How to Buy a House in North Carolina (in 8 Easy Steps!)

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By Lindsay Stefan Updated May 1, 2024
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Edited by Hannah Warrick

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Buying a house in North Carolina can be both an exciting and confusing process, especially for first-time home buyers. Our guide breaks down how to buy a house in North Carolina in eight steps, with insights and practical tips to help you navigate North Carolina's housing market.

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Key steps to buying a house in North Carolina

Step 1: Save for a down payment. » A 20% down payment on a typical home in North Carolina can be about $65,845. You can choose a mortgage that requires less, but you might have to pay mortgage insurance and more interest over the life of your loan.

Step 2: Find a great real estate agent. » Interview multiple agents to find one who knows your target neighborhoods, has experience in your price range, and communicates well.

Step 3: Get pre-approved for a mortgage. » Pre-approval helps you set your budget before looking for houses and shows sellers that you're a serious buyer.

Step 4: Choose the right location. » Search for cities and neighborhoods where North Carolina homes are within your price range, values are on the rise, and local amenities support your lifestyle.

Step 5: Start house hunting. » Communicate all your must-haves and negotiables with your realtor so they can narrow down your choices and find your perfect house as quickly as possible.

Step 6: Make an offer. » Increasing demand for housing in North Carolina means homes don't sit on the market very long. Work out all your contingencies and concessions with your real estate agent so you can act quickly and make a strong same-day offer.

Step 7: Conduct inspections and appraisals. » Learn more about the condition of the property and discover unknown issues before committing to a purchase.

Step 8: Close on the home. » Do a final walk-through of the home to make sure it's in its expected condition. Sign all the required documents, pay closing costs, get the keys to your new home, and move in.

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Step 1: Save for a down payment

🔑 Key takeaway:

Your down payment can be less than 20% of the purchase price — $65,845 for the typical house in North Carolina — but you'll have to purchase mortgage insurance and pay more interest over the life of your loan.

Your down payment is the first part of your home's purchase price that you pay at closing. Your mortgage lender will pay the remaining balance.

Typically, mortgage lenders in North Carolina want you to contribute 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. That would be $65,845 for a $329,225 home — the typical home value in North Carolina.

However, you have options to lower your down payment amount.

Government backed loans, like VA and FHA loans, allow you to contribute 0% and 3.5% of your home's purchase price respectively as a down payment. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3-5% (though the minimum varies by lender).

But making a down payment of less than 20% comes with some risks.

First, because you're borrowing more money, you'll have a higher monthly payment and pay more in interest over the life of your loan.

Second, you may have to purchase mortgage insurance.

Conventional loans require private mortgage insurance (PMI) until your loan balance reaches 80% of the purchase price. FHA loans, on the other hand, require a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) for the life of your loans.

Mortgage insurance costs around 1% of your mortgage balance annually. However, rates vary based on your down payment and credit score. Typically, your mortgage insurance payment is added to your mortgage payment each month.

VA loans don't charge mortgage insurance. Instead, you'll pay a VA loan funding fee at closing, which can range from 1.4% to 3.6% of the purchase price.

Down payment assistance programs

Down payment assistance programs exist to help people just like you! In North Carolina, there are several programs available for first-time and low-income buyers, such as the NC Home Advantage Mortgage. Eligibility requirements vary, so make sure to review the criteria before filling out an application.

To help you get started, here are a few good resources to check out:

IHDA Access Forgivable

The North Carolina Housing Development Authority (IHDA) has three DPA programs available for borrowers with an IHDA first mortgage. The Access Forgivable program is provided as a 30-year fixed mortgage that offers 4% of the sale price (or up to $6,000) as a second loan.

The Access Forgivable program is available to first-time and repeat homebuyers. Eligible borrowers must have a credit score of at least 640 and contribute $1,000 or 1% of the purchase price towards the down payment. Income limits and home price limits also apply. 

IDHA Access Deferred

The IDHA Access Deferred program offers 5% of the purchase price (up to $7,500) as a deferred loan. It's a 30-year, 0% interest second mortgage to be paid at maturity or when the house is sold or refinanced.

The program is available to both first-time and repeat homebuyers who have credit scores of 640 or higher. Borrowers must contribute $1,000 or 1% of the final price towards the down payment. Income limits and home price limits also apply.

IDHA Access Repayable

The IDHA Access Deferred program offers 5% of the purchase price (up to $7,500) as a deferred loan. It's a 30-year, 0% interest second mortgage to be paid at maturity or when the house is sold or refinanced.

The program is available to both first-time and repeat homebuyers who have credit scores of 640 or higher. Borrowers must contribute $1,000 or 1% of the final price towards the down payment. Income limits and home price limits also apply.

IDHA Access Repayable

The IDHA Access Repayable program offers 10% of the purchase price or up to $10,000 as a second loan. It's a 10-year 0% interest second mortgage that's to be paid monthly, and it's available for first-time or repeat homebuyers.

Eligible participants must have credit scores of 640 or above and contribute $1,000 or 1% of the purchase price towards the down payment. Income limits and home price limits also apply.

NC Home Advantage Mortgage

The NC Home Advantage Mortgage program offers fixed-rate mortgage loans and down payment assistance up to 3% of the loan amount for first-time and move-up home buyers in North Carolina. Military veterans are eligible to receive a $15,000 down payment option.

Read more about this program on the NC Housing Finance Agency website.

Community Partners Loan Pool

The Community Partners Loan Pool (CPLP) offers up to 25% of the home sale price as down payment to qualified buyers. This amount can't exceed $50,000 when the buyer is also using the NC Home Advantage Mortgage program.

Eligible participants cannot exceed 80% of the annual median household income of the county they plan to purchase in. The minimal credit score accepted is 640, and the buyer must complete a certified home buyer education course. Debt-to-income ratio limits and home requirements also apply. Find all the requirements on the NC Housing Finance Agency website.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Step 2: Find a real estate agent in North Carolina

🔑 Key takeaway:

Interview multiple agents to find one who knows your target neighborhoods, has experience in your price range, and communicates well.

Your North Carolina real estate agent will be your main ally during the home buying process. Besides finding and showing you properties, your agent will help you make offers, negotiate contracts, and navigate the closing process. Plus, they can recommend other service providers like title companies and inspectors to help you buy your house in North Carolina.

Don't rush into choosing an agent. Instead, take the time to research and interview multiple real estate agents who have experience in the neighborhoods you're interested in. You should pay attention to a realtor's:

  • Years of experience
  • Number of transactions in the last year (the more the better!)
  • Experience in your price range
  • Overall review score
  • Individual reviews and complaints
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Step 3: Get pre-approved for a mortgage

🔑 Key takeaway:

Once you're pre-approved for a mortgage, it's imperative that your financial situation doesn't change. If your credit drops, it can derail the process and keep you from closing on your house.

Here are some easy ways to ensure your credit doesn't change after you receive your pre-approval letter:

  • Avoid opening new credit accounts
  • Don't close any accounts that have been open for a long time
  • Make all of your credit card payments on time

» LEARN MORE: What factors do mortgage lenders consider?

A mortgage pre-approval letter is an offer to lend you up to a certain amount of money to purchase a home. It shows sellers that you are a serious buyer who is financially qualified to make an offer on a home.

Most sellers in North Carolina will require pre-approval before showing you their home.

Pre-approval vs. pre-qualification

Pre-approval is a more in-depth analysis of your finances than pre-qualification and serves as a more formal commitment from a lender. It usually requires a hard credit check and supporting documentation, such as paycheck stubs and W-2s.

Pre-qualification gives you a basic idea of what you might be able to borrow based on a quick look at your finances.

Does pre-approval hurt my credit score?

Pre-approval typically results in a hard credit inquiry, which may reduce your credit score by up to 5 points — that's a minimal effect.

✍️ Tip: If you get pre-approved with multiple lenders within a 45-day window, it will only count as one credit inquiry, minimizing the impact on your score.

The savings you'll gain from shopping around for a mortgage pre-approval will likely far outweigh any minor, short-term impacts to your credit.

What do mortgage lenders review?

Lenders will check your credit score, payment history, income, employment, and debts to determine approval and how much they are willing to lend to you. (Note: These are the same factors that determine the loan's interest rate.)

You're evaluating lenders, too.

Consider each lender's quoted mortgage interest rates, estimated closing costs and fees, reputation and online reviews, customer service quality, and responsiveness to your questions.

Although you don't have to decide on a lender now, you should compare interest rates and pre-approval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best rate and terms when you buy your house in North Carolina.

A local lender:

  • Might provide you with more market-specific information, such as typical home values in your desired area
  • Likely has a better understanding of lending regulations in North Carolina
  • Can connect with you other real estate professionals (realtors, contractors, inspectors, etc.)

You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and pre-approval amounts from several lenders to make sure you're getting the absolute best terms when you buy your North Carolina home.

Step 4: Choose the right location

🔑 Key takeaway:

Search for neighborhoods where:

  • Home prices are within your price range
  • Home values are on the rise
  • The local amenities support your lifestyle

Currently, the typical home value in North Carolina is $329,225, but don't worry if that doesn't perfectly match your budget. Home prices vary dramatically from city to city and even from neighborhood to neighborhood!

To give you an idea of how appreciation could impact what your house is worth in the future, consider these examples from three neighborhoods in Raleigh:

Home value appreciation in Raleigh

Neighborhood 2015 Current Appreciation
North Raleigh $254,416 $480,730 47.1%
Northwest Raleigh $255,848 $487,871 47.6%
Northeast Raleigh $160,335 $353,991 54.7%
Show more

Step 5: Start house hunting in North Carolina

📊 Key local data

  • Median mortgage interest rate: 7.02%
  • Median home value: $329,225
  • Best month for house hunting (highest inventory): October

Searching for houses in North Carolina is the fun part of the home buying process! You'll get to look at a variety of homes and discover what you really want in a home.

Make a list of everything you want in a home and prioritize them. At the top of the list should be the items that are most important to you. This will help you separate your "must-haves" from your "nice-to-haves."

Consider the full costs of owning a home, not just the mortgage payment. Other potential costs of owning the home include maintenance and repairs, property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and HOA fees.

Your local real estate agent can help you understand if your wants are realistic for your budget and favorite neighborhoods or if you need to rethink what you're looking for.

Step 6: Make an offer

🔑 Key takeaway:

It’s a strong market in North Carolina, and homes are flying off the market with very few listings left at the end of each month. When you find a home that you love, act quickly — put in an offer on the same day of viewing, if possible. Work with your agent when writing your offer, as they can help you come up with a figure that’ll be competitive but still fair to you.

Once you find a house in North Carolina that you love, it's time to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you write a compelling offer that gives you the best shot of convincing the homeowner to sell to you.

» LEARN MORE: What should an offer include?

Currently, in North Carolina, homes stay on the market for 80 days before going under contract. However, every market goes through seasonal changes. During busier months, homes get snatched up more quickly than others.

Historically, North Carolina homes sell fastest in May, where the average property is only on the market for 67 days. If your home search falls around this time, you should be prepared to move quickly and potentially make offers on several homes before yours is accepted.

On the other hand, if you buy in December, you have a bit more time to search. Homes typically stay on the market 21 days longer than North Carolina's annual average.

Average time homes spend on market in North Carolina

Step 7: Inspections, appraisals, and financing

Once the seller accepts your initial offer, you have to do due diligence before officially purchasing the home. Inspections let you better evaluate the home's condition, and lenders use appraisals to determine value and decide how much your final loan amount will be.

If something unexpected pops up or if the home's appraised comes in below the purchase price, you could have an opportunity to renegotiate the terms of your contract.

Underwriting

This is also the period that your lender will verify that you can afford your mortgage. They may ask for proof of income, pay stubs, and letters of explanation for income that doesn't come from wages, and other loan statements (like for student debt).

Delays could lead to postponed closing, so start collecting this information early so that you can be ready to submit documents when your lender asks.

Home inspections in North Carolina

Having your house in North Carolina inspected by a licensed inspector gives you peace of mind about the condition of the property before you commit thousands of dollars to purchase it.

Your inspector should check out the following parts of the property:

  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system
  • Plumbing

If the home has a septic system, you should also pay for a septic inspection to make sure it doesn't have any problems that wouldn't be covered in a typical home inspection.

North Carolina-specific inspections

Although sellers in North Carolina are required to disclose known issues to interested buyers, it's ultimately up to the buyer to ensure that a property is safe. In addition to a general home inspection, it's highly recommended to perform more specialized tests to check for a couple key issues that may go overlooked.

Before closing on a home, consider having the following inspections done:

  • Radon testing: Elevated levels of radon are toxic to your health, so it’s best to do a test if the seller hasn't performed one within the past year. You can order a free radon test kit from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services here.
  • Termite and pest inspection: Even if your lender doesn't require you to have a pest inspection conducted, it's a good idea to catch any infestations early. Termites and other critters can cause structural damage and pose health risks to your family, so it's strongly recommended to have the home inspected before closing.

Appraisals

Appraisals determine the value of the property. If you're using a mortgage to buy your new home, your lender will order an appraisal to make sure the home is worth the money that it's loaning you.

Step 8: Close on your new home!

🔑 Key takeaway:

Before you close on your new home, you and your agent will do a final walkthrough of the property to ensure that it's still in the expected condition.

On closing day in North Carolina, you'll meet at the title company to complete some paperwork and settle your closing costs.

First, you'll be required to review and sign several legal documents, such as:

  • Your final loan application
  • The deed
  • The mortgage promissory note
  • The disclosure statements

There will be a lot of paperwork to complete, so plan to spend about an hour to complete the documentation process. Be sure to ask your agent if you have any questions before signing anything.

After completing the paperwork, you will have to pay your closing costs. The title company makes this easy by collecting the total amount you owe and distributing the correct payments to every recipient.

You closing costs will likely be separated into four separate categories:

  • Lender fees: Fees paid to your mortgage lender for all services related to your loan. This payment will cover appraisal fees, mortgage points, and the preparation of your loan.
  • Title and escrow charges: Fees paid to your title company. These charges are for the title search, documentation, title insurance, and facilitating the closing process.
  • Prepaid costs: Ongoing costs of homeownership. Most lenders require new homeowners to pay certain predictable expenses up front, such as property taxes and homeowners insurance.
  • Other closing costs: Miscellaneous expenses that are different for each buyer. These costs may cover natural disaster certification fees or real estate attorney fees.

Buyers in North Carolina typically pay 3–5% of the purchase price in closing costs. For a $329,200 home — the typical home value in North Carolina — that's between $9,876 and $16,460!

Start of mortgage payments

If you took out a mortgage to purchase the home, your first monthly mortgage payment is likely due within a month after closing.

Ask your lender for more specific details about the payment schedule, how to make the first payment, and how to set-up automatic payments (if desired).

⚡Make your home-buying dreams a reality!

Ready to make your home-buying dreams a reality? The first step is to find a top local realtor who's an expert negotiator with proven experience in your market.

Enter your zip code below to compare the best agents from trusted brands like Keller Williams, Berkshire Hathaway, and Coldwell Banker, then choose the best fit for you. It's 100% free and there's no obligation.

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We’ve earned buyers’ trust with a rating of 5 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot and over 3,000 customer reviews in total.

Our team of industry-leading researchers is committed to making homeownership more accessible by educating buyers through guides like this one. We've spent thousands of hours analyzing publicly available data, surveying consumers, and interviewing industry experts. Our research has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, Inman, Housing Wire, and many more.

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Frequently asked questions

Do I need a real estate attorney in North Carolina?

In North Carolina it's required for a real estate attorney to be part of every home sale. While your agent can make recommendations, remember you get to make the final decision. Interview lawyers before hiring them to make sure they have the experience you need.

Does North Carolina have a first time home buyer program?

Yes! The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency offers its NC 1st Home Advantage Down Payment program to first-time buyers and veterans. Eligible participants can get a 0% deferred second mortgage of up to $8,000, which will be forgiven after 15 years.

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