Town receives high marks in education, cost of living and economic growth in ranking.
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — “We’re No. 9!”
Though you won’t hear anyone shouting it from the rooftops, a recent ranking of state towns has put Wake Forest in the top 10 best places for young families to live in the state.
NerdWallet, a consumer advocacy website, compiled the list to better help families decide where to locate.
Wake Forest ranked ninth in a list of 58 North Carolina municipalities with more than 10,000 residents.
“Affordability, income and great schools are the three biggest criteria families pick” when considering where to live, NerdWallet analyst Mike Anderson said. “Looking at a home price, in a vacuum, doesn’t tell you very much. You have to look at income in any given area to tell how affordable it is.”
Specifically, the company looked at the public school rating from GreatSchools, a nationwide nonprofit ranking service, and census data detailing average home value, the cost of homeownership, average income and economic growth to rank towns.
GreatSchools compares a given school’s standardized test scores to the state average.
NerdWallet compared both average home values in each town and ongoing monthly home costs, including mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance costs, utilities, fuel and other bills. Lower costs led to a higher overall score.
A prospering economy was measured by looking at average household income and income growth over the last decade.
“Fostering that small-town feel is a historic downtown district, which the city has continued to develop and expand,” Anderson wrote in his report. “On the town’s outskirts are a number of lakes, which offer some relief on those hot and humid North Carolina summer days.”
Beating Wake Forest on the list were five Triangle towns, including Morrisville (ranked first), Holly Springs, Apex, Chapel Hill and Cary. Also in the top 10 were Moorseville, Indian Trail, Matthews and Havelock.
Just the facts
Wake Forest’s GreatSchools rating is 7 out of a possible 10. The median home value is $246,000, with $1,754 in monthly homeowner costs. The median household income in Wake Forest is $72,155. And the town grew 38 percent in the years between 1999 and 2011.
The figures reflect in-town statistics only, not the greater Wake Forest area, Anderson noted.
Growth is a major factor in deciding which states to do the rankings.
“We’ve already done seven studies with states growing quickest,” he said.
North Carolina is among several states that lead the nation in job and population growth. The state is home to prestigious universities, powerful industry and research organizations. Young couples ready to start planning families are taking note of North Carolina’s offerings and great quality of life, NerdWallet asserts.
Marla Akridge, president of the Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce, said that such rankings help her with business recruitment, especially considering it wasn’t based on a request or nomination by local officials.
“We’ll definitely use that for promotion,” she said. “[Factors such as] a great school system, it’s a great place to raise a family — stuff like that is a slam dunk, because it comes from an outside provider.”
Akridge said that she often attends conferences in which people from other regions talk about all the problems their communities are facing.
“So many communities are devastated. Even with the downturn, it’s not that way here. We’re very fortunate,” she said, noting the town is currently growing in four sectors: business, nonprofits, government and education.
“Things are going great,” she added. “We need to roll with it.”
Founded in 2009, NerdWallet features include tools for comparing credit cards, online stores, gas prices and the like. The website has been recommended by news organizations such as CNN Money and the The New York Times.
For more information about the rankings, see nerdwallet.com.