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By Kathryn Mae Kurlychek
Updated on Jun 10, 2022
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff, Staff Editor.
Looking for small-town southern charm? Cities like Chapel Hill, Morrisville, and Durham deliver that and more. Top-rated schools, low costs of living, and affordable housing make these the best places to live in North Carolina.
From breathtaking peaks to the warm sandy coast, North Carolina has always been a prime vacation locale for families across the U.S. In recent years, however, the state has seen more than just tourism—a thriving job economy and housing boom have helped attract more families and young adults than ever before.
If you’ve ever dreamed of making the gorgeous Carolina landscape your backyard, now is the perfect time to consider moving—but with 100 counties in the state, starting your search for the perfect place can quickly get overwhelming. That’s why car and home insurance super app Jerry has created this guide on the 8 best places to live in North Carolina.
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What makes a good place to live?
Maybe you’ve always dreamed of living among the Blue Ridge or the Great Smoky Mountains—or maybe you’ve found the perfect job opportunity that just so happens to be in the Tar Heel State. Whatever your reason, finding a good place to live boils down to a lot more than views and jobs. There are loads of other factors you’ll need to consider, such as:
- Median household income
- Median home price
- Cost of living
- Quality of schools
- Crime rates
- Average commute times
- FEMA risk index ratings
Don’t let that list overwhelm you! Jerry has compiled the facts on eight of the best North Carolina cities: Durham, Chapel Hill, Ballantyne East, Waxhaw, Stokesdale, Mountainview, Morristown, and Cary. This list includes cities both great and small, urban and rural, progressive and conservative. In this article, we’ll cover them all.
The best places for families to live in North Carolina
Choosing the perfect place to start a family can come down to factors like education, crime rates, and community life in a given place. And with high marks across the board, the neighborhoods of Cary and Ballantyne East stand apart as family-friendly locales in the Tar Heel State.
Location: Wake County, NC
Median household income: $107,463
Median home price: $356,400
A suburb of Raleigh nestled between two nature preserves, Cary is a family-friendly community and “one of the best places to live in North Carolina” according to Niche. With top-rated school districts and tons of local amenities, it's the perfect neighborhood for new and growing families alike.
Among perks like short commute times and relatively low costs of living, Cary continually ranks among the safest places to live in the U.S. for its low crime rates. Recent data has revealed Cary to rank in the top ten safest U.S. cities—tied in seventh place with Santa Clara, CA.
Cary’s suburban feel doesn’t detract from the know-your-neighbor atmosphere—but its proximity to the state capitol makes for easy access to urban amenities and nightlife.
Aptly situated between the William B. Umstead State Park and the Swift Creek Bluffs and Hemlock Bluffs nature preserves, the community of Cary highlights sustainability and gives families plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the outdoors.
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Location: Mecklenburg County, NC
Median household income: $121,250
Median home price: $432,059
Just shy of the South Carolina border, the neighborhood of Ballantyne East sits less than 25 minutes from central Charlotte. For families interested in an urban environment without compromising quality public schools or the ability to own their own home, Ballantyne East may be the perfect place to settle.
Over half of Ballantyne East’s residents own their property—Niche rates the neighborhood among the top places to buy a home in the region. For families looking to put down roots, this is great news—and what’s even better is that Ballantyne East is the number one place to raise a family in Charlotte!
It’s also home to the top-ranked public school in the city, Ardrey Kell High School. Residents love the area’s walkability and local parks, which contribute to an idyllic small-town feel despite the neighborhood’s immediacy to Charlotte proper.
The most affordable places to live in North Carolina
North Carolina’s cost of living is slightly higher than the national average—although that number can vary from city to city, based on factors like housing and average commute times (which influence fuel costs).
With these metrics in mind, places like Durham, Chapel Hill, and Waxhaw stand apart as some of the most affordable cities to settle down in North Carolina.
Location: Durham County, NC
Median household income: $65,534
Median home price: $369,078
With its abundance of local restaurants and dense suburban feel, you might not expect a place like Durham to be cheap—but it’s actually one of the most affordable cities in the state!
In Durham, you won’t have to sacrifice shorter commute times or highly rated public schools to find a cheaper cost of living: residents’ COL is 11% lower than the state average.
Ranked among the top 20 cities to live in the Raleigh area, Durham stands out for its affordable healthcare—some of the cheapest in the state.
It’s also one of the most culturally diverse cities in North Carolina! Home to families and young professionals, the community feels fast-paced and progressive—and when it comes to cultural cuisine, it’s a foodie’s paradise.
An escape from city life is only a couple of hours away, with the mountains to the west and the beach to the east.
Location: Orange County, NC
Median household income: $65,373
Median home price: $459,300
Less than 50 miles south of the Virginia border you’ll find Chapel Hill, an idyllic college town packed with southern charm. From the bell tower at the University of North Carolina to a vibrant downtown scene, young families and professionals will find a small community feel surprisingly close to Raleigh.
Average commutes in Chapel Hill take about 19 minutes—7 minutes faster than the national average of 26.4. And with an unemployment rate of only 3.2%, residents can expect to find a growing economy and tons to do in the area.
Location: Union County, NC
Median household income: $84,294
Median home price: $260,000
If you’re looking for a small-town vibe without truly being “in the middle of nowhere,” Waxhaw may just be the city for you. A suburb of Charlotte, Waxhaw promises families top-rated schools and ever-expanding economic opportunities—but its charming, historic feel will make you forget you’re less than 30 minutes from big-city amenities and nightlife.
Residents love Waxhaw’s family-friendly feel and vibrant downtown strip lined with local shops and restaurants. It’s also one of the safest cities in the state, with crime rates significantly below the national average.
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Best places to buy a house in North Carolina
Ready to put down roots in Carolina soil? When it comes to planning life long-term in North Carolina, you’ll want to think about more than just the qualities of your dream home. Also consider median home prices and the local climate when making a decision on the best place for you.
With low FEMA risk indexes and affordable housing, the cities of Morrisville, Stokesdale, and Mountain View stand apart as some of the best towns to settle down in the state.
Location: Wake County, NC
Median household income: $100,495
Median home price: $384,600
With an unemployment rate of just 2.9% (less than half the national average of 6%), Morrisville boasts more than just job growth and easy commutes to Raleigh. As one of the top suburbs to live and raise a family in the state, Morrisville also promises access to great schools and shared amenities with neighboring Cary and Durham (among other neighborhoods).
The housing market in this area can get competitive, as home appreciation is on the rise. But when it comes to the local climate, Wake County’s risk of natural disaster is relatively low.
Despite the myths about southern towns, Morrisville experiences four distinct seasons—including chilling winters (that run above-average risks of winter-weather events) and hot, humid summers.
Location: Guilford County, NC
Median household income: $90,943
Median home price: $262,300
With small, highly-ranked public schools and a cost of living 8% lower than the national average, Stokesdale checks boxes for affordability and family-friendliness. And with positive job growth and home appreciation values increasing, it’s the perfect up-and-coming area for young professionals and families to consider buying a home and putting down long-term roots.
Stokesdale boasts a buyer’s market—meaning this is the perfect time to buy a home in the area. But buyers be warned—despite its southern charm, Stokesdale can experience surprisingly cold winters.
In fact, according to FEMA, the area is at an elevated risk for winter weather events. In the summers, the biggest natural threats to the area are tornadoes and riverine flooding.
Location: Catawba County, NC
Median household income: $46,720
Median home price: $158,900
In Mountain View, you’ll find more than just great schools, low crime rates, and a cost of living below the state average. You’ll also find a family-friendly community and one of the best cities to buy a house in North Carolina. Nearly 80% of Mountain View residents own their homes!
The housing market remains in the favor of sellers as of April 2022—but with an above-average income to median home price ratio, you may find that investing long-term in the area is a wise decision. Like Stokesdale, the Mountain View area is also at an elevated risk for ice storms in the winter months and tornadoes in the summer months.
How to find affordable homeowners and car insurance in North Carolina
Whether you’re looking for new insurance in your new city or just interested in saving money by bundling your home and auto policies, let Jerry be your guide to greater savings in North Carolina.
As a licensed insurance broker and super app, Jerry helps you find cheap and affordable coverage in less than a minute. How? All you have to do is download the app, enter your insurance information, and watch as Jerry pulls you customized quotes from dozens of top insurance providers.
Jerry makes it easy by handling the phone calls and paperwork associated with switching insurance plans. We can even help you cancel your old policy! And with average savings of over $800 a year on car insurance, it’s no surprise Jerry is rated the number-one insurance app in the country.
“With little to no work on my part, Jerry saved me $70 a month in North Carolina. The process was simple and flawless. I will be working with Jerry in the future!” —Emmanuel K.
Thousands of customers saved on average $887/year on their car insurance with Jerry
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