@LadyBear: The climate is great in North Carolina and you’re about two hours from the beach in the Raleigh-Durham area and less than four hours from the mountains. Job opportunities seem to be picking up, depending on the kind of work you’re looking for.
Asheville is beautiful and offers a very outdoorsy lifestyle. If you’re interested in tons of things to do and cultural type things more than outdoor life you might get a little bored.
Raleigh-Durham (LOVE Raleigh) is great and has made huge improvements over the past several years with downtown Raleigh and downtown Durham’s restaurants, museums, entertainment venues, bars, shopping, you name it. Raleigh is known as the “City of Trees” and it’s very pretty in certain areas. The crime rate in some parts of Durham and also Charlotte have historically tended to be worse than Raleigh.
Raleigh offers lots of cultural activities as well as parks, lakes, hiking, etc., it’s a well-rounded city. Housing is nice in most places but the market is as sluggish as some other places right now due to the economy. Things are beginning to pick up recently, though.
I’ll be honest about the cost of living in North Carolina – it is very high if you want to live in a nice city. The rural and outlying areas are maybe a little less but you sacrifice the convenience of city living. We live in a rural small town just outside of Raleigh and my commute to work is 35-45 minutes. To me traffic is pretty bad in this area but nothing compared to D.C., Atlanta or Los Angeles, even though the way I gripe about it you would think so.
We have high taxes here. High property taxes in almost all the counties, especially Wake (Raleigh is in Wake County) and Durham. The gas tax is exorbitant. Food is even taxed in NC and I hate it – it’s over 7% now, I think. It is expensive to live here but depending on your kind of work salaries are generally good. Luckily my husband and I combined make well over the median income level but it would be a struggle if you don’t. Housing costs here are more reasonable than some bigger cities, though. For example, my mortage payment is reasonable in comparison to some of the other Bees, but our electric bill and other utilities are crazy high and we live in a newer, well-insulated home. Progress Energy, you gotta hate ’em.
So this place is a mix of good and bad. At least our new governor may help turn things around, but that remains to be seen. It’s a conservative state in some ways but many, many of the people are liberal and we have lots of implants to help balance things out and show us how the rest of the country feels about things – which is refreshing.
I love North Carolina, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but some things are tedious about it, I won’t lie. It’s a beautiful state, though. The coast line has some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen compared to anywhere in the entire world! And we’re big beach people/travelers so that’s important to us. 🙂