THE 10 BEST Places To Live In North Carolina For 2020

These are the cream of the crop in the Tar Heel State.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the best places to live in North Carolina.

Where are the best places to live in the state of North Carolina?

Some might say wherever there's a college basketball team, a NASCAR track, a sunny beach, a snowy mountain, great BBQ, or a hoppy crafted beer. When you stumble upon all, you might feel like you've won the North Carolina Lottery.

And, yes, it's possible.

The Tar Heel state takes eight hours to drive from the Outer Banks on its East Coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains on its Western border. You'll never hear a North Carolinian say that they're bored. The eight hour trek unravels the state's rich history around every Tar Heel corner. The Outer Banks has pirate lore and shipwrecks, battles were lost and won in the Piedmont's backyard, and ancient Cherokee stories continue to be told around ceremonial fires in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Craft beer, BBQ, and NASCAR aside, North Carolina has a lot to offer and it is no surprise that the Tar Heel State is the 28th most expensive and the 9th most populous in the U.S. Currently 38% of North Carolinians are college-educated and with top colleges and universities like Duke and UNC, that percentage is sure to increase. Major metropolitan cities like Raleigh, Durham, and Charlotte are crushing the tech industry and local business is booming.

So, grab a BBQ sammie, a pint of your favorite craft beer and read on to discover how we determined the best cities in North Carolina.

We wish every Tar Heel city could be in the top ten: they're all deserving.

But what city is the best place to live in North Carolina for 2020? Well according to the US Census and FBI data we crunched, Davidson is the best place to live in North Carolina if you care about home values, low crime, and a high quality of life.

It's not a surprise that Davidson takes the cake. What Davidson does not have by way of mountains and beaches, it does make up for with its beautiful neighborhoods, gold star schools, and sweet Carolina BBQ.

Read on to see where to live in North Carolina that will make you feel like you have won the lottery.

If you're looking for something more national, check out the best states in America or the best places to live in America.

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

The 10 Best Places To Live In North Carolina For 2020

Davidson, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 12,666
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $423,000 (4th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.2% (11th best)
More on Davidson: Real Estate | Data | Photos

With the unemployment rate being the 11th lowest in North Carolina and very stable household median incomes, it's easy to see why someone would want to live in Davidson.

Plus, the crime rate is the 5th lowest in the state!

Cary, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 163,266
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Median Home Value: $337,700 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (18th best)
More on Cary: Real Estate | Data | Photos

When you're looking at the best places you could live in North Carolina, Cary came in 2nd. Let's see why.

It has a low unemployment rate and high incomes.

Plus, Cary has an impressive history for a place of just over 163,266 people. The median home costs a cool $337,700 and households make $101,079 which is good for 12th in North Carolina.

Apex, NC

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility


Population: 48,254
Rank Last Year: 4 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $307,800 (15th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.5% (20th best)
More on Apex: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Apex takes 3rd place on our list of best places in North Carolina for 2020 thanks to a strong showing in unemployment rate (20th overall) and things to do.

Apex is no stranger to top ten lists, being named one of the best places to live in the country by multiple outlets over the past ten years. And that tends to happen when home prices hit $307,800 at the median.

Pinehurst, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 15,821
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $297,100 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 2.6% (7th best)
More on Pinehurst: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Crime is something that doesn't happen very often in Pinehurst. Statistically the 1st safest place in the state, there were only 15 violent crimes in the entire city last year.

It's really beautiful in Pinehurst, and new homes continue to replace older homes. Resident earn $80,128 a year, and homes are valued at more than $297,100.

What else could you possibly want if you're someone who likes the good things in life?

Holly Springs, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 33,341
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 1)
Median Home Value: $283,700 (20th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.8% (27th best)
More on Holly Springs: Real Estate | Data | Photos

You might be surprised to see the Town of Holly Springs so high on the list. Unless you live in Holly Springs.

The unemployment rate here is really low, and at 3.8%, Holly Springs residents are some of the hardest working in the state of North Carolina. When you factor in high home prices, high incomes and low crime, Holly Springs is doing quite well.

Let's be honest -- Holly Springs is the kind of place you brag to your friends on Facebook about.

Winterville, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 9,546
Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 3)
Median Home Value: $159,400 (64th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.1% (10th best)
More on Winterville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Taking its place as the 6th best place in North Carolina is Winterville. Residents here earn a really high salary each year, and crime is fairly low, in comparison to the rest of North Carolina.

It's considered a cultural community, as it boasts an arts scene, and many ethnic restaurants, too. Which means you can't be bored here.

An unemployment rate of only 3.1% helps thing too.

Wake Forest, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 40,159
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $285,000 (19th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.3% (44th best)
More on Wake Forest: Real Estate | Data | Photos

The Wake Forest has the 44th lowest unemployment rate in North Carolina. The population growth here has been 8% over the last 15 years, meaning a lot of people want to live here. If they can afford it; the cost of living in Wake Forest is higher than the national average and households make $88,394 per year.

We'd move to Wake Forest if we could in a heart beat.

Fletcher, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 7,952
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 2)
Median Home Value: $201,800 (44th best)
Unemployment Rate: 1.8% (2nd best)
More on Fletcher: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Say what you want about cheap living. The fact is, homes are priced by demand, and there's A LOT of demand to live in Fletcher.

Fletcher ranked impressively high for its crime rate (15th overall) and its short commute times (19th).

We think that's worth the price of admission.

Huntersville, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 54,572
Rank Last Year: 13 (Up 4)
Median Home Value: $283,300 (21st best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.7% (25th best)
More on Huntersville: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Huntersville ranks as the 9th best place in North Carolina for 2020. Let's take a look at why.

Huntersville has a lower crime rate than the cities mentioned above. Huntersville's cost of living is a tick higher, but families also earn much higher salaries - to the tune of $97,320 a year.

The knock? We can't really find one 🙂

Carolina Beach, NC

Overall SnackAbility


Population: 6,194
Rank Last Year: 27 (Up 17)
Median Home Value: $328,000 (11th best)
Unemployment Rate: 1.5% (1st best)
More on Carolina Beach: Real Estate | Data | Photos

It's obvious why Carolina Beach ranks 10th in the state for best places to live: they have the lowest unemployment rate and the 11th highest home values.

Plus, they're known for their quality education and relatively low crime, making Carolina Beach a great place to live.

Mapping The Best And Worst Places To Live in North Carolina

The Pressing Question: Size

Before we even started to collect data, we had to answer a tough question: Is it fair to pit Raleigh with a population of 457,159 against places with a population of 18?

We firmly decided no, that just isn't fair.

So to create our ranking, we broke places to live into three tiers:

  • Cities -- Populations over 5,000
  • Towns -- Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
  • Small Towns -- Populations below 1,000

This left us with 130 cities, 295 towns, and 250 small towns.

We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best cities to live in North Carolina have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,000 people to truly be 'the best'.

Now we also realize that city living might not be your cup of tea, so we ran the following analysis on towns and then again for small towns.

You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.

How We Calculated The Best Cities To Live In North Carolina

Now that we had our set of cities, it was time to rank them.

We ranked each place in North Carolina across a number of criteria from one to 130, with one being the best.

We then took the average rank across all criteria, with the city posting the lowest overall score being crowned the winner of the title "Best Place To Live In North Carolina".

The criteria we looked at were:

  • Median Home Values
  • Median Income
  • Population Density (Higher better)
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Commute Time
  • Crime
  • Education Levels
  • Health Insurance Coverage
  • Poverty rates

Sources of criteria include the New Census Data and FBI Crime Data. You can download the data here.

After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in North Carolina? That would be Davidson.

If your city or town isn't among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see a detailed chart of the best places in North Carolina.

Otherwise, buckle up for a ride down good living lane with Davidson at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Wrapping Up The Best Places When It Comes To Living In North Carolina

If you're looking at areas in North Carolina with the best economic situations, where there's lower than average crime, and a lot to do, this is an accurate list.

Davidson made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in North Carolina for 2020.

Best Towns To Live In North Carolina

  1. Wrightsville Beach (Pop. 2,546)
  2. Royal Pines (Pop. 4,751)
  3. Biltmore Forest (Pop. 1,516)
  4. Trent Woods (Pop. 4,194)
  5. Avery Creek (Pop. 2,716)
  6. Fearrington Village (Pop. 2,984)
  7. Weaverville (Pop. 3,886)
  8. Bermuda Run (Pop. 2,556)
  9. St. James (Pop. 4,438)
  10. Lake Park (Pop. 3,678)

Best Small Towns To Live In North Carolina

  1. Walnut Creek (Pop. 936)
  2. Bald Head Island (Pop. 284)
  3. Hatteras (Pop. 481)
  4. Washington Park (Pop. 577)
  5. Barker Ten Mile (Pop. 834)
  6. Deercroft (Pop. 476)
  7. Cedar Rock (Pop. 324)
  8. JAARS (Pop. 508)
  9. Alamance (Pop. 902)
  10. Montreat (Pop. 521)

If you're curious enough, here are the worst places to live in North Carolina according to the data:

  1. Selma (Pop. 6,577)
  2. Wadesboro (Pop. 5,351)
  3. Roxboro (Pop. 8,283)

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

Where Are The Best Places To Live In North Carolina?

Rank City Population Unemployment Rate Home Value
1 Davidson 12,666 3.2% $423,000
2 Cary 163,266 3.5% $337,700
3 Apex 48,254 3.5% $307,800
4 Pinehurst 15,821 2.6% $297,100
5 Holly Springs 33,341 3.8% $283,700
6 Winterville 9,546 3.1% $159,400
7 Wake Forest 40,159 4.3% $285,000
8 Fletcher 7,952 1.8% $201,800
9 Huntersville 54,572 3.7% $283,300
10 Carolina Beach 6,194 1.5% $328,000

How Is Your Town In ?

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

2 thoughts on “THE 10 BEST Places To Live In North Carolina For 2020

  1. As in the worst places list, there are some extreme fluctuations. I guess that Cornelius of north Meck was rated high until the critic actually visited and sat in unending gridlock for building a toll lane on I-77. There also must be a reason to downgrade towns south of south Charlotte like Marvin, Weddington, and Wesley Chapel. Maybe Indian Land is drawing away their prosperity across the state line. Rating numbers must be supported by a factor. I guess that the Wake factor and Orange Co(where you’ll be a fan for life…NOT!) upgraded their ratings suddenly.

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