Which North Carolina County is Building the Most Residential Homes?

Residential construction in Brunswick County, North Carolina

by Jake Hill, LawnStarter Research Analyst
June 13, 2017

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In a state that offers its residents everything from hikes through the Appalachian Mountains in the west to tanning on a beach off the Atlantic Ocean in the east, it’s no wonder that this is a state where folks want to settle down.

Speaking of settling down, June is officially American Housing Month. Which compelled our LawnStarter Raleigh team to see how each county’s single family home growth stacked up in North Carolina.

Census county-level building permit data helps show where building is taking place. Building permits are issued by local building departments prior to construction and are a useful proxy of construction activity.

It’s always interesting to know where homes are actually being built. Wake County led the state in total single-family home building with nearly 20,000 permitted single-units over the 2014-2016 period. Mecklenburg (just under 13,000) was second –– but of course, larger counties should have larger absolute totals.

To get a sense of the geographic distribution of the gains in residential construction, we calculated total single-unit building permits per 1,000 people. On a per capita basis, Brunswick County (51.4 permits per 1,000 people) was the clear winner, with Currituck County (30.22) and Pender County (30.22) coming in at second and third, respectively.

Brunswick County

Sunset Beach, North Carolina


This news came as no surprise to Amanda Hutcheson, Public Information Officer of Brunswick County, who cited a few statistics when asked her reaction to Brunswick County ranking at No. 1.

“Brunswick County has been among the top 10 fastest growing counties in North Carolina, and among the top 50 fastest growing counties in the nation, for several years now,” Hutcheson says. Adding that the County’s population has increased by 15 percent in the past five years and is expected to grow an additional 7 percent based on current estimates from the NC Office of State Budget and Management.

In 2016 alone, Brunswick County totalled 2,380 single-unit permits (18.75 permits per 1,000 people). So, why are so many single-family residential homes being built in Brunswick County?

Lisa Damico, local realtor who recently moved to Shallotte in January 2016, believes she has an answer.

“Brunswick County offers a little bit of everything. The sand, the sun, the surf, not to mention there are so many small towns that offer [both] small and big businesses. You get the quaintness of small town living and yet big businesses are here, too,” Damico says. She also says that many of her clients are saying goodbye to Myrtle Beach because it’s becoming too crowded there.

Johnston County

Johnston County, NC Pharmaceutical Firms Begin Big Expansions


Johnston County (unlike Brunswick, Currituck, Pender, and Chatham counties) is the only county in the top 5 whose housing market doesn’t have the advantage of close proximity to a large body of water. Which peaked our curiosity as to why Johnston County’s housing market is experiencing the success that it is. So we got in touch with Chris Johnson, Director of Johnston County Economic Development, to find out.

Johnson cites quality homes at affordable prices and the quality of local schools as the two primary reasons so many houses are being built in the area. And also drew some additional conclusions of his own as to why the local housing market is booming.

“Local data shows that 75% of all new residents to Johnston County, actually come from Wake. [Which] leads me to believe that Raleigh/Wake [County] attracts individuals from other areas of the nation, but then spill over to Johnston County after getting acclimated to the area and the amenities that each county within the region has to offer,” Johnson says.

Johnson County’s location, though lacking a large body of water (like Jordan Lake or the Atlantic Ocean), is actually prime real estate within the state.

“Our transportation links such as Interstate 95, Interstate 40 and future designation Interstate 42 (Former US70) places Johnston County in exceptional position when attracting homeowners and industries. Again, with the close proximity to the Raleigh and the 3 major universities of UNC, NC State and Duke to the west and East Carolina University to the east places us in the center of activity.”

Last but not least, the local economy of the southern Raleigh suburb is booming. Johnson cites over $2.5B in industrial announcements over the last 24 months. This figure equates to nearly two-thirds of the total investment in all of the Research Triangle Region combined. The largest projects being in the Life Science/Pharmaceutical sector, which include Novo Nordisk and Grifols Therapeutics.

Top 10 Single-Family Home Builders

As we already mentioned, Brunswick County tops the list of per capita single-unit building permits in North Carolina from 2014-2016. Here are the top ten:

  • 1. Brunswick County: 51.4 (permits per 1,000 people)
  • 2. Currituck County: 30.22
  • 3. Pender County: 26.32
  • 4. Chatham County: 26.08
  • 5. Johnston County: 25.19
  • 6. Dare County: 22.08
  • 7. Cabarrus County: 20.01
  • 8. Moore County: 19.83
  • 9. Union County: 19.33
  • 10. Wake County: 19.05

In the table below, you can explore building permits per capita along with building permit trends over from 2014-2016 by county in North Carolina.

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Top Photo: Wilmington Star News

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