Where are the best places in the state of North Carolina?
To the untrained eye they are the places that have awesome economies. They’re the places in Tar Heel State where people have the best jobs, residents are all above average, and the sun shines the most.
However, here at HomeSnacks, we don’t trust the untrained eye and instead look to data to understand the best places to call home in North Carolina.
There might be some surprises on this list, but when you look at the unbiased data, it’s hard to argue against.
After analyzing 129 places in North Carolina, we came up with this list of the best places:
- Cary (Photos | Homes)
- Davidson (Photos | Homes)
- Apex (Photos | Homes)
- Holly Springs (Photos | Homes)
- Pinehurst (Photos | Homes)
- Morrisville (Photos | Homes)
- Chapel Hill (Photos | Homes)
- Elon (Homes)
- Wake Forest (Photos | Homes)
- Fletcher (Homes)
Follow along as we provide more insight into how we reached our overall best 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 441,326 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 5,100
- Towns — Populations between 1,000 and 5,100
- Small Towns — Populations below 1,000
This left us with 129 cities, 296 towns, and 295 small towns.
We then decided, no matter how much anyone loves their town, the best places have more of everything and therefore you need to have over 5,100 people to truly be ‘the best’.
You can see those two top tens at the bottom of the post.
How We Calculated The Best Place 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 129, 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
- Education Levels
- Health Insurance Coverage
- Poverty rates
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 Cary at the end of the cul-de-sac.
Population: 155,822Rank Last Year: 2 (Up 1)
Home Values: $309,800 (9th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (10th best)
More on Cary: Real Estate | Data
Cary ranks as the best place to live in NC for 2018 as well as being one of the best in the country.
If you don’t have a job in Cary, you’re most likely not trying very hard. The unemployment rate here is almost as low as you can get — 4.0%. In fact, there are probably enough butler and landscaping jobs available here to put every single unemployed resident to work, what with a median income of $94,617.
That’s actually not a bad idea…
Population: 12,076Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Home Values: $393,300 (3rd best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.6% (30th best)
More on Davidson: Real Estate | Data
Davidson has the 30th 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 Davidson is higher than the national average and households make $109,907 per year.
We’d move to Davidson if we could in a heartbeat.
Population: 43,893Rank Last Year: 8 (Up 5)
Home Values: $278,400 (14th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.7% (19th best)
More on Apex: Real Estate | Data
Apex was a big mover this year, jumping up 5 spots in the ranking to number 3.
With the unemployment rate being the 19th lowest in North Carolina and very stable household median incomes, it’s easy to see why someone would want to live in Apex.
Plus, the crime rate is the 7th lowest in the state!
4. Holly Springs
Population: 30,126Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Home Values: $249,500 (22nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (10th best)
More on Holly Springs: Real Estate | Data
Holly Springs finds itself in the same position as last year — a very solid 4th.
Crime is low and incomes are high, which is a very good combo for those playing at home. In fact, the crime rate is the 3rd lowest in the state.
Population: 15,522Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Home Values: $287,400 (12th best)
Unemployment Rate: 4.0% (10th best)
More on Pinehurst: Real Estate | Data
Pinehurst has been called one of the best small towns in America. If you live here, you’re most likely already aware of how great it is to live there.
Just about everyone who wants a job in Pinehurst has one; the unemployment rate is hovering at about 4.0% and decreasing over time. And the Pinehurst police department is doing a solid job, as crime is the lowest in the state here.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a place like this?
Population: 22,600Rank Last Year: 1 (Down 5)
Home Values: $291,400 (10th best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.9% (8th best)
More on Morrisville: Real Estate | Data
We wouldn’t be surprised to see CNN call Morrisville one of the best places to live in the United States. Not only do the residents all make great livings, there’s essentially no crime in the entire city. And the residents are very involved in the community.
They can’t build homes fast enough here as it seems everyone wants a piece of Morrisville.
7. Chapel Hill
Population: 59,005Rank Last Year: 19 (Up 12)
Home Values: $390,300 (4th best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.4% (27th best)
More on Chapel Hill: Real Estate | Data
Chapel Hill is another great city in North Carolina with a low unemployment rate and where residents earn high salaries.
Said one reviewer on City-Data.com: ” We feel incredibly safe in Chapel Hill. The houses and neighborhoods are beautiful, the people are friendly, and it’s wonderful to have such good neighbors. People watch out for each other here, they teach their children to be respectful of others and things.”
Population: 9,781Rank Last Year: 22 (Up 14)
Home Values: $236,500 (24th best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.5% (29th best)
More on Elon: Real Estate | Data
We think the motto in Elon should be “Everything is greater in Elon,” and that seems to be pretty close to the truth.
Elon has some of the highest home values in North Carolina, and they’re going up fast. Additionally, Elon only has 1750.0% of its residents living in poverty.
Crime is also well below the state average, making Elon a solid option for people who value safety. At least those who can afford it.
9. Wake Forest
Population: 36,472Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 2)
Home Values: $270,300 (16th best)
Unemployment Rate: 5.7% (31st best)
More on Wake Forest: Real Estate | Data
Wake Forest places 9th on this year’s list of the best places in NC.
While it didn’t quite have the showing it had last year, it still has a very low poverty rate, low crime, and an educated workforce. So it’s not like Wake Forest has anything to be ashamed of.
Population: 7,547 Rank Last Year: 9 (Down 1)
Home Values: $186,400 (42nd best)
Unemployment Rate: 3.0% (2nd best)
More on Fletcher: Real Estate | Data
Fletcher has some of the most employed as well as the highest earning residents in the entire state of North Carolina. Factor in a very low crime rate, and this Fletcher is a real gem.
With high incomes comes a high cost of living, which can been seen in the home pricese. Additionally, the commute time for Fletcher residents to work is significantly higher than average.
Wrapping Up The Best Of The Best 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.
Cary made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for 2018.
Best Towns To Live In North Carolina
- Wrightsville Beach (Pop. 2,546)
- Royal Pines (Pop. 4,751)
- Biltmore Forest (Pop. 1,516)
- Trent Woods (Pop. 4,194)
- Avery Creek (Pop. 2,716)
- Fearrington Village (Pop. 2,984)
- Weaverville (Pop. 3,886)
- Bermuda Run (Pop. 2,556)
- St. James (Pop. 4,438)
- Lake Park (Pop. 3,678)
Best Small Towns To Live In North Carolina
- Walnut Creek (Pop. 936)
- Bald Head Island (Pop. 284)
- Hatteras (Pop. 481)
- Deercroft (Pop. 476)
- Washington Park (Pop. 577)
- Barker Ten Mile (Pop. 834)
- JAARS (Pop. 508)
- Cedar Rock (Pop. 324)
- Alamance (Pop. 902)
If you’re curious enough, here are the worst places to live in North Carolina:
- Wadesboro (Pop. 5,577)
- Selma (Pop. 6,325)
- Henderson (Pop. 15,258)
For more North Carolina reading , check out:
- 10 Worst Places To Live In North Carolina
- These Are The 10 Best Suburbs In North Carolina For 2018
- These Are The 10 Fastest Growing Cities In North Carolina