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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.
Here are the 10 best places to live in North Carolina for 2019:
- Cary (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Davidson (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Apex (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Holly Springs (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Pinehurst (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Morrisville (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Chapel Hill (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Elon (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Wake Forest (Photos | Homes For Sale)
- Fletcher (Photos | Homes For Sale)
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 2019? Well according to the US Census and FBI data we crunched, Cary 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 Cary takes the cake. What Cary 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.
For more North Carolina reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Counties To Live In North Carolina
- 10 Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina
- 10 Best Places To Raise A Family In North Carolina
The 10 Best Places To Live In North Carolina For 2019
Cary 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 Cary is a real gem.
With high incomes comes a high cost of living, which can been seen in the home prices. Additionally, the commute time for Cary residents to work is significantly higher than average.
We wouldn't be surprised to see CNN call Davidson 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 Davidson.
We think the motto in Apex should be "Everything is greater in Apex," and that seems to be pretty close to the truth.
Apex has some of the highest home values in North Carolina, and they're going up fast. Additionally, Apex only has 460.0% of its residents living in poverty.
Crime is also well below the state average, making Apex a solid option for people who value safety. At least those who can afford it.
Holly Springs had the 10th lowest unemployment of any place in our research (4.0%) and the 3rd lowest crime rate. However, the relative lack of population density and long commute times held it back from being higher on our list.
Holly Springs is home to an exceptional Volunteer Fire Department that represents so much about what it's like to live there.
Pinehurst has a long and illustrious history and its ranking in the top ten of our best places to live is just another notch in its belt.\n\Pinehurst had the 19th highest household median income adjusted for cost of living at $78,338.
Not to mention that its residents have plenty to do on the weekends.
Morrisville has it made. In fact, according to science, it's one of the best places to live in the state of North Carolina.
The unemployment rate is the 8th lowest in the state at 3.9%, and residents make a pretty penny. Median incomes are $92,769, and the average cost of a home is $291,400. Which is an indication that lots of people want to live here.
We wouldn't be surprised if more and more publications call Morrisville one of America's gems.
If you live in Chapel Hill, you probably know how great it is already.
Chapel Hill has a stable economy where residents earn a large salary ($65,373). And the crime is really, really low (26th lowest in North Carolina).
If we could afford to move here, we probably would.
Elon has a really low crime rate (2nd lowest) and only 5.5% of the people are unemployed. Additionally, residents here have high paying jobs ($45,767). And that goes a long way.
The population is growing at a steady clip, and the cost of living is lower than it should be. So people have an extra incentive to live in Elon.
The Town of Wake Forest might be a bit of a surprise to some in terms of how well it ranks according to science.
The crime rate in Wake Forest isn't amazing, but it's far below the state average. The homes are valued at $270,300 here, and the schools get some of the most funding in North Carolina.
If Wake Forest can get some more of their residents to work, things will look even rosier here. The unemployment rate (5.7% is the 3highest in the state.
Let's take a look at why Fletcher is a great place to call home for 2019.
There's low crime in Fletcher, and the residents here are gainfully employed (3.0% unemployment rate).
You can make Fletcher your home for only $186,400 which won't be too hard on a $58,298 household salary.
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 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 5,000
- Towns -- Populations between 1,000 and 5,000
- Small Towns -- Populations below 1,000
This left us with 129 cities, 295 towns, and 250 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 5,000 people to truly be 'the best'.
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 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
After the dust settled, what was the best place to live in North Carolina? That would be Cary.
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.
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.
Cary made a strong showing to take in the overall number one spot for the best place to live in North Carolina for 2019.
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)
- Washington Park (Pop. 577)
- Barker Ten Mile (Pop. 834)
- Deercroft (Pop. 476)
- Cedar Rock (Pop. 324)
- JAARS (Pop. 508)
- Alamance (Pop. 902)
- Montreat (Pop. 521)
If you're curious enough, here are the worst places to live in North Carolina according to the data:
- Henderson (Pop. 15,258)
- Selma (Pop. 6,325)
- Wadesboro (Pop. 5,577)
For more North Carolina reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In North Carolina
- These Are The 10 Richest Cities In North Carolina
- 10 Safest Cities in North Carolina
- 10 Worst Places To Live In North Carolina