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6 Best Places to Live in North Carolina, 2021

By: Davina Ward
July 8, 2021

North Carolina is among the top ten most populous states in the US, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why. The cost of living in North Carolina is relatively low, there are many great cities to choose from, and they have a wonderful entertainment scene. In short, it’s a great place to put down roots.

That said, it can be challenging to choose the best place to live in North Carolina — there are so many great options. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. This guide will take a deep dive into the best places to live in North Carolina and everything you need to know about them. Let’s get started!

Charlotte

  • Population: 885,708
  • Who’s Moving Here?: New residents are moving from Columbia, New York, and Greensboro.
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,323
  • Median Household Income: $62,817
  • Walk Score: 94
  • Transit Score: 74
  • Bike Score: 53

Renting in The Queen City requires acute attention to detail, especially when you're touring an apartment. Unfortunately, some apartment complexes may seem too good to be true, and they usually are. Avoid this by going over every inch of an apartment during your tour.

Check out Charlotte's First Ward neighborhood at the start of your apartment hunt.

As one of Charlotte's best neighborhoods, First Ward is located very close to Uptown, and it has several great apartments available. You'll face fierce competition when trying to rent downtown. It's a highly coveted location.

When it comes to leisure, The Charlotte Hornets and the Carolina Panthers are two of the top attractions in the city. These professional teams draw in huge crowds during their home games. Golf and NASCAR lovers will also be at home in Charlotte, as the city plays host to some of the sports' major events.

Charlotte's job market is booming but also wildly competitive. With Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and other major financial corporations headquartered in the city, Charlotte offers many job opportunities.

Commuting to your job will be easy, especially if it's located in Charlotte's Uptown area. The average commute time for Charlotte residents is a manageable 25.9 minutes, you can sleep in a bit.

Keep in mind you'll likely be more comfortable owning a car after moving to Charlotte. While public transportation is available and can certainly get you where you need to go, car ownership is more convenient and can save you time on your commute.

Raleigh

  • Population: 474,069
  • Who’s Moving Here?: New residents are moving from Durham, New York, and Charlotte.
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,375
  • Median Household Income: $67,266
  • Walk Score: 31
  • Transit Score: 30
  • Bike Score: 41

Raleigh, dubbed the City of Oaks, is a lovely place to call home. A combination of southern charm and rich history gives Raleigh the perfect vibe to attract new residents from all over.

These new residents are drawn to the city's gorgeous tree-lined streets and outdoor recreation offerings. It's the kind of city that's inviting down to its core. It also helps that Raleigh's average rent prices make it a relatively affordable place to live.

Raleigh's job market is a dream for tech, higher education, and medical industries. However, there are also many jobs available outside those fields.

To sweeten the deal, Raleigh residents average a low 24 minute commute time to work. There's little worry of congested rush hour traffic or an extra ten minutes looking for a parking space during the said commute.

Many workers don't have to worry about commute times since Raleigh is one of the best cities for remote workers.

With affordable rent prices, a plethora of recreation opportunities, and a collection of unique neighborhoods, Raleigh is the perfect place to call home when you're not tied down to a single location.

If you want to be right in the thick of things, Moore Square and Glenwood South are the two best Raleigh neighborhoods to start your apartment search. These neighborhoods have a lot to offer when it comes to entertainment and public amenities.

Moreover, the apartments in these neighborhoods are varied, so you can take your time choosing among them. Just be aware that you'll likely be facing more competition in these neighborhoods' rental markets.

Greensboro

  • Population: 296,710
  • Who’s Moving Here?: New residents are moving from other North Carolina cities, including Winston, Charlotte, and Raleigh.
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,050
  • Median Household Income: $48,964
  • Walk Score: 29
  • Bike Score: 35

Why move to Greensboro?

For one, the city hosts an annual folk festival that draws North Carolina residents and tourists from all over for a week of fun and twang.

Better yet, it's home to two neighborhoods that are perfect starting points for new residents. The Southside and Aycock Historic District neighborhoods boast affordable units, close to downtown, and offer many entertainment options.

Farmer's markets, historic buildings, and quaint homes line the neighborhood streets. Not to mention, you'll find locally-famed restaurants and many shops to spend your days exploring.

Luckily, if you live in one of the many condos, lofts, studios, and other units available in these neighborhoods, you'll save big on rental costs.

However, you may break even when it comes to transportation because Greensboro is a car city. Luckily, you won't have trouble finding parking or dealing with backed-up traffic in Greensboro.

Although there are public transportation options, most residents opt to use their personal vehicles to get around. However, if you're a student based near any of the campuses in Greensboro, you'll likely be able to trek to nearby amenities on foot or rely on on-campus transportation services.

Beyond transportation and rent, living in Greensboro is a treat. The city's gorgeous architecture showcases its history and transformation through the ages.

If you're looking for something to do, a simple tour of some of the older parts of Greensboro will keep you entertained. The city is also home to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum for those interested in exploring Greensboro's role in the fight for equality.

Durham

  • Population: 278,993
  • Who’s Moving Here?: New residents are moving from Raleigh, New York, and Charlotte.
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,300
  • Median Household Income: $58,905
  • Walk Score: 29
  • Transit Score: 29
  • Bike Score: 41

Like many North Carolina cities, Durham has a reputation for being a college town. It's not surprising, considering the famed Duke University is located within city limits.

Not only does Duke bring in a massive influx of students and staff during the school year, but it's also one of the largest employers in the city. Alongside Duke, North Carolina Central University adds to Durham's reputation as a college town.

Both schools offer tons of recreation and entertainment options for the public, most notably Division 1 sports competitions.

March Madness is usually a significant event throughout the state as the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels compete nearly every year.

At the K-12 education level, Durham schools boast high ratings and breed satisfied parents. So if you're looking to relocate your family with young kids, their education won't suffer for it.

Beyond the education sector, Durham still has a lot to offer prospective residents. For one, the city is extraordinarily diverse with a unique mix of cultures that makes the city special.

If you're looking for a neighborhood that emphasizes this diversity and offers a decent collection of apartments to choose from, check out Downtown Durham.

Just be aware that rent prices in the city's central location are often higher than those in other neighborhoods. If affordability is your primary concern, check out Old West Durham and Trinity park for older homes and duplexes that are generally cheaper.

Winston-Salem

  • Population: 247,945
  • Who’s Moving Here?: New residents are moving from other North Carolina cities, according to rental data trends.
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,022
  • Median Household Income: $45,750
  • Walk Score: 23
  • Bike Score: 29

The largest industries in High Point are textile, bus manufacturing, and furnishings — an odd assortment, especially for such a small town.

The largest employers in High Point are Wake Forest Baptist Health, Ralph Lauren, Thomas Built Buses, and Bank of America. So, there are many different industries represented throughout the city's economic sector.

The job market isn't exactly booming, so it's essential to take the time to find a job that meets your needs. You'll likely spend some time searching before landing one, so don't rush your apartment hunt!

Speaking of an apartment hunt, finding your dream apartment in High Point shouldn't be too difficult. Though there aren't many options, there's enough variety to help ensure that you find something that suits your preferences.

High Point's rental market consists mainly of apartment communities and some single-family homes.

If you prefer a bit of luxury in your life, opt for an apartment community. They usually have amenities such as pool access, on-site fitness centers, and on-site movie theater rooms.

The best part? Even an apartment with the most sought-after amenities will be much more affordable than it would be in a larger city.

Not to mention, High Point's proximity to Greensboro means you can commute to the city comfortably.

Asheville

  • Population: 92,870
  • Who’s Moving Here?: New residents are moving from other North Carolina cities, according to rental data trends.
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,506
  • Median Household Income: $49,930
  • Walk Score: 36
  • Transit Score: 26
  • Bike Score: 33

Asheville, aptly nicknamed Land of the Sky, is a gorgeous city. Its location in the Blue Ridge Mountains makes it one of the most spectacular sites from afar, especially at sunset.

The city's awe-inspiring visage is enough to draw in new residents from across the country and even from some of North Carolina's larger cities.

If you make the move to Asheville, expect to find a diverse group of residents. With students, families, artists, and retirees making their home within Asheville's borders, you'll be surrounded by people from all walks of life.

Remote workers also tend to flock to Asheville in droves. As Asheville is affordable, beautiful, and has an urban center, it ranks as one of the best cities for remote workers in the US.

Speaking of walking, you probably won't walk much if you move to one of Asheville's more residential neighborhoods.

However, if you choose to stay close to the city's center, you can use public transportation, walk, or bike to get to where you need to be.

That's what makes Downtown Asheville one of the best places to live in the city. You'll find lots of renovated older apartments with hard lofts to call home.

However, if you prefer a little more eccentricity from your neighborhood, check out the artsy West Asheville neighborhood.

Regardless of where you move to Asheville, you'll remain quite far from the state's capital city and the notorious Research Triangle.

That said, Asheville is the largest city in the western portion of the state, so you'll find pretty much everything you need within its borders.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to In North Carolina?

North Carolina is a fantastic place to call home, regardless of where you choose to live. When it comes to determining where to move to in North Carolina, it’s all about you and your needs. If the cities listed above seem too expensive, learn about the cheapest places to live in NC!

Take the time to explore what you need out of your new home, and go from there. You’ll be able to narrow down your list from an entire state to a few cities to a few neighborhoods, and so on.

To get started, take the quiz to find your dream apartment!

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AUTHOR
Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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