Written by Sarah Schweppe
The state of North Carolina is growing, adding about 100,000 residents to its population of nearly 10 million between 2012 and 2013. The unemployment rate went in the opposite direction, plunging to 6.9% at the end of 2013, after starting the year at 9.5%.
Potential North Carolina homeowners can get help from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, which offers the N.C. Home Advantage Mortgage and down payment assistance. To help you out with location, NerdWallet took a look at the 59 North Carolina cities with populations greater than 15,000 to find out which offer the best value for potential homeowners.
Our analysis answers three main questions:
1. Are homes available? We looked at the metro area’s homeownership rate to determine the availability of homes. A low homeownership rate is likely a signal of competitive inventory, more options for renters rather than buyers and expensive housing. Areas with a high homeownership rate led to a higher overall score.
2. Can you afford to live there? We looked at median household income, monthly homeowner costs and median home value to assess affordability and determine whether residents could live comfortably in the area. We used monthly homeowner costs to measure cost of living. Areas with high median incomes and low cost of living scored higher. Thinking of buying a home yourself? Check out our mortgage tool to find the best rate.
3. Is the area growing? We measured population growth to ensure that the area is attracting new residents and showing signs of solid growth. This is likely a signal of a robust local economy, which is another attractive characteristic for homebuyers.
For more details on our methodology, please see the “Methodology” section at the end of the report.
1. Holly Springs
With an estimated population of 26,865, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town of Holly Springs has more than doubled in size since 2000. In this town where homeowner costs are 22.4% of income, 88% of homes are owned rather than rented. The town is home to a manufacturing facility for the pharmaceutical company Novartis and is less than 20 miles from Raleigh, a major city with many employment options. Holly Springs has the third-highest monthly income on our top 10 list at $7,432, and the median home value is $236,700. The town is also filled with rich history — it incorporated in its current form after the Civil War in 1877.
2. Indian Trail
The town with Native American roots sits about 15 miles from Charlotte. Indian Trail celebrated its centennial just seven years ago. Homeowner costs here account for 26.4% of the median monthly household income and 85.8% of homes in Indian Trail are owned rather than rented. The population jumped during the 1990s from 1,942 to 11,905 residents, and has not stopped growing. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated a population of 34,800 for 2012. The town turned its focus to improving the community atmosphere in 2009, by initiating a Parks Master Plan, which would create more parks and recreation opportunities in the town. Crossing Paths Park, the town’s first municipal park, opened in 2011 and features public art, playgrounds and an amphitheater.
Fuquay-Varina has a homeownership rate of 74.6% and monthly homeowner costs here take up 29% of median monthly household income, according to data crunched by NerdWallet. The median home value in this town is $192,700. With a bustling Parks and Recreation department, Fuquay-Varina provides many free opportunities for family fun. The department is responsible for 18 park sites, a youth sports program, senior programs, and summer camps. Residents of Fuquay-Varina have access to six public schools, as well as to Wake Technical Community College, located in the 17 miles between Fuquay-Varina and Raleigh.
4. Wake Forest
This town, which was the original location of Wake Forest University, is considered a growing bedroom community and saw an 11.6% population growth between 2010 and 2012. The homeownership rate is 74.8% and the median household income per month is $6,185. Homeowner costs take up only 28% of that income. Located just 18 miles from Raleigh, Wake Forest’s residents have access to Wake Technical Community College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is one of the town’s largest employers.
Considered a satellite town of nearby Raleigh, Clayton is the smallest of our top 10 towns with a population of 16,078 in 2012. Clayton saw a 9.3% population growth between 2010 and 2012 and has a 65.7% homeownership rate. Despite its size, Clayton is home to pharmaceutical and manufacturing facilities that are major employers for the town, including pharmaceutical companies Grifols Therapeutics and Novo Nordisk. Well-known Caterpillar Inc. has its building and construction products division located in Clayton. The median home value in Clayton is $258,500.
This suburb of Raleigh has one of the larger populations of the towns on NerdWallet’s list with 40,420 residents in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The homeownership rate here is 75.2% and 23% of the median monthly household income goes to homeowner costs. Apex also has the second-highest median monthly household income on our top 10 list at $7,450 a month. Like many of these towns, Apex has historic roots. Its restored downtown area is featured on the National Register of Historic Places. The town is also known for its annual Peak Fest, a festival held every May.
Located only 12 miles from Charlotte, Huntersville boasts an estimated population of 49,344, and numerous public and private schools. The homeownership rate here 75.1% and homeowners here spend 24.3% of their monthly income on home costs. The median home value is $247,200 in Huntersville, a town known for hosting the annual Carolina Renaissance Festival every autumn. The NASCAR racing shop Joe Gibbs Racing is headquartered in Huntersville, and the city is home to several current and former NASCAR drivers.
Morrisville is booming: the town saw the largest population growth of any place on our top 10 list, growing by 15% between 2010 and 2012. In Morrisville, 48.8% of homes are owned rather than rented and 27.8% of household income goes to homeowner costs. The median home value is $266,600. A part of the Research Triangle metro region, which encompasses the Raleigh, Durham, and Cary areas, Morrisville had an estimated population of 20,591 in 2012.
Located alongside Lake Norman, Cornelius saw an 8% population increase between 2010 and 2012. The homeownership rate in Cornelius is 71.8% and 25.9% of the median monthly household income is devoted to homeowner costs, according to data crunched by NerdWallet. The median home value is $256,700 in Cornelius. Though it didn’t incorporate until 1905, Cornelius was booming in the industry of cotton in the late 1800s. The town, which had a population of 24,818 in 2012, is now home to 10 public parks and a championship golf course.
10. Mint Hill
A suburb of Charlotte, Mint Hill saw a 4.3% population jump between 2010 and 2012. The town has an 81% homeownership rate, the median monthly income is $5,806, and 27.5% of that income is devoted to homeowner costs. Mint Hill is home to Mint Hill Veterans Memorial Park and Wilgrove Park, as well as a nationally recognized youth football program.
Rank City Nearest Big City Home Ownership Rate Median Selected Monthly Homeowner Costs Median Monthly Household Income Homeowner costs as a percentage of household income Median Home Values 2010-2012 Population Growth Overall Score for Home Owners
1 Holly Springs Raleigh 88.1% $1,667 $7,432 22.4% $236,700 12.3% 85.6
2 Indian Trail Charlotte 85.8% $1,440 $5,447 26.4% $178,200 9.5% 81.3
3 Fuquay-Varina Raleigh 74.6% $1,434 $4,939 29.0% $192,700 12.3% 80.2
4 Wake Forest Raleigh 74.8% $1,748 $6,185 28.3% $255,500 11.6% 75.3
5 Clayton Raleigh 65.7% $1,325 $5,102 26.0% $151,800 9.3% 72.3
6 Apex Raleigh 75.2% $1,717 $7,450 23.0% $258,500 9.2% 71.4
7 Huntersville Charlotte 75.1% $1,738 $7,138 24.3% $247,200 8.2% 69.8
8 Morrisville Raleigh 48.8% $1,825 $6,564 27.8% $266,600 15.0% 68.9
9 Cornelius Charlotte 71.8% $1,797 $6,929 25.9% $256,700 8.0% 66.9
10 Mint Hill Charlotte 81.0% $1,595 $5,806 27.5% $217,900 4.3% 65.7
11 Garner Raleigh 67.5% $1,433 $5,142 27.9% $168,300 5.6% 64.4
12 Concord Charlotte 68.8% $1,421 $4,449 31.9% $170,300 5.3% 63.6
13 Mooresville Charlotte 66.3% $1,474 $4,422 33.3% $185,900 6.1% 62.9
14 Cary Raleigh 70.9% $1,886 $7,612 24.8% $302,500 7.1% 62.1
15 Hope Mills Fayetteville 61.5% $1,221 $4,063 30.1% $128,700 5.0% 62.0
16 Matthews Charlotte 74.6% $1,546 $5,717 27.0% $221,200 3.6% 61.0
17 Clemmons Winston-Salem 76.3% $1,599 $5,445 29.4% $213,300 2.9% 60.5
18 Sanford Raleigh 57.6% $1,108 $3,400 32.6% $132,000 4.4% 58.1
19 Charlotte Charlotte 57.6% $1,451 $4,410 32.9% $173,200 5.0% 56.9
20 Kannapolis Charlotte 62.6% $1,203 $3,361 35.8% $132,200 2.8% 56.7
Learn About Tableau Methodology
The overall score for each city was derived from each of these measures:
1. Homeownership rate made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher rate earned a higher score. The rate comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.
2. Selected monthly owner costs as a percentage of median household income made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower percentage earned a higher score. Monthly homeowner costs as a percentage of median household income made up one-half of the affordability score. Median household income comes from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 03. Monthly homeowner costs come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.
3. Median home value made up 16.7% of the total score. A lower value earned a higher score. Median home value made up one-half of the affordability score. Median home value come from the U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 04.
4. Population change from 2010 to 2012 made up 33.3% of the total score. A higher percent change earned a higher score. The 2010 population came from the 2010 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. The 2012 population data came from the 2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates for all places in the state, Table DP 05. NerdWallet calculated the percent change.
Only cities and towns with more than 15,000 residents were evaluated for this study.
Image: Mark Clifton/Flickr: http://flic.kr/p/dRDAWD