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Top 5 Best Real Estate Investment Markets in North Carolina

We asked some of the best North Carolina realtors to rank the top 5 markets for real estate investing — and offer up some insider tips for our readers.

We asked some of the best North Carolina realtors to rank the top 5 markets for real estate investing — and offer up some insider tips for our readers.

North Carolina's strong real estate market makes it an excellent choice for investors. Millennials are flocking to the state's major cities of Durham, Raleigh, and Charlotte in record numbers.

Its affordable cost of living, mild year-round weather, and healthy job growth make it a highly desirable place to live — from the mountains to the coast.

In addition, both rents and home values are increasing and offer great cash flow and returns to investors.

If you're looking for a profitable investment, start your search in these top five North Carolina real estate markets:

#1 - Durham, NC

Durham has been ranked as the best place for millennials to live, and it's easy to see why. This thriving hub has a population of nearly 300,000, making it the fourth most populous city in the state. The county gains 11 new residents and 5 new households every day, most of which occur within the city.

Because of its desirability, the median rent in Durham is around $1,550 per month, which is $45 higher than the national average.

I spoke to top local agent Tom Whisnant, and he mentioned that a large portion of investment properties transact before hitting the market, and it's important to work with a knowledgeable local agent to get access to the most inventory.

Tom also mentioned that Durham remains an affordable city to live in, and while the market for investment properties can be competitive, the cash flow is very strong once you purchase.

While appreciation in property value has slowed due to coronavirus, Durham has a robust job market. Tom expects Durham home values to appreciate faster than many areas of the country because the demand to live there is still increasing.

Median Sale Price$253,800
Zillow projected yearly home value growth0.1%
Average Rental List Price$1,550
2020 Population284,996
Yearly Population Growth1.97%

Data from Zillow and WorldPopulationReview.com

#2 - Charlotte, NC

Charlotte hosts the largest influx of millennials in the country, helping North Carolina take fourth place among states where this generation is moving.

Even though the state is seeing growth, 41% of towns in the Tar Heel State are shrinking. Charlotte and the Triangle alone are responsible for 70% of the state's growth.

Many investors are attracted to Charlotte simply because of its rapid growth. The city is the largest in the state, home to 800,000 people and another 2.5 million within its metro. And with growth comes an increasing need for housing.

We spoke to top agent Melissa Young, and she explained that while the market for investors is very competitive, it's competitive for good reason — Charlotte is primed for long term appreciation.

The metro area is expanding, and Charlotte explained that there is a shortage of affordable homes to rent, and landlords can charge a premium due to increasing demand. You probably won't find investment property at a discount, it's a good bet that both the rent and home price will rapidly increase in the years to come.

If you're looking for even more cash flow, Melissa mentioned Charlotte does have some very affordable foreclosures at the edge of town that can be purchased for less than $40,000. If you have the budget for a renovation you can end up with an appreciating asset with a lot of cash flow.

Median Sale Price$261,900
Zillow projected yearly home value growth0.4%
Average Rental List Price$1,500
2020 Population904,675
Yearly Population Growth1.76%

Data from Zillow and WorldPopulationReview.com.

#3 - Raleigh, NC

A close neighbor to Durham and capital of the state, Raleigh remains a highly desirable place to live. Similar to Durham, Raleigh is a hot spot for research, healthcare, education, and IT. The city's abundance of universities not only make it an attractive place for college students, but also supplies the area with top talent.

The unemployment rate is below the national average, indicating a strong economy and housing market. Salaries are also higher than the U.S. average, at $53,788.

Multifamily properties in Durham are surprisingly affordable and offer a great cash on cash return in a market that's likely to see an increased tenant base. Durham apartments present a great opportunity to rapidly grow your portfolio by purchasing multiple doors at once.

Median Sale Price$288,900
Zillow projected yearly home value growth-0.2%
Average Rental List Price$1,495
2020 Population494,612
Yearly Population Growth1.84%

Data from Zillow and WorldPopulationReview.com

#4 - Asheville, NC

Asheville is a hotbed for young entrepreneurs, musicians, and outdoor and fitness enthusiasts who are looking for the best combination of work and play.

The median home value is higher and salaries are lower than the state as a whole, which further proves the desirability of living in the area.

Asheville's growth hasn't been quite as explosive as Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham, but it's been ranked as one of the best places in the country to live and is projected to have a job growth rate of nearly 40% over the next 10 years, which is higher than the national average of 33.5%.

Anytime job growth outpaces the national average, you can count on appreciation and rent doing the same. If you're looking for a market that's more affordable than the others on this list that still has a ton of potential for appreciation, I'd encourage you to check out Asheville.

Median Sale Price$165,500
Zillow projected yearly home value growth-0.1%
Average Rental List Price$1,600
2020 Population92,452
Yearly Population Growth.71%

Data from Zillow and WorldPopulationReview.com

#5 - Cary, NC

Just outside of Raleigh, Cary offers a smaller town vibe with close proximity to the big city. Cary was recently ranked by SmartAsset as one of the top 10 Boomtowns in the country, taking the number one spot on the list due to its population and economic growth.

According to Tom Whisnane due to both the rapid growth of both Cary and Raleigh, the towns are starting to merge into one market when it comes to investing, but it still might be easier to find investment property in Cary than it is in Raleigh, although they will be slightly more expensive.

Single family homes in Cary look to be a strong investment due to the above average rent they can command.

Median Sale Price$357,700
Zillow projected yearly home value growth-.7%
Average Rental List Price$1,695
2020 Population168,160
Yearly Population Growth1.36%

Data from Zillow and WorldPopulationReview.com

Tips For Out Of State Investors

If you're looking to invest in North Carolina, but you don't live in the state, here are some tips to increase your chances of success investing out of state.

  • Work with a great local agent. Especially in the triangle where a large portion of investment properties are selling before they ever hit zillow, it's important to work with an agent that can get you access to all of the properties.
  • Interview property management companies first, so you know who will manage your rental once you purchase it
  • Get setup with a local lender that has expertise in market, and will be able to help you work through any financing issues that might arise.
  • Choose your buybox and get instant MLS alerts from your agent so you're notified

Explore the Best Real Estate Markets in North Carolina

North Carolina's remarkable growth has contributed to its reputation as a hot investor's market. Its largest cities are growing ever larger, giving opportunists every hope that their investments will pay off.

An experienced local real estate agent can help you successfully break into the North Carolina real estate investment market. Working with top-rated agents, you'll have the advantage of their expert guidance and support on the state's unique markets, current conditions, and trends that can scale your portfolio.

If you work Clever we can connect you to top agents from major brands and top local brokerages that are experienced working with investors, and they can even rebate a portion of the commission they receive from the seller back to you at closing!

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Luke Babich

Luke Babich is the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top agents to save money on commission. He's an active real estate investor and licensed agent in St. Louis, with 22 units currently. Luke graduated from Stanford University and subsequently ran a historic data-driven campaign for University City City Council. Luke's writing has been featured in Homeland Security Today, Mashvisor, Payments Journal, and Bigger Pockets.

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