What’s the Cheapest Place to Live in the Outer Banks?

Three Low-Cost Options

The Outer Banks (OBX) is a top-rated destination for family vacations. However, their ocean beaches, beautiful scenery, and peaceful atmosphere make it a wonderful place to live year-round as well. That may lead you to wonder—what’s the cheapest place to live in the Outer Banks? 

OBX Average Rent: $1,200

OBX Average Home Cost: $411,000

Key Takeaways:

  • It is cheaper to buy or rent a home that does not have direct access to the water.
  • The west side of OBX has more affordable options.
  • Many of the options for purchase are condominiums in large buildings instead of single-family homes.
  • Many of the houses are purchased as seasonal rentals and are occupied most frequently during the summer months. 

Cheapest Place to Live in the Outer Banks

An image of a beach on the Outer Banks at dawn. It shows a picket beach fence leading down to a wide beach, tranquil water, a large dock on the left, and an orange sun rising in the east

The Outer Banks is a hotspot for tourism. Many who come are there to visit for just a brief time. Others see the area as an investment and purchase properties to rent out during high tourism months. However, the beauty of the area leads many to research a permanent move. 

People are gravitating to the Outer Banks area because of the beautiful climate and views. The permanent resident population within the Outer Banks includes people who have relocated from other countries to settle in the beach town of OBX. 

Settled on the Atlantic Ocean, the waves and wind provide a continual breeze that keeps high summer temperatures at bay. The immense line of beaches allows families to spread out and enjoy their little piece of paradise without being in a crowded environment.

Weather in Outer Banks, North Carolina:

Average Summer Temperatures: 86 degrees

Average Winter Temperatures: 57 degrees

Average Precipitation: 3 inches per month

It is worth noting that the Outer Banks is no stranger to hurricanes. The area has experienced many throughout the years, causing damage of various levels. The last hurricane to hit the area was in August of 2020. In the prior year of 2019, Hurricane Dorian came through and caused over $14,000,000.00 in damage to the area. Because of the hurricane risk, many houses are elevated from the ground and reinforced to protect against high winds.

If you are looking to live in the Outer Banks, you want a home that provides enough space for living. Since it will not be a vacation house or a brief visit, you will be moving all of your everyday essentials and then some. For most people, that type of move necessitates a space that has liveable square footage. Typically, this includes at least two bedrooms, more than one bathroom, and a waterfront. If you’re going to live by the water, you might as well get to see it.

Living in paradise is a dream come true for many. But not all dreams are feasible to incorporate into your everyday life. When you are looking to relocate, you want to explore the potential area and ensure that it has all the elements that you enjoy in life.

For some, this includes easy access to grocery stores. Other people desire to have variety in different restaurants and cuisine types.

Visit this link for the 2021 Outer Banks restaurant guide!

The good thing about the Outer Banks is that it offers all of those things, including over 365 restaurants throughout the different regions. The Outer Banks also offers less populated areas that are quieter and more reserved for those who desire that lifestyle. You can pick and choose your location based on what life comforts you want an easy ability to enjoy.

We have compiled a list of top places to look in the Outer Banks to get the most out of your money. These areas offer different amenities and experiences for you to consider. The price quotes within the descriptions are for a typical two-bedroom, two-bath home, condo, or apartment with a waterfront view. This size allows for a typical family home in the area. 

Here are the cheapest areas within the Outer Banks to live full-time: 

1. A Family Home on Hatteras Island

An image of Bodie Island Lighthouse OBX Cape Hatteras North Carolina. It shows the sun rising over a green landscape with a lighthouse and several farm houses

Hatteras Island comprises several different cities with Dare County, including Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras. It is known as one of the most significant barrier islands in the United States. Hatteras Island has a population of 4,000 permanent residents. This number grows to over 40,000 during peak tourism season.

Hatteras Island is the area within the Outer Banks where you can still get a taste of the historical connections that started it. It is further away from the hustle of the more touristy areas, and it has a more laid-back atmosphere with an old-timey vibe. Instead of chain stores and entertainment venues, you will experience people who spend their days fishing, shipwrecks of the past to explore, and lighthouses to visit. 

Amenities within Hatteras Island and the included cities are not typically chains or franchises. Most often, they are locally owned and operated. Due to the close ocean proximity, there are a large number of seafood restaurants. However, many restaurants carry a more diverse fare. 

Exciting Facts About Hatteras Island:

  • The island has over 365 birds in its Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
  • It is home to the tallest lighthouse in the USA and has 269 steps to get to the top. 
  • They get 58 inches of water per year, making it the wettest coastal region in North Carolina.
  • Hatteras Island possesses several Top 10 Beach awards, including those with CNN and the Travel Channel.
  • Due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the temperature in Hatteras Island rarely goes over 90 degrees.
  • Although it is pretty rare, Hatteras Island does get snow. It is often light in quantity but does happen.

Average living prices:

Two-bedroom/two bathroom/waterfront home – $395,000

Two-bedroom/two bathroom/waterfront apartment – $1,900/month

2. Beautiful Living on Roanoke Island

A picture of a qalkway over a marsh to the Bodie Island lighthouse

If you consider a move to the Outer Banks, Roanoke Island should be on your list of considerations. Many cities on the island choose from, including Manteo, Fort Raleigh City, and Wanchese. Roanoke Island is a more inward location than other areas of the Outer Banks, with another island separating it from the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Although it is an island itself and still surrounded by water, you will not get the same quality of beaches and waves as you would in other OBX areas due to its geographical location.  If you were directly on the Atlantic Ocean, you would get the experience of seeing the high waves that come with it. With Roanoke Island being more sheltered, you don’t get this luxury. However, what the area lacks in waves makes up for in other beauty forms. 

Roanoke Island is home to the “Lost Colony” and housed one of the first indigenous groups. There are beautiful wooded areas on the island, which is a vast difference from the aesthetic of the other OBX areas. The main areas of Roanoke Island have a classical downtown, small-town feel. 

Similar to Hatteras Island, you won’t find many chain stores or franchises in Roanoke Island. There are many different types of small businesses, boutiques, and locally-owned and operated establishments, including various restaurants. Following the same theme as other OBX regions, there are many seafood restaurants. However, you will also find barbecue, homestyle, pizza, and many others.

A bit on the “Lost Colony” history from America’s Library:

On top of being a fun place to live, it has a rich backstory in American history. When Roanoke was still a young colony, there was always the fear of famine or attacks from local native tribes. 

Interestingly, John White, the leader of Roanoke’s original colony, had to make a trip to England, and when he came back to Roanoke, he found it deserted. Not a single person was there, and there didn’t appear to be signs of a struggle. The only clue to determining what happened to the settlers was the word “Croatoan” etched into a tree. 

Many theories of what actually happened to the colonists, but many believe that they left the English colony and were either adopted by a local tribe or killed.

Average living prices:

Two-bedroom/two bathroom/waterfront home – $425,000

Two-bedroom/two bathroom/waterfront apartment – $1,200/month

3. Island living on Currituck Banks

A photo of a large tree-lined pond with Currituck Beach Light Station in the background

If you are looking for an Outer Banks living arrangement closer to the waves and the Atlantic Ocean, Currituck Banks is an appealing option. Currituck Banks sits on the Currituck Sound and is home to Sandbridge, Carova Beach, Corolla, and Knotts Island and straddles the Virginia and North Carolina state line. It is home to the wild horses that you often see on the beaches and the National Wildlife Refuge.

The wild horses you see on the beach along Currituck Banks descended from Spain when Spaniards brought them on ships in the 1500s. The area around the Outer Banks is quite dangerous. The site has been the cause of many shipwrecks in the past. The thinking surrounding the migration of the Spanish horses is that they walked through the shallow waters to the beaches of the Outer Banks after their ship wrecked in the Atlantic Ocean. After they arrived there, they remained. 

Sadly, as the years went on, the region became quite dangerous for the horses. With the large amount of traffic that arrived in later years, so did many car accidents involving the wild horses. As a result, steps were put in place to move the horses’ uninhabited areas. The specific regions had no motor vehicle traffic, except for 4x4s. Additionally, it is now illegal for any human to get within 50 feet of the horses. This action is critical to the survival of the wild horses, as they are on a particular, native diet that human beings can disrupt with contact.

Currently, you will find a few different wild herds throughout the Outer Banks. There are strict regulations in place to keep the population under control while also providing for their safety. The Outer Banks provides one of just a few places to experience the wonder of wild horses. Currituck Banks offers many different viewing options to see them in the wild without getting too close and causing danger. 

Different Breeds of Wild Horses on OBX:

  • Corolla Wild Horse Primer
  • Wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs
  • Banker Mustangs

Although you will find more chain restaurants and entertainment venues on Currituck Banks, you will also find the same charm that extends to the other Outer Banks areas. As one of the more touristy areas of the OBX, the place gets crowded during the summertime. However, it calms down during the off-season, allowing the full-time residents to enjoy their town without all the hustle. 

Average living prices:

Two-bedroom/two bathroom/waterfront home – $350,000

Two-bedroom/two bathroom/waterfront apartment – $2,100/month

Conclusion

Many people choose to move to the Outer Banks after visiting. The environment, atmosphere, beautiful weather, and gorgeous scenery make the decision an easy one. Some choose the Outer Banks as their retirement destination. Others decide to move their families there well before that time. 

A move in itself is a big task to take on. But picking up and moving to a completely different climate and environment is a notch above that. For those considering the move, here are several guides to help future residents:

For a great how-to and what to consider in moving to the Outer Banks, finding employment, and uprooting your life, Southern Shores Realty has wonderful resources. However, if you are looking for information on specific areas, Shoreline OBX is a really helpful guide. Additionally, EZ Home Search helps find the perfect home through their easy guide to relocating to the Outer Banks, finding things to do, and understanding the cost of living. 

With all that we have offered in this article, what items have we missed? Please comment below with your experiences!