Looking for Apartments in Charlotte NC

The Charlotte apartment hunt: It’s harder than it looks.

If you want an impossible task, decide on an apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina without ever visiting one.

Yeah. That’s a little intimidating.


Because I’m a super nerd, I created a giant spreadsheet of possible apartments that fit our criteria. My personality is also one that has to see ALL my options, and then choose from there. (Yeah, one of those annoying Baskin-Robbins customers who tastes all flavors before choosing.) I need to explore all my options before committing to something.

Prices when looking for apartments in Charlotte, NC

For a 2-bedroom house in my hometown in Utah, one can expect to pay around $800. That gets you a pretty decent place, with a little plot of land to yourself. For a nicer 2-bedroom apartment in Charlotte, expect to pay about $1,050+ a month (not including all the bogus mandatory cable, valet garbage, etc. fees).

Safety when looking for apartments in Charlotte, NC

Make a big X on a map of Charlotte, with uptown smack dab in the middle. Generally speaking, the best areas to live are on the top and bottom (north and south) of the X, and the places west and east of Charlotte are less than desirable. I’m not sure how you decide which parts of uptown are safe…

I’m sure I'll catch a lot of flak for this, because I'm sure there are a lot of great, safe neighborhoods to live in on the east and west sides. I'm just reporting what some friends have told me is a good rule of thumb for outsiders not familiar with the area.

Nicer areas in the North:
  • Huntersville (avoid low income housing areas east of I-77)
  • Northlake
  • Cornelius
  • Concord

Nicer areas in the South:
  • Ballantyne
  • SouthPark
  • Fort Mill (across the border in South Carolina)

Check out this map for the livability scores in Charlotte and nearby neighborhoods.

Now, as I cross-referenced the more desirable places (North and South) with the apartments with the highest ratings, the price range was about $1,050+ a month.

I've heard the reason rent is so high is because the house prices there are so cheap, that the only people who rent are those with bad credit, or those staying only temporarily, so apartment complexes can jack up the price.

Options for apartments in Charlotte, NC

I know a lot of people care about the clubhouse, pool, and gym. I don’t really. Generally they’re all the same. The most important thing with apartment amenities I recommend is: look at the reviews for the apartment you're interested.

If the amenities suck (broken gym equipment, dog poop piling up in the bark park), the tenants will complain about it in reviews. Don’t trust the people who take you on the tour to divulge their community’s dirty little secrets.

Here are more apartment options to think about when making your Charlotte apartment decision:

Pet-friendly options 
Not one of the 30 apartments I called (Yes, I really did call 30 places) doesn’t allow pets. Apparently, every apartment complex is pet friendly in and near Charlotte. For a fee, of course.

The average pet deposit (no refundable of course) is $300 per pet, and most complexes charge a $10-15 pet rent each month. Some complexes even have dog treats in their office!

Boat parking options
This one surprised me. Apparently only a few communities, (typically those close to the lake) have specified boat, jet ski, or RV parking, or allow you to park your recreational vehicle at the back of the parking lot. This can save you a $100+ monthly storage unit fee. (Obviously it depends on the community.)

Leasing options
That price you see on Zillow or Apartments.com? Yeah. That’s generally for a standard 12-13 month lease. The less time you’re planning on being in the apartment, the more the price jacks up.

So, technically, you can get a lease term for a minimum of 4 months if you want...for a hefty price. If you're looking for a shorter lease term, be prepared to pay more. A few of the apartment communities we looked at had a minimum of a 10-month lease.

Laundry options 
Practically all the apartments come with hookups. About 5% have the washers and dryers included, and almost all have an onsite laundry.

Think about the traffic and commute 

Research says that Charlotte has some of the worst traffic of any big city. The traffic was something I didn’t really think about as part of my apartment search…until after I visited.

  • I-77 is by far the worst highway in the area, especially during rush hour. Every local knows this. The commute from Charlotte to Huntersville and other northern cities is even worse during the evening rush hour, because I-77 bottlenecks from 3 to 2 lanes. The traffic on I-77 going south can be heavy for a few miles while still near Charlotte, but the closer you get to the South Carolina border, the wider the interstate becomes.
  • I-485 is the 67-mile freeway that circles Charlotte. Luckily, the circle was just completed, so that has cut down on traffic in the Northeastern quadrant of the city. I-485 can get a little clogged during rush hour, or during traffic incidents, but on the whole, actually stays pretty clear.

What do people complain most about apartments in Charlotte, NC?

Don’t forget to rely on reviews to help you make your decision! Reading through bazillions of reviews for dozens of complexes absolutely ruled out some apartments I was previously considering.

In general, here are the top 7 complaints people have about apartments in Charlotte (in no particular order):
  1. Management never answers their phone
  2. Front office staff is rude
  3. Unsavory neighbors
  4. Dog poop everywhere
  5. Maintenance problems/apartments are falling apart/cockroaches
  6. Parking issues
  7. Noise/paper-thin walls
Reviews are your friends. Current and former tenants know more about actual livability than the apartment website could (or would) ever tell you.

Your apartment decision

Ultimately, your apartment choice comes down to you and your unique priorities. No community is perfect, so what are you willing to compromise on? Is a short commute to uptown important to you? Well, living in Cornelius probably isn’t the best option. Do you want a short commute and live near a lake? Well, think about the southwest area.

You get the idea.

So, did I miss anything? Do you have any questions or recommendations on where to live?

Charlotte, NC 10 First Impressions

What do outsiders think of Queen City?

Living in Charlotte NC
Until this week, I was a Charlotte virgin. (Technically, I guess I’m also a Southern virgin…) My hubs and I visited Charlotte for the first time to find an apartment this week!

Since my maiden eyes have never beheld the awesomeness of Charlotte, everything was new to me. These are my first impressions.

1. It’s a jungle out there

Compared to anything in the West, Charlotte is a jungle. You’re driving along (giant trees shading either side of the road) and all of a sudden a gap in the trees appears and there’s a Lowes! Wait.…where did that come from?!Charlotte Freeway

I know the neighborhoods around Charlotte are full of shops…I just don’t know where they are, because everything is camouflaged by trees! It almost gives it a homey small town feel...without being a small town.

Point is, Charlotte is GREEN!

2. Uptown: clean and classy

Uptown Charlotte NC
We took the Lynx to the Uptown Epicenter at about 8:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, and walked around to check out the new digs. The first thing I noticed? The lack of poo-smell. (I know you know that pungent big-city-sewer-odor I’m talking about.)

The second thing I noticed was that literally everyone (except us) was in a suit, nice dress, or slacks and a button up. Classy. I felt a little underdressed in my airplane-friendly yoga pants. Pretty much every restaurant we passed on our night walk seemed ritzy and on some doors was posted: appropriate attire required.

The third thing I realized is that I felt extremely safe. Typically in big cities, I’m a little wary of the doorway leerers, the bench sleepers, and the people who follow a little too closely. In uptown, I felt NONE of this normal city apprehension.

3. Confusing freeway

Charlotte I485Southbound and Northbound don’t really make sense in Charlotte. Because I-485 makes a giant circle around the city center, outsiders like me can’t think of going north, south, east, or west on the freeway.

Understanding I-485 freeway direction is simple. All you have to do is look at it like a giant clock.

If you’re on the inner circle of the freeway, rotating clockwise, you’re on I-485 Inner, and you’re closest to uptown. If you’re on the outer circle rotating counterclockwise, you’re on I-485 Outer.

This is going to take some getting used to. Don’t even get me started on east/west….

4. Country music

Every single place you go (gas station, BBQ pit, retail, you name it) has country music on the speakers!  Now, I have nothing against country music, but it always seems a little out of place unless you’re driving down a dusty dirt road in a pickup truck with a dog on the bench next to you. Not too many dusty dirt roads in Charlotte…

5. Blinkers? Who needs ‘em!

I don’t know why, if it’s a southern thing, or if it’s all the “yanks” from the East Coast moving to Charlotte, or if my home-state of Utah is just super safe, but about 10% of people just don’t use blinkers when they change lanes.

6. Water? You got it.

If you like water, Charlotte is a great option for you. There are three main lakes, all to the West of Charlotte: Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake, and Lake Wylie (the latter is mostly in South Carolina).
Lake NormanLake Wylie
  • Norman: Considered the cleanest lake of them all, it’s home to restaurants on the water, yacht racers, and drunk weekend warriors.
  • Mountain Island: Fed by Norman, this ‘secret’ lake is home sweet home to all the local fishermen. If you love fishing, this is the place for you.
  • Wylie: When compared to Norman, this lake is pretty dirty, though I hear it’s great for water skiing and wakeboarding since it’s pretty deserted and glassy during the week.

7. Food, glorious food

There are so many good food chains out here! Bojangles, Zaxbys, and Cook Out (get the seasonal watermelon shake!)...to name a few. Oh, and the BBQ out here? Amazing.

When you get here, try Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soda (no, it’s not wine) and Sundrop (a citrus-flavored soda kinda like Mountain Dew).

8. Humidity…it’s there, but not too bad

Why, when I mention North Carolina, does everyone tell me I’m going to hate the humidity? Of course I’m going to hate it! Everyone does!

Since I visited at the beginning of August, I was expecting Charlotte to be miserable. But…it actually wasn’t too bad. And that’s coming from a native Utahn, used to 48% humidity. I wouldn’t spend an entire day outside, but as long as you have a/c, you should be fine. Don’t forget that you only have to deal with bad humidity for a few months.

9. Friendly people (Yes, southern hospitality really exists)

I’ve heard of the southern hospitality in North Carolina, but wasn’t really expecting it. People in North Carolina feel friendly, even random strangers! I mean, they weren’t going out of their way to be ridiculously nice, but everyone seemed courteous and friendly.

Probably the best example of southern hospitality on our short trip was a man who stopped us after our apartment complex tour because he saw the apartment brochure in our hands. “If I was in your situation, I would want someone to tell me exactly what I need to know about this place!” He proceeded to give us his honest opinion about the apartment community, and asked us to come over for dinner if we ended up living there!

10. Southern accents rock.

Not many people have ‘deep South’ accents in Charlotte, but nearly everyone says y’all. I’ve always been drawn to Southern drawl, and hope to perfect it with the help of my new Charlottean neighbors.

Even without trying I’ll probably visit home and notice a bit of an acquired accent. And I’m perfectly ok with that. (Especially since 45% of men think that a Southern accent is the most attractive!)

When you came to live here, or when you visited Charlotte, what were your first impressions?

Friday Drum Fest in Asheville: The Hippie Capital of the South

Asheville: where else can you witness (and participate in) 4 straight hours of drumming?

Asheville Drum CircleA charming little town nestled in the mountains, Asheville is about 2 hours west of Charlotte, and it’s known by the Huffington Post as the Hippie Capital of the South.

If you like beautiful drives, hummus, outdoor pubs, coffee shops, pubcycles, mountains, art, pottery shops, boutique stores, and a laid back atmosphere, this should be top on your weekend getaway list.

If you’re walking downtown on a pleasant Friday night, you’ll hear it before you see it. A pulse sounds in the streets. As you get closer to downtown, the beat gets louder. You’re entranced by the thundering beat that echoes in your chest and you make your way to Pritchard Park.
Pubcycle, Asheville NC
You see dozens of drummers crowding together around a half-circle amphitheater, all with drums between their legs, beating with a somewhat chaotic but strangely pleasant cadence.

You’ve reached the Asheville Drum Circle.
Asheville Culture Drum Circle
This free cultural celebration of diversity and music happens every Friday night at around 6, when dozens of drummers from all stages of life show up at Pritchard Park (4 College Street, Downtown Asheville) to make the city pulse with a beat.

Nobody is left out. Nobody is ostracized. No matter your gender, social class, race, or age, you are welcome to participate.

Drum Circle in Asheville NCMen in suit coats bang on giant drums, getting armpit sweat tacos in their nicely pressed white shirts. Kids shake tambourines as loud as they can and no one stops them. A mom toots on a traffic whistle every few minutes, giving an oddly urban vibe to the music. An old man stops his drumming to give a wild coyote ai-ai-aiiii howl. The homeless tap a rhythm on homemade (but legit) 55-gallon drums.

Everyone is welcome. Even dogs.

If you’re not interested in drumming, feel free to participate with the rest of the onlookers swaying with the tempo in the center of the park. Or, get your face painted. Play hacky sack with some local teens or join the little ones drawing chalk flowers in the middle of the circle.

All of a sudden, you realize the rhythm has changed…even though there is no drum leader. The sound morphs over the minutes and hours that you listen, and you find yourself tapping your feet with the rhythm.
Free Drum Festival Every Friday Asheville

If you are entranced until the drums finally end at 10 p.m., I guarantee you’ll be contemplating the best place to purchase a drum for next week’s hippie revelry. Check the Asheville City calendar for the next Drum Circle!

Have you been to the Asheville Drum Circle? What was your favorite part?