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Now that the housing market is finally calming down after the pandemic, buyers are facing a new challenge: Soaring mortgage rates.
In North Carolina, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 5.53% — up from 2021's historic lows. This raises the average monthly mortgage payment to $1,498 (assuming a 20% down payment at the median home value).
But buying a home in North Carolina is still possible, even for first-time home buyers. Many markets are seeing frequent price drops and fewer offers, giving motivated buyers the upper hand in negotiating for the best price.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to buy a house in North Carolina with confidence no matter what the market brings. Learn why you can trust our advice.
Whether you're actively house hunting or just starting to browse homes on Zillow, it's never too early to find a great local realtor to guide you on your search. An experienced agent can help you navigate a tricky housing market, explore your financial options, and negotiate the best deal possible.
Best of all, hiring a real estate agent comes at no extra cost to you — since the seller typically pays both their listing agent and your buyer's agent.
Ready to find a great local realtor, but not sure where to start? The best (and easiest!) option is to try a free agent matching service like Clever Real Estate. Answer a few simple questions about your home buying goals, and Clever will match you with hand-picked agents from Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and other top brokerages in your area. Find a top local agent and make your home buying dreams a reality today!
Step 1: Save for a down payment
🔑 Key takeaway:
Your down payment can be less than 20% of the purchase price — $65,736 for the typical home 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 $65,736 for a $328,682 home — the typical home value in North Carolina.
However, you have options to lower your down payment amount.
Government backed loans, like VA and FHA loans, allow you to contribute 0% and 3.5% of your home's purchase price respectively. Even conventional loans allow for down payments as low as 3-5% (though the minimum varies by lender).
Minimum down payment (%)
Down payment ($)
Based on typical home values from Zillow (August 2022)
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.
Based on home values from Zillow (August 2022) and a 5.53% interest rate for a 30-year 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.
» READ MORE: Everything you need to know about low-income home loans
North Carolina down payment assistance programs
North Carolina offers several down payment assistance (DPA) programs for first-time and low-income homebuyers. Eligible participants can receive a grant or second mortgage that can go towards closing costs or a down payment.
Here are a few programs catered towards North Carolina residents that you can check out:
NC Home Advantage Mortgage
The NC Home Advantage Mortgage program offers a loan of up to 5% of the first mortgage for both first-time and repeat homebuyers. Eligible first-time buyers and veterans may even be able to receive an additional $8,000 through the NC 1st Home Advantage Down Payment.
Repayment of the loan is only necessary if you sell, refinance, or transfer your home within 15 years of purchasing the property. The loan is forgiven at a rate of 20% per year, starting at year 11. Buyers who remain in their homes for 15 years or longer will have their loan completely forgiven.
Maximum purchase prices and income limits apply and vary based on your location.
Community Partners Loan Pool
The Community Partners Loan Pool (CPLP) offers a 0% interest, deferred second mortgage to eligible homebuyers. It may be combined with an NC Home Advantage mortgage to receive up to 20% of the sales price (up to $30,000) or a USDA 502 to receive up to 10% of the purchase price.
To be eligible, your credit score must be at least 640 and your maximum household income cannot exceed 80% of the area median income. Borrowers are also required to take a homebuyer’s education course and complete at least two hours of housing counseling.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Alternative DPA programs can be found on North Carolina's HUD page here.
Step 2: Find a great 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 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 home 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
Step 3: Get preapproved for a mortgage
🔑 Key takeaway:
Once you're preapproved 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 preapproval 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 preapproval 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 preapproval before showing you their home.
You don't have to decide on one lender right now. In fact, you should compare interest rates and preapproval 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 $328,682, 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!
Also, look at past home value trends. This will give you an idea of how much your home's value could go up over the next few years.
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
Step 5: Start house hunting in North Carolina
🔑 Key takeaway:
There’s no shortage of homes in North Carolina, but with increasing prices, it might a challenge to find a home with a limited budget. Try not to be too picky and keep an open mind when hunting for a home. Even if a house doesn't look exactly like your dream home, check out the listings your agent shows you — there just might be one that will surprise you.
Searching for homes 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."
Your 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.
Look at current housing inventory
The timing of your house hunt in North Carolina can have a big impact on your number of options. For example, in North Carolina, May has historically seen the most homes for sale. Searching in this season could give you more options and a greater likelihood of finding your dream home.
On the other hand, December gives you the fewest choices in North Carolina. Historically, there are 44.8% fewer homes for sale than during North Carolina's peak season.
Housing inventory in North Carolina by season
New listings per month
Based on data from Realtor.com (October 2022)
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 North Carolina house 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.
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
Based on data from Realtor.com (October 2022)
» LEARN MORE: What should an offer include?
Step 7: Inspections and appraisals
Inspections and appraisals are an opportunity for you to better evaluate the home's condition and value before officially purchasing it. You may have an opportunity after this step to renegotiate the terms of your contract with the seller if something unexpected pops up.
🔑 Key takeaway:
- Inspections: A licensed professional checks the house for any unseen, unexpected, or potential issues.
- Appraisals: An appraiser hired by your lender examines the house to determine how much it's worth.
Home inspections in North Carolina
Having your North Carolina home 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:
- Electrical system
- HVAC system
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 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.
» LEARN: 3 options for buyers after a low appraisal
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 $328,700 home — the typical home value in North Carolina — that's between $9,861 and $16,435!
Frequently asked questions
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.
- Save for down payment
- Get pre-approved for a mortgage
- Choose your preferred North Carolina neighborhoods
- Partner with the right real estate agent in North Carolina
- Go house hunting
- Make a strong offer
- Inspections and appraisals
- Do a final walkthrough and close
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.
Why trust us?
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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.
Federal Reserve. "Housing Market Tightness During COVID-19: Increased Demand or Reduced Supply?." Accessed October 11, 2022. Updated July 08, 2021.
Consumer Protection Financial Bureau. "The Fed is raising interest rates. What does that mean for borrowers and savers?." Accessed October 11, 2022. Updated March 17, 2022.