Why Durham is the Perfect Place to Plant Some Roots

Why Durham is the Perfect Place to Plant Some Roots

We sat down with Jon Fletcher, former president of the Durham Regional Association of Realtors, and asked him about Durham's housing market and why the city has quickly become the go-to destination for people looking to relocate.

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Yvette West saw this swing in a picture and thought it would make a cool addition to the 4,000-square-foot downtown condo that she and her husband, Rich, renovated in a building across from City Hall. Photo by Briana Brough.

For newcomers, how would you describe our current real estate market?
Inventory right now is very tight. I think a lot of people are realizing what a great place Durham is to live, and they don’t want to move away. When a house does come on the market, it gets snapped up quickly. I think it speaks volumes about what a great town we live in. … If you look at the Triangle, Durham is still the most affordable – you get the most house for your money.

If you’re new to Durham, learn more about the area in the Durham Magazine Relocation Guide  –> Click Here.

What’s the average turnaround time on the market right now?
The last study I saw said 2.9 months, meaning that at the rate that people are buying, if nothing new came on the market, we’d be out of things to sell in 2.9 months. That’s very low.

How did we develop such a strong market?
You look at what Durham has gone through during the past 10 years – the revitalization of downtown, which is now the happening place in the Triangle with the Durham Performing Arts Center, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the American Tobacco Campus, the central district with all the restaurants and the art spaces and the hotels – it’s just a wonderful place to spend time in. We’ve got great universities, like Duke University and North Carolina Central University. … You’ve got other areas like The Streets at Southpoint – that area was nothing 12 years ago, and look at all that’s there now with restaurants, shopping and things to do. Durham has become a destination. It’s no longer this sleepy little town.

First-time homeowners Austin and Leah Chan in front of their new home on Watts Street. Photo by Kristin Prelipp, KPO Photo.
First-time homeowners Austin and Leah Chan in front of their new home on Watts Street. Photo by Kristin Prelipp, KPO Photo.

What’s your top tip for someone moving into this area who wants to buy? Where do they start?
I tell people, figure out what you want first. … If they’re not sure where they want to be – I hate to say rent, but rent for six months. Figure out where the things are that you like doing. Wait until you’re ready. And when you know what you want, get it. Because it may not be there tomorrow.

Are you noticing any particular neighborhoods becoming more popular over time?
The downtown neighborhoods are really going strong. There’s a lot of revitalization that’s happening. In the southwestern part of Durham – Woodcroft, Hope Valley Farms, that general area – when those come on the market, they sell quickly.

What are people most surprised by when they move to Durham?
Those who relocate here from other
 areas of the country are treated to award-winning restaurants, one of the top-rated theater venues in the country as well as other wonderful theaters, one of the most recognizable minor league baseball teams in the country, the trail system, the shopping, the easy access to the airport and interstates – these are all part of what makes Durham great. And, compared to many areas, the cost of living and the affordability of housing can be very surprising.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 1.29.35 PMWhen someone is ready, how do you recommend they choose a Realtor?
Ask your friends for referrals and recommendations. Talk to your Realtor. … You have every right to interview as many Realtors as you want. Find one who’s really looking after your best interests. And make sure they have the contacts for lenders and closing attorneys and whatever else is needed to make the transaction as smooth as possible.

Once you’ve moved here, what do you recommend to make Durham feel like home?
Get out and explore. There’s plenty to do. And I tell people to call me if they have any questions. Realtors are good resources for referrals for plumbers, painters, roofers, trades or whatever. Good Realtors do more than just buy and sell a house. They’re there for you.

What else would you tell someone about our current housing market?
Durham has changed phenomenally over the past 20 years that I’ve lived in the area. When I relocated to the Triangle, a number of areas were recommended to me, but Durham wasn’t on that list, so I chose another part of the region. Then I got to know Durham and the people that live here, and I decided to move here and haven’t regretted it at all! And it’s funny, because now Durham is the place to be in the Triangle. The person who gave me the list of places that I should consider? I’ve given her grief about it ever since.


Jon FletcherJon Fletcher
Former President
Durham Regional Association of Realtors