All the villages on the Outer Banks have a distinctive character. North of Oregon Inlet, you'll find lots of commercial congestion, as noted in earlier post. Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk are heavily congested and, while you'll find nice homes (like Dimitri's) on the sound or oceanside off the main road, you'll inevitably have to deal with traffic congestion to go any where. IMO, Collington Harbor is a nice quiet area off the beaten path in the KDH area - worth a look.
Further north, Duck, Corolla and Southern Shores are also very congested and heavily geared to the tourist trade, but at a more exclusive higher end (more expensive) level than Nags Head.
Personally, if I were to live north of Oregon Inlet, I'd look at Manteo and Mann's Harbor. They have less tourist congestion (although Manteo can get a ton of traffic at times) and tend to attract more permanent residents than other villages on the beach side.
Hatteras Island (i.e., south of Oregon Inlet) is mostly National Seashore. I prefer it. The best kiting is there. Most of the major kiteboarding activity (shops, etc.) is there. Tri-Villages (Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo) is nice, but doesn't have as many restaurants and activities as Avon. Avon is the largest village with lots of activity (including lots of rental houses). Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras Village cater more to permanent residents than does Avon.
If you are looking at Hatteras Island, study flood maps and elevation charts and pay attention to the width of the island at various locations (Buxton is at the widest point on the island). Flooding and wind damage are very real risks everywhere on the Outer Banks, but especially on Hatteras Island. For the next several years, there will be construction en route to Hatteras Island (Bonner Bridge will be replaced, Hwy 12 will be re-routed and improved). In the end, it will be better, but for the next few years, we will have to deal with ongoing construction. As noted in earlier post, you should count on losing access to/from Hatteras Island during major weather events....just part of life on a sandbar.
Best way to get to know the area is visit and rent in various locations. There really is a lot of difference from one village to the next. In the end, it's all about your lifestyle preferences. Hope this helps in some way.