Advice on moving to Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, NC

posted 3 years ago in North Carolina – Research Triangle
Post # 3
Member
4810 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

We just moved here and love it! We live in South Durham near the Southpoint mall, which is great for us but not that close to the things you want. This area is mostly young families, lots of medical residents and people in IT since we are close to Research Triangle Park. We are very liberal and so are most of the people we’ve met here (granted, most of them have higher education degrees as well). Chapel Hill has restaurants and bars but lots of college students and it’s hard to find bigger/newer housing. Downtown Durham has cool bars, restaurants, museums, etc so it may be a good place for you to look. We rent a 1600 sq ft 3 bedroom house with a 2 car garage for $1350/month, which is a steal after living in CA! There’s not much traffic, everything is convenient, and the people are so ridiculously friendly. I know that the schools in Chapel Hill and Cary are the best, so if you have a school-aged child or don’t want to move by the time you will, I would look into the school system first. Also, do you know where you’ll be living? Commuting from Chapel Hill to Raleigh, for example, would be kind of a schlep. My husband and I came for a weekend and drove around all the neighborhoods and looked up houses for rent (even though it was too early for us to rent any of them), so we narrowed down where we wanted to live and we love it. 

Post # 5
Member
4468 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: April 2013

@PinkPanda:  we almost moved last year when our son was 1 – flew down a couple times and really liked Heritage community in Wake Forest, Bedford and Briar Creek golf communities in Raleigh. we actually bought a plot in Heritage, but decided not to move- long story. everyone was so friendly and the housing prices were amazing, especially considering a fixer upper in iut neighborhood now is $1million! Beautiful area of the country- good luck to you! 

Post # 6
Member
825 posts
Busy bee

I have family that lives there and so we spend a lot of time in that area. I think it would be a great fit for what you’re describing, as long as you stay in the Durham/Chapel Hill area and away from Raleigh and it’s suburbs. They’re great, but the area has been expanding so fast that it hasn’t really found it’s ‘look’ yet, and so it’s a lot of strip malls and parkways and lacking in the culture and walkability that you’re looking for.

My cousins live in Cary, which is gorgeous and EVERYONE has young kids and is so nice. However there aren’t the bars/museums that you’re looking for so I’d focus on Chapel Hill first. Plus! Every time they even forecast snow they shut the city down 🙂

Post # 7
Member
2657 posts
Sugar bee

That’s so exciting!  I have lived in the area for almost 20 years, so I can definitely help.  Overall, I consider the whole area liberal-leaning, but especially Durham and Chapel Hill.  I know there are a lot of negative conservative stereotypes about NC, but you really don’t see those as much in the urban areas.  You will have no problems finding young professionals and families in the triangle – it’s one of our biggest demographics.

Each city has its perks.  Durham has cheaper housing and the downtown area is undergoing a lot of improvements.  The downside to Durham is that the school system in Durham County is not good, and insurance/taxes are slightly more than Wake County (where Raleigh is located).  Raleigh is huge and there are lots of options for housing there.  The downside is that housing is more expensive in Raleigh and the suburbs because of the good school system.  Chapel Hill is close to my heart because I went to UNC and it’s a very fun place.  However, taxes are also high and I think housing is more expensive than the other counties.  Also, Chapel Hill is great if you work in Chapel Hill or Durham, not so great of a location if you work in Raleigh.  Another long-term plus for Durham and Chapel Hill is that both counties have approved a light rail system to go between those cities, so commuting may improve over time.  This is a very long-term thing, though – they have not even started building it yet.

I live in Holly Springs, which is about 30 minutes south of Raleigh (in Wake county), and I love the area.  Very family-friendly and I think you get a lot of bang for your buck there.  We paid $175k for an 1800 square foot house on 1/3 acre of land (however this was in 2012 and the market in Holly Springs has heated up a lot since then).  It is very cookie-cutter suburban, though, which some people don’t like.  

Post # 8
Member
1867 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

We live in Durham – my husband has been here for over two years, and I moved here with our daughter about 6 months ago. Our daughter is almost 10, so a bit different than living here with a young baby.

Like one of the PPs, we rent a 1600+sq ft 3-bedroom (townhome though) for just under $1000, near Duke’s west campus. Utilities and grocery prices are also quite low. We live on a really restricted income (both grad students) so we don’t always love it here – it’s much more enjoyable if you have disposable income! There are obviously several universities to look at for work, so that will probably influence your choice of where to live – like the PP said, you wouldn’t want to commute all over the Triangle for work at rush hour.

There’s tons of things and activites for families and kids; we’ve taken our daughter all over the place and have always been welcome. Lots of parks, all of the cities in the area have decent libraries, good parks & rec programs (usually with very low-cost activities like dance, drumming, karate, swimming, etc). Great museums, too – the NC Museum of Life & Science in Durham is our favourite (and a year’s membership means you can go whenever you want), and the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh is always free for its regular exhibits (as is the History Museum next door, but we didn’t find it as enjoyable). Several kids’ museums in the area, too, plus the planetarium in CH. There’s also a lot of great state parks really close by. We like walking at the Eno, the short trails at the NC Botanical Gardens in CH, and Jordan Lake is beautiful in the summer. We’re also about an hour and a half from the NC zoo; Duke has a lemur center, and there’s a Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro which is apparently pretty cool.

As for schools. People in the area often say CH has the best schools, and if I recall, the stats prove it. Our daughter is in the Durham Public School district though and we have been shocked (positively) at the high quality of her school, compared to schools where we come from. We are extremely pleased with her schooling experience here and would recommend it, but she’s in a school in west Durham – schools on the east side of town are under-funded. I don’t know much about school districts in Raleigh – maybe someone else might know.

The Triangle is about the most liberal bubble in NC, but I’m honestly not sure if that’s saying much – we’ve encountered a lot of racist and classist attitudes in Durham… Definitely not my favourite part about living here.

Post # 9
Member
428 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I live in Chapel Hill currently, and I grew up in Durham, so I hope I can help!

 

You’ve gotten some good advice so far:

Raleigh/Garner/Cary/Holly Springs has cheap housing, but you will have to drive EVERYWHERE. Traffic getting into and out of Raleigh can be difficult at rush hour. There are lots of fun places to go (Museums, parks, stores, restaurants) but they are spread out and do have that feel that they went up quickly as opposed to being planned and designed.

Durham – the downtown area is experiencing a revitalization, which is great: I remember when the only thing down there was a bank building, railroad tracks, abandoned warehouses, and homeless people. (They still have all of them, though.) Like people said, the schools aren’t the best in the downtown area. If you get into Southwest Durham, where I grew up, the schools are just a little better. I grew up in SW Durham and never had any complaints about it. It’s been built up some since I grew up (the days of exploring the forested land behind our neighborhood are no more as there is a subdivision there now) – but SW Durham is safe. Durham still has its pockets of not-nice areas to be careful of. (Though I walked to high school for 4 years.) In Durham you’ll also have to drive everywhere, but it would be  a good compromise between Raleigh and Chapel Hill in terms of almost everything – housing, cost of living, convenience.

 

Chapel Hill – there is where I live now, and it’s my favorite place. We are renting a 2 BR 1.5 BA townhome for $825/month, water included. It’s VERY possible to find affordable places to rent or buy in Chapel Hill, you just have to do a little looking. We live in the same neighborhood as my parents who own a 2 BR 2.5 BA townhome that they would rent for about $1200/month (they did a lot of updating and have a sunroom whereas we don’t.) 

What I didn’t see mentioned in anybody else’s post is that Orange County (Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and a few other places) have a free bus service. This was a HUGE perk for me when I wasn’t working, as I was able to get anywhere I wanted to go for free. We live within walking distance to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Food Lion, A Southern Season, several outdoor stores, several restaurants, doctor’s offices, a greek market, you name it. A short (10 minute) bus ride takes me to the library, downtown Franklin Street. 15 minutes gets me to Carrboro, UNC Campus and the hospital, or locations further out. 

Carrboro might be worth researching as well – it’s an up-and-coming place with decent housing still available and convenient to Chapel Hill. Same for Hillsboro, though it’s a bit further out. (Carrboro begins where Franklin Street ends in Chapel Hill.) 

Honestly whatever you decide I think you will like the area. I’d definitely come for a visit and see which area resonates with you best. I have good friends who swear by Raleigh and would never live in Durham. I have friends who love Carrboro and Chapel Hill and couldn’t stand the more crowded atmosphere of Raleigh. I have Durham friends who think that the downtown vibe can’t be rivaled anywhere else. So it’s all personal preference! 🙂 But I think you’ll like the area. I keep leaving and keep coming back – nowhere compares to it. You get all the perks of a big city (the Arts and Theater/Musicals/Plays/Dance companies/Museums, good restaurants – world-class even -) and all the perks of a small town (friendly people, low-cost housing, little traffic (except for a few trouble spots), lots of trees and natural areas, quiet areas)

Post # 10
Member
4810 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

@PinkPanda:  Well I left CA for graduate school in Arizona in 2008. I never liked Arizona, and then we moved here for my job (which fell through, but my husband loves his job and I’m looking!). I would love to move back to CA, but we can’t really afford it yet so we are hoping in a few years. This is a great place in the meantime 🙂

Post # 11
Member
151 posts
Blushing bee

@PinkPanda:  Hi OP!! My SO would like to relocate there too in a few years. My parents are retiring around North Raleigh and I’d like to be close to them when it’s baby time. Not to mention WOW the difference in real estate prices between NC and NYC!!

Post # 13
Member
1867 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2013

@PinkPanda:  Well, I don’t just mean Durham, unfortunately.

Post # 15
Member
442 posts
Helper bee

@PinkPanda:  I grew up in Cary and currently attend UNC, so I don’t have a whole bunch to add, but Chapel Hill is a very  nice place to live. As far as schools go, they are really good. There are a couple of elementary schools with bilingual programs which I think is great. I have several friends who grew up in Chapel Hill, and they all loved it. I can’t say the same for Cary, mainly because it was so incredibly boring as a teenager. The schools there are good, though as well. It’s a very family friendly place, however and may be a good location if your daughter is younger.

 

Wherever you end up, it’s nice that Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill are always nearby and easily accessible if you’re trying to do something. The downtown Durham area has a lot of attractions, and downtown Raleigh is nice for the day as well. There have been a lot of food truck festivals lately, and there are a lot of local art/culture festivals or events going on throughout the year.

ETA: If you are worried about racism, this area isn’t really an issue to be honest. It’s NOT the rest of North Carolina, but it is still in the south unfortunately. If this is a big concern, Chapel Hill would be your best bet. NC State in Raleigh has more of the southern vibe going on, and I have heard some not so nice stuff from some students. I realize that this is a generalization, but UNC and the Chapel Hill area is more diverse as far as students and population and would probably be better suited to your needs.

 

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