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Best Cities for Homeownership in North Carolina

From its sandy beaches to cultural events and high-tech job opportunities, North Carolina has a lot to offer its residents. But how much has homeownership in the Tar Heel State paid off over the past few years?

The answer to this question depends on the area and several factors — including home values — that make a community a prime place to put down roots. The median value of owner-occupied homes in North Carolina is $161,000, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Census, and housing costs for homeowners are $1,261 per month.

To see which areas in North Carolina are the best in which to own a home, analysts at LendingTree collected data points from the U.S. Census’s 2013-2017 American Community Survey for more than 30 North Carolina metropolitan areas. They then compared and ranked each area on five core metrics: home values and appreciation, fluctuations in housing costs (e.g., mortgages, taxes, utilities, insurance), unemployment rates and commute times.

The final rankings reveal the North Carolina metros where homeownership has been most beneficial.

Key findings:

  • The Asheville metro area is the best place for homeownership in North Carolina. It has low unemployment (4.6%), increasing median home value appreciation (9.09% from 2013-2017) and a high median home value ($212,500).
  • The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area is the second-best place in North Carolina for homeownership. It has a high median home value ($223,800), increasing median home value appreciation (11.51%) and stable housing costs (0.48% from 2013-2017).
  • The Roanoke Rapids micro area is the worst place for homeownership in North Carolina. It has a low median home value ($101,100), high unemployment (9.7) and housing costs increased by 2.46% from 2013 to 2017.

The best cities for homeownership in North Carolina

1. Asheville

Asheville’s housing market is healthy, and its local economy is strong. This is evidenced by its employment rate of 4.6% in 2017, the lowest of any North Carolina metro area we surveyed. Locals also benefit from a 21.2-minute average commute time, which is on the shorter end for the state.Homes here appreciated at a decent rate, with a median increase of 9.09% from 2013 to 2017. The median Asheville home value was $212,500 in 2017. At the same time, housing costs have risen just 0.32%.

2. Durham-Chapel Hill

The Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area earns its spot in large part due to a hot housing market with fast-rising home values. From 2013 to 2017, the median home value appreciated by 11.51% to $223,800. This represents the largest increase on our top 10 list. At the same time, housing costs rose just 0.48%.Home to two major research universities, Durham-Chapel Hill’s economy is strengthened by its base of highly educated workers. The unemployment rate in 2017 was 6%. The average commute time in the area is a reasonable 23.8 minutes.

3. Kill Devil Hills

This Outer Banks micropolitan area is a popular spot for beachside vacations and getaways. But Kill Devil Hills is also one of the best places to be a homeowner in North Carolina, thanks in part to having the highest median home value of the cities surveyed, at $282,300 in 2017. It’s notable, however, that Kill Devil Hills’ home values have remained pretty static and were virtually unchanged from 2013 to 2017, depreciating 0.11% in that period.The tourism-centered economy also supports a strong job market, as shown by the relatively low 5.5% local unemployment rate. The average commute time is just 21 minutes.

4. Wilmington

Wilmington also earned its spot due in large part to its higher home values — the median was $223,200 in 2017. Median home values have increased at a healthy clip, too, with values appreciating 7.15% from 2013 to 2017. At the same time, housing costs have stayed virtually unchanged, rising 0.09%.Wilmington does have one of the higher unemployment rates on our list, at 7.2% in 2017. Its commute time is favorable, however, at just 22 minutes.

5. Burlington

Burlington ranks well thanks in part to decreasing housing costs, which fell 3.67% from 2013 to 2017. At the same time, the median home value in Burlington appreciated by 5.26%, coming in at $156,000 in 2017.Burlington’s 2017 unemployment rate was 6%, and its average commute time was about 24 minutes.

6. Boone

A college town that’s home to Appalachian State University, Boone earns its spot as one of the best places for homeowners by boasting the second-highest median home values among the North Carolina cities we surveyed, at $264,300. Boone also saw decent home value appreciation, with an increase of 8.23% from 2013 to 2017.Having the shortest average commute time, at just 20 minutes, also gives Boone a boost. Its unemployment rate, however, is the highest on our top 10 list, at 8.1%.

7. Raleigh

State capital Raleigh takes the seventh spot, in part for its relatively low 2017 unemployment rate of 5.2%. This reflects the strong Raleigh labor market, which has a concentration of technical workers and professionals. The average commute time here, however, is the highest on our top 10 list, just shy of 26 minutes.The median home value in Raleigh was $231,400 in 2017, and the area saw a median appreciation of 9.2% from 2013 to 2017. At the same time, housing costs ticked up by just 0.77%.

8. Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC

A popular beachside vacation destination, Myrtle Beach can be as beneficial a place to own a home as it is to visit. In fact, it was named the No. 1 best place people are moving to in 2018 by U.S. News & World Report.The median home value in Myrtle Beach was $183,000 in 2017. From 2013 to 2017, this area saw more modest home appreciations than some of the other cities on our top 10 list, with values up 4.27%. Myrtle Beach’s housing costs, on the other hand, fell by 2.2% during that same period — a sign that, while home values may be rising, housing overall is relatively affordable.

9. Mount Airy

Mount Airy stands out for having the second-lowest 2017 unemployment rate out of the areas we surveyed in the state, at 5.1%. It also saw a decrease in housing costs, which fell 2.3% from 2013 to 2017.But while Mount Airy residents overall paid less to keep a roof over their heads, homeowners saw their home values rise during the same time. The median home value here appreciated 6.65%, reaching $136,300 by 2017.

10. Greensboro-High Point

The Greensboro-High Point metropolitan area rounds out the top 10 best places for North Carolina homeowners. Housing costs in this city have remained low in recent years, falling 2.45% from 2013 to 2017.

Home values appreciated more slowly in Greensboro than in some of the other areas on our list, with the median appreciation at 2.37% from 2013 to 2017. As of 2017, the median home value in this city was $151,200.

Greensboro’s 2017 unemployment rate was 6.6%, and its average commute time was less than 23 minutes.

Homebuying tips for North Carolina

With some North Carolina homeowners situated well, homebuyers might also decide they want to put down roots in the state. If you’re looking to move to North Carolina, the steps to buying a home and successfully navigating the process will look similar to what you’d expect in many other states.

However, there are some parts of the process to which North Carolina homebuyers should pay special attention. Here are a few tips for buying a home in this state.

Research homebuyer assistance in North Carolina

There are several federal programs that offer assistance for homebuyers, but don’t stop your search for help there. First-time homebuyers in North Carolina can also take advantage of state-level lending and grant programs that may make homeownership more affordable.

You can find this assistance through the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. For example, its NC Home Advantage Mortgage provides accessible home loans to first-time buyers or military veterans, with down payment assistance of up to 5%. The NC 1st Home Advantage Down Payment is a zero-interest home loan that can provide additional down payment funds.

Hire the right professionals

Most homebuyers will seek the help of a real estate agent to help them navigate the process of choosing and buying a home. But in North Carolina, you’ll also need the services of other professionals who can properly protect you.

For example, you’ll want to pay for a professional inspection. North Carolina is a “buyer beware” state, meaning it’s usually on the buyer to perform due diligence to uncover and resolve any issues with the property. Laws in North Carolina allow sellers to refrain from making statements about the state of the home by claiming “no representation,” so an inspection is crucial to uncover any potential problems with the home before you buy.

North Carolina laws also require the closing process to be handled by a real estate attorney or a professional whose work is overseen by an attorney. This attorney is usually chosen by the buyer, so select an experienced and qualified attorney to represent your best interests. Note that if an attorney directly handles the closing transaction, they can provide you with legal advice throughout the process, but a non-attorney cannot.

Plan for all home costs

When setting your budget for a home purchase and ongoing housing costs, make sure you’re accounting for all the expenses you’ll face.

Getting preapproved for a mortgage can be a great step to understanding home loan options and, by extension, what your mortgage payments might look like. But you’ll also want to project other ongoing costs, such as property taxes and homeowners insurance, as well as flood insurance if needed.

These tips, along with the rankings of the best North Carolina communities for homeowners, can help you make an informed homebuying decision. Researching and planning for these expenses ensures you know what to expect and are making choices that will keep costs within your budget.

You can check mortgage rates for North Carolina here.

Methodology:

The methodology for this study was simple and straightforward.

1: Collect metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) and micropolitan statistical areas from the U.S. Census Bureau using 2017 population data.

2: Each MSA and micropolitan statistical area was ranked on a scale from 37 (Best) to 1 (Worst) for five different metrics. Those metrics are:

Median Home Value (37-Highest Value, 1-Lowest Value)

Unemployment Rate (37-Lowest Rate, 1-Highest Rate)

Average Commute Time (37-Shortest Time, 1-Longest Time)

Median Home Value Appreciation (2013-2017) (37-Greatest Appreciation, 1-Smallest Appreciation)

Median Change in Yearly Housing Costs (2013-2017) (37-Smallest Cost Change, 1-Greatest Positive Cost Change) — The formula for this metric is:

(((Monthly Housing Costs for 2017 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2017))/ ((Monthly Housing Costs for 2013 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2013))-1)

3: An average score was then calculated for each MSA based upon the scores received for each metric.

4: The MSAs and micropolitan statistical areas were then ranked on a scale of 1 (Best) to 37 (Worst) based on their average scores.

5: All metrics were ranked equally.

Data:

All data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. More information on where the data came from is provided below:

2017 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2017 Unemployment Rate and Median Commute Time

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Selected Economic Characteristics – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2013 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filter for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage – 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
 

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