CHICAGO (May 15) -- Apparently, there's just something about North Carolina. For the second year in a row, America's best city in which to live lies within its borders, according to Relocate-America.com's annual list.
This year, Charlotte, N.C., is in the top spot, the site announced this week. Last year's winner was Asheville, N.C., which slipped to No. 7 on this year's list.
"North Carolina is very active on our radar," said Steve Nickerson, president and CEO of HomeRoute. "It continues to get a flood of interest from all over."
HomeRoute is the real estate firm that operates Relocate-America.com, a source of community information and real-estate resources for those who are relocating. Each year, the site ranks the top 100 places to live in the country.
Areas need to be nominated on the site in order to be eligible for the list; more than 2,000 were nominated this year, Nickerson said. Special efforts are made to prevent spamming campaigns from influencing the results, he added.
But the site's editorial team also takes into account an area's growth, its educational and employment opportunities, crime rates and housing options before granting it a spot in the top 100. Environmental highlights also play a role, with a city gaining points for good air and water quality or the strength of its recycling efforts, Nickerson said.
Home-price appreciation does get some consideration, however it's only one piece of the analysis, Nickerson said -- explaining why some struggling real estate markets in California and Florida, for example, still made the top 100. Areas that offer a comfortable climate and economic opportunity tend to be the most sought-after communities on the site, he said.
Charlotte's diversity of housing options and home affordability were two of the reasons users nominated the city, Nickerson said. The city's strong economy, boosted largely by the banking industry, was another selling point.
Second on this year's list was San Antonio, Texas, which people praised for its cost of living, recreational opportunities and diversity, he said. Chattanooga, Tenn., came in third place, noted for its vibrant downtown and affordable home prices in the nominations.
Below are the top 10 cities in Relocate-America.com's 2008 list:
1. Charlotte, N.C.
2. San Antonio, Texas
3. Chattanooga, Tenn.
4. Greenville, S.C.
5. Tulsa, Okla.
6. Stevens Point, Wis.
7. Asheville, N.C.
8. Albuquerque, N.M.
9. Huntsville, Ala.
10. Seattle, Wash.
Read the full list at Relocate-America.com
The firm also plans on releasing a coffee table book on the top 100 in the near future, Nickerson said. Proceeds will benefit American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, he added.
Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch reporter based in Chicago.