle and offers its residents great public schools, parks, and restaurants, ranking this a great place to live for families and retirees. 

With a population of just over 13,000, this small town isn't just a popular place for families and retirees; it has also become a popular place for military families due to its proximity to Fayetteville, NC. 

Best Places to live in North Carolina - Final Thoughts

As you can see from this list, there is a town for everyone in North Carolina. If you move close to the coast, enjoy big-city living, or want to live in the mountains, you will find that the options are endless, and each town has something unique to offer. 

Living in the South can sometimes be criticized for the heat; however, the beauty of living in North Carolina is enjoying all four seasons and having a mild climate overall. There is nothing like a North Carolina day with its iconic Carolina blue skies. 

We hope that you can see that the facts and figures shared by will help fill your analytical cups as you try to figure out which North Carolina best fits your needs. Each town, if anything, is worth at least a visit; you will have to see the magic of each city to get a taste of what they offer. 

If you or someone you know is looking to move to North Carolina, share this article with them and then contact us! Our agents at Raleigh Realty would be more than happy to help answer any questions you may have regarding real estate in North Carolina. 

If you're looking to sell your home and want to check out one of the cities on this list, contact our team at Raleigh Realty, and we will connect you with one of our agents here to help point you in the right direction! 

Check out our other local area guides:  

Moving to Cary, NC

Moving to Fayetteville, NC

Moving to Wake Forest, NC

Moving to Chapel Hill, NC



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