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In 2021, North Carolina saw the fourth-highest population growth of any state, making it one of the best places for real estate investment in the United States. Newcomers are flocking to the Tar Heel State’s metropolitan areas, beaches and mountains, which makes rental properties in the state a potentially lucrative investment.
Whether you’re looking to purchase an Airbnb investment, multi-family investment apartments or a single-family rental home, our list could help you pinpoint the best cities for your venture.
To identify the top markets for real estate investment, our team analyzed the most populous cities in North Carolina across the following categories:
- Investment potential
- Rental rates
This North Carolina-specific guide aims to help you research the best rental markets in the state and navigate the process of investing in a rental property for beginners.
If one of the cities on our list catches your eye, you can get advice from an experienced local real estate agent and up to 0.5% cash back at closing by working with our friends at Clever Real Estate. In North Carolina, where the median price for a single-family home is $242,300, that's up to $1,200 back in your pocket.
Clever is a free, no-obligation agent matching service that will introduce you to qualified, pre-vetted realtors from trusted brokerages including Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and Coldwell Banker. You can meet as many agents as you like until you find the best one to advise you on your real estate investment journey.
1. The Best Place to Buy Rental Property in North Carolina: Charlotte
With rising home values, high rental rates and a large influx of residents, Charlotte tops our list as one of the best markets for a rental property in North Carolina.
More than 150,000 people have moved to Charlotte and its surrounding area within the last decade, making Charlotte the fastest-growing North Carolina city and one of the best markets for rental properties. Every year, around 6,500 New York City residents relocate to Charlotte, showing the city’s strength as a center of business and finance.
The Queen City’s median home value is $377,990, nearly 12% higher than the national median home value in the United States. While homes in Charlotte may be slightly more expensive than average, Charlotte area home values have increased 20% in the past year, more than the national average home value increase of 12%. And since 2015, home values in Charlotte have grown an eye-popping 117%. These rising home values signal potentially significant gains for real estate investors.
In Charlotte, 35% of households were renters in 2019, demonstrating a strong market demand for rental properties in the area. The average rental rate for a two-bedroom apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina is $1,900, well above the national average two-bedroom apartment rate of $1,180.
Charlotte is also one of the most recognized up and coming cities in the Southeast. Beyond the city’s reputation as The South’s finance and banking hub, Charlotte boasts countless family-friendly amenities. The city is home to the Carolina Panthers NFL franchise, the Hornets NBA team, the Charlotte FC major league soccer team—plus minor league baseball, shopping, museums, golf courses and highly-rated schools.
Charlotte's steady growth and plentiful attractions are excellent indicators that real estate values will continue to appreciate. The city’s expanding urban neighborhood, The Second Ward, may be a great location for those looking for apartments investment, whereas the more residential Dilworth neighborhood may be a competitive rental home location.
Greensboro also stands out as one of the best markets in North Carolina, thanks to rapidly rising median home values and high demand for rental properties.
With a population of more than 300,000, Greensboro is smaller than Charlotte and Raleigh. But from 2019 to 2020 alone, the city exhibited steady population growth of around 12. This population growth could be attributed to a few different factors, including Greensboro's central location between the popular hubs of Winston-Salem and Durham.
Greensboro's rising home values also signal a smart investment opportunity. Currently, the median home value in Greensboro is $228,365, more than 32% cheaper than the national median home value. But home values in Greensboro have increased nearly 20% in the last year, and nearly 80% since 2015 — making now the perfect time to invest for those seeking an affordable market with significant opportunities for appreciating home values.
In Greensboro, 38% of residents rent, indicating a healthy market demand for rentals. However, it's worth noting that the average rent for a Greensboro two-bedroom apartment is $1,274, the lowest rate on our list. Investors should view Greensboro as a longer-term bet with the potential for substantial future value.
Despite its status as an urban center, Greensboro itself features a close-knit community atmosphere. The International Civil Rights Center & Museum, local gardens and arboretum, competitive local schools and rich community diversity make it an attractive home for a wide variety of potential renters.
Durham is the fourth most populous North Carolina city — and its population is projected to double within the next 25 years, according to the metro area's 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan. Durham's investments in local businesses have attracted new residents, more than 300 new businesses and two million square feet of office spacesince 2001 — not to mention Apple's plan to build a $1 billion campus in Research Triangle Park.
The average home value in Durham is $398,339, the second-highest of the cities on our list, and it's expected to appreciate substantially. Since 2015, Durham home values have increased almost 117%.
Durham is also home to Duke University, which brings a reliable influx of student renters every fall. Rental property investors can depend on the bustling college town for predictable demand as waves of students return to campus. As of 2021, 39% of Durham residents rent, paying an average of $1,413 for a two-bedroom apartment.
Off campus, Durham boasts the famed minor league Durham Bulls baseball team, a quaint downtown with a vibrant food scene and easy access to the nearby cities of Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
Raleigh is the second most populous city in North Carolina and the second fastest-growing city in North Carolina, with a population increase of 23% over the past decade alone.
The median home value in Raleigh is $436,641 — the highest of any city on our list. Investors may be wary of shelling out that amount on a rental property, but North Carolina has proven to be one of the best states to buy a house, based on its high population growth rate and increasing home values. Home values in Raleigh have soared by 98.5% since 2015 and may continue to increase handsomely with the city’s continued growth.
Perhaps due to pricey home values, Raleigh also has a higher renter population than any other city on our list, with 49%of the population renting their residence. This high renter population makes Raleigh one of the best markets in the state for rental property investors. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Raleigh is $1,735, the second-highest rent of any city on our list.
Raleigh is a family-friendly city that is expected to experience continued growth due to abundance of developable land, job growth and recreational attractions. Raleigh residents and visitors alike enjoy free admission to many of Raleigh's 18 museums, which range from the zany Marbles Kid Museum to the North Carolina Museum of Art's impressive collections, which include 30 sculptures by famed French sculptor Rodin. It's no wonder that Raleigh has earned the nickname "Smithsonian of the South."
Affordable home prices make Winston-Salem a competitive market for rental investors hunting for a bargain and promising growth indicators. The city’s median home value is $218,911, more than 35% lower than the national median home value. But home values in Winston-Salem are unlikely to stay low for long. In fact, prices have skyrocketed by 84% since 2015 and around 13% in the past year alone.
Winston-Salem is the smallest city on our list at 244,115 residents — but it's steadily growing. The area saw a nearly 9% increase in residents between 2010 and 2020 alone.
Nearly one-third Winston-Salem residents (32%) rent their properties, and the yearly influx of students to nearby Wake Forest University ensures reliable demand from year to year. The average rent for a Winston-Salem two-bedroom apartment is a healthy $1,551.
Winston-Salem has long since eclipsed its reputation as "Camel City," a tobacco-producing powerhouse of the South. Today, residents enjoy exploring the Reynolda House Museum of American Art's sprawling 1,000 acre campus, job opportunities in the high-tech Piedmont Triad Research Park, and creative restaurants and shopping in the city's busy Arts District.
Next Steps for Your Rental Property Investment
From Charlotte's fast-growing neighborhoods to Durham's rich cultural attractions, North Carolina offers a wealth of real estate investment opportunities.
Local real estate agents are powerful allies who can help you spot promising rental property opportunities, navigate up-and-coming markets, and even connect you with properties before they hit the MLS. Our friends at Clever Real Estate have built a network of trusted partner agents in North Carolina and beyond. It's free to meet agents through Clever, with zero obligation!
Best of all, real estate investors who find an agent through Clever can easily take advantage of North Carolina's buyer rebate opportunities. You can receive up to 0.5% cash back at closing, which you can use to offset closing costs, get your new property ready for renters, or simply enjoy as extra money in your pocket.
What is the best place to buy rental property in North Carolina?
Charlotte is the best place to buy rental property in North Carolina, followed by Greensboro and Durham. Learn how population growth, job opportunities, and home values impact rental property investments.
Is rental property a good investment?
In general, rental property is considered a sound investment, but a rental property's success or failure depends on both local market conditions and business strategy. Learn how to spot good investment opportunities — and save time, energy, and money — before buying a rental property in North Carolina.
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