Relocating, no matter what your reason may be for doing it, can be extremely overwhelming. You have to consider a million different factors, such as cost of living, climate, and healthcare. Okay, maybe not a million, but you get it.
Recently, however, living in North Carolina seems to be gaining a lot of traction. With a population of about 11 million people, NC is a fast-growing state that has a lot of characteristics that make it ideal for people looking for a new place to call home.
If you’re planning on living in the “Tar Heel State,” then it’s important to consider the benefits that come with this move.
You must take into account the affordability of commodities, the job market, and the community, among others.
You’ll also have to take note of the drawbacks of living in the state. The last thing you want is to move to North Carolina only to end up regretting it later on.
Keep reading until the very end to find out the pros and cons of living in North Carolina, as well as all the factors you should consider before making that big decision.
Quick Facts About North Carolina
North Carolina may not be at the top of your mind if you’re looking for those New York-style urban skylines, but it does have its own charms that make it a dream place to move to for many.
It has a thriving business climate while still boasting of beautiful landscapes and some of the lowest costs of living in the entire country.
This makes it an ideal place to relocate to as it can easily cater to residents who have all sorts of lifestyles.
Geographically, the state is divided into three regions. The east is filled with beautiful coastal plains that make up approximately half of the entire state. The coast here is lined with a string of barrier islands called the Outer Banks.
The central area, known as the Piedmont region, houses some of the largest cities in the state. It’s also home to a number of charming towns like Hillsborough and Pinehurst.
Lastly, the west is where the Blue Ridge Mountains and Mount Mitchell lie waiting to welcome tourists and locals alike to the highest peak east of the Rockies.
North Carolina has a total of 10 national parks, 41 state parks, and 4 national forests. These have some of the longest miles of whitewater rivers, streams, and hiking trails that are ideal for the outdoorsman.
Almost completely in contrast, the state has also come to be known as a research and technology hub in recent years.
Its charms, however, still come mostly from the small-town communities and unique personalities who might greet you while you’re there.
Pros of Living in North Carolina
If you want to know what the state’s biggest selling points are, then here is a list of reasons to live in North Carolina that you should check out.
1. More Affordable Cost of Living
Housing costs are one of the biggest monthly expenditures of Americans.
In North Carolina, the average monthly rent is approximately $150 lower than the national average of $1,080. You can already use this extra $150 per month to pay for utilities, groceries, gas, and many more.
Plus, it isn’t just housing that’s more affordable in this state. Other expenses are budget-friendly too. Compared to those bustling urban areas, such as New York or Washington, food, for example, is far cheaper here.
As a bonus, moving to North Carolina gets you closer to your former “get-away” places like beaches or mountains.
Those vacations that used to take you hours of driving to get to are now just a stone’s throw away.
2. Mostly Temperate Weather
A lot of people joke about how unpredictable the weather in North Carolina can be. While occasions like these can happen, for the most part, weather in the state is often temperate.
In the winter, temperatures rarely go below 35 degrees Fahrenheit in cities, such as Charlotte or Raleigh.
Summers are also pretty mild, though temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit have been recorded in the past.
For the most part, however, the climate in the state is a lot more temperate than in places like Florida or New York.
3. Abundant Outdoor Activities
If you’re an outdoor warrior and you enjoy getting down in the mud, then North Carolina is definitely the state for you.
Home to the Appalachian Mountains, the state has hundreds of miles of hiking trails. This includes well-known trails like the Appalachian Trail, the Looking Glass Rock Trail, and the Rainbow Falls Trail.
While these trails are mostly for hikers, they can also be used by people who love horse riding or mountain biking.
North Carolina also has no shortage of beaches and water activities. If you haven’t been there, you may also want to explore other outdoor activity sites like the Outer Banks, the US National Whitewater Center, and Lake Norman.
4. Strong Job Market
Job opportunities are often one of the biggest considerations people have in mind when deciding where to move.
Fortunately, North Carolina has a strong labor market, so you probably don’t have to worry about being unemployed.
Unemployment in the state is much lower than the national average. While you might not find a job in your preferred field immediately, there shouldn’t be a shortage of other opportunities for you while you wait.
5. Good Healthcare
A good healthcare system is a must-have, especially for those who are looking to relocate to a place for retirement.
North Carolina is home to some of the best medical centers in the entire nation.
Duke University Hospital, for example, is one of the most well-known hospitals in the US. UNC’s and other smaller university hospitals, on the other hand, are also nationally ranked.
Medicaid also offers free health insurance that’s covered by the state. It provides medical services, basic dental or eye care, and prescription drugs to those who are from low-income families or are uninsured.
If you’re earning above the income qualifications that Medicaid has set, however, you’ll have to get your own insurance. This may be a bit pricey, and may cost somewhere around $480-$580 a month.
6. Welcoming Community
North Carolina proudly boasts of its welcoming and hospitable culture made even better by the famous Southern charm.
This means that you can expect friendly greetings not just when you’re shopping, but even from people you might randomly bump into.
The beautiful locales encourage small but warm communities that are always ready to welcome someone new. It’s an ideal place for raising a family, settling down for retirement, or even just living on your own for some peace and quiet.
7. Excellent Post-Secondary Schools
Well-known universities like Duke, Wake Forest, and Davidson College are some of the biggest names in college, and they are all found in the Tar Heel State.
If these private universities are too expensive, however, North Carolina also boasts one of the most robust publicly-funded post-secondary systems in the country.
Some of these public universities include the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, the Appalachian State University, and the North Carolina State University.
Cons of Living in North Carolina
Of course, while there are advantages to living in the Tar Heel State, there are also disadvantages to it. Here are some of them.
1. Higher Taxes
North Carolina can be notorious for the tax burden it places on its citizens.
Individual municipal and state taxes will cost around 9.8% of your annual income on average. This makes it the 20th most taxed state in the country.
Sales tax, for example, will add 6.98% to your total bill. A North Carolina resident pays an average of about $780 per year in sales taxes alone.
The state, however, does encourage its residents to go into business. It has relatively low corporate tax rates, with a 2.5% business tax that’s appealing to those who might be thinking of starting their own venture.
Property taxes also vary from one municipality to the next, but the average rate is at about 0.85% in the entire state.
2. Poor Public Transportation System
The public transportation system in North Carolina leaves much to be desired.
It can be hard to go around and reach those beautiful mountain sceneries and gorgeous beaches if you don’t have your own car.
The cities do have a public transportation system, but it lacks the convenience of similar systems in cities like Chicago or New York.
They’re unable to service an area wide enough, which makes it difficult even for locals to get to where they need to go.
3. Higher Crime Rate
While it’s generally safe for you and your family to live in North Carolina, it doesn’t mean that crime is non-existent. The crime rate in the state matches the nation’s average.
Poverty is one of the most commonly cited reasons for this. About 14% of the population in the state lives in poverty, something that’s often correlated with higher crime levels.
Hurricanes are the leading cause of headaches of people who live along the eastern seaboard.
Intense winds and heavy rainfall can cause flooding, damage to property, and unpredictable weather.
In some cases, these have even resulted in loss of life because of the extreme impact and devastation they cause.
North Carolina experiences this season from June to November of every year. As such, it’s important to keep yourself updated regarding these weather events.
Knowing how to prepare for them is key to making sure that their impact on you and your family is minimized.
5. Unsatisfactory Elementary and High Schools
While the state is well-known for its robust post-secondary school systems, its elementary and high schools still have some catching up to do.
The state is ranked as the 15th best in terms of its Pre-K to 12th-grade education.
While this may seem like a high number, it’s a much lower ranking compared to that of post-secondary schools in the state.
In particular, Pre-K enrollment and high school graduation rates in the state still have a lot of room for improvement.
What to Look for in a Place to Move to
Regardless of whether you have decided to start living in North Carolina or not, these are a list of factors that you should consider before making that life-changing decision.
1. Cost of Living
Cost of living is one of the most important considerations you will have to make when deciding where to relocate. This will help determine the quality of life you will have.
When talking about the cost of living, this doesn’t just refer to your rental expenses. It also pertains to your average spending on essentials, such as groceries, utilities, healthcare, transportation, and the like.
It’s important to make sure that your income is sufficient to pay for all these expenses while still having a few bucks left for emergencies and savings.
Cost of living can be considered too high if you and your family are living paycheck to paycheck.
While differences per state or location may vary by only a little, those few extra bucks can add up and save you a lot of money in the long run.
This is of utmost importance for financial security, especially for those who are planning on settling down for retirement.
Escaping taxes completely is impossible, but moving to the right place can trim down that overall burden.
States such as New Hampshire, Delaware, Alaska, Oregon, and Montana, for example, don’t charge any sales tax. Some states like Washington, Texas, and Tennessee waive income taxes on many sources of income.
However, income taxes and sales taxes are far from the only taxes you should consider. You also have to scrutinize school, property, business, gasoline, and other types of taxes a state imposes.
Before deciding where to move, make sure to look at these taxes and how they can affect your lifestyle and expenses.
3. Employment Opportunities
Employment opportunities are also crucial when deciding where you want to live.
However, with the digital age and the recognition of remote work as an alternative, the question is no longer as important as it once was. That being said, this is still a significant factor to consider.
Job opportunities will vary in each city and state. Make sure that before deciding where to move, there’s a job market for the industry or profession that you have.
Investment bankers, for example, may find it hard to look for a job in Texas. They will most likely have to move to big cities like Boston or New York.
If you’re a nurse, teacher, or accountant, however, then there’s a bigger chance of you finding work regardless of where you decide to move.
Keep in mind, however, that income levels also vary from state to state. This aspect, though, is a little less important as states with high income levels often also have high costs of living.
4. Real Estate Value
Regardless of whether you’re planning on renting or buying a home, it’s still important to carefully review the value of real estate in the place you're moving to.
At the very least, look at current home prices, how long it takes for for-sale homes to be sold, and long-term value trends.
If you’re planning on retiring in a particular state and buying a home there, you want to make sure that long-term value is on an upward trajectory.
As much as possible, avoid renting and save up as quickly as you can for a down payment on your new home.
5. Crime Rates
Needless to say, nobody wants to live in a place with a high crime rate. However, just like taxes, this isn’t something that you can avoid completely.
Still, it’s best to research crime statistics in the particular city, neighborhood, or town that you’re looking to move to.
While all cities will have crimes, it’s best to move to ones that have lower violent crime rates.
For many, climate is an important consideration as it can significantly affect your quality of life.
Do you love engaging in winter sports? Then forget moving to Georgia or Texas, and look instead for places where they’re abundant.
Climate can impact many aspects of your life, such as mental health, physical comfort, hobbies, and activities available to you.
It also shapes the environment around you as it defines economies, employment opportunities, and other similar aspects.
7. Proximity to Family and Friends
If spending time with family and old friends is important to you, then crossing state lines may not be an ideal decision.
Before making that move, consider how much you will want to see your family and friends, and how much it will cost you to do so.
Driving across state lines isn’t just time-consuming, but can also be expensive.
Flying to reunite during the holidays can also put an additional strain on an already tight budget, so make sure to consider these things before you decide on a change of scenery.
8. Education System
If you’re raising a family, you want to make sure that you’re moving to a location where the education system is great.
You will want to live somewhere where the school isn’t only nearby, but also is of great quality.
Homes in good school districts also tend to rise in value faster. If you see your home as an investment, this may also be another way of looking at things.
Of course, if you’re moving for retirement, then the education system may not be that big of a consideration. Other factors like proximity to healthcare facilities may be more important for you.
9. Public Transportation
Despite the rise in popularity of working from home, commute times and public transportation systems remain an important consideration for someone who wants to move to a new home.
Even if you have a remote work setup, a robust public transportation system will still make it easier and cheaper for you to go around town.
This is especially true if you want to keep a tight budget and spend less on gas.
A robust public transportation system should be able to connect your home to many of the essential places in town, such as the hospitals, schools, groceries, and government offices.
Similar to how culture fit is now a popular term when looking for jobs, the same can be said for people looking for new homes.
Some prefer the busy streets and towering buildings of urban cities, while others love the nature-filled peace and quiet of smaller towns.
Before deciding on a location, make sure to consider all the factors we have listed above, and weigh each as you go along.
Alternative to North Carolina
If North Carolina just has a few points that don’t quite sit right with you, then you might want to look at its neighboring states.
Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina are some of the states that most people say are very much similar to the Tar Heel State.
Like NC, these states also boast of beautiful landscapes and that iconic Southern charm. They also offer the same beautiful mountains and beaches that you and your family will surely love.
They also have great state university systems that make them perfect for those who have children to raise.
If there are a few factors in North Carolina that you might not be confident about, then check out these three states. They might just have the things you love about NC without the parts that you don’t.
Verdict: Should You Move to North Carolina?
If you came from the city and would love a change of scenery, then yes, living in North Carolina is very much the right choice for you. It offers the same conveniences city-living may have, plus the beautiful landscapes and outdoor activities that you may not be able to enjoy elsewhere.
Though moving to North Carolina may also have its downsides, most of them can really be solved with enough planning and preparation.
However, if, after reading, the pros and cons above still aren’t enough for you to make a decision, then make sure you consider the different factors to look at before you make that life-changing decision.