The Best Places to Live in North Carolina

Where’s your next home in North Carolina?

Be it the Outer Banks or the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina calls out to many people looking to make a new part of the country their home. The Southern state boasts warmer temperatures than much of the U.S., and its varied terrain, including both mountains and coastal areas, offers something for everyone. Out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., seven are located in North Carolina. Based on the data used to determine the Best Places to Live in the U.S. ranking, which factors in cost of living, job market, desirability, net migration and overall quality of life, we’ve compiled the details that will help you determine which North Carolina metro area you should call home.

7. Fayetteville

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 142
Metro Population: 519,101
Median Home Price: $136,600
Average Annual Salary: $43,520

Many people find themselves in the Fayetteville metro area for its ties to the military, as the U.S. Army’s Fort Bragg is located at the edge of Fayetteville and naturally draws more employers related to the defense industry. Even with this long-term installation, the job market in Fayetteville has struggled compared to other parts of the Tar Heel State. The average annual salary, at $43,520, is about $10,000 below the national average of $53,490. In 2020, the average monthly unemployment rate in Fayetteville was 9.4%, well above the national average of 8.1%.

Learn more about Fayetteville.

6. Greensboro

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 94
Metro Population: 762,063
Median Home Price: $251,877
Average Annual Salary: $45,740

Located in the northern portion of the state, Greensboro ranks 37th out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for its college readiness among high school students, based on data from the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings. Additionally, the cost of living in Greensboro requires 21.93% of the area’s median annual household income, which is below the national median cost of living of 23.06%. Greensboro is just a couple of hours’ drive from both the mountains and the coast, with interstates 40, 85 and 73 among some of the highways that can easily take you in and out of the metro area.

Learn more about Greensboro.

5. Hickory

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 52
Metro Population: 366,678
Median Home Price: $161,000
Average Annual Salary: $41,840

Ranking No. 52 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Hickory is also the fourth-most affordable place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S., and it’s the most affordable in North Carolina. Hickory area residents spend 19.71% of the median household income on housing costs, including rent or mortgage payments, property taxes and utilities. Hickory also ranks 24th out of the 150 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list for its access to quality health care, based on data from the U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings.

Learn more about Hickory.

4. Asheville

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 48
Metro Population: 454,351
Median Home Price: $278,750
Average Annual Salary: $44,830

If you’re looking for a relatively small metro area and a mountain setting, consider Asheville, which is known for attracting artists and art lovers with its ample galleries, studios and art installations. Asheville is the second-most expensive of the seven North Carolina metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, after Fayetteville, with residents spending 23.44% of the median annual household income on housing. Still, many Americans consider Asheville an ideal place to live, placing it 38th for desirability on the overall Best Places to Live list, based on a SurveyMonkey survey of more than 3,600 U.S. residents asking respondents where they would prefer to live.

Learn more about Asheville.

3. Winston-Salem

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 46
Metro Population: 666,216
Median Home Price: $278,083
Average Annual Salary: $47,480

Slightly west of Greensboro is Winston-Salem, which boasts a cost of living that requires just 21.11% of the median annual household income. Winston-Salem’s population skews slightly older than most other metro areas in North Carolina: The area’s median age is 40.6 years, while the national median age is 38.4, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Winston-Salem’s metro area has seen moderate population growth due to net migration, with an increase of 2.3% between 2015 and 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Learn more about Winston-Salem.

2. Charlotte

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 20
Metro Population: 2,545,560
Median Home Price: $351,700
Average Annual Salary: $52,150

Charlotte is seeing much more rapid population growth and is the fastest-growing North Carolina metro area on the Best Places to Live list. Between 2015 and 2019, Charlotte’s population increased by 5.9% due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The average annual salary for the area is slightly below the national average at $52,150, and the average monthly unemployment rate in 2020, at 7.4%, was below the national average of 8.1%.

Learn more about Charlotte.

1. Raleigh and Durham

Best Places 2021-2022 Rank: 2
Metro Population: 1,959,006
Median Home Price: $329,709
Average Annual Salary: $56,887

The highest-ranking North Carolina metro area is Raleigh and Durham, taking the No. 2 spot on the Best Places to Live list. Requiring just 20.94% of the median annual household income to cover housing costs, Raleigh and Durham is the second-most affordable North Carolina metro area out of the seven on this list. Known as the Research Triangle for the ample research and technology jobs found at universities and companies headquartered among the three cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, the metro area has an average monthly unemployment rate of just 6.4% and an average annual salary of $56,887, which is above the national average of $53,490.

Learn more about Raleigh and Durham.

The best places to live in North Carolina are:

— Raleigh and Durham.

— Charlotte.

— Winston-Salem.

— Asheville.

— Hickory.

— Greensboro.

— Fayetteville.

More from U.S. News

The 25 Best Places to Live on the East Coast in 2021-2022

The 25 Best Places to Live for Families in the U.S. in 2021-2022

The Best Places to Live Near the Mountains

The Best Places to Live in North Carolina originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 11/09/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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