Top 10 Cities in North Carolina for Rental Investment

North Carolina is one of the United States’ original 13 colonies and is filled to the brim with history and things to go. The state is often called the “Tar Heel” state which has also been adopted by the University of North Carolina’s sports teams.

The climate in North Carolina is pretty great, and residents can experience the entirety of the four seasons, with a rather mild winter. This is opposed to Florida and Southern California which seem to have a never-ending Summer.

The Tar Heel State is home to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains which include the Great Smoky Mountains on its western border. On the eastern front, there are plenty of woodlands, creeks, rivers, and amazing beaches on the Atlantic coast.

Beyond the University of North Carolina, there are many other higher learning institutions, private colleges, and universities. There are plenty of high-quality schools across the state, including charter, private or public schools for children. As such, the state’s SAT average is above the national.

Like many southern states, North Carolina has a lower cost of living than the average in the United States. As of 2021, the cost of living was 5% lower than the national average with residents mainly saving on grocery costs and utilities. Seeing that this is a very comfortable state to live in, with a large influx of residents, this is an additional perk. Housing prices are also lower than the average but are climbing.

Population growth is also far above the national average. While population growth in the US was 0.1% in 2021 according to the US Census Bureau, North Carolina is outpacing it at 1.1% and is competing with Florida’s growth.

North Carolina & Employment

The Tar Heel state has one of the strongest economies in the United States. It is known for having highly trained and educated individuals, as well as a solid job market. There are more than a few Fortune 500 companies located within the borders of the state. This includes Lowes and Honeywell International.

North Carolina is also well known as a banking hub in the United States beyond New York City. Bank of America is headquartered in Raleigh. The bank Wells Fargo also has a major presence in North Carolina as well as many other financial service companies.

The tech scene is also growing in North Carolina. The state is home to Epic Games which released the sensation known as Fortnite, as well as Unreal. Lenovo is also a major employer in the state, with over 1000 residents as employees in Morrisville. Google also has a local presence with offices in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Honorable Mention – Fuquay-Varina

Located 18 miles southwest of Raleigh is the oddly named town of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. The town was mainly known as an agricultural town known for its tobacco. As tobacco fell out of favor, the town grew due to its proximity to Research Triangle Park. The park is the largest research park in the United States and has three major universities conducting research there.

Possibly due to its proximity to the park, the population is very educated with many holding bachelor’s and graduate degrees. As such average earnings in the municipality are high as well as homeownership, which is listed at 72%. The number of residents has also increased by quite a bit. There has been an increase of 88% since the 2010 census bringing the number of residents to 33,855. Housing prices have climbed to $412,362 in 2022 on average while rent is listed as $1,160 per month. While Fuquay-Varina seems like a great opportunity, it is listed as a township, hence it only receives an honorable mention.

10 – Clayton

Just 20 miles east of Fuquay-Varina and not too far off from Raleigh is the municipality of Clayton. It is considered a satellite city of Raleigh and is roughly the size of Fuquay-Varina population-wise. All things considered, Clayton is an all-American quiet suburban city that offers peace of mind that is hard to find in the cities.

Clayton’s population has grown by 91% since the 2010 census, bringing its population to 30,821 residents. The rate of homeownership is close to the national average at 61%. Housing is more affordable and is listed at $348,000 on average. Despite lower costs to purchase a property, rental prices are high at $1,083 per month on average.

9 – Navassa

On the banks of the Cape Fear River, known for the movie bearing the same title, sits the town of Navassa. The city is just a stone’s toss away from the downtown center of the larger city of Wilmington, North Carolina. There are a handful of other rivers and creeks crisscrossing the municipality making the city a great spot for anyone who loves fishing.

While Navassa has a sparse population, it has grown by 89% since 2010 bringing the number of residents to 2,858 living in the city. The rate of homeownership is 68% which is a tad above the norm. The average home prices seem to be very attractive at $211,000 per property. Rent is listed as just below $1000 on average. Low entry prices could be attractive to some property buyers and buy-to-rent landlords.

8 – Elrod

Not to be confused with the similarly named Lord of Rivendell, from Lord of the Rings. Elrod is a census-designated place in Robeson county. It is close to the larger municipality of Lumberton. The Lumberton Regional Airport is somewhere midway between both locations. The border to South Carolina is also very close by.

The tiny municipality has grown by 97% since the 2010 census to 825 residents. The poverty rate is very high at 57%. This may be the reason that property is so affordable. The average property is much lower than the national average and is listed as $39,843 for a home. The average rent is listed as $645 per month meaning the ratio of rental prices in comparison to purchasing prices is high. While it may be a gamble for investors, Elrod could also be a golden ticket so to say

7 – Apex

Downtown Apex
Source: Wikipedia

Just 13 miles west of Raleigh sits the suburban municipality of Apex. It is a bit of an upscale suburb, with plenty of parks, creeks, and golf centers. Apex was voted the #1 best place to live in according to Money Magazine in 2015. This was partially due to the high quality of local schools, the job market in the area, low crime, and community spirit. Realtor magazine also listed the city as the fastest growing suburb in America in 2018.

The population of Apex has indeed been growing at a very fast pace. There has been a 101% population increase since the 2010 census bringing the number of residents to 37,500. The city is growing at a pace of 7% per year. The rate of homeownership is also rather high and is listed as 74%. Housing prices have increased by 34% since 2021 bringing property prices to $556,000 on average. Average rent prices are listed as $1,350 per month.

6 – Waxhaw

Downtown Waxhaw
Source: Wikipedia

23 miles south of central Charlotte, sits the suburban city of Waxhaw. The name of the city is derived from the Native American tribe that called the region home. The region is where gold was first discovered in the United States and the Howie Gold Mine is near the city limits. The border with South Carolina is also a few miles away.
Waxhaw is growing at a pace of 5% per year and the population has increased by 103% since the 2010 census. This brings the number of residents to 20,000 according to estimates. Homeownership is very high at 85% and the average house costs $555,000. Median rent is listed as $1446 per month. Seeing the low inventory of available housing could make Waxhaw a great opportunity for rental investments.


Property Value Increases 2013-2022
Property Value Increases 2013-2022 Source: Zillow

5 – Leland

Leland Entrance
Source: Wikipedia

Just 10 miles west of Wilmington and the southern neighbor of Navassa sits the municipality of Leland. The city is on the banks of the Brunswick River and is home to the gorgeous Bellville Riverwalk Park. There are plenty of canals and waterways in the city, making it a picturesque spot, reminiscent of Venice Beach. Museums are also plentiful in the area and can make for great activities for families.

The city of Leland has grown by 112% since the 2010 census and is increasing at a rate of 6% annually. The rate of homeownership is high at 80% and the city is home to 28,700 residents. Housing is more affordable than others on the list and costs $336,000 in 2022 on average. Rent income is rather high in comparison at $1,173 per month making the ratio of cost to buy and rent earnings attractive.

4 – High Point

High Point Drawers
Source: Wikipedia

15 miles southwest of Greensboro sits the city of High Point. It is a quaint college town and home to High Point University. The city used to be well known for furniture building and textile manufacturing. This is probably the reason why it is also home to the world’s largest chest of drawers, a 32-foot structure, and tourist attraction. High Point was also the hometown of jazz legend John Coltrane and there is a statue dedicated to the musician downtown.

The population of High Point has increased by 10% since the 2010 census, and the city now has 114,000 residents. High Point is a unique city to invest in due to the fact that it is a college town meaning there are many younger people looking to rent a property. In addition to that housing is affordable and costs $204,000 on average. Median rent is a bit lower at just below $900 per month.

3 – St. James

On North Carolina’s southern border, not too far from the city of Myrtle Beach sits the city of St. James. The scenic city is very close to the beach and is bordered by the Intracoastal Waterway. St. James is also home to two different golf clubs and a few spas. The stunning Oak Island Lighthouse is also nearby and is worth a visit. The city also hosts a waterfront market offering fresh produce and baked goods.

The population of St. James has increased by a whopping 135% since the 2010 census and is growing at a rate of 5% per year. The average age of the local residents is very high and is listed as 67 years old. The rate of homeownership is also extremely high and is listed as 95% on average. Property prices are very high in St. James and are listed as $661,000 on average. Rent is listed as $1,862 per month but with so few available properties for rent, a landlord could ask for more. This can be a unique opportunity for real estate and rental investment.

2 – Rolesville

Yet another suburb of Raleigh, Rolesville is a charming city just 16 miles northeast of the larger city. Rolesville is considered a hidden gem and a home to parks and a handful of great places to eat at. In addition to that, the city hosts one of the largest scuba diving parks on the east coast. Rolesville also hosts several events and parades for the local population including a BBQ and Bands festival.

The population of Rolesville is younger, suggesting many families with kids in the area. The growth in the city has been a rapid one. The annual growth rate is listed as 4.58% and it has expanded by 158% since the 2010 census bringing the number of residents to 9788. Home ownership is high with 83% of the citizens owning their property. The average cost to buy a property is listed as $485,000 while rent listed as $800 per month. The low number of rental properties to rent and the explosive growth may mean that rent could greatly increase.

1 – Holly Ridge

Between the cities of Jacksonville to the north and Wilmington to the south on the Atlantic coast sits Holly Ridge. The city is known for a mix of suburban and rural vibes, and many beaches nearby. A military base called Camp Davis is located just next to the city, and many residents are military or ex military. Others tend to be employed by J & J Snack Foods, a big local employer.

Holly ridge is home to 3500 residents and is growing at an annual rate of just below 7%. Since the 2010 census the population has exploded by 176% bringing the number of residents to 3,508. Housing is affordable at $286,000 on average and rent seems to be around $1,370 per month. The surprising growth of this small municipality can make it a great spot for real estate investors.

Property Value Increases 2013-2022
Property Value Increases 2013-2022
Source: Zillow


Start Owning Real Estate in North Carolina

Interested in financing or refinancing an investment property in North Carolina? We can help!

We at USA-Mortgages provide specialized mortgage programs for international real estate investors interested in purchasing an investment property in the US. Additionally, we offer refinancing options to those who already own a property. Just hit the buttons below for more!

*Sources: The US Census Bureau, , , &

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