Best Neighborhoods in Raleigh NC
Raleigh might be a small city, but there are still differences in the different parts of Raleigh. Thinking about moving to Raleigh? Not sure what part of the city might be for you? This post is going to break down the different sections of the city for you and show you what sets the different parts of Raleigh apart from each other. We’ll also see what kinds of houses and amenities you’ll find in each.
In Part 1, I will review Inside the Beltline, known as ITB, Downtown Raleigh, West Raleigh, East Raleigh and South Raleigh. In Part 2, I will cover North Hills and Midtown, North Raleigh, Northeast Raleigh, Northwest Raleigh and Falls Lake area.
Raleigh is NOT a large city, so although we do have distinct these areas like larger cities do, they aren’t as well defined as they are in larger cities. Which just means that the boundaries of the areas I’m talking about today are kind of fuzzy and are open for debate. And there has been debate among locals, for example, nobody is really sure what constitutes midtown. but this will at least give you a general idea of what the different parts of the city are like.
So, here we go!
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Part 1: Parts of Raleigh
First up is ITB.
ITB is short for “Inside the Beltline”. Now, you might think that this one is easy. Inside the beltline surely means all the area that is inside the I-440 beltline that circles the city of Raleigh, right? Wrong.
When locals refer to ITB they are usually referring to a section of Raleigh that is north and west of the downtown area and south and east of the beltline. There is a bit of ooh la la that comes with this ITB moniker, because it is overall the most expensive residential area of Raleigh and this area IS primarily residential.
For the most part the homes in this area are older and definitely more expensive. They tend to have the most “character” of the homes in Raleigh simply because they are 1. Older, and 2. They weren’t cheap when they were first built. If you were to look on one of the “judgmental maps” of Raleigh, ITB would probably be labeled “really old money”.
Not all homes in ITB are mansions, but older smaller homes that have reached the end of their life will be demolished, and rest assured, a very expensive home will go up in its place. There are builders in the area that almost specialize in building new homes on lots that had tear-downs on them.
Now I understand that “very expensive” to us in Raleigh only gets you a crackerjack box where you might be coming from. So you’re probably laughing at what I call expensive. It’s all relative. Our median price for the entire triangle is still under 400,000. So Anything over 5 or 6 hundred thousand is considered higher end.
(Those numbers have changed of course! In May of 2023, the median Raleigh home price was just at $400,000, but the luxury market has changed dramatically! If luxury homes are defined as the top 10% of homes sold, then the luxury home market in Raleigh begins at $840,000.)
Living in ITB means you are very close to most of the major shopping in the area as well being close, sometimes even walkable, to the Downtown area and all the amenities that the downtown provides.
Houses in ITB currently on the market range in price from $600,000 on the low end to $5.5 million on the high with a median price of one and quarter million. However, that $600,000 house? It’s marketed as a teardown.
This one IS pretty easy. The downtown area is actually in the center of the city. Because Raleigh is a capital city, we’ve got the governor, and the legislature, and both the state and Wake County courts all calling downtown home. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, the North Carolina History Museum, the Convention Center, the Performing Arts center, and the Red Hat Amphitheater are likewise here in the middle of it all.
The Downtown area is not primarily a residential district, but because it is such a small area, the residential areas surrounding the downtown can be an easy walk.
If you want to live in downtown itself, you’re likely to be looking at condos and rental apartments. There are about a dozen rental buildings ranging in price from $1200 for a studio to $4300 for a 3 bedroom. Yes I said a dozen. Today there are just under 40 condos listed for sale in this area ranging in size from just over 800 square feet to just over 2700 square feet. The least expensive is listed at 300,000 and the most expensive at just over 1.5 million. The median price for a downtown condo is about $460,000
One thing that you have to know about downtown Raleigh is that it is NOT A BIG PLACE. Those who move to the area and are dissatisfied with living in Raleigh often complain that there simply isn’t enough variety to keep them occupied. You will find good restaurants and bars, but you won’t find a new one every week. You won’t go club hopping. It’s just not that kind of downtown.
If you drive west from downtown on Hillsborough Street or Western Avenue, you will be in the heart of NC State University in about five minutes. State dominates the western part of Raleigh. It’s campus stretches over 2000 acres and it enrolls about 34,000 students. State itself has grown a lot over the last 20 years and as the campus got nicer, everything else around it got nicer too.
Just take a look at this Google street view from 2007 and compare it to this street view of the same location in 2019. This used to be student territory, but as the area built up and got way cooler, it has become a place that everyone wants to live. Hillsborough Street is full of great little foodie spots, coffee shops, and everything else a college student might need.
Within an easy walk from the university or from downtown is the growing warehouse district with its repurposed red brick buildings turned into galleries and restaurants and the Glenwood South area which is kind of like a revitalized restaurant row.
But, like I said, this part of Raleigh is not just for college students anymore. The area formerly known as Cameron Village (now rebranded as The Village District) just north of the campus has some great shopping, dining, and both new loft apartments and older single family homes.
West Raleigh has some great outdoor areas with Pullen Park, Dorthea Dix Park, and Lake Johnson Park. Within a few minutes drive of each other, you can ride a train or historic carousel in Pullen Park, picnic among the flowers in the wide open space of Dorthea Dix overlooking the Raleigh skyline, or go boating at Lake Johnson.
Some people make fun of us showing off our skyline because it has like 3 buildings. But we love it and if you move here you must share pictures of it on your instagram. It’s a requirement. Especially if there are flowers or rainbows involved. The NC State Arboretum, Meredith College, the State Fairgrounds along with Carter-Finley Stadium, the PNC Arena, and the North Carolina Museum of Art all reside in West Raleigh.
On top of all that, you’ve also got the State Farmer’s Market for all your fresh NC produce. When you need the box stores, Crossroads shopping is just a few minutes drive down US 1.
The homes here don’t command the kind of prices you find just a few minutes north in ITB, but they are not inexpensive. The median home price of currently listed homes in this area is just under $665,000. For $675,000 you can try to get into this 1240 square foot home built in 2014.
When people talk about East Raleigh they could mean the eastern half of Raleigh that is inside the beltline, or they could mean the more rural area to the east of the city along with the towns of Knightdale and Wendell.
In either case you are likely to find more affordable housing on the eastern half of the city. This part of the city is the farthest away from Research Triangle which makes it less desirable as a commuter location for all those tech and biotech jobs that RTP provides. However, the recent completion of a new part of I-540 has cut down the commute time for this half of Raleigh.
But, because of the distance to many major employers, property values on this side of town did not rise as much as those on the west side of town, until the last few years or so. As downtown Raleigh itself has grown and become a destination, and new businesses have moved in providing jobs in closer proximity to east Raleigh, and housing prices all over the area have risen, east Raleigh has begun to see the same rise in property values, even eclipsing those of the western suburbs.
East Raleigh that joins downtown has several historic neighborhoods like Mordechai and Oakwood that have seen a good deal of revitalization and increased popularity in the last ten years. This area gets you easy access to downtown, but at a lower price point than ITB or West Raleigh. St. Augustine’s University, an HBCU, lives in East Raleigh. The median price of homes currently listed in East Raleigh is about $460,000, but that figure is heavily influenced by the prices in Historic Oakwood which can push one million. $475,000 will get you this home in east Raleigh just a few blocks from downtown. MLS # 2367411
If you go further east, past the 440 beltline, the median home price drops to 289,000, which will get you something like this 2400 square foot home. MLS # 2374221
There are some great amenities on this side of the city. The Walnut Creek Amphitheater and the Walnut Creek Softball Complex are joined by an extensive greenway system. Anderson Pointe park is an 89 acre park. It’s got this huge pavilion where you can have gatherings. It also has tons of trails and a stone amphitheater.
One of my favorite places to visit is the historic oak view county park. It’s an old homestead where they have an onsite museum and some farm animals and a beautiful little cottage garden that I love walking through. And you can pick up the Neuse River Trail in East Raleigh right here.
South Raleigh This area is what I like to call no mans land. Depending on how far south you look, you might see homes for sale in this area and not realize that you’re going to drive 20 minutes to get to the closest shopping center. You might have tobacco fields as your neighbors. But there are also a lot of beautiful homes on large lots down in this area.
Many of these areas have a Raleigh address but are nowhere near Raleigh. They might border on other suburbs like Garner and Fuquay Varina but still have a Raleigh address. This area has a lot more homes that are outside any city limits which means your taxes are going to be lower. You’re also probably going to have a well and septic system in many homes in this area.
Usually I think of this south Raleigh area encompassing the space between Highway 401 south and Highway 50, but north of Highway 42. Now like I have said, there is no clearly defined areas here. So someone else might say south Raleigh and mean this area up here. Because this area is less populated than most other parts of Wake County, nobody has clearly defined what constitutes “south Raleigh” It’s like the wild west up in here. We all make our own rules.
A few nice amenities in no man’s land
There are a few large parks around here. Lake Wheeler Park, Lake Benson Park and Yates Mill County Park. Lake Wheeler is really nice because you can rent boats and go boating on the lake. There is also an event space and a little concessions stand where you can buy drinks and ice cream. Yates Mill County Park has a beautiful interactive museum and walking trail around the lake. There is also a working grist mill on the property and they sometimes do demonstrations. They have a fall festival every year at this park that is really fun.
There are some parts of this section that can be a bit pricey… the areas that have that rural feel but are still close to all the great city amenities are expensive,. This area along Yates Mill Pond Road and even Lake Wheeler road to the north is very desirable. You can sometimes find homes on lake wheeler that are just beautiful. This home sold this year for $825 thousand. I know that is cheap to some of you watching but look at this great view!!
Now, I have to point out that all of this no man’s land is about to have an interstate driven right through the middle of it. I-540, Raleigh’s outerloop beltline is slated to pass right through this area. Construction is currently underway. The upside is an easier commute and less congestion on I-40, the downside is that your house out in the country might all of the sudden have a highway in its backyard. If you’re looking down here, make sure you know where 540 is going to be!
If you liked this video you might also like this one about the housing market in Raleigh. Thanks for watching!
Part 2: Parts of Raleigh
OK, now onto North Hills and Midtown, North Raleigh, Northeast Raleigh, Northwest Raleigh and Falls Lake area.
North Hills, aka Midtown
You can’t trust Google Maps on this one. Googling North Hills will get you this. The people who live around Carolina Country Club might be really surprised to find that they live in “North Hills”. This just isn’t how locals understand this area.
Just north of the beltline there used to be an old traditional shopping mall known as North Hills Mall. It was surrounded by homes built in the 60’s and 70’s. It was just your normal, suburban, outside of the city, residential area. The homes built around the Mall, North Hills Park, and the North Hills Club are what people typically mean when they refer to North Hills
But, a handful of years ago a local developer decided to take a chance on rehabbing the old mall. What he ended up doing was beginning the rehab on an entire section of the city.
The North Hills Mall was turned into an open air shopping and dining destination, and this started a trend toward denser development in the area. Today some parts of the area known as North Hills are being rebranded as a part of “Midtown,” sometimes to the consternation of the residents.
The plans for Midtown focus on creating a more walkable, city-like, area with mixed-use developments like this one that puts residential above retail space while mixing in various commercial real estate. There is a waterfront park in the works as well as pedestrian bridges that will connect areas to the north of I-440 with areas to the south. The significantly denser development probably warrants the rebranding and while the city has drawn concrete lines around the area now known as “Midtown,” I suspect that Midtown and North Hills will be used interchangeably by many people for years to come.
Within this North Hills/ Midtown area, single family homes currently range from two and half million to a low of $382,000, but the median sits just under $700,000. For an even 500,000 you would be looking at a home like this one. MLS 2376606
You might think that North Raleigh is all that area that is north of Raleigh. Once again, you’d be wrong. When locals talk about North Raleigh today, they are generally referring to that area north of midtown and south of I540. North Raleigh is known for it’s great schools some wonderful neighborhoods and parks and plenty of good shopping throughout the area.
One popular place to get outside is Shelly Lake park. There is a greenway that runs all the way around the lake and it actually starts in North Hills and extends all the way through North Raleigh almost to the 540 loop. North Ridge is a country club neighborhood that takes up a pretty large part of this area as you can see on the map.
But when you’re looking for a neighborhood, just know in general in the Raleigh area, there are often more smaller neighborhoods that are not part of the big planned communities but they feel like they are. You can see that here in the North Ridge area. Teal Briar, Woodstream, Inverarry. . . These are all smaller pocket type neighborhoods around North Ridge but they all feel like they are part of the same thing. And while North Ridge tends to be pricier, you can find all kinds of price points around here.
One popular shopping center in North Raleigh is Lafayette Village. It was designed to feel like an old world European village and it is really quaint. There are restaurants and they often have pop up events that happen here. Like on the 4th Sunday of every month they will have an outdoor market for local artists.
If you want to live in the North Raleigh area, the median price point for currently listed homes is around $475,000 and for that price you can try to get into something like this 2600 square foot split foyer. MLS #2376585
If you search for North Raleigh on Google Maps, you’ll notice this strip of real estate that makes the whole area look like a hockey stick. This area is dominated by master-planned communities like Falls River, Bedford, and Wakefield Plantation. They are close to all of the Falls Lake amenities and if you live there, you might find yourself doing more of your shopping in Wake Forest than in Raleigh itself. These neighborhoods kind of feel like they belong to Wake Forest more than they do Raleigh, but they have Raleigh addresses.
The Durant Nature Preserve, the Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve, and the Falls Lake Dam Recreation Area are right around the corner if you live up here. These master planned communities come with homes in a range of styles and price points. You can find townhomes in the high $200’s and single family homes ranging from $395,000 for this 1800 square foot home all the way up to 2.6 million for a 4700 square foot home like this one. 2376235 MLS # 2371921
The geographic area north and east of Raleigh is dominated by Capital boulevard, a six lane highway with every big box store, every car dealership you could imagine. This area where it adjoins Capital BLVD can feel a little industrial. This is one of those places that can make me feel just a little bit like I’m back in Florida. It’s wider than most of our roads and this is one of the heavier traffic roads as people commute out of the city and up to Wake Forest or vice versa.
BUT, this corner of northeast Raleigh is where some of the “Midtown” development is taking place. It’s getting some serious investment in infrastructure because the location and proximity to downtown are phenomenal. If you live in Northeast Raleigh you’ve got Costco and Trader Joe’s at this intersection. What else do you need when you know where those two stores are? (Google tells us that this area is part of North Hills. Nobody around here thinks that Costco is in North Hills.)
And The Midtown Exchange is a billion dollar world class development going in right here. The eXchange is going to have office space, 7 acres of greenspace, shopping, a water feature, it’s going to tie into the existing city’s greenway system, and there will be 1275 apartments, townhomes and condos. The development of Midtown will surely impact the development in Northeast Raleigh. Homes in this area are significantly less expensive than their neighbors just to the west, but will benefit from the development nearby. Investors take note.
The median price of homes currently listed in this area is $302,000.
North West Raleigh
This area north and west of the city is dominated by Glenwood avenue north, just like Capital Blvd dominates the north and east of the city. But Glenwood isn’t as large as Capital and its closer proximity to Durham, RTP, and points west has made it a more attractive area for commuters working west of the city. It also provides the quickest route to RDU airport. If you are furniture shopping in Raleigh, chances are you are going to get acquainted with Glenwood avenue.
I don’t know if many people who live in this part of Raleigh would tell someone that they lived in “North West Raleigh”. They are likely to say that they live “near Crabtree”, which just means this area around the Crabtree Valley Mall, or “by Brier Creek”, which just means in this area around this giant open air strip mall, or “by Umstead”, which means they have great access to the Umstead Park.
Umstead State Park is just over 5,500 acres of walking, biking, and horse trails with a couple of lakes. If you are used to hiking in the mountains, this might not seem too impressive, but for a nature park in a city, it is fabulous. If you want to learn more about the park and the area around it, try this video.
On a smaller scale, Lake Lynn Park in the center of northwest Raleigh, has an almost 3 mile greenway around the lake, a community center, tennis and bocce ball courts, and a picnic shelter for your larger gatherings.
This area of Raleigh might be described as typical suburbia. Community parks, plenty of nearby shopping, and moderately priced housing. Active listings today range from $300,000 to just under 2 million, with the median coming in around $460,000. For that price you would be looking at a home like this one, almost 2,200 square feet on over half an acre lot. Just a four minute drive to Lake Lynn and five minutes to Five Guys when you just need one of their burgers. MLS # 2376369
Falls Lake is a large reservoir that serves Raleigh both as a water source and a source of recreation. The Mountain to Sea Trail runs past Falls Lake and there are numerous smaller trails, camping, boating and fishing opportunities at the Lake.
The Falls Lake area is less densely developed than other parts of Raleigh. Once you get north of 540 and into this area, you feel like you are in the country. While South Raleigh was and is farmed, and there are still lots of open fields to give you a view of the countryside, the area around falls lake tends to be heavily wooded and has a much more rolling typography. (Which is why they built the lake here in the first place.)
You won’t find much commercial or industrial development around here in order to protect the water supply. So if you live in the Falls Lake area, you are going to have to drive a little bit more to get to your shopping.
Homes in this area tend to sit on larger lots and they tend more often than not to fall into the luxury category. The average square footage of homes in the area currently on the market is over 5,000 square feet with a median home price of $975,000, but an average home price of almost 1.5 million. If gated, or at least semi-private luxury communities set away from the hustle and bustle of the city is what you are looking for, the area between Raleigh and Falls Lake is probably going to be a great fit.
If your budget allows it, this contemporary estate on a little over 2 acres with over 7700 square feet could be yours for just under 3 million.
Be sure to check out our other Raleigh videos here, and our Raleigh blog posts here.
If you’re ready to start looking at houses in Raleigh, and really see how prices have changed just since we wrote this, start your search here.
Of course if you need more information, try our Raleigh City Guide, or you can always just give us a call!