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Your Guide to Moving to Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina Skyline
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Moving to Charlotte at a glance:

  • Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, with roughly 120 people moving to the area every day. It’s a great city for young professionals, with a median age of 34.
  • The cost of living in Charlotte is 1.5% lower than the national average. Housing prices also fall well below the national average.
  • The average salary in the city is roughly $46,000.
  • Charlotte is known as a bank town, six Fortune 500 headquarters and a 14 Fortune 1000 companies call the region home.
  • Some of Charlotte’s top industries include finance, technology, and healthcare services.
  • Whether it’s southern staples like barbecue and Cheerwine, or dishes from around the world, you won’t go hungry in Charlotte.
  • For you outdoor adventurers and weekend vacationers, Charlotte is perfectly positioned. You can get to the mountains in about two hours and to the beach in about three.

Moving to Charlotte: The Basics

What’s the population of Charlotte, NC?

Charlotte has a total population of 790,689. It’s a relatively young population with a median age of 34. About 55% of the population in the city is single, and there’s a pretty even split of women and men.

If you’re moving to Charlotte, you’re not alone. It’s one of the top five fastest-growing cities in the country, with roughly 120 new people to Charlotte every day. About 17%  of the population is foreign-born, leading to a diverse cultural community.

What’s the cost of living in Charlotte, NC?

Charlotte is a relatively affordable city in the U.S., with a cost of living that’s 1.5% below the national average. MYMOVE’s Cost of Living Calculator says housing costs in the city fall below the national average, with a median home price of $200,500 and a median rent of $1,086/mo.

If you’re buying groceries in the city, MYMOVE’s Cost of Living Calculator says you can expect to pay around $3.82 for a loaf of bread, $1.59 for a half-gallon milk, and $1.70 for a dozen eggs. For those of you who don’t frequent your kitchens often, expect to pay around $4.19 for your hamburger out.

The median household income in Charlotte is $60,764, while the per capita income is $37,913. That’s comparable to the national numbers — $60,293 (household) and $32,621 (per capita).

The cost of living in Charlotte is more expensive than a city like Columbus, OH, which is similar in size. However, Charlotte is significantly cheaper than other fast-growing cities, like Seattle, WA, and with comparable rent prices in cities like Houston, TX.

Here’s a look at how Charlotte compares:

City Cost of Living (Compared to National Average) Average Salary Median Home Price Median Rent
Charlotte, NC -1.50% $46,237 $200,500 $1,086
Columbus, OH -7.50% $41,337 $131,800 $856
Seattle, WA 57.60% $60,258 $370,000 $1,352
Houston, TX -4.10% $49,332 $177,300 $1,049

*Data sourced from Census Reporter and MYMOVE’s Cost of Living Calculator

How’s the Charlotte job market?

While Charlotte has a lower unemployment rate of 4.1% compared to the national average (8.4%), the city continues to attract businesses that generate new job opportunities. The coronavirus pandemic has also had a significant impact on the national averages.

While unemployment rates soared in June, due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlotte also saw high unemployment rates. The national percentage was 11.2, while Charlotte’s landed at 8.2, lower but still significant.

As the country’s second-largest banking city, Charlotte’s known for jobs in finance. But a 2019 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that jobs in the transportation and technology sectors, along with hospitality, education, and healthcare services, are on the rise.

In your job hunt, it’s important to note that Charlotte is home to six Fortune 500 companies and 14 Fortune 1000 companies.

The top employers in Charlotte include Bank of America, Atrium Health, Novant Health, Duke Energy, and Wells Fargo. In the greater Charlotte-metro area, you can find jobs with top employers like Lowe’s Home Improvement (in Mooresville, NC) and Red Ventures (in Fort Mill, SC).

What do I need to know about education in Charlotte?

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is the 22nd largest public school system in the nation, teaching children from Kindergarten to high school. CMS also offers a pre-Kindergarten program that’s application-based and determined by need.

Given the coronavirus pandemic, CMS opened in full virtual mode for the 2020-21 school year.

With most schools in CMS, your address determines which schools your child will attend. However, CMS does offer a school choice lottery for magnet and other programs.

Out of 116 school districts in North Carolina, Niche ranks CMS 9th for athletics, 12th for diversity, and 35th overall. Several CMS schools ranked on U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools in America list.

Beyond the public school system, there are around 85 private schools in Charlotte to choose from, along with more than 40 charter schools. There are also dozens of colleges and universities in the area.

What are the safest areas in Charlotte?

The top three safest areas in Charlotte are all located in the southeast portion of Mecklenburg County, according to Neighborhood Scout. The site, which pulls data from thousands of local law enforcement agencies across the country, considers neighborhoods surrounding Darby Chase Drive, Commons Creek Drive, and Weddington Road the safest in the city.

Neighborhood Scout says when compared to communities of all sizes across the country, Charlotte is safer than just 6% of U.S. cities. But, the site says, Charlotte’s crime rates are comparable to cities of a similar size. To get a deeper idea of the crime rate in Charlotte, you can take a look at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department numbers and FBI data.

How do I get around Charlotte?

Most Charlotteans still rely on their cars to get to and from work. The average commute time is 27 minutes, but with commutes that can reach over an hour for people who live near or past city limits, it’s worth looking at alternative ways of getting around town.

Public transportation in Charlotte is collectively known as the Charlotte Area Transit System, or CATS. It consists of a light rail line known as LYNX Blue Line, a (free) streetcar line known as the CityLYNX Gold Line, and a bus rapid transit line called Sprinter. All of these services can take you straight into the city center, or to some of the popular hang-out spots, like South End and North Davidson (NoDa).

There are also several taxi services and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft also operate in the area. Alvia reports that an UberX in Charlotte has a base fare of $1.10, with a per-mile cost of about $0.75 (surge pricing notwithstanding).

You can also get around on rented bicycles and scooters, with several different services operating throughout the city.

What’s the weather like in Charlotte?

If you’re looking to escape harsh northern winters, Charlotte’s the place for you. But don’t worry — you’ll still get your fix for every season.

Winters in the city are mild, with highs in the mid-50s and lows in the 30s. Summers can get hot, averaging highs in the upper 80s and lows in the 60s. Springs and falls maintain moderate temperatures in the city, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s to 50s.

You can experience the great outdoors all-year-round in Charlotte, with mostly sunny days and mild temperatures.

Charlotte’s inland position does help somewhat to shield it from the worst damage caused by hurricanes that hit the coastal areas of the Carolinas. But, it does experience severe weather when these events occur, and the red clay soil leaves the area vulnerable to flooding. It’s important to know that the Charlotte region can also experience tornadoes.

What are Charlotte’s fastest-growing neighborhoods?

Your new home can be an opportunity to find a new you. In a city that’s growing as fast as Charlotte, you have the liberty of identifying the popular neighborhoods that would suit both your lifestyle and budget. You can also get an idea of the population distribution in the city by looking at the fastest-growing areas in and around Charlotte.

In Charlotte:

Wildwood

Redfin dubbed Wildwood one of not just Charlotte’s hottest, but the nation’s “hottest neighborhoods of 2020.” The area is just 15 minutes from downtown Charlotte and is still affordable, where you can find homes around $250,000.

Madison Park

Madison Park is another Charlotte neighborhood that’s rapidly attracting new residents. Located south of Uptown Charlotte, this area has a population of 6,269 and is close to the popular Park Road Shopping Center. The median home value in this neighborhood is around $368,900, according to Zillow.

From restaurants, bars, and coffee shops to schools and parks, Madison Park has everything within a radius of four miles. This area was also dubbed one of Redfin’s “hottest [Charlotte] neighborhoods of 2019.”

Madison Park residents have access to the light rail via the Woodlawn and Scaleybark stations, providing an easy commute to the city center.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth is one of the historic neighborhoods of Charlotte and has a population of 4,927. Located just outside of Uptown, Elizabeth caters to urbanites with its close, walkable proximity to businesses, restaurants, and retail stores. Commuters to the city center also have access to a free service from the CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar.

The median list price for homes in Elizabeth is $337,500. This neighborhood is also close to some highly-rated public schools.

Plaza Midwood

Situated just a mile northeast of Uptown, this vibrant neighborhood has a population of 4,317. The area is famous for its art galleries and restaurants, and is ideal for those who prefer to stay close to the city, but enjoy a quaint and quieter day-to-day life.

Plaza Midwood is also well-connected. Residents can use buses or the light rail to commute to the city center.

The median list price of homes in Plaza Midwood is $594,200.

Dilworth

Dilworth is just a few miles from Uptown Charlotte and is home to 6,690 people. In this neighborhood, you’ll find tree-lined streets with an urban feel.

It was the first streetcar suburb in Charlotte. Today, it’s connected to the city by bus and light rail. Dilworth has a great restaurant scene, with specialty food and clothes shops in the Kenilworth Commons and Park Square retail plazas.

The median price for homes sold in Dilworth is $467,500.

In the Charlotte Metro Area:

Tega Cay, South Carolina

Tega is one of the fastest-growing suburbs in Charlotte, with a population of 10,863. It grew by 5.2% in the last year alone. The median list price for a home in Tega Cay is $369,900, Realtor.com reports.

The area has its own golf course for those looking for a few hours of leisure. If golfing is not your thing, you can go out boating in Lake Wylie.

Tega Cay is located 20 miles south of Charlotte — a half an hour drive (without traffic) to the city center via I-77 N.

Waxhaw, North Carolina

Waxhaw is a growing area south of Charlotte that has a population of 16,181, with a growth rate of 6.4% last year. The median list price for a home in Waxhaw is $419,900.

It’s a leisurely community, where you can enjoy walks in the quaint downtown or explore local breweries.

The neighborhood is about 30 miles from the city center, or a 45-minute drive (without traffic) via I-485.

Fort Mill, South Carolina

Fort Mill is the fastest-growing township in Charlotte, with a population of 19,848. The area grew by 13.2% in the last year, with particularly fast growth around the Baxter Village area. The median list price for a home in Fort Mill is $352,000.

Living in Fort Mill allows you to maintain the small-town feel while giving you easy access to Charlotte’s city center. It’s located about 25 minutes (without traffic) south of Charlotte off I-77.

Living in Charlotte, NC: The fun part

Options for the sports fan

Grindstone Media Group/ Shutterstock

If you’re a sports fan, you’ll get your fair share of action in Charlotte. The Queen City boasts teams in most major leagues, including the professional football team, the Carolina Panthers, and the professional basketball team the Charlotte Hornets (which is owned and chaired by Michael Jordan). Bank of America Stadium and Spectrum Center are their own home grounds. A major league soccer team is also in the making.

The Charlotte area is also a major center for motorsports in the U.S. If you’re a motorsports fan, you can’t miss the annual NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

For the culture-seeker

Bryan Pollard/ Shutterstock

Whether it’s fine art, history, or live performances, Charlotte’s got it all. Culture fanatics can choose between six art museums and nine history museums, all showcasing the city’s diverse communities and backgrounds. Motorsports fans can nerd out about famous drivers at the NASCAR Hall of Fame or check out restored cars at the Backing Up Classics – Morrison Motorcar Museum.

The kiddos will love the scientific marvels and hands-on learning at The Discovery Place and ImaginOn.

Music-lovers of all genres can catch live shows and top artists at venues like the Spectrum Center, the AvidXchange Music Factory, and other smaller venues. Charlotte also has its own symphony, ballet, and opera, which offer various series (ranging from beloved classics and cutting-edge innovative works, including via digital platforms, due to the coronavirus pandemic) every year.

For the foodie

Joshua Resnick/ Shutterstock

No matter the palette or preference, Charlotte has food for you. The city is known for its southern barbecue, making it a haven for meat-lovers. Pulled pork has traditionally been the name of the game, but some restaurants are offering wider selections (like brisket and smoked wings). Now, be careful about the barbecue sauce you choose: Claiming a side on the tomato-based sauce vs. vinegar-based sauce debate is serious business in the south.

Charlotte is also known for Cheerwine, made in nearby Salisbury, nicknamed the “nectar of the Tar Heels.” It’s a sweet soda with strong cherry notes, and it’s served at most restaurants.

Walk around the city, and you’ll see Charlotte’s diverse communities echoed in the restaurant selection. You can bring the world to your dinner plate at places serving international staples like sushi, ramen, falafel, bánh mì, and more. The city’s east side has become a great place to discover Hispanic fare.

For the traveler

Novikov Aleksey/ Shutterstock

If you’re the jet-setting type, Charlotte’s got you covered. With Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, you have access to 35 international flights.

Weekend getaways are a breeze, with both mountains and beaches just a few hours away.

For the outdoor explorer

Malachi Jacobs/ Shutterstock

With 216 parks and 64 hiking trails nearby, you’re not short of ways to spend a Saturday in Charlotte. You can pack a picnic and enjoy city views from Freedom or Marshall parks. You can try your green thumb at one of the 19 community gardens, or take your kids to a football-themed Panthers Play 60 playground.

Additionally, Charlotte is home to the  U.S. National Whitewater Center. It’s one of the best getaways for adventure-seekers looking for thrilling outdoor activities such as zip-lining, ropes courses, trails, and whitewater rafting, plus they offer a killer outdoor music series.

What you probably didn’t know about Charlotte…

Every city has its own quirks, history, and inside information that make it unique. Get the inside scoop on obscure fun facts that will, without a doubt, have you talking like a local Charlottean:

  • Charlotte got its name after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of King George III of England — hence the nickname ” The Queen City” (or, “The QC” for short).
  • Local residents refer to the downtown area as “Uptown.” However, many locals aren’t aware that Uptown has the highest elevation point, and the city grew around it.
  • Charlotte is also nicknamed “The Hornet’s Nest” (the namesake of the city’s professional basketball team). This name harkens back to the late 1700s, when General Cornwallis led British troops into Charlotte. Legend has it that Cornwallis called Charlotte a “hornet’s nest of rebellion” due to the fight that locals put up during the Battle of Charlotte and the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780.
  • The first piece of gold found in the U.S. was discovered near Charlotte in 1799 when a local boy found a 17-pound gold nugget while fishing in a creek east of the city.
  • The first Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits also opened in Charlotte in 1977. So, not only can you munch on some great barbecue in The QC, you can slam tasty fried chicken as well.

If you’re interested in moving to the area check out our city page on Charlotte!

The bottom line

If you want to move to the Queen City and get a sense of what living in Charlotte, NC, is like, this guide is the perfect place to start. But it can only scratch the surface. To really understand Charlotte and what it’s like to be a local, you should explore local resources.

Tourism sites like charlottesgotalot.com can keep you updated on current events. Culture sites like the Charlotte Agenda and CLTure.org can help inform what to do, see, and eat. Lastly, local news affiliates like the Charlotte Observer, WFAE, and WBTV, can keep you up-to-date on everything happening in the community.

At the end of the day, you have to determine if moving to Charlotte is the right step for you, your family, and your career. The facts and figures above can help you make that big (and exciting) decision.

This article was originally published on 1/27/2020. Updated on 2/24/2020. 

Virginia Brown contributed to this article. 


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