Moving to Charlotte? Here’s the best moving tool

Moving to or within Charlotte? The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Quality of Life Explorer can help you find your next home.

Moving can be stressful, especially when you’re heading to a new city.

Finding a place to live, when you don’t know the lay of the land, where to find preferred amenities, or may not know anyone in your new home town, is doubly so. With hundreds of homes for sale, and thousands of apartment listings, where do you even start? Once you’ve settled on your price point, and found a few places that meet your basic needs, what else do you need to know?

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Quality of Life Explorer is an online tool that provides neighborhood-level data for all of Mecklenburg County. It contains over 80 variables on 462 neighborhoods in the county. Variables are arranged into the following dimensions: Character, Economy, Education, Engagement, Environment, Health, Housing, Safety, and Transportation.

The easiest way to use the explorer is to start with an address of a prospective house, apartment, or even your workplace.

To start: Use the search bar to type in the address of your prospective home. It will then highlight your Neighborhood Profile Area (NPA) on the map.

Neighborhoods that are the same color as your selected neighborhood on the map have similar values for that variable–they could point you to other neighborhoods to explore.

Below, I’ll help you understand how the QOL Explorer can help answer some of the most common questions about finding a place to live in Mecklenburg County:

Where can I afford to live?For most movers, the first thing to consider is whether housing is affordable and available to you. Real estate or apartment search sites might be more valuable for this aspect of a home search, but the Explorer does have data on bothaverage home sales price and median rent that can help give you some insight. Keep in mind that these are averages, and some neighborhoods are more diverse than others when it comes to housing options. Also keep in mind that there is a lag in the data – both average sales and median rents can change quite rapidly.

Who lives in the neighborhood?It is illegal for a real estate agent to steer a client to a neighborhood based on race, religion, gender, or other factors. Yet, the fact that people have used these criteria historically, both explicitly (through deed restrictions and red-lining) and implicitly (by following vague perceptions of “neighborhood fit”), lead to the high levels of segregation in neighborhoods that we currently see. Today, evidence around the prevalence of steering is a little more mixed, but seems to impact upper-income Black families, and families with Black children more.

The Explorer does have data about race and ethnicity under the Character dimension, along with median age, youth and older adult populations. This can help prospective residents understand the racial and ethnic make-up of a neighborhood, as well as pinpoint whether there are communities they would like to be a part of, such as families with kids or retirees. There is ample research available about the social and economic benefits of living in a neighborhood that is diverserse, both racially and economically, however, it  takes deliberate community engagement for these benefits to be realized.

What services are nearby?The Explorer has variables for proximity to banks, grocery stores, childcare, primary care clinics, pharmacies, and park and recreation opportunities. Darker colors on the map mean a higher percentage of homes are within a half mile of that particular amenity. However, you’ll have to look at a map to see if your particular residence meets that criteria.

What are the schools like? The QOL Explorer has data on test proficiency, high school graduation rate, student absenteeism, and neighborhood school attendance. Unlike other data sources, you can look at changes to proficiency scores over time, keeping in mind changes made to the test themselves over the years. When it comes to testing data however, growth scores are just as important as proficiency. You can find more detailed information about your particular assigned schools, including growth scores, by typing in your prospective address on the county geoportal.

Other data points include student absenteeism, as well as the percentage of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) students who attend their assigned neighborhood school. 

Neighborhood Engagement: The Explorer has information about the number of neighborhood organizations operating in your community. Some of these are private homeowners associations, however, some, like the Hidden Valley Community Association have been working to improve their communities for years. In addition to QOL, you can use this interactive map to find out more about organizations in your neighborhood.

CharMeck 311 calls are another useful metric to understand how involved people are in reporting and fixing problems in the community. Although 311 is available countywide,  residents of the six towns in Mecklenburg county might have other ways to engage local officials.

Is the neighborhood growing? The explorer has data on the number of building and renovation permits, and the average age, heated square feet, and price of residential buildings. Looking at changes in these metrics can show you how the neighborhood has changed over time, and might continue to do so in the future. A large number of building permits, decrease in average housing age, increase in square feet, and increase and price can all indicate that there has been significant residential development in the neighborhood. Residential development has day-to-day implications, such as traffic and noise concerns, but can also impact the underlying economic and social dynamics of a neighborhood.

Is the neighborhood safe? The explorer has data on overall crime, tracking calls related to violent crime, property crime, and disorder. Unlike other sources, it is easy to see on the explorer how these values have changed over time – a one year snapshot isn’t enough to tell you what is happening in a neighborhood. It’s also important to keep in mind that things like property crime, which includes offenses like theft or vandalism, are greatly influenced by the presence of commercial space in the neighborhood.

Can I get around? For those who drive to work or get out and about, the explorer has data on the percentage of the population that has a long commute, as well as those that drive alone to work – both of which can spell T-R-A-F-F-I-C on any given road. For those looking for alternative forms of transportation, there is information on street connectivity and bicycle friendliness, as well as proximity to public transit, and overall ridership. Again, accessibility will be determined by the location of your residence, but the explorer shows that some neighborhoods are more auto dependent than others.

Overall, the Quality of Life Explorer, combined with other useful tools, such as geoportal can tell you a tremendous amount about both your individual property and the neighborhood around it, and none of this data should be looked at in a vacuum. QOL is a great starting point for thinking about all of the neighborhood characteristics that can be observed, but taking the next step to further understand your community institutions, such as schools or neighborhood organizations, and talking to neighbors, can help you understand how it all fits together

For those fortunate enough to have housing options, there is so much more than a real-estate ad to help you determine where to live. The next step is to actually get out and explore Charlotte’s many neighborhoods. Walk, bike, run, or even ride the bus to help you understand your community and what is most important to your own Quality of Life.