Union County

One of the fastest-growing counties in the country (a 41.6 percent growth rate since 2000), Union County boasts sprawling land, great schools, proximity to Charlotte, and affordability. “It’s a great place to find a home in the $250,000 range and realize it will buy you a very comfortable lifestyle,” says Irv Schwebel, a Realtor with Prudential Realty.

PROS “You get bigger lots, bigger homes for less money,” says Knight. Plus, the schools are strong (Sandy Ridge Elementary was recently given the coveted Honor School of Excellence designation) and property taxes are low (about 71 cents per $100 compared to about 84 cents per $100 in Mecklenburg County).

CONS Besides the traffic nightmare that is I-485/Providence Road (though plans to widen Highway 16 are underway), the county is growing so quickly that the water/sewer infrastructure can’t keep up. “It’s a considerable concern at the moment for builders,” says Graham, noting that the county’s new single family homes was down 12 percent over the last twelve months likely due to the inability to secure permits because of lack of sewer/water facilities. “People are leaving and going to South Carolina,” says Knight, “because they don’t want to deal with Union County’s potential problems.”

VERDICT Potential water/sewer woes aside, there aren’t many more affordable areas so close to burgeoning Ballantyne and uptown that boast great schools to boot. Our take: Union is a long-term investment, so don’t plan on seeing major appreciation for quite a few years.