Best counties to live in North Carolina and why: See who made the list from around here

North Carolina

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What makes a particular county the best? Oftentimes, it’s a good mix of opportunities for fun outdoor activities and cultural attractions. Throw in some historical sites, good schools, job opportunities, and affordable housing, and the county will most likely have happy residents.

Stacker compiled a list of the best counties to live in North Carolina using rankings from Niche. Niche ranks counties by a variety of factors including public schools, educational attainment, cost of living, and housing.

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Many counties on the list are experiencing growth due to their job opportunities, education, or home values. Others are adored for their historic or well-designed value, or devotion to cultural opportunities. Keep reading to see if your county made the list.

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#25. Polk County

– Population: 20,557
– Median home value: $225,700 (74% own)
– Median rent: $851 (26% rent)
– Median household income: $48,787
– Top public schools: Saluda Elementary School (A), Polk County Middle School (A), Tryon Elementary School (A)
– Top private schools: Tryon Seventh-day Adventist School (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Tryon (A), Green Creek Township (A), Tryon Township (A)

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#24. Lee County

– Population: 60,481
– Median home value: $144,200 (67% own)
– Median rent: $775 (33% rent)
– Median household income: $49,994
– Top public schools: Lee Early College (A), Tramway Elementary School (B+), Greenwood Elementary School (B)
– Top private schools: Grace Christian School (B), Lee Christian School (B), Calvary Education Center (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Sanford (B), West Sanford Township (A), Broadway (B+)

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#23. Gaston County

– Population: 219,271
– Median home value: $144,200 (65% own)
– Median rent: $832 (35% rent)
– Median household income: $52,835
– Top public schools: Highland School of Technology (A), Mountain Island Charter School (A), Cramerton Middle School (A)
– Top private schools: Gaston Day School (A+), Gaston Christian School (B+), Cramerton Christian Academy (C+)
– Top places to live: Belmont (A), Cramerton (A), Mount Holly (A)

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#22. Craven County

– Population: 102,491
– Median home value: $157,900 (63% own)
– Median rent: $910 (37% rent)
– Median household income: $52,687
– Top public schools: Craven Early College High School (A), Creekside Elementary School (A), W. Jesse Gurganus Elementary School (A)
– Top private schools: The Epiphany School of Global Studies (A), Calvary Baptist Church School (B+), New Bern Christian Academy (B)
– Top places to live: Trent Woods (A), Brices Creek (A), River Bend (A)

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#21. Transylvania County

– Population: 33,775
– Median home value: $221,900 (76% own)
– Median rent: $756 (24% rent)
– Median household income: $50,212
– Top public schools: Brevard Middle School (A), T.C. Henderson Elementary School (A), Brevard Academy (B+)
– Top private schools: Mountain Sun Community School (unavailable), Bethany Christian School (unavailable), The Outdoor Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Brevard (B+), Dunns Rock Township (A), Boyd Township (B+)

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#20. Jackson County

– Population: 42,938
– Median home value: $196,100 (64% own)
– Median rent: $739 (36% rent)
– Median household income: $47,252
– Top public schools: Jackson County Early College (A), Smoky Mountain High School (B), Fairview Elementary School (B)
– Top private schools: Victory Christian School (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Sylva (A), Forest Hills (A), Webster Township (A)

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#19. Cumberland County

– Population: 332,861
– Median home value: $135,300 (51% own)
– Median rent: $941 (49% rent)
– Median household income: $46,875
– Top public schools: Cross Creek Early College High School (A), Massey Hill Classical High School (A), Cumberland International Early Colleges (A)
– Top private schools: Fayetteville Academy (A+), Village Christian Academy (A), Fayetteville Christian School (A)
– Top places to live: Spring Lake (B+), Fayetteville (B+), Hope Mills (B+)

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#18. Carteret County

– Population: 69,070
– Median home value: $214,100 (73% own)
– Median rent: $902 (27% rent)
– Median household income: $57,194
– Top public schools: Tiller School (A+), Morehead City Middle School (A), Broad Creek Middle School (A)
– Top private schools: Gramercy Christian School (B+), St. Egbert Catholic School (unavailable), Newport Christian Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Cedar Point (A), Emerald Isle (A), Pine Knoll Shores (A)

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#17. Pitt County

– Population: 178,433
– Median home value: $148,600 (52% own)
– Median rent: $794 (48% rent)
– Median household income: $47,437
– Top public schools: Hope Middle School (A), Wintergreen Intermediate School (A), Chicod (B+)
– Top private schools: The Oakwood School (A+), John Paul II Catholic High School (A), Christ Covenant School (B+)
– Top places to live: Winterville (A), Greenville (B+), Ayden (B)

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#16. Henderson County

– Population: 114,913
– Median home value: $214,000 (73% own)
– Median rent: $853 (27% rent)
– Median household income: $55,945
– Top public schools: Hendersonville Elementary School (A), Glenn C. Marlow Elementary School (A), Rugby Middle School (A)
– Top private schools: Veritas Christian Academy (A), Fletcher Academy (B+), Immaculata Catholic School (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Laurel Park (A), Mills River (A), Fletcher (A)

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#15. Iredell County

– Population: 175,538
– Median home value: $190,300 (72% own)
– Median rent: $868 (28% rent)
– Median household income: $60,955
– Top public schools: Pine Lake Preparatory School (A+), Collaborative College for Technology & Leadership (CCTL) (A), South Elementary School (A)
– Top private schools: Woodlawn School (A+), Statesville Christian School (B+), Liberty Preparatory Christian Academy (B+)
– Top places to live: Mooresville (A), Troutman (A), Statesville (B+)

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#14. Catawba County

– Population: 157,613
– Median home value: $143,600 (69% own)
– Median rent: $738 (31% rent)
– Median household income: $52,056
– Top public schools: Discovery High School (A), Challenger Early College High School (A), Shuford Elementary School (A)
– Top private schools: University Christian High School (A), Hickory Christian Academy (A), Tabernacle Christian School (B+)
– Top places to live: Mountain View (A), Hickory (A), Newton (A)

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#13. Watauga County

– Population: 54,925
– Median home value: $238,000 (60% own)
– Median rent: $870 (40% rent)
– Median household income: $47,526
– Top public schools: Hardin Park Elementary School (A), Blowing Rock Elementary School (A), Parkway Elementary School (A)
– Top private schools: Grace Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Boone (B+), Blue Ridge Township (A), Blowing Rock Township (A)

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#12. Union County

– Population: 231,053
– Median home value: $241,400 (81% own)
– Median rent: $1,030 (19% rent)
– Median household income: $80,033
– Top public schools: Marvin Ridge High School (A+), Weddington High School (A+), Central Academy of Technology & Arts (A+)
– Top private schools: Arborbrook Christian Academy (A), Metrolina Christian Academy (A), Grace Academy (B)
– Top places to live: Marvin (A+), Weddington (A+), Waxhaw (A)

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#11. Cabarrus County

– Population: 206,615
– Median home value: $203,100 (71% own)
– Median rent: $925 (29% rent)
– Median household income: $67,328
– Top public schools: Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College High School (A), J.N. Fries Middle School (A), Cox Mill High School (A)
– Top private schools: Cannon School (A+), Christ the King Catholic High School (A), Covenant Classical School (B+)
– Top places to live: Harrisburg (A+), Concord (A), Kannapolis (B+)

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#10. Moore County

– Population: 97,294
– Median home value: $216,500 (76% own)
– Median rent: $879 (24% rent)
– Median household income: $59,963
– Top public schools: The Academy of Moore County (A+), West Pine Elementary School (A), West End Elementary School (A)
– Top private schools: The O’Neal School (A+), Sandhills Classical Christian School (unavailable), Episcopal Day School (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Pinehurst (A), Southern Pines (A), Foxfire (A)

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#9. New Hanover County

– Population: 227,938
– Median home value: $243,600 (58% own)
– Median rent: $1,031 (42% rent)
– Median household income: $54,891
– Top public schools: Isaac M. Bear High School (A), John T. Hoggard High School (A), Wilmington Early College High School (A)
– Top private schools: Cape Fear Academy (A+), Coastal Christian High School (A), Wilmington Christian Academy (B+)
– Top places to live: Sea Breeze (A), Wrightsville Beach (A), Ogden (A)

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#8. Buncombe County

– Population: 256,886
– Median home value: $238,200 (63% own)
– Median rent: $975 (37% rent)
– Median household income: $52,207
– Top public schools: Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. Discovery Academy (A+), Evergreen Community Charter School (A), T.C. Roberson High School (A)
– Top private schools: Asheville School (A+), Carolina Day School (A+), Christ School (A+)
– Top places to live: Biltmore Forest (A+), Royal Pines (A), Avery Creek (A)

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#7. Forsyth County

– Population: 375,195
– Median home value: $159,300 (62% own)
– Median rent: $812 (38% rent)
– Median household income: $51,569
– Top public schools: Early College of Forsyth (A+), Atkins Academic & Technology High School (A), Ronald W. Reagan High School (A)
– Top private schools: Forsyth Country Day School (A+), Salem Academy (A+), Calvary Day School (A)
– Top places to live: Clemmons (A+), Lewisville (A), Winston-Salem (A)

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#6. Chatham County

– Population: 71,338
– Median home value: $281,700 (76% own)
– Median rent: $845 (24% rent)
– Median household income: $67,031
– Top public schools: Perry W. Harrison Elementary School (A), Margaret B. Pollard Middle School (A), Chatham Charter School (A)
– Top private schools: Haw River Christian Academy (unavailable), Thales Academy Pittsboro K-5 (unavailable), Auldern Academy (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Fearrington Village (A), Pittsboro (B+), Siler City (B)

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#5. Guilford County

– Population: 527,868
– Median home value: $167,000 (59% own)
– Median rent: $878 (41% rent)
– Median household income: $53,261
– Top public schools: The Early College at Guilford (A+), The STEM Early College at N.C. A&T (A+), Greensboro Academy (A+)
– Top private schools: Greensboro Day School (A+), Wesleyan Christian Academy (A), Caldwell Academy (A)
– Top places to live: Oak Ridge (A+), Stokesdale (A), Jamestown (A)

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#4. Durham County

– Population: 311,848
– Median home value: $223,000 (54% own)
– Median rent: $1,067 (46% rent)
– Median household income: $60,958
– Top public schools: North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (A+), Research Triangle High School (A+), Durham School of the Arts (A)
– Top private schools: Durham Academy (A+), Trinity School of Durham & Chapel Hill (A+), Camelot Academy (A+)
– Top places to live: Durham (A), Gorman (B), Triangle Township (A+)

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#3. Mecklenburg County

– Population: 1,074,475
– Median home value: $238,000 (56% own)
– Median rent: $1,146 (44% rent)
– Median household income: $66,641
– Top public schools: Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy (A+), Ardrey Kell High School (A+), Community School of Davidson (A+)
– Top private schools: Providence Day School (A+), Charlotte Country Day School (A+), Charlotte Latin School (A+)
– Top places to live: Ballantyne East (A+), Dilworth (A+), Fourth Ward (A+)

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#2. Orange County

– Population: 144,836
– Median home value: $308,800 (63% own)
– Median rent: $1,093 (37% rent)
– Median household income: $71,723
– Top public schools: East Chapel Hill High School (A+), Carrboro High School (A+), Chapel Hill High School (A+)
– Top private schools: Carolina Friends School (A+), Emerson Waldorf School (A), St. Thomas More Catholic School (unavailable)
– Top places to live: Chapel Hill (A+), Carrboro (A+), Hillsborough (A)

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#1. Wake County

– Population: 1,069,079
– Median home value: $281,700 (64% own)
– Median rent: $1,150 (36% rent)
– Median household income: $80,591
– Top public schools: Raleigh Charter High School (A+), Green Hope High School (A+), Wake NC State University STEM Early College High School (A+)
– Top private schools: Cary Academy (A+), Ravenscroft School (A+), St. David’s School (A+)
– Top places to live: Morrisville (A+), Cary (A+), Apex (A+)

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