In the decennial census, seasonal housing units are those that are classified as vacant for “seasonal, recreational, or occasional use.” These are often referred to as vacation homes.
In the 2010 Census, 3.5% of all housing units nationwide were vacation homes dedicated for seasonal use. In North Carolina, 4.4% of all housing units were for seasonal use. North Carolina had nearly 192,000 vacation homes in 2010, the 7th largest number of all the states.
The share of housing dedicated to seasonal use varies widely across the state. In 31 counties, seasonal housing comprised less than 1% of all housing units. At the other extreme, seasonal housing was more than 25% of all housing units in 10 counties.
The top 10 counties highlight the appeal of both mountains and coast to visitors to North Carolina. Four of the counties with the highest share of vacation homes (Dare, Carteret, Currituck, and Brunswick) are coastal counties; the remaining top 10 counties are in the western portion of the state.
Brunswick, Carteret and Dare also have the largest absolute number of vacation homes of any counties in the state, followed by Watauga, Macon, and Jackson in the west. Together, these three coastal counties had 54,000 vacation homes, 28% of all vacation homes in the state. Watauga, Macon, and Jackson had a combined total of 24,000 vacation homes, representing 12% of the state’s seasonal housing. In total, these six counties had 40% of all vacation homes in North Carolina.
Of course, not all counties with a high proportion of seasonal housing are in the east or west. Montgomery County, northeast of Charlotte and home to Uwharrie National Forest, had the 12th highest proportion of housing dedicated to seasonal use of any county in the state. Just over 3,900 of the county’s nearly 16,000 housing units were classified as vacation homes in 2010 (24.6%).