Raleigh/Wake County, North Carolina, United States
I live in a suburb of Raleigh, approx 5 mi from downtown Raleigh, and moved here approx 2 years ago (from Burlington, VT see above :) ).Average housing Cost:
Western Suburbs rent from 75c-$1 per square foot/month for a house. Downtown Raleigh is more expensive for housing. Expect apartments to be $1.50-$1.80/sq ft/month. Lots of competition from folks working at places like Red Hat. Eastern suburbs are cheaper, but lower quality schools, more crime. Historically the area had a reputation for low housing cost, but you have to be farther out (Wake Forest or Fuquay Varina) to really capture that benefit now (and even those aren't really that great)Indoor hobbies:
Rock Climbing is fairly popular, bunches of Board Games folks as well. Carolina Hurricanes hockey team in the winter. The Durham Performing Arts Center is one of the busiest such facilities in the nation (concerts, shows, et al).Outdoor hobbies:
Biking is very popular (Falls Lake area is very popular to ride around), Hiking is available, Golf is a big thing. Some (shallow) lakes for swimming, boating, sailing. Good Rock Climbing is 3-5 hrs away. So are ocean beaches. There are often charity 5K runs going on in Cary Park (and elsewhere). Durham Bulls (minor league) baseball for a few months in the summer.Overall on Hobbies:
There are a bunch of meetups that are fairly effective, especially if you are under 40.Weather:
Winters are mild, with a few bouts of snow here and there. More often it's the +/- 1 batch of ice that really causes the issues. Expect grocery stores to empty when snow is forecast - if you can plan at all, you'll never notice. Summers can be hot - it can reach 100'F. It can also be a bit muggy, and we get the occasional tropical storm threat (though nothing like Florida :) ).Favorite things:
Well developed bike path systems, especially in central/western Wake County, mild winters. Continued, conscious effort by local government to grow the system. Big enough area [actually kind of huge area] such that I don't see the same people at every activity :)Least Favorite things:
A large chunk of the area is designed around the automobile. This can severely impact certain areas (Western Cary is notable for this design, see Amberly!). They are getting much better about creating smart infill - Research Triangle Park has done this recently and there are some (expensive and popular) townhouses/homes that are now within trivial biking distance to many RTP employers. Note that rush hour can be a mess, and this includes much of I-40. Many of the local roads are not directly east/west (they are curved), so I-40 gets congested. Avoid it if possible.
There are few places with basements (due to the hard clay soil), those that do are on a slope. Garages generally become storage for many families, and they park in driveways or the road.Must Try:
Going for 3 days without finding someone who grew up in Upstate/Western NY. BBQ is supposedly famous, but I happen to like Austin, TX version of it better. Get to Duke gardens at the right time of year, and visit Umstead State Park (or better yet, live where you can ride the bike path system to Umstead :) )Stupid ordinances/laws:
Not sure about stupid, but there is a bunch of illegal importing of fireworks from South Carolina - expect to hear these at least July 4 and new years. I haven't seen it meaningfully enforced though (not that I care). It's also hard to ignore pointing out HB-2 given the national news on the topic (and cancelled concerts, et al)Words of Wisdom:
The area is growing quickly - so there are opportunities for great housing that recognize folks have less interest in using a car, and on the other side, some real sticky locations that are car bound (think single digit walkability scores).
Home schooling is a big thing in the area, partially due to school district, partially due to culture. There is zero stigma and not unusual at all to see school age children out and about during the day.
Also be thoughtful about purchasing on the southern side of Wake County - make sure the realtor is very clear on the possible future paths of route 540 (a divided highway). One section is known, the rest has a few possible options, and you don't want that to be a surprise.Sustainability options:
Gardens are certainly viable, though it will take some work to get set up as the soil is generally hard clay. Expect to buy a pick axe if you need to dig. Better yet, build a raised bed. Solar should be viable, but I see less of it than I would expect.Some comments on various surrounding areas:
Durham County is MUCH cheaper (housing) than Wake County, a lot of this is the school district impact (Wake = near highest in the state, Durham = near lowest in the state). However, Downtown Durham is getting a LOT of investment from the family that owns Capital Broadcasting (and the Durham Bulls baseball team), so it is improving by leaps and bounds. It is nothing like its (historic) reputation, but still edgy, and there is still a lot heavy lifting to do. Having said that, Durham is rather popular with younger folks for the lower costs.
The new commercial regions being built are still concentrated, but are no longer large pockets of dense commercial that rely on the driving design of the community. Developers recognize folks want to be able to walk to stores and live near services. Newer commercial center builds (and there are plenty of them) comprehend this mix, and some of the surrounding communities have some potential on that front (Holly Springs may be especially interesting in a few years if they get a Lowes or Home Depot in a strategic spot - certainly on my radar).
As a comment on Chapel Hill (the third part of "The Triangle") - the driving culture impacts this area too. It's not unusual for folks to think about driving to Durham not being a big deal for events/activities. It's not crazy far by car, but it shows the culture. Chapel Hill really is a more of a college town anyway (UNC Chapel Hill) and it has that as a major cultural side effect. It means some significant areas are walkable, but rent can be up there ($).Edit:
See Also: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/living-in-north-carolina-raleigh-area/