The lighter side of real estate

These Are The 10 Most Affordable Places in North Carolina

If you’re thinking about moving to the Tar Heel state, these places will keep you from paying more than you can afford.

Natalie Grigson

Staff Writer

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There are many factors that go into picking a place to live; but no matter what you’re looking for in a city, if you can’t afford to live there, you may as well not bother. That’s why the Movoto Real Estate Blog has been on a quest to uncover each’s most affordable places. We’ve already looked at Illinois, where Chatham reigned king; and today we are moving along to the Tar Heel State.

Which place in North Carolina was the most affordable of them all? That honor goes to Indian Trail, with a high adjusted income and low overall cost of living. But more on that in a moment. For now, here are the 10 most affordable places in North Carolina:

1. Town of Indian Trail
2. Town of Stallings
3. Town of Knightdale
4. City of Monroe
5. City of Thomasville
6. Town of Garner
7. Town of Holly Springs
8. Town of Lewisville
9. Town of Cary (tie)
9. Town of Clayton (tie)

If you saw our Best Places in North Carolina list, you might see a couple of familiar names: Garner and Cary, or perhaps if you recognize Stallings from our list of best places to retire to in the state. Even if all of these names are new to you, this latest ranking proves they all have one thing in common: affordability. Keep reading to find out how we came up with our list and just what makes each place so inexpensive.

How We Found The Most Affordable Places In North Carolina

In order come up with our list, we use the U.S. Census to find all of the places (towns, villages, cities, and Census Designated Places) within North Carolina with populations over 10,000 people. This left us with a total of 83 places. We ranked each of these 83 places across the criteria below, using data from the U.S. Census, with the lowest number being the best; and then averaged these ranks for an overall Big Deal Score. Indian Trail came in as our winner, with the lowest average score overall. Here are the six criteria that got it there:

  • Food costs
  • Utility costs
  • Miscellaneous costs
  • Median home price
  • Unemployment rank
  • Adjusted median income

Food costs, utility costs, median home prices, and unemployment ranks are all pretty self explanatory. As far as adjusted median income goes, though, we calculated this by using the place’s median household income and dividing it by the cost of living. Then, we multiplied that by 100 to create an income adjusted to reflect a household’s actual earnings, based on the place’s cost of living. For miscellaneous costs, we used the area’s cost of restaurants, repairs, entertainment, and clothing.

To see the rankings of the top 50 most affordable places in North Carolina, head down to the bottom of the post for a list. Otherwise, we’ll hit the trail and head to our No. 1 most affordable place, Indian Trail.

1. Indian Trail

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Indian Trail, NC


This town in the Piedmont region of North Carolina came in at the top of our list, mostly for its high median household income of $70,414 (adjusted for an overall cost of living index of 99) and its relatively low utility, miscellaneous expense, and food costs.

In Indian Trail, along with several other of our top 10 places, the cost of food is 3% lower than it is in the rest of the state; or for you numbers people out there, the cost of living index for food is a 103, versus North Carolina’s 100. No matter how you look at it, this is good news for residents, since Indian Trail does have some delicious food, from fresh produce at the farmers’ market on Navajo Trail to the unbeatable nachos at La Unica.

2. Stallings

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Stallings, NC

Visitors to Stallings probably notice the town’s charm straight away, with everything from Family Night in the park to the town’s Easter Egg, Earth Day, and Christmas Tree lighting celebrations going on; but what may not be immediately apparent is just how affordable it is here.

Though the overall cost of living in Stallings is 102, two points higher than the national average, it more than makes up for this with an adjusted median household income of $75,999. Like Indian Trail, the cost of food in Stallings is also 100, where the state’s average is 103; and also like Indian Trail, the unemployment rate is relatively low, just 8.7 percent, meaning, not only are prices low, but the economy is strong. Which, in itself, is a cause for celebrating!

3. Knightdale

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Knightdale, NC

Source: Town of Knightdale

With a median age of 30, Knightdale is one of the youngest, and arguably hippest towns in the Raleigh metro area (as residents will surely tell you.) But underneath it all, and perhaps what makes this possible, is the town’s affordability.

Knightdale has one of the lowest unemployment rates in our top 10, just 7.5 percent, and better still, those employees make a median household income of $74,707, adjusted for the town’s overall cost of living of 104.

And the cherry on top? This town ranked among the best for its miscellaneous costs; things like restaurants, clothes, and entertainment—great news for young families.

4. Monroe

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Monroe, NC

Source: Flickr user Lesley Looper

With its beautiful historic downtown, state of the arts aquatic center, three museums, and a university, it might come as a surprise to non-residents just how inexpensive this Union County city is. But as our analysis reveals, it is one of the most affordable in the state; especially when it comes to food, utilities, and a low unemployment rate.

Monroe has a score of 100 when it comes to food, where the state average is 103, and where some places like Spring Lake or Fayetteville, have a score of 109. As far as utilities go, Monroe is paying far less than other places in the state, with its score of 95. Compare that to Jacksonville and Kinston, where the utilities cost was a 108, and it’s clear that Monroe is doing far more than keeping its head above water (a little utilities joke for you there.)

5. Thomasville

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Thomasville, NC

Source: Flickr user Hunterrrr

This Davidson County city may be best known in the business world for its furniture industry; or perhaps, to tourists, known for hosting the state’s oldest festival, “Everybody’s Day,” but to residents, it is known for its close-knit community feel, sense of tradition rooted in its earliest days in the railroad business, and, of course, its affordability.

Thomasville has one of the lowest overall costs of living in our analysis, and certainly in our top 10, with a score of just 82. That’s probably because the utilities here are some of the least expensive in the state, just a score of 83, where both the U.S. and North Carolina average are 100; and the median home price is just $105,500, where the state’s is $158,686.

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6. Garner

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Garner, NC

Source: Flickr user NCMichael2k3

This Raleigh suburb has graced a Movoto list once before, as one of the best places in North Carolina, and much of that was due to its low cost of living. Overall, with a score of 96, Garner’s cost of living is four points lower than the national average. Where it really shined, though, was in its low unemployment rate of just 7.5 percent, its score of 98 for miscellaneous expenses, and its score of just 100 for food. This town has grown in leaps and bounds over the past several years and today, continues to be one of the fastest growing in the state. In looking at the numbers, it’s no wonder why.

7. Holly Springs

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Holly Springs, NC

Source: Flickr user Donald Lee Pardue

Within close proximity to one of the largest research parks in the world, Research Triangle Park, Holly Springs has been growing quickly over the past decade, serving as an affordable place to live, compared to nearby Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill.

Holly Springs’ overall cost of living is a 107, where the national average is 100; but when considering the adjusted median income of $79,439, it clearly balances out. Also, considering the overall cost of living is a 107, this town’s low score of 98 for miscellaneous costs like clothes, shopping, repairs, and restaurants, is not just reasonable, but downright cheap.

8. Lewisville

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Lewisville, NC

Source: Google Maps

Centered around Shallowford Square—perhaps one of the most idyllic, quaint, and downright postcard-worthy town centers in the state—Lewisville not only has that old town feel in its architecture and organization, but also in its values and even prices. In keeping with the old, Lewisville has managed to keep prices low, even with a growing population. For instance, Lewisville’s cost of utilities is 10 points lower than the national average, and with a score of 100 for food, it is three points lower than the state.

The overall cost of living is 101, one point higher than average; but with a median household income of $71,642, it balances out so that residents are still making $70,933, once the cost of living has been considered. That’s better than 73 other places in our list.

9. Cary (tie)

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Cary, NC

Source: Wikipedia user HeavenlyHedgehog

The first of our No. 9 places is Cary; a veritable veteran to the Movoto blog. We first saw Cary as one of the best places in North Carolina, not just for safety and schools, but also for its high median household income. This certainly comes into play again in this list, because even with a cost of living well above average (116), with a median household income of $89,542, residents still make a median income of $77,191; one of the highest in the state.

Cary also has a low unemployment rate of just 7.5 percent, compared to places like Newton, Hickory, and Morganton, where it is over 11 percent.

9. Clayton (tie)

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina - Clayton, NC

Source: Google Maps

The second No. 9 spot on our list goes to Clayton. With its famous downtown sculpture trail, the beautiful Hocutt-Ellington Public Memorial Library, the Clayton Center, and even the Clayton Youth Theater, it is clear that this Raleigh sattelite town is rich in culture—and yet, it’s one of the least expensive in the state.

Clayton scores especially well in our ranking for its low cost of miscellaneous expenses, just a score of 95 where the national average is 100; and also for its low unemployment rate of 8.7 percent. Overall, Clayton’s cost of living is 100—right on track with the national average and four points higher than the state average—but with this town’s high median household income of $50,282, it actually works out to be more affordable for residents in the end.

Most Affordable Places in North Carolina

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posted on: April 7, 2014
134,806 views, 3 comments


  1. Star

    I definitely agree with the post above.

  2. melaine quinn

    Can you email me this information on NC?

  3. alice

    I used a cost of living compare site that you put what you make where you live and then enter a city and it tells you how much would be a comparable salary with the other towns cost of living. My brother has lived in Cary for 30 years. My niece lived in Charlotte. I was in Greensboro for a while


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