Chapel Hill and Durham have a lot of things to compete over, and now you can add real estate to this list. Both Durham and Chapel Hill have seen an influx of residents over the past few years, and with this influx has come a sizable number of property developments. Durham has arguably seen more success with attracting recent graduates than Chapel Hill has, and this is due to less expensive rent and more available office space for the tech and research startups that are pouring into the triangle. Chapel Hill will always win for prospective buyers with a deep purse and children because of the superior school system. For those who do not have kids or whose kids have graduated, Durham is now starting to appeal to an older demographic who would never have considered Durham before 2014.
Chapel Hill will always be a college town, so the expensive condos and high rises in Chapel Hill aren’t selling nearly as well as initially anticipated. The target buyer for these high rises was rumored to be out of town well-off alumni who would purchase and stay in the units when they came to UNC sporting events. The other target buyer/renter was a young successful 22-30 year old who worked in the area. The problem with this target is that Chapel Hill will always inherently be a college town. If you are fresh out of school, you don’t want to move somewhere where the bars you frequent are filled with 18 year olds’ using fake IDs. The college town vibe is what gives Chapel Hill its’ charm, but it is also what could alienate young professionals from living there out of school. In fact, I know alumni who are in grad school or work in Chapel Hill who commute back and forth from Durham/Raleigh just because they wanted to feel as if they were progressing out of the ‘college’ phase of life.
Durham, on the other hand, is seeing great success with their influx of real estate developments. Durham has transformed its reputation from a crime-laced 2nd tier city to the food and cultural center of the triangle (and maybe even South). This has made the real estate seem like a very worthy investment to many, and the prices have remained reasonable. The area has been gentrified, so it now gets to create its own culture. Chapel Hill has a culture (really great culture at that), but it is not being redefined by the influx of stores and buildings. It is merely an addition to what was already a fantastic town. You know what you are getting when you move to Chapel Hill, but Durham has an urban and evolving edge that Chapel Hill will never have.
Chapel Hill’s taxes are another reason people may be more willing to buy a condo in Durham as opposed to Chapel Hill. Older well off people may be more willing to invest in property in Durham because it is an up and coming area where real estate prices will only increase without the Chapel Hill taxes. Young professionals do not want to pay extra education taxes for the children they do not have, and the older well off individuals who can afford to buy second properties also don’t want to pay these extra taxes. Durham is still close enough to Chapel Hill (8 miles to be exact!) for transit to and from sporting events to be fairly painless. This way, the buyers get urban low-tax living while still being spitting distance from UNC. This could be the best of both worlds for many prospective buyers.
Chapel Hill currently has 3 large developments being built downtown with numerous others scattered around the city. Durham is facing similar growth, especially as more business are choosing to relocate or open a Durham office. While I will always be a Chapel Hill girl at heart, you have to give Durham some credit- they are doing the whole “cultural revival” thing right.