Finding a home in eastern NC near the Outer Banks is a very personal thing.
I cannot think of a better way than spending a week driving down the coast.
There are hundreds of homes in a variety of areas that meet your pricing needs.
North Carolina has beautiful areas all up and down the coast. The most important thing is for you to find one that you like.
If you really want to move, take the time to go get qualified for a loan.
Do some research in City Data on the areas that have tweaked your interest and then go visit them.
What I like and what you like could be two totally different things.
I always suggest that people write down factors that are important to them in deciding where to live. Try to assign points to them and then rate a few places according to your own scale.
How you assign points and value things might change after you have looked at some homes.
Remember that visiting a place and living in a place are two very different things. Emerald Isle which has a fair number of people in the summer is pretty empty in the winter
but it has more people than many areas do in the winter. Over on the shore lots of places are full of people living there all year.
Aside from Wilmington
(75,838) and New Bern
(27,650) there are no cities of any size along the NC coast.
is estimated at 1,290 people and Morehead City
has 9,263 according to City-Data.
There are plenty of small towns, like Cape Carteret
, (1,460) which are close to the beaches. All have their own personalities.
Along the Crystal Coast which is roughly Beaufort to Swansboro, you have the choice of anything from the history of Beaufort to beaches in Emerald Isle to the fishing village of Swansboro, but all of the towns are small and jobs outside the military bases are mostly service oriented though lots of people start their own small businesses.
Carteret County which has most of the Crystal Coast has easy access to the beaches and a ferry to Ocracoke. It also has the whole Core Banks stretching up from Cape Lookout
which to my mind is one of NC's most precious resources.
If you want to check out what attracted me to Carteret County read my post, Ten ways Carteret County met our needs
I spent a lot of time on the Northern Outer Banks and decided it was too crowded in the summer and too isolated in the winter for me.
The four years we have been wandering or living near the Southern Outer Banks (Crystal Coast) have been some of the best times of my life.
I would not live anywhere else, and now is a fantastic time to be looking for a new place to live.
Here's the official Crystal Coast/Southern Outer Banks travel guide