North Carolina is a state that bleeds blue. At least that’s what they would like us to believe. It’s a diverse state with rolling mountains, lush farmlands and coastal gems to discover. While this may sound like the beginning of a timeshare ad. we promise it’s not.
If you’re thinking a move to the Tar Heel State might be in your future, but aren’t sure it’s exactly what you’re looking for, we’ve got great news for you. We’ve done all the legwork for you (and with limited blood, sweat and tears). Whether you’re set on a move or simply thinking about it, check out the tips below. They’re free and you’re welcome to wear your PJs. Find out more by contacting an insurance agent in your area for affordable home insurance.
The Tar Heel State is named after its people, who worked producing tar for wooden ships in colonial times. Today, however, the job situation is far removed from the smelly business of tar production. The state has flourishing business and technology industries, while health and education are also playing a huge role in its thriving economy.
Research shows the fastest growing jobs are for statisticians, credit counselors and nurse practitioners. Of the rest of the top 10, six are related to health services. It makes sense, considering the top employers in the Raleigh and Durham area include IBM Corporation, WakeMed Health & Hospitals, SAS Institute Inc., and Cisco Systems Inc.
Let's also not forget the 7,000-acre monstrosity that is Research Triangle Park, which provides full-time employment to nearly 40,000 residents. That’s huge. The Park is also associated with the region’s three main universities (Duke University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University), which provide awesome jobs that aren’t tar-related.
In the past, the state’s big economic boosts were textile and tobacco production. It has since transitioned into a more knowledge-centered, less agricultural state of mind. The state’s largest city of Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the US. Loaded with banking bosses like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, it provides a lot of the white-collar boom the state has been experiencing. Located outside the city are the headquarters for Lowe’s and American Airlines, which also put plenty of citizens to work.
While the unemployment rate is a little over the national average at 4.5%, industries such as professional and business services and financial activities saw a rise in jobs of over 2.0% in the last 12 months. This is all to be taken with a grain of salt, though. While the state may be seeing an economic boom, sources ranked it 42nd for best places for jobs (more than a little underwhelming).
It seems that while the economy may be showing signs of growth and vitality, the job market is having a tough time keeping up. The huge influx of new Tar Heelers has been influenced by the state’s economic growth, but the high cost of living (ranked 17th), low job opportunities, and low minimum wage (still a meager $7.25) are just a few reasons why the booming economy may be deceiving to newcomers.
People are falling in love with North Carolina, and for good reason. The great weather and location along the coast are only a few of its many positive attributes. A consequence of this stellar reputation is migration. It has been the main factor in the state’s population growth in the last few years. Between July 2016 and July 2017, three of every four new residents were from migration (mainly from other states).
For North Carolina, this soaring population equates to a thriving housing market. The average age of housing is 10 to 20 years old, and there are new construction homes to be found all over the state. They are especially numerous in the metropolitan areas.
Future Tar Heelers, don’t get too excited yet. There may be plenty of housing in the state, but it can come with a hefty price tag. U.S. News ranked the blue state 31st for affordable housing. The median home value for the whole state is $167,900, but research shows it is expected to rise 3.2% over the next year. The median rent price is $1,250. And in the thriving urban areas of Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham, the average home could set you back well over $200,000.
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People and Culture
If you’re planning on making a move to North Carolina, be ready to pick a side (in basketball that is). If there’s one thing Carolinians are known for, it’s their status as die-hard fans of the Tar Heels (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) or the Blue Devils (Duke University). The rivalry between these two universities is alive and well, and which side you fall on could decide your social status for years to come.
Besides two distinct basketball teams (with two distinct cheering sections), the state can be broken down into a few main cultures, the two big ones being the western part and the eastern part. The diverse landscape of the state was a heavy influence on the diversity of its people.
The western part of the state includes the Appalachian mountain range. Farming never gained traction here as it did in the low-lying areas, and the traditional mountain folk life flourished, with influences from the Cherokees and Scots-Irish immigrants of the past (think banjos and moonshine or any other hillbilly stereotype and you’ll get the picture).
The eastern part (with more level terrain) has more of the southern vibe one will find in its nearby southern cousins. In these areas, farming has been the main cultural influence over the years. Historically, the eastern side was known for its large plantation homes and fields of tobacco and cotton.
While there are two distinct sides of the North Carolina lifestyle, throughout the state one will experience down-home southern charm, where sweet tea and porch-sitting reign supreme (one side just spikes theirs with moonshine).
Must-Sees in North Carolina
We’ve already proven that North Carolina is more than just gorgeous mountain ranges alongside pristine beaches. It’s definitely that, and if you’re on the fence about moving (and if you’re an outdoor enthusiast), those two aspects might just be the frosting on top of the cake.
Either way, here are some must-see spots if you’re in the market for a move to North Carolina (or even just a pass-through):
- Outer Banks: Known for its peaceful and welcoming nature, this 200-mile strip of barrier islands off the coast is home to breathtaking natural beauty and more than a few laid-back coastal towns. It’s estimated that almost three million non-Carolinians visit this enchanting bit of sand every year. It is also home to the tallest brick lighthouse in the states at Cape Hatteras.
- Biltmore Estate: If you’ve want to feel like a huge disappointment, head on over to the largest privately owned home in the U.S. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville, this 8000-acre estate was built by George Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895. While it may be absurdly impressive, it also makes us seriously question our life choices over the last 10 years.
- Great Smoky Mountain National Park: If the Tar Heel State is known for anything, it’s for being the location of the most-visited national park in the U.S. The park is known for its crazy amount of wildlife and remnants of Appalachian mountain culture (i.e., hillbillies just in case you needed clarification). For all of you moonshiners, hikers, explorers, and general nature enthusiasts out there, this should definitely be at the top of your list.
- Pisgah National Forest: The Great Smoky Mountains may be the reigning champ in the national park world, but its slightly less significant (but equally beautiful) cousin offers even more stunning natural beauty. The park is half a million acres of unbelievable forests covering mile-high mountains, and there are hikes galore. As we said before, if you’re a fan of nature (or anything outdoor-related), you’ll feel right at home in the mountains of this beautiful state.
- Blue Ridge Parkway: A fan favorite if we ever did see one. No trip to the Tar Heel State is complete without a ride down the Blue Ridge Parkway (bonus if you do it in autumn or on a motorcycle). It’s 469 miles of wide vistas and tree covered mountains. You’d better just do it and see for yourself, because no description is worthy.
Pros and Cons of Living in the Tar Heel State
North Carolina is not all rainbows and butterflies, although, I’m sure they have their fair share of them (like most states). There are pros and cons to consider. Lucky for you, we read through all the boring stuff out there to find what really matters.
Here’s what we came up with. Here are a few pros and cons to definitely consider (at least for a minute) before deciding on the big migration.
Pros of life in North Carolina:
- Location and climate: The state is situated right between what are considered the northern and southern U.S., meaning the weather is also somewhere in the middle. Yes, there are extremes sometimes (mostly during hurricane season), but the climate is generally mild. There are also 300 miles of coastline in the east, and just a few hours’ drive away, there are miles and miles of mountains to explore. Now put your tongue back in your mouth, because that isn’t even the best of it.
- Good education: North Carolina’s national ranking for overall education is 16th. There are plenty of higher education opportunities to explore, and bonus, they are ranked 9th for amount of debt after graduation. If you’re in the market for a new degree, this might be the place for you.
- Economy: North Carolina’s economy is ranked 18th in the country for economic growth. That explains a bit why the state has seen so many transplants in recent years.
Cons of life in North Carolina:
- Economic opportunity: Besides struggling to provide enough jobs to keep up with the demand, there are also discrepancies in the economic opportunities available. Yes, in the larger metropolitan areas there are more jobs, more housing and better opportunities for those who are educated. This is in contrast to the high percentage of people with food supply issues, low employment and limited educational opportunities in the rural areas.
As with most states, North Carolina has its fair share of outdated and sometimes just plain strange laws. Just take our word for it. These are important.
- Elephants may not be used to plow cotton fields. In case you were hoping to make a quick show of it.
- It's against the law to sing off-key. Meaning, karaoke bars double as American Idol tryouts.
- If a man and woman who aren't married go to a hotel and register themselves as married, then according to state law, they are married. They take marriage very seriously here.
- Bingo games may not last more than five hours, alcohol is not allowed at bingo games, AND it's illegal for Grandma to get intoxicated at Bingo Night. Someone definitely lost an epic bingo game and has been planning their revenge ever since.
- Happy hours are illegal. A state that hates happy hour is a state that hates happiness.
- You can get a DWI on a horse. Drunken cowboys are frowned upon here.
- Rollerblading in the sun is illegal, and it’s also illegal to rollerblade on state highways. Clearly the work of the bingo hater. Next, they’ll outlaw laughter.
Welcome to North Carolina
North Carolina is as varied as it is popular. The surging population makes for a great economic lift, but the job and housing markets could definitely use a little upkeep. As with most states, though, it’s ever-changing and flowing with the times. With the crazy amount of cool nature to see and experience, it seems that many people can look beyond the few negatives in order to embrace the North Carolina state of mind.
If you’re thinking of a move to the Tar Heel State, or any state, just make sure it’s the right move for you and your family. Consider all sides of the issue before settling into sweet North Carolina bliss. Find out more by contacting an insurance agent in your area for affordable home insurance.
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