Triangle House Hunter Articles

Below you will find articles on housing market research, tips for home buyers and sellers, new technology, and local events!

 

June 21, 2022

Choosing the Right School in the Raleigh / Durham Area

Most of my clients start a home search with a wish list of their wants and needs for a new house. As the search continues, most folks learn that there is usually not one perfect house that has everything on their list! Instead, what often happens is that house hunters figure out what’s most important to them, what are “must haves” and what are “nice to haves.” 

For clients with school-age children, schools are often very important to their home hunting. And sometimes clients find a potential house in a non-preferred school zone. But the good news, there are options for happy endings - the right house, the right school. 

I had a chance recently to talk to Emmy Renquist, Durham Consultant for SchoolUpWake, a consulting company that provides families with the knowledge, research, and clarity they need to make the best school choice for their children.

Q. When parents reach out to you during a home search, do they usually start with “here’s a neighborhood we’re interested in, what are the schools like,” or “we’ve heard great things about this school, what neighborhoods feed into that school”? 

It’s actually about 50-50 in our experience. Of course, with the housing market being so competitive right now, we do get more calls saying, “We found a house in our price range in this neighborhood, what can you tell me about the schools.” It’s a little harder these days to be able to pick one neighborhood and be assured you can find a house there. 

We often get very specific questions, “I’m working in RTP and want to live in south Durham - what are the school options there?" Or, “Our child is currently in an IB program or Montessori setting, what schools offer those programs?”

Q. What is the biggest difference in our Triangle school systems that people from other states might not be aware of? 

For sure, one is that we have county-based school systems and not municipal-based or township-based. Many people moving here are used to much smaller school systems, so just navigating the options in a county wide school system can be daunting. On the other hand, magnet schools in DPS, including options for year-round schooling and dual language immersion, as well as charters help to provide more school choices for new families moving to the Triangle. 

But having all these options is really great for house hunters because it means that if you find a house that’s not in your preferred neighborhood, it’s still possible to find a good option through a magnet or charter that can work for your family. 

Q. How should parents start their school search? 

We always encourage parents to visit the schools they’re interested in or schools in the neighborhoods they’re interested in. We discourage anyone from making a decision based on Internet searches that provide scores for individual schools. Those scores are not indicative of the big picture of a school in our experience. 

Talk to the administrators, meet other parents; if possible, talk to some teachers. Check out PTA involvement within the school. Touring the school will give you a sense of the overall atmosphere. For each family, these are the non-quantifiable elements that are really important in choosing the best option for your child. 

What parents view as a “good” school varies. It can be school size, class size, school location, elective options, amount of outdoor time. It’s really a personal decision. 

Q. I know you specialize in helping families considering a move to Durham and you can help them navigate the Durham Public School (DPS) district. There are big changes coming, right? 

Yes! Durham is revamping its entire magnet system, starting with elementary schools for the school year 2024-2025. Through its Growing Together initiative, DPS is committed to increasing equity, access, and diversity in the school system, and they hope to cut down on transportation time. 

To meet those goals, DPS will divide the county into five districts, each with magnet options. There will also be one more Montessori option. In addition, every school will have access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), Arts, Music, and Global Language as opposed to those being magnets.

There will be year-round school options in each region, along with Dual Language Immersion. District-wide, families will be able to apply for Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs. 

Q. This sounds really great and seems like it will provide more school choice options. Is there a downside

The only real downside I can think of is that the initiative has started with elementary schools but the middle and high school planning process will begin in the fall, so it can be harder for families to make decisions if their children are either already in middle school/high school or if they will be there in the next few years.

Q. So bottom line, what do you want parents to know as they look at houses and school options at the same time? 

In the end, each family is different and each family will decide what’s best for their family, both for homes and schools. 

There’s not necessarily a perfect house for you out there, nor is there a perfect school. If you recognize that there’s a certain amount of give and take in the process, you will end up with a house and school that work well for you. 

 

 Emmy Renquist is a Durham native with a background in education and a passion for Montessori education. She has a B.S from UNC-CH as well as a Master’s in Education. With her husband serving in the Air Force, Emmy spent time living in different parts of the country and working in public schools in southern Maryland. She brings the knowledge she gained in navigating unfamiliar school systems to help families moving into the Triangle to align their principles and values with what our schools offer. 

Posted in Durham, Raleigh
June 10, 2022

What's the Difference Between Magnet and Charter Schools?

Schools are always a big topic for home buyers, especially those who are relocating to the Raleigh / Durham area. One of the biggest sources of confusion is the difference between magnet schools and charter schools and who’s eligible for what! How do they differ from public schools? Are they a good option for your family?

I reached out to an expert for some guidance, Libby Taylor of SchoolUpWake.com, and asked her to write a guest post for us with all the pertinent information! And although her specialty is Wake County, all the school districts in the Triangle offer some combination of magnet, charter, and traditional public school settings. 

The Wake County School Landscape Can Be Daunting

Wake County currently has 191 public schools, 54 magnet schools, and 24 charter schools, in addition to 76 private schools. On the one hand, it’s great that Wake County offers so many choices for parents; on the other hand, it can be overwhelming and confusing. 

I work with parents every day who are looking for the best options for their children’s education. Some have lived here for a while; others are new to the area or planning to relocate by the next school year. And while there are certainly magnet schools and charter schools in other parts of the country, NC is sixth in the country for the number of magnet schools if offered. 

Here are the most common questions I get asked! 

Q. What is a magnet school and how does it differ from a charter school? Why do they exist? 

Magnet schools are schools that are organized around a theme, such as science, technology,  fine arts, career and technical education. Most magnet schools came into being as a way to diversify schools and make a wide range of educational opportunities available to all students, not just those who lived in certain neighborhoods. They are part of the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) and still have their own base area, but because of their theme students can apply from outside their base area. 

Magnet schools provide the same curriculum as all other public schools, but do so through the lens of their particular focus. 

Charter schools, on the other hand, are public tuition-free schools but operate under the state and not WCPSS. They still follow the same state standards in education but can design their own curriculum and instructional models. They are governed by their own board of directors, although the charter is granted by the state and the state does exercise oversight over the schools. Both can be found on the NC School Report Cards.

Many charter schools are much smaller schools which appeal to many parents. Some charter schools have specializations like magnet schools do, but some don’t. 

Q. How do you get into magnet schools and charter schools? 

Magnet schools have a priority based application system, similar to what people might call a weighted lottery. Applications are done during the winter for admissions the following academic year. However if a magnet school is your base then you don’t need to apply. 

Families with siblings already at the magnet school have a higher priority as do students who are already in a magnet school, so for example, an elementary school in a magnet program has an easier path to a magnet middle school and then a high school. 

Charter schools provide admission through a lottery process, also done in the winter for the following academic year. After the number of available seats are filled, schools usually maintain a waitlist from which they add students if spaces become available. The number of seats available each year varies as the size of the overall grade level population rises and falls. Siblings do get priority. 

Q. Can I apply to more than one charter school or magnet school? 

Yes, you can apply to as many charter schools as you want in order to increase your chances of getting into a school that you believe is best for your child. 

For magnet schools, you may not have all of them available to you, depending on where you live. You can view your choices on the WCPSS web site using your home address to see your options for both your base school as well as magnet schools.  You can typically apply to up to 5 schools on the magnet application. 

Q. What about transportation to charter and magnet schools? 

Most charter schools do not provide transportation. There is no guarantee of transportation, although in many cases, transportation is offered by WCPSS to magnet schools in your region. There are different levels of transportation, so you may be offered express busing, where you drive your student to a central location to be picked up by the bus, or neighborhood busing, which is the more traditional method of stopping at various points in the neighborhood. Most bus stops are designed to be no farther than 2/10 mile from your address.

The good news is that Wake County’s public schools are well-regarded, so if you miss out on the magnet or charter options, your child still has a great opportunity for a good educational experience. 

Libby Taylor is founder of SchoolUpWake, an independent consulting business that provides families with the knowledge, research, and clarity they need to make the best K-12 school choice for their children. She brings a wealth of knowledge to this endeavor, with a career in education that includes both teaching in the public schools and providing professional development to teachers. 

 

May 24, 2022

Raleigh / Durham Real Estate Market Data

May 2022 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

It's finally happened! With interest rates rising we have seen a slight slowdown in the Raleigh / Durham housing market. I say slight because inventory levels are still low, so the 'days on market' and 'percent of list price received' metrics are still very much in a home seller's favor.

The key number to look at below is "months supply of inventory." This number has been going down for years, and it finally started going up with the data from May 2022. With more supply the market can finally cool off a bit and go back to a more normal market, which means less bidding wars and less competition for home buyers. Inventory is still very low at 0.9 months, but once that gets to around 4 or 5 months we will be in a more balanced market. With interest rates expected to go up we could get there - we'll see what the market does in the coming months!

Raleigh Durham Housing Market Data May 2022

April 2022 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

There has been a lot in the news about the real estate market cooling. Though that may be true for some areas, we haven't seen it here yet. It's all based on supply and demand, so we need some build up in inventory (homes on the market) for that to happen. Right now inventory is too low for prices to go down, since it would take almost zero buyers for there to be a change towards a more neutral market versus a seller's market. Just a reduction in buyers won't do it with so few homes on the market. 

As you can see in the table below the inventory levels have not gone up yet, and therefore prices are still going up. It would be nice to get back to a more balanced market with our 5% yearly price gains, so we'll see if that happens by the end of the year. As of right now it's looking like it will still be another 20% price gain year.

Raleigh Durham Real Estate Market Data

March 2022 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

Everyone is talking about how interest rates going up could affect the number of homebuyers out there. I think this is true, however when you have supply (sellers) at basically zero you also need demand (buyers) to be at almost zero to make any real change towards a slower market.

What will hopefully happen over the long term is our market will come down to 5-10% yearly gains (more of the average) instead of 20%+ yearly gains. We'll have to see over the coming months if things start to pull back just a little, or if there is enough demand to have prices increase over 20% again this year, since the supply of homes is so low.

March 2022 Raleigh Durham Real Estate Market Data

February 2022 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

See below for our market data! Prices are still going up at the rate of about 24% per year because of the extreme lack of homes for sale in our market. What's interesting is the number of new homes is still going down, as sellers are more and more scared to sell since they won't be able to buy. 90% of the sellers that I'm working with today are moving out of state, out of the country, or are investors. With my buyer clients we are avoiding the "hot homes" that are going $100k-$150k over asking price, and instead focusing on the ones that need a little work or are further out. 

January 2022 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

See below for the most current statistics for the entire Triangle market. The sales price increases for the entire region are staying strong so far at roughly 20% year/year. With the extremely low level of inventory (only 0.5 months) this will stay in that range until inventory increases. If you own a $400,000 house in the area you are currently making $80,000 or so a year in equity, which eventually has to slow down. Maybe by the end of the year we'll have some more inventory? One can only hope!

December 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

For December I wanted to focus on a specific market in the Triangle, the Durham market. Though the market in the rest of the Triangle is similar, it's nice to look at some specific city data. I was most surprised by the roughly 30% increase in average sales price and median sales price for December 2021 versus December 2020. This means everyone who owned a $300,000 house in Durham made roughly $90,000 last year in equity. Hopefully we will get some extra inventory to increase our supply, so the supply and demand curve will equalize some. Demand with so many people moving to this area doesn't help either!

Durham Market Stats December 2021

 

November 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

This has been the most competitive fall we've experienced in a long time, possibly ever! Luckily at the time of this writing (early December) we are getting some of the holiday slowdown that typically starts about 4 weeks earlier. With the supply of homes still so incredibly low, don't expect a less intense Spring market this coming year. Barring anything catastrophic that drops demand down to near zero, we will be right back to our crazy market after the holidays are over. Please see the below video put out by the Triangle MLS, which discusses some of our current market numbers.

October 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

October's market numbers are an almost mirror image of September's, with 0.8 months of inventory and a roughly 20% year/year price gain. On a positive note at least we didn't have a decrease in inventory! 

The average price paid for a house is still around 3% over the asking price, which is amazing when you consider that includes all homes, even overpriced homes and homes that are 45 minutes outside of town. 

Usually in the fall we have slight price decreases, however with the extremely low inventory levels prices are going up right now. On a personal note, it has been slightly easier to win bidding wars versus in the spring which likely means fewer buyers are competing compared to 6 months ago.

If we can somehow get some more inventory in conjunction with a decrease in demand then we can finally slow this market down to a more normal "4% gain/year" market. 

September 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

Where's our slower Fall market that we usually get every year? Looks like it may pass us this year, with prices still increasing at a fast rate. 0.8 months of inventory is just incredible when you consider 3 months is a strong seller's market and 2 months is an 'extreme' seller's market. What do you call 0.8 months?

We need a ton of new homes to be listed, or for demand to go to zero for there to be real change in the market. Until that happens prices will continue going up.

*Note explaining "months of inventory:" What this means is if no new homes were listed there would be 0 homes for sale in 0.8 months.

 

August 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

The market is staying strong, more so because of very low supply versus high demand. Demand has dropped off a little, but without enough new inventory our market still continues upwards. Since January 1 the average home price has increased by 17.2%, and average days on market is down to 9.

June 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

With the greatest price increases since 1999, June was another busy month. We are finally getting more inventory, which will hopefully bring the market back to our usual 4-5% yearly appreciation. We just aren't used to these huge California-style price gains!

Supply is still incredibly low, but demand has dropped off from the crazy post-pandemic highs. With an increase in supply it will be a much better market to buy in...that is unless you like competing against 17 other buyers and paying $75,000 over asking price! Fingers crossed it will play out this way.

 

May 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

It was the busiest month the Triangle market has ever seen, with the most intense bidding wars as well. This data is being added in early June, and the market is hopefully on a more normal pace now, with things backing off just a touch in the past week. It's too early to tell however.

April 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

The market is still getting hotter, with as-is addenda more common now as well (this wasn't a thing in the past). Hopefully at some point we will get a little more supply! Homes get anywhere from 5-30 offers in the current market, so lots of competition.

February and March 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

We are at the 1 year mark now, and if anybody had asked me what I thought the market would have been like I would not have guessed it would be the most extreme seller's market the area has ever experienced. Without a major economic or other drastic change, home prices in the Raleigh/Durham area should go up around 15% this year. This would be a new record! It's all down to supply and demand: we have very few homes to sell and twenty buyers for every one seller. Hopefully with prices increasing it will encourage more homeowners to sell. Fingers crossed!

It's not uncommon for a $400,000 house to go for $465,000 in the current market, with the buyer covering the gap between the appraised value and the contract price. It's a great time for sellers, but a difficult time for buyers.

December 2020 and January 2021 Raleigh/Durham Housing Market Update:

We are not getting the listings we need! There is so little supply that most listings that are well prepped for the market are going over asking price. The rule of thumb for a sellers market is anything under 4 months of inventory supply (meaning if no other homes came on the market then all supply would be exhausted in 4 months). We are now at 0.9 months in some parts of the Triangle. See below table for Durham:

Durham Housing Market December 2020

Nov. 14, 2021

Opendoor vs Local Realtor

You know, I’m all in favor of technology that works for us, makes our lives easier. I use technology tools all the time in my real estate business. And while Opendoor’s ads may make it look “easy” to buy or sell a house, I’d like to make the case for when a local realtor might be a better choice. (Do I have a vested interest? Yes, I do, but just hear me out!) 

Selling Your Home To Opendoor

The basics of Opendoor for sellers in the Raleigh/Durham market are as follows. After you put in the basic information at your home, Opendoor will make you a cash offer, usually within 24-48 hours. If you accept, they will then let you set an escrow period, and evaluate your home to see if repairs are needed. If they determine repairs must be made to the home, they can lower your offer to cover those costs. 

There are some criteria that Opendoor follows when determining whether to buy your home for resale. Usually, the home must be built after 1960, have a sales price between $100k and $500k, with a lot size up to .5 acres. It must be owner-occupied and be a single-family or a townhome. Opendoor does sell duplexes and condos in certain markets. 

Sounds fairly simple, right? They don’t take a traditional commission, but they charge an “Opendoor fee” of around 5% which is basically the same thing. Total costs can be from 5-13% when closing costs and repair deductions are included. Opendoor does not usually cover closing costs on either buying or selling transactions; in a traditional real estate transaction, closing costs are often negotiated. 

Opendoor says it takes fair market value into account, recognizing which markets are “hot.” Remember, though, they are in the business to buy and sell homes, so they are not in the business of negotiating on your behalf. If they get the price that works for their model, they will take it. On the open market, a motivated buyer is likely to offer you much more than Opendoor is paying, especially during a bidding war.

I’ve heard some Opendoor buyers express relief at not having to get their home ready for sale or allow potential buyers in their private space, and I can understand that in theory. However, the flip side without Opendoor is a weekend of showings and achieving $15,000-$40,000 in additional profit, which is what I'm seeing in the current market with bidding wars. Sure you have to do a little prep work and leave the house for a weekend, but for the extra money it is well worth it.

Buying a Home From Opendoor

If you’re a buyer, you can visit the Opendoor website to see what homes they have listed in your desired neighborhood and make an appointment to view the house at your convenience. There is not usually an agent to walk you through, so you’re dependent on a lockbox code and if it doesn’t work, you have to call a support line to get help. 

What is of more concern to me is that you’re buying a home from Opendoor, not the last seller of the property. Although they say they make some repairs to bring the home up to a certain standard, I’ve found from experience that Opendoor does not do a home inspection before they list the property; many times the properties are not in great shape. Opendoor is certainly not going to be tuned in to all the repairs that might actually be needed as the previous owner living in the home was. 

And North Carolina is a “buyer beware” state, meaning sellers have to disclose certain facts about the home, but can also “opt-out” by saying “no representation” on the disclosure form. Brokers, on the other hand, by law, must disclose a wider range of potential trouble spots. 

So I’m not really worried about Opendoor and don’t consider them competition for our Raleigh/Durham market. Can these technology companies working as an “agent” open a door or write a contract? Yes, but they can’t take away the human touch of your local real estate professional. The pro who knows the market inside and out, takes the time to get to know you and your needs, and hustles to get you the best deal possible as either a buyer or seller. 

I think that makes us not only valuable but actually invaluable. So if you’re thinking of buying or selling in the Triangle area, and Opendoor comes knocking, read reviews from my past clients and give me a call. I may have a better door to open for you! 

Nov. 11, 2021

My Top 7 Downtown Raleigh Neighborhoods

It’s probably true that real estate agents, like parents, shouldn’t have favorites, but well, sometimes certain areas stand out above the others!  

Raleigh is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Tucked away in this historic capital city of North Carolina are seven neighborhoods that offer charm, character, and surprising rural touches, yet are close to big-city amenities for dining, entertainment, and the great outdoors. Here's my personal glimpse into what makes each of these areas special.

Cameron Park 

Cameron Park was established over 100 years ago as a more upscale neighborhood and has as rich a history as the state capital. It’s situated just slightly over a mile west of Raleigh and was one of Raleigh’s first suburbs. In the early days, commuters rode the trolley down Hillsborough Street to work and to shop. 

Great shopping is still available, along with great schools and parks! This sliver of a neighborhood is bounded by the Village District (formerly Cameron Village), Glenwood South, and Hillsborough Street, so you’re just minutes from downtown. You’ll find a variety of architectural styles, so whether you’re looking for a bungalow, Tudor, Queen Anne, or something else altogether, you’ll likely find it in Cameron Park.

Why I love it: Cameron Park is just so charming. This is a lovely older neighborhood with parks featuring beautiful mature hardwood trees. Explore the historic service alleyways behind the large homes that are signature to this location.

Cameron Park House

Boylan Heights

Like a lot of the downtown Raleigh area, Boylan Heights is a designated historic district. Located on the southwest edge of downtown, Boylan Heights is one of downtown’s most charming neighborhoods, offering some of Raleigh’s best skyline views, including at neighborhood restaurant Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing (formerly Boylan Bridge Brewpub).

But if you think historic means boring, think again! It may seem like your typical quiet suburb with tree-lined streets and few commercial ventures, but Boylan Heights hosts a close-knit community that loves to party. 

Most houses are bungalows, but you will find other styles like Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. The houses in Boylan Heights vary in size, with the largest homes located on Boylan Avenue. Home prices range from $300,000–$600,000.  

A short walk to downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District brings you to two great Raleigh BBQ favorite restaurants The Pit and Sam Jones BBQ. One of Raleigh’s new downtown food halls, Morgan Street Food Hall, is in the Warehouse District as is the Videri Chocolate Factory, an artisan chocolate shop. 

Living in Boylan Heights means that no matter your definition of fun—hiking the nearby trails and greenways, catching one of the many exciting acts coming through town, enjoying a night out with friends, or even engaging in some much needed retail therapy—you're never far from the action! 

Why I love it: Boylan Heights has a huge Art Walk in the fall. Hundreds of vendors are welcome to set up on the front lawns of neighborhood homes. It’s a great opportunity to get unique holiday gifts and it’s just tons of fun.

boylan heights home

Oakwood

Oakwood is another classic historic neighborhood in Raleigh, right next to downtown. This neighborhood is known for its classic and well-preserved architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is an expensive neighborhood due to its history and the close proximity to downtown; average prices start right around $500,000.  

Along with the classic houses comes well-maintained and curated gardens. The Oakwood Garden Club offers an Annual Garden Tour each spring, a walk through some of the beautiful gardens in the neighborhood. Historically, this tour has featured a sit-down formal tea which will hopefully come back post-pandemic. 

A block off Person Street is a neighborhood hideaway, the Side Street Restaurant, a great stop for salads, soups, and sandwiches. The northern end of Person Street features the only Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Raleigh and a neighborhood favorite for pizza, the Oakwood Pizza Box

Scott Crawford, a  five-time semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Southeast has two restaurants here - Crawford and Sons, an award-winning,  casual-but-elegant, neighborhood restaurant, and Jolie, a French bistro that features romantic rooftop dining. 

Why I love it: Oakwood has an incredibly popular home tour every year. It’s your chance to step inside some of the oldest homes in the Triangle. A must-do if you love the Victorian style! In October, you might want to brave the Halloween House and take a peek at the frightfully fun decorations.

 

oakwood home

 

Mordecai

Just north of Oakwood is Mordecai, Raleigh’s oldest neighborhood, and the Oak City’s founding neighborhood. Centrally located is the Mordecai Historic Park, a series of historic structures including Mordecai House, the oldest house in Raleigh in its original location. Also on the site is the cabin where President Andrew Johnson was born.

The Mordecai neighborhood has a secluded feel, with quiet roads and plentiful trees. But it's also a neighborhood under redevelopment and continues to be a sought-after area of Raleigh due to its close proximity to downtown. 

The Mordecai Historic District features homes of Colonial, Georgian, and Victorian style. The East Mordecai neighborhood is made up of single-family homes, apartments, and townhouses. While most homes in East Mordecai were built between 1930 and 1955, there has been some new construction in the area. 

Home styles include Craftsman bungalows, Cottages, and Kit Homes, many of which have been lovingly maintained, cared for, and improved throughout the years. There are even a few newly constructed homes and condos available. Prices begin in the $300,000s. 

Mordecai has several eclectic restaurants, including a Southern-inspired artisanal bakery, Yellow Dog Bread Company, Two Roosters Ice Cream, Escazu Chocolates, and local hangout Person Street Bar. Fine dining can be found at Stanbury, which features local & seasonal ingredients and a full-service oyster bar. 

Also in the heart of Mordecai is Raleigh City Farm, a non-profit urban farm, which has a weekly Farmstand from April to October where neighbors can purchase produce. 

Why I love it: Although much of the neighborhood looks like a quaint area of traditionally-styled homes, many of the interiors have been updated with all the modern features and amenities. And just north of Mordecai is the original location of one of the area’s favorite hot dog joints, Snoopy’s

Mordecai House

Five Points

Technically, Five Points is several neighborhoods. These neighborhoods vary in home styles and sizes, but their five streets meet in the middle to create a unique community. Five Points is a fantastic area that was developed in the 1910s–1920s, located to the northwest of central Raleigh. Depending on the neighborhood, home prices range from the $200,000s to the $900,000s.

The Five Points area is home to several great parks: Roanoke Park, Fallon Park, Fletcher Park, and Vanguard Park. Within a block of the main Five Points intersection are several notable restaurants: Lilly’s Pizza, Hayes Barton Cafe, The Point, and Bloomsbury Bistro

And don’t forget to check out The Rialto Theatre. It’s the oldest theater in Raleigh and has been in continuous operation since 1942. Pre-pandemic, it showed “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at midnight each Friday. 

Why I love it: Five Points is just a touch removed from downtown—just barely! You’ll love the great local restaurants and Raleigh’s oldest independent movie theater. Also on the “don’t miss” list is  Nofo @ The Pig, a quirky combination of Southern cafe, gourmet market, and gift shop. 

five points house

Hayes Barton

One of Raleigh’s most prestigious neighborhoods, Hayes Barton is a beautiful example of what the Five Points area offers. It was developed in the 1920s by Earle Sumner Draper, a landscape architect who planned over one hundred suburbs in the South. 

Home styles in this area include Georgian, Colonial, Tudor, Craftsman, and bungalow. Hayes Barton home prices range from $300,000–$3,500,000. While it’s true that Hayes Barton has some of the most expensive homes in the Raleigh area, there are also modern single-family homes and bungalows with much lower price tags. 

In addition to the great restaurants at the Five Points intersection, the western edge of Hayes Barton has a cozy commercial corner featuring a dry cleaner, a Howie’s Pizza, an upscale Chinese restaurant, Red Dragon, and fine dining at Mandolin

Why I love it: Wide streets, beautifully landscaped yards, Hayes Barton is really a feast for the eyes. If you want to own a piece of Raleigh history in a truly grand property, Hayes Barton is your neighborhood.

University Park

This area has a rich and vibrant history that includes the subdivision of Oberlin, built by former slaves and free black Americans at the end of the Civil War. Two of the original homes from that era still remain and have been restored to become headquarters for Preservation North Carolina.

Located ITB (Inside the Beltline), University Park is a very desirable neighborhood and home prices reflect that with a range from the $300,000s to the $800,000s. Common styles found in University Park are ranch, bungalow, and traditional. Fun fact: There are six Sears kit homes in University Park. 

Local shopping at Ridgewood Shopping Center includes a Whole Foods, drug store, Bruegger’s Bagels, a nail spa, bike store, wine store, and stationery store. 

Hillsborough Street has some fun places to eat: Cup A Joe, David’s Dumpling & Noodle Bar, Gonza Tacos y Tequila,  and Kabob and Curry, and that’s beyond the requisite college staples of pizza, beer, and quick sandwiches. Parking can be a problem but much of Hillsborough Street is walkable from many University Park addresses.

The University Park neighborhood association is one of the oldest in Raleigh and the community enjoys celebrating together with yearly events centered around Easter, Independence Day, and Halloween. 

Why I love it: I used to live here! This is a great neighborhood near downtown and North Carolina State University. You’re right next to Village District shopping. I love that there are lots of hills and beautiful trees. You don’t want to miss Raleigh Little Theatre’s Rose Garden and a show at the outdoor Stephenson Amphitheater.

university park home

While these are my top 7 downtown neighborhoods, there are many other Raleigh neighborhoods that may be a better fit for you. Use our advanced search or map search to find your dream home, or contact us for a consultation.

Posted in Raleigh
Nov. 10, 2021

Wake County Capped Schools Guide

If living in a “good school district” is at the top of your house hunt criteria, you’ll want to do your homework (pun intended!). The Wake County Public School System currently rates in the top 10 school districts in North Carolina for 2022. As a result, the area is more desirable than ever for home buyers.

However, moving into a neighborhood near your preferred school doesn't mean that your child will necessarily be able to attend that school. To promote less crowding and more individual attention to students, the Wake County school board approved enrollment caps on area schools.

What does a cap mean?

Schools that reach the maximum number of students that can be effectively taught stop taking new enrollments. When that happens, students are assigned to an overflow school. Transportation is provided to and from the overflow school. Students attending the overflow schools are assigned a place on the waitlist of the base (i.e. neighborhood) school and will be allowed to attend when an opening becomes available.

This article talks about the Wake County schools that are capped for the 2020-21 school year. The Wake County Public School System also offers a page with complete information, including answers to frequently asked questions on Wake County Enrollment Caps.

Panther Creek

What happens if your base school is capped?

A capped school doesn't necessarily mean your child can’t attend, even if you’re new to the area. It depends on whether there are seats available in your child’s grade level. So the first step is to start the enrollment process at the base school for your neighborhood. Keep in mind that you must be living in your home at the time of enrollment. You won’t be able to apply to a school, even to be on the waiting list, unless you’ve established residency.

If your child is on a waiting list, you’ll be contacted when a seat at your base school opens up. If a seat opens mid-year and you want your child to continue at their current school to finish out the year, you can request to be assigned to the base school at the beginning of the next school year.

What other options are there?

In addition to researching the base school in the area where you want to buy, you’ll want to learn about the overflow schools and other options for your child’s education. The Wake County Public School System has an Address Lookup tool where you type in the exact address of the home you’re considering. You’ll see whether the schools are capped. If so, click through to see the overflow schools and transportation options offered.

There are also other options:

Charter Schools - Wake County currently has 24 area Charter schools. Charter schools are government funded but operate independently of the state school system. Public charter schools are tuition free, but they also have limited enrollment. You’ll have to check the enrollment process to your preferred school. Proof of residency may be requested before you can apply.

Magnet Schools - Magnet schools are public schools with specialized courses and programs that are tailored to each student’s strengths. Magnet schools tend to be more diverse, promoting integration. You can apply to more than one magnet school and rank your preferences.

Private Schools  - There are 100 private schools in Wake County, with about one-third being faith-based schools. Private schools charge tuition and fees that vary by institution, but most offer financial aid or payment options. Parents may need to provide transportation to and from school.

What else is the Wake County School District doing to ease overcrowding?

New construction is booming in Wake County. In fact, seven Triangle towns are some of North Carolina’s fastest growing areas. Apex and Cary lead the way, since they're more centrally located, they're close to Research Triangle Park—and, of course, they boast good schools.

New schools are in various stages of completion to cope with the surge in residents. Schools may set up modular classrooms as well, but despite the new classroom space a school may still be at maximum enrollment for the year.

Coping with capping

It can be a shock to learn that, even though you buy a home well within school boundaries, your child can’t attend that school. Add to that the uncertainty as to whether they may be able to attend next quarter or next year—how do you and your child cope?

1. Be prepared. If you know you’re going to purchase a home in the Wake County Public School System, understand that the system is in flux. Buying a home doesn’t guarantee where your child will attend school, so brace yourself.

2. Do extra research. Learn all your options for choosing a school for your child. You may find that a magnet, charter or private school is a better option for your child. In fact, the overflow school may be a blessing in disguise! But do your due diligence, and don’t dismiss the alternatives out of hand.

3. Prepare your child. Your child is already coping with some major changes by moving to a new house in a new neighborhood. It will be even more difficult to understand why they can’t go to the same school as their new best friend. Make the situation as positive for your child as possible.

4. Check with your base school. Don’t rely on anecdotal stories on the internet or reports from the neighbors. Get in touch with your base school directly to understand under what conditions a child, even new to the neighborhood, can attend the local school. There may be waivers for special needs students, or perhaps your employment makes them eligible to attend the base school. Find out due dates for applying for an opening and make sure you apply within those dates.

If you're looking to move your family to (or within) Wake County, dealing with the capped school issue can be a hassle. Follow these tips and you're sure to find the perfect neighborhood—and school.

Nov. 9, 2021

Top 5 Neighborhoods Near Downtown Durham

Top 5 Neighborhoods Near Downtown Durham

Durham was ranked as the top city in the South for Millennials in 2021 by Homebuyer.com! There are a ton of new activities and restaurants that have opened in the past 3 years including a large beer garden and arcade (Boxcar), an axe throwing spot (Urban Axes), and the new Durham Food Hall, just to name a few. With a more affordable median home value than other nearby cities such as Raleigh and Charlotte, people have been flocking to Durham and its artsy vibe.

The fastest growing area is downtown Durham’s historic district, where a majority of the new homes, condos, and apartments are being built. Our breakdown of the top 5 neighborhoods near downtown Durham will help you find the right place in the “Bull City” to call home. 

The American Tobacco Campus, just adjacent to downtown, is a collection of former tobacco factories that have been reimagined as retail, restaurants, and apartments. The campus is home to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and the Durham Performing Arts Center, which brings touring Broadway shows and live music to Durham County and the greater Triangle area. You can also watch an independent film at the Carolina Theatre, catch live music at Motorco (both downtown), and enjoy cultural events at Duke University. 

The American Underground (AU), “The Startup Hub of the South,” is also part of the American Tobacco Campus. A diverse startup scene, AU provides workspaces, resources, and a sense of community to tech startups and entrepreneurs.

Even amidst all the hustle and bustle of downtown, with its range of entertainment and dining amenities within walking distance, there are outdoor oases like the 55-acre Sarah P. Duke Gardens and hiking trails in the Eno River State Park. 

While we love all the neighborhoods near downtown, we’ve narrowed down the choices to the top five! Read below to learn more about each Durham neighborhood and follow the links to explore homes for sale! 

1. Cleveland-Holloway: Convenience to Downtown 

Cleveland-Holloway is a beautiful neighborhood developed in the late nineteenth century, located east of downtown Durham. We may be a little biased since we’ve called Cleveland-Holloway home for a few years, but the neighborhood’s proximity to downtown combined with the beautiful, diverse homes can’t be beaten.

 

Cleveland-Holloway is home to many different home styles, including beautiful, ornate Victorian homes built in the late 19th century, as well as bungalows built in the 1920s, duplexes built in the mid-20th century, and new homes built in the last few years. 

Homes in Cleveland-Holloway are priced in the $300,000s to $600,000s, most under 2,000 square feet. Larger homes with 4+ bedrooms can range from $600,000s to $800,000. Homesites are relatively small, around .1 to .3 acres with a few larger lots throughout the neighborhood. 

2. Trinity Park: Beautiful & Walkable 

Trinity Park, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Durham, is home to some of the most beautiful homes in the area. This historic neighborhood is bordered by the Brightleaf district of downtown Durham, the Warehouse District, and Duke’s East Campus. Trinity Park is unique for its walkability - unlike many neighborhoods near downtown Durham, Trinity Park has sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. Many homes are well-maintained with beautiful landscaping. Trinity Park is also next to Duke’s East Campus, which is bordered by a 1.5-mile trail. 

Trinity Park features a variety of homes, from large, traditionally styled homes to smaller bungalows. Most lots are around .2 acres. Homes are priced from the $400,000s to over $1 million.  

3. Lakewood: Up & Coming 

Located south of downtown Durham, Lakewood is an awesome area that is quickly becoming a destination in its own right. In just the last few years, new restaurants, cafes, and more have opened in Lakewood, including:

  • Cocoa Cinnamon, a delicious coffee shop with freshly made churros
  • County Fare, a bar with a great outdoor space with different food trucks every day
  • Guglhupf, a bakery, cafe, and biergarten serving contemporary southern German cuisine; it also has a large outdoor dining area
  • The Lakewood, Phoebe Lawless’ latest restaurant, and Baby Scratch, the bakery next door with delicious pies, pastries, and bread
  • Durham Co-op Market, the area’s only co-op market
  • Grub, a fast casual spot with an awesome rooftop patio
  • Joe Van Gogh, another great local coffee shop
  • Pine State Flowers, a flower shop that exclusively sells locally grown flowers

Lakewood features a mix of homes, with older homes built in the 1920s-30s and new homes built in the last few years. Homes in Lakewood are priced from the $300,000s to $750,000s. 

4. Old West Durham: Hip with Character

Another one of Durham’s oldest neighborhoods, Old West Durham is located west of downtown and borders Ninth Street, a popular area between Duke’s East and West Campuses with tons of restaurants, shopping, and more. Ninth Street is home to some of the best food options in Durham, including Zenfish, Monuts, Happy + Hale, and Burger Bach (a New Zealand-inspired gastropub). Durham’s only Whole Foods is located just off Ninth Street.

Houses in Old West Durham are mostly smaller, with most sized around 1,200 square feet, on lots around .2 acres. The neighborhood is home to a few larger homes as well. Homes are priced from the $300,000s to $750,000s. 

5. Duke Park: Retreat in the City

Duke Park, located north of downtown, is a beautiful, peaceful neighborhood developed in the 1920s. As the neighborhood continued to develop through the 1950s, Duke Park is unique for its many modernist and contemporary homes built around that time. Duke Park is home to a beautiful 17-acre park with greenway access, playgrounds, and more. While Duke Park is not as walkable to restaurants and shops as the other neighborhoods on the list, the green space and unique homes more than make up for it

Homes in Duke Park are priced from the $300,000s to $800,000s. The older homes built in the 1920s and 30s are generally smaller and situated on smaller lots around .2 acres. Homes built in the mid-twentieth century are usually situated on larger lots, around .5 acres, and many have basements. 

These are our top 5 neighborhoods near downtown Durham - what’s yours? Comment below to let us know! If you're interested in moving to one of these awesome neighborhoods or any part of the Durham area, contact us today and we would be happy to work with you as your realtor. Also, if you are just browsing our North Carolina listings, you can use our advanced search or our map search to help you find your next home.

Nov. 9, 2021

Buying or Selling Long Distance?

Check out our two most recent guides we've put together. These will help you if you are coming from out of state to buy in the Triangle, or have to sell while away. The links are below and also in our Guides and FAQ section.

Out-of-State Buyer's Guide for the Raleigh / Durham Area

Here's the overall process if you are buying a home, but don't currently live in the area:

1. First we will set up a call together, which takes 30 minutes to 1 hour. The call will help me familiarize you with the area, along with helping me understand exactly what you're looking for. When you plan your first trip it will also help me to know what areas and neighborhoods to show.

2. I will set up auto searches based off of your criteria, for example what kind of neighborhood or what style of home you like. This will notify you automatically when a home that matches your criteria hits the market. If you are already getting these emails I will help adjust them to make sure you are only getting listings that are relevant. *As a side note, be careful using platforms like zillow or trulia to search - they do not update their listings frequently and many of the homes on those websites may already be under contract.

3. We will plan a first trip together, where we typically tour 1 or 2 areas of interest. The tour schedule will look something like this:

Day 1 1pm-4:30 tour area #1 (for example Durham or Raleigh) and see a few homes

Day 2 1pm-4:30 tour area #2 (for example Chapel Hill/Carrboro or Hillsborough) and see a few homes

Day 3 1pm-4:30 (reserved time to see a few more in one/both areas above)

The timetable above may change if there are more or less areas we need to tour and discuss. For example, some people will come for a definite buying trip, versus doing two or more separate trips. 

4. After the first tour we usually narrow down to an area or two and can adjust the auto searches to let us know the moment something comes on the market in those spots.

5. While you are not here in the Triangle we can do a video tour of new listings. The most important thing to know about videos is that the dimensions of different spaces is still difficult to gauge. If the seller's realtor has a floor plan then that definitely will help show the spaces when combined with the video.

6. Some buyers will put an offer in on a house without seeing it, utilizing the video tour and the floorplan. It is a little risky, and so it depends on your particular comfort level. If you've toured the neighborhood and the area during the first trip then that helps a bunch.

7. Some buyers will fly down the next day and see the home depending on the offer situation. Basically it depends if the sellers only have one offer or several. If there are multiple offers then it may be a waste of time, unless the sellers set an offer deadline that gives you enough time to see the property before it is put under contract.

8. A second more serious house hunting trip is also common. Tip: If this is planned in advance I wouldn't recommend doing it in the middle of the winter, as there typically is a few less homes to look at than during the other seasons. The one good thing about the winter is if you find a home you like you can typically get a pretty good deal, as it is less competitive.

9. Other than that pretty much everything else is the same once you get under contract. You will work on the loan (if not paying cash) and order inspections. You do not need to be here for the inspections, but some people prefer to come. It's always nice to come to inspections if your work schedule isn't too hectic.

10. For closing it's much easier to be here in person to sign documents at the attorney's office. There are such things as 'mail away' closings, but that will depend on if your lender approves them or not. A power of attorney for a spouse is also possible. If you are paying cash then you don't need to come to closing, although most people still do to talk to the attorney and just make sure everything is wrapped up!

Out-of-State Seller's Guide for the Raleigh / Durham Area

For out of state sellers who don't live in the Raleigh/Durham area it can be tough to think about selling out of state. Fortunately we've helped a lot of home sellers do just that, and it's not difficult at all when you have some help! Here are the steps to use as a guide for how the process will go:

1. First we set up a call that typically lasts from 30 minutes to 1 hour to discuss the property and the process.

2. Next I will take a tour of the property. If you have a property management company or someone that has the key I can meet them to pick that up.

3. I'll get a 'recent updates' list from you. This is what you've done recently including any updates to the HVAC, roof, kitchen etc. This will help me in determining the property's value.

4. After touring I'll give a detailed price analysis based off of recent sales nearby. I'll make adjustments if one home is a fixer upper, or one has been renovated.

5. I'll also let you know what the obvious repairs there are, and what should be done to maximize profit. There is a balance here, since not every repair or renovation will return more than 100% of the cost. Some improvements are worth doing to make sure the home sells for top dollar, and some we can skip.

6. If it is an older home or one that needs a lot of work, sometimes it is worth getting a home inspection to see what repairs are needed. The buyer will get a home inspection during the process as well, but we don't want there to be a ton of big ticket items, since this may cause the buyer to back out of the contract.

7. If there are repairs or renovations needed we can get a contractor to work on them. We know several in the area that we can recommend if you don't know someone already. We're happy to check in periodically while the work is being done. If we are staging the home we'll start on this around this time too, as long as the furniture isn't going to get in the way.

8. When the house is ready we get the photographer to do the photos, and the appraiser to measure the home. These are items we cover as part of our marketing.

9. Once the listing is prepped we'll send you a link with a draft of the listing. That way if there's a typo or anything about the neighborhood we missed you can help us catch it!

10. Next we do the signs and list the property. The property is then syndicated to all the real estate websites including zillow, trulia, realtor.com, redfin, movoto, the list goes on and on. We use listhub as our main syndication tool.

11. Usually the first weekend we'll set up the open house and put the open house notice on all of the websites. We'll also keep you posted on the buyer's realtors that are showing the property, and let you know any important feedback.

12. After an offer is received and negotiated we'll also walk you through the inspection and appraisal process. If there are any issues along the way we'll continue to advise you in order to have a smooth and successful closing.

13. You don't need to be here for closing, although you'll have to get the 'seller docs' that the attorney prepares signed and notarized wherever you live. 

We look forward to working with you, and please feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.

Nov. 9, 2021

How to Buy Before You Sell

Buying and selling at the same time can be a daunting undertaking, especially with the seller's market here in the Raleigh-Durham area. Luckily, there are several options to make the process as easy as possible.

Option 1

If your lender approves you to carry two mortgages at the same time, you can go ahead and buy your new home. This allows you to move all your furniture and stuff to the new home, then prep and sell the vacant old home. This is by the far the easiest, but you may have to pay 2 mortgages for a couple of months until the home sells.

You can also use this option to buy first and then quickly sell your current home to reduce the overlap. Sometimes you can even eliminate the overlap entirely if you close on the same day, or use a 'rent back' when you sell your current home. Contact me for more info!

Option 2

If you need to use your equity in your current home to purchase the next one, then you can use a service like Ribbon. Ribbon buys your next home for you, and then you rent it from them until your home sells. At that point you get a mortgage and complete the purchase. The fee for this is typically ~2% of the new home purchase price, and sometimes you can get the seller to pay the fee since you will be providing an all cash offer through Ribbon.

Option 3

Get your current home under contract (ideally with a longer closing and rent-back period), and then place a contingent offer on another home. This way is the hardest, since a lot of sellers in the Raleigh-Durham area don't want to accept a contingent offer. However, if the home you want to purchase has been sitting on the market for a bit then this can work. Depending on the situation you may have to put up a lot of non-refundable deposit money, so it can be risky.

Let us help!

If you have any questions about this process, please don't hesitate to contact us and we'll be happy to help! Also, if you are buying or selling long distance be sure to check out our guides for this in our Guides and FAQ page.

 

Nov. 1, 2021

Questions to Ask HOAs in the Raleigh-Durham Area

Questions to Ask HOAs in the Raleigh-Durham Area

Below is a list of important questions all home buyers should ask when buying in an HOA community.

HOA Question #1: What are the fees?

HOAs usually have some sort of dues paid either monthly or yearly, and these can vary drastically from community to community. This expense has to fit into your budget. 

Generally, these dues cover the costs of maintaining common areas of the community, such as landscaping the entrance and caring for greenways. If your neighborhood has a pool or clubhouse, your fees will usually cover maintenance costs for those as well.

Be sure to ask exactly what your dues cover and specifically what is not covered. Ask who handles the bookkeeping and manages the money. In addition to the monthly base fee, find out how the HOA covers unexpected expenses, like major repairs to the pool or clubhouse.

HOA Question #2: What are the HOA restrictions?

Parking regulations are common, such as no parked cars on the street overnight and limits on how long an RV can stay in a driveway.

Some HOAs restrict not only the kinds of animals allowed (no chickens, for example), but may limit the number and size of animals (like one dog or one cat, 25 lbs. or less) and restrict the permitted breeds.

If you love to celebrate Christmas à la Clark Griswold, check for the HOA rules about holiday decorations. Some associations don’t allow elaborate lighting and may limit when you can put decorations up and when they have to come down.

HOA Question #3: Are there style guidelines for homes and property?

Are you required to submit any changes to the house or landscaping to a review board? If you’re building a new home, do your blueprints need to be approved before you even break ground? Also check if there are rules as to materials used for decking and driveways, exterior paint colors, or even window size.

If going green is an essential part of your lifestyle, be sure to inquire if you’re allowed to compost, add solar panels, harvest rainwater, landscape with drought-resistant plants, or hang clothes outside to dry. Some associations don’t permit these kinds of things, even if they have a positive impact to the environment.

HOA Question #4: Who manages the HOA?

Some communities hire professional management, so a larger part of your monthly dues goes to administrative costs. Others rely on a volunteer board elected by the members of the HOA. This may be problematic if the most enthusiastic and dedicated volunteer doesn’t have the skills or experience to fill the role effectively. Learn how often the board meets and how decisions are made that affect the whole neighborhood. How much of a voice do you have as a member?

HOA Question #5: How are disputes handled?

Naturally, you don’t expect to have problems with your neighbors—but it does happen. Ideally, you’ll be able to work out minor nuisances directly, but if you can’t, what recourse to do you have?

Try to figure out if there are any potential problems by visiting the community on different days and at different times of day. Are there any obvious issues with noise or lighting? For example, does the neighborhood light nearby shine directly into the master bedroom of the house you’re considering? Does the neighbor across the street fire up his muscle car early Sunday mornings? If those things annoy you, you’ll want to know in advance what you’re facing—and how to deal with it through the HOA.

HOA Question #6: What kinds of neighborhood events does the HOA sponsor?

Some communities love to get together. Whether celebrating national holidays or monthly birthdays, they make it an event for everyone in the neighborhood. While attendance is optional, you may feel like a “party pooper” if you never join in. On the other hand, it shows that your neighbors are a close-knit group that enjoys each other’s company.

HOA Question #7: What participation requirements does the HOA have of members?

Some associations have certain expectations of members. For instance, each homeowner may be asked to volunteer a couple hours a month in the community garden. You’ll want to be informed in advance if your HOA assumes you'll take an active part in community projects like these.

HOA Question #8: Are home-based businesses permitted?

Many people work from home. But some HOAs strictly forbid businesses operated in the neighborhood. If your association has a blanket ban on commercial activities, then it’s possible that even a home office is not permitted. You may think you can keep your activity hidden, since clients and customers don’t come to your home, but it might not be worth the risk of getting caught violating the regulations. 

HOA Question #9: Are rentals allowed?

If you're buying a home in a popular destination, you may be thinking about listing it as a vacation rental for extra income. Check not only the city and county regulations, but your HOA rules as well. Even if your city permits short-term rentals, your HOA may not.

HOAs generally try to regulate the sorts of things that affect property value. Ideally, the goal is to create a cohesive, well-kept community. Some associations may seem hyper-restrictive and others may not seem to have any power at all—so do your due diligence to understand the rules and expectations of your preferred community before falling in love with a home there.

Homes for Sale in the Triangle

If you are interested in browsing homes for sale in the Triangle in HOA communities or without an HOA, follow the links below! Please contact us using the link at the top right of this page if you have more specific questions. 

Homes for sale in HOA communities:

Homes for sale with no HOA: