In a Yearlong Housing Downslide, Charlotte Keeps Getting Better

"You can get a beautiful 7,000 to 8,000 square foot home with all the niceties -- the granite, the tile, et cetera, and the taxes on a million dollar home in Charlotte versus the rest the country are significantly less," Fochler explained.

'Halfbacks' Heading North

"A lot of people are transferring from up north," said Fochler.

Along with the dual income couples lured by jobs are retirees and baby boomers, many of them from the Northeast with money to pump into the local economy.

Some retired to Florida and then changed their minds and moved to Charlotte.

"We call them affectionately halfbacks," said Fochler. "They originally moved from up north and now they are moving halfway back home…the Carolinas surpassed Florida several years back as the No. 1 retirement state in the country," Fochler said.

They're attracted to Charlotte's location and more. "Close to mountains and beach," said Fochler. "We have a great work force, mean pricing well below national average. We have a low cost of living."

Lisa Huls is a new transplant from Minnesota. Drawn here by a new job, she also said Charlotte is a better bargain.

"I had a beautiful home there but it was 15 years old and it was significantly more expensive. I had a 4,800 square foot home in Minneapolis…I have almost 6,000 square feet here."

No End in Sight

Homes are still appreciating in Charlotte at a rate that's about twice the national average. Real estate analyst and investor Michael Knight expects that will continue.

"What's different here is a lot of markets across the country peaked and went up really quick 20 to 30 percent," said Knight. "We've been the beneficiary of slow and sustained growth. Relate it to the tortoise and the hare, where these other markets are jumping all over the place and we've just been a turbo turtle progressing along yet yielding positive results."

Perhaps there's a lesson here -- beware of hot markets. Like the story of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady is the market that really wins the housing race.

Even if it does mean strip mall after strip mall, gated community after gated community.

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