Named a top-housing market in 2021, Charlotte, North Carolina, is drawing new residents from every generation.
Charlotte, North Carolina is the United States’ third-fastest-growing major city.1 The city’s population increased by 24.7% over the past decade and is continuing to grow at 1.47% annually. The metropolitan area, which now has 2.4 million people, has been attracting new residents from around the world and from within the United States who come to the “Queen City” because of the strong economy, low cost of living, and comfortable climate. The city’s nickname comes from the fact that, at its founding in 1774, it was named after King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte.
A strong and diverse economy
Charlotte is widely considered to be the country’s second largest banking center after New York City. Still, Charlotte’s diverse economy extends well beyond banks. Eight Fortune 500 companies have their headquarters in Charlotte: Bank of America, Honeywell, Truist (the firm formed from the merger of BB&T and SunTrust), the steel manufacturer Nucor, Lowe’s, Duke Energy, Sonic Automotive, and the life insurance firm Brighthouse Financial.2 Other major companies based in the greater Charlotte metropolitan area include Wells Fargo’s Regional Headquarters for East Coast Operations, Food Lion, the commercial foodservice firm Compass Group, the accounting firm Dixon Hughes Goodman, and the chemical company Albemarle. Coca-Cola Bottling is also headquartered in Charlotte and has its second-largest bottling facility in the city.
After bouncing back, like the rest of the country has, from 2020’s pandemic-induced slowdown, the Charlotte area now has an unemployment rate of just 3.6%, a full percentage point below the national average for the United States.3 Job growth over the next 10 years is expected to be 45.2%, well above the anticipated average growth rate for the United States at 33.5%.4
Part of the reason so many newcomers are arriving in the area, in pursuit of those jobs, may be the region’s relatively low cost of living. People get all the amenities of big-city life – a great dining scene and a broad array of cultural and entertainment options – in an area that is still affordable. At $290,000, the median price for homes is 12% below the national median, and the cost of living is 1% below the national average.5
It’s not only the job market that is attracting new residents. Many retirees are also coming to the area because it’s an easy and comfortable place to live. People can still experience the four seasons without the severe winters of northern states or the much more hot and humid summers of Florida. The city was cited by Forbes in 2021 as one of the best places to retire. Yet another source of appeal for retirees may be the fact that North Carolina does not impose a state income tax on Social Security benefits and there is no state-levied estate tax.6
Millennials are yet another generational group drawn to the city. In 2017, Charlotte was named as the number one city that Millennials were flocking to, and that trend hasn’t stopped.7 Given the high costs of homes across the country, more Millennials appear to be adopting “lifestyle renting.” Charlotte is one of the big cities where many of them are choosing to live. In 2021, Charlotte ranked among the top 10 cities for wealthy Millennial renters (those with annual incomes over $50,000), as the share of rental applications from that cohort jumped by 26%.8
A top housing market
The city is also appealing to homebuyers across all age groups. Realtor.com named Charlotte as one of the top 10 housing markets in 2021, with the metropolitan area ranking third among the country’s largest markets.9 Realtor.com predicted the city’s combined growth rate for the year, considering both the increases in the volume of sales and rising home prices, would be 19.0%.
Plenty to do no matter what your interests
North Carolina is famous for how much its residents love NASCAR. Any newcomers to the region who want to discover the fascination with auto racing can head over to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, which hosts three premiere NASCAR events every year, or they can pay a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Fans of other sports will also find plenty to do as the Charlotte region is home to an NFL franchise (the Carolina Panthers), an NBA team (the Charlotte Hornets), and a Triple-A baseball team, the Charlotte Knights.
Those looking for some hands-on athletic adventure can head to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, a 1,300-acre sports venue adjacent to the Catawba River that has 45 miles of developed trails. The center is an Olympic training facility, but it has also been open to the public since 2006. Visitors can simply have some fun or work to enhance their skills in whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking or ice skating. Those not in the mind for extreme sports can relax in the city’s 210 parks.
According to Charlotte Travel & Tourism officials, there are 65,000 arts and cultural events in the region every year. They generate $160 million for the local economy and support 4,700 jobs.
On the dining scene, Charlotte is famous for its many food trucks, classic burger joints, and restaurants offering southern barbecue. With 50 breweries in the area, lovers of craft beers will discover lots to sample. Fine diners have plenty of options, too, most notably Kindred, The Stanley and Leah & Louise, whose head chefs have all received James Beard nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast.11
With all Charlotte has to offer, it is no wonder that the city has been ranked by Business Insider as one of the 50 Best Places to Live in America.12 As one local expert quoted by Business Insider observed, the city is “equal parts old-fashioned southern charm and high-energy cosmopolitan bustle.”
1. Source: “Charlotte, North Carolina, population, 2021,” worldpopulationreview.com
2. Source: “Charlotte has eight companies on the 2021 Fortune 500 list,” Charlotte.axios.com
3. Source: “Charlotte, NC-SC, Area Economic Summary,” bls.gov (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
4. Source: “Economy in Charlotte, North Carolina,” bestplaces.net
5. Source: “Best Places to Retire, 2021: Charlotte, NC,” Forbes.
6. Source: “Best Places to Retire, 2021: Charlotte, NC,” Forbes
7. Source: “Charlotte Ranked the #1 City in America Where Millennials Are Moving To,” Charlottestories.com
8. Source: “Would-Buy Millennials Fuel the Rise of Lifestyle Renting in Charlotte,” newskudo.com
9. Source: “Top Housing Markets for 2021,” Realtor.com research
10. Source: “5 Reasons to Move to Charlotte, NC,” livabilty.com
11. Source: “Fit for a Queen: A Look at Charlotte, NC’s Food Scene,” Google Arts & Culture
12. Source: “The 50 Best Places to Live in America, ranked,” Business Insider, updated 6/3/20
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