North Carolina Best Places to Retire - A Guide 

If you have been looking for the best places to retire in North Carolina this website has the helpful answers you need. Choose from dozens of North Carolina  towns and communities that are popular with active adults 55+. For each community - from Asheville to Winston-Salem - you will find helpful community reviews. Don't miss our dueling retirement article and all of the comments to it: "What is the Best State for Retirement:  SC or NC"?


Asheville North Carolina Scenery

Scene near Asheville NC


North Carolina is one of the top states for retirement and active adult retirement communities. This fast growing state of 9.8 million people (2013) offers plenty of outdoor activities, hundreds of best places to retire - from livable cities to quaint harbor towns like Beaufort, and small towns in the mountains like Hendersonville. The Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state offer unparalled scenery and recreation. Many new residents are so called "halfbacks" - people from the Northeast who moved to Florida only to become disallusioned, who then move half-way back north to the Carolinas.  In a 2010 poll North and South Carolina became the most popular places to retire among baby boomers, beating out the traditional leaders, Arizona and Florida. Read this article to find out "How North Carolina Overtook Florida as #1 Retirement State". Here are more basic facts about what it's like to retire in North Carolina.

Best retirement communities
North Carolina offer a combination of coastal beaches, Piedmont cities, and western mountains - so it is sure to have a retirement community for just about everyone. Here is a partial list of best retirement towns reviewed at Topretirements (see full list in right column):

The North Carolina climate is characterized as humid sub-tropical. Winters are mild and summers are hot and humid. Climate in the western mountains is a bit cooler.

Per Capita Income and Economy
In 2011 North Carolina inflation adjusted per capita income was $25,256, in the bottom third of all states. Real estate and the general cost of living is below average compared to the total U.S. The Zillow Home Value Index in the state in early 2015 was $146,700, although that figure is low compared to the NAR's. Real estate values in North Carolina were not hit as hard during the 2008-9 recession as many other states, and have also come back. Durham's median home selling price at the end of 2014 was $205,200; in Charlotte it was $192,800, and in Raleigh it was $213,200 (per National Association of Realtors - NAR).  Manufacturing, services, and agriculture are important in North Carolina.


Tax Burden: The North Carolina state and local tax burden is 16th highest in the country (The Tax Foundation), although tax reform passed in the summer of 2013  improved the state's tax friendly status.

Marginal Income Tax Rates.  North Carolina's top marginal income tax rate has been reduced to a flat 5.75% in 2015.  There is a $7500 exemption per person.

Retirement Income Exemptions.  There are new limitations on deductions for property tax and mortgage interest. Taxation of retirement income was changed effective with 2014 year. Under the Bailey decision pension income from NC and federal entities is generally exempt.  If you have big IRA, 401k, or pension payments you will probably be taxed on most of them in NC. See this Tax Guide for Retireesl for more details.

Social security exemption. Social security benefits are deductible for NC taxation as long as you included them in your federal adjusted gross income.  See this page on Social Security exemption from NC.

Sales Tax: Sales tax is 4.75%. Certain changes were made to what is exempt and what is taxed in 2013.

Property Taxes: Property tax burden is well below average. NC is ranked 31st as a % or home value taxed.

Homestead Exemption. There is a $25,000 property tax homestead exemption for people over 65 who meet certain income criteria. Even better is a circuit breaker program for eligible people over 65 which limits your property taxes  to 4 or  5% of your income.

Estate and/or Inheritance Taxes.   North Carolina does not have an inheritance tax; the estate tax was eliminated in the 2013 tax reform bill.

Link to the North Carolina Department of Revenue

Certified Retirement Communities
North Carolina recently started a certified retirement community program through the N.C. Department of Commerce. Lumberton, Asheboro, and Mt. Airy are the first 3 cities to be officially certified. See Retire in NC

Get started exploring North Carolina now - use the handy links on the right.


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