I can only speak for Clay County (Hayesville, NC), it's beautiful!!! With Lake Chatuge, the Hiwassee River, the mountains and the many creeks it's an outdoor paradise. Most of our land is USFS property. We truly have 4 seasons, 3 months each. We get some snow but not too much, summer gets warm during the day but always cools down at night. The climate is great! It's remote but not too much so. You can get to Atlanta, Chattanooga and Asheville, all in 2 hours or less. Although we have some resorts and golf courses, fancy condo's and resort properties are not what we're about. We're more a cabin in the woods or on the water kind of place. We also have some of the best schools in WNC.
You definately want to work with a Realtor. For one thing, it's not going to cost you, as the buyer, any more money. In fact, it will most likely save you money. There are a lot of great buys and so much available these days, everywhere, that I can't even imagine trying to find something without the help of a knowlegable agent. You also need someone on your side to get you through all the issue specific to the area. Good luck!!