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Considering a move to Raleigh/Durham...most family friendly areas?

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My wife and I are looking to move South, away from the foul Massachusetts weather. We would like to stay on the East Coast and are strongly considering the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. We recently read the Business Week article on the most family friendly places to live in the US and saw that Cary was picked for NC. The most important characteristics that we are looking for are:

1. Diversity
2. Educated population
3. Strong school system
4. Short commuting distance to work
5. Affordable homes (i.e. decent homes for <$350K)
6. Progressive culture
7. Economic diversity
8. Warmer/sunnier weather than Boston!

So far everything we have read about the Raleigh/Durham area seems to support the characteristics that we are interested in. Can anyone weigh in and give me the insiders perspective? We would consider other areas on the East Coast as well and are open to suggestions. Assuming Raleigh/Durham does meet most of our requirements, please let us know what towns in and around Raleigh are the most family friendly with good school systems.

Thanks for any insight that you can provide!

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    It's been a few years since I moved away from the area, but I can at least get you started and top your thread. I think the Triangle area would fit your criteria, though so much depends on what you're used to now ("short commute" - is that ten minutes or 30 minutes to you?). Due to the universities and companies in RTP, the Triangle population is very educated overall, and it is the most diverse place that I've experienced in the South. I'm not sure how it compares to Boston in that way. There is winter (in addition to the occasional hurricane/ice storm/tornado), but winter is certainly not as long or as harsh as Boston's.

    As far as specific areas, Cary is very much suburbia. This works well for many people; lots of people relocating from other areas choose to live there. I believe the schools are good and you shouldn't have much trouble finding a house, though again, my information may not be the most current (but housing prices are pretty easy to check online). Chapel Hill/Carrboro have very good city schools and I enjoyed the area. I think it has more personality than Cary. You might have more trouble finding a house in your budget, though - I don't know what the economy has done to the market there, but housing tends to be more expensive. In my experience, commuting to the RTP area is quicker from Chapel Hill than from Cary or Raleigh (assuming you live close to one of the main roads), just because fewer people are doing it.

    I know there are parts of Raleigh that would probably meet your criteria, but I'm not very familiar with Raleigh. Durham has some nice neighborhoods, but also some not-nice places, and the schools aren't uniformly good.

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    Thanks so much for your response. That definitely helps to paint the picture.

    For a short commute....I would say 30 minutes or less would be ideal (I currently commute 1.5 hours one way!). I am also interested in less traffic (i.e. if I have to commute only a couple of miles but takes 1/2 hour then not ideal).

    It sounds like Chapel Hill is more urban than Cary which is great information. My wife and I definitely enjoy city life more than suburbia but we have 2 young kids (4 and 8), and would need someplace where they could play outside. I am not looking for a large house or large property but would at least like for our kids to be able to play at a nearby park.

    We plan on heading down to the area in the next month or so. This information will help us to target our visit.

    Thanks again!

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    When I lived there, you could get to RTP from Chapel Hill, Durham or Raleigh in 30 minutes, assuming no major traffic incidents. That may or may not still be the case (I moved away five years ago). However, living in Chapel Hill and commuting to Raleigh (for example) will take longer. There are some buses that run back and forth, though.

    I wouldn't necessarily call Chapel Hill "urban," but most of it is pretty walkable, and the bus system is good. (Parking at UNC is very limited, so most people either live in Chapel Hill and take the bus, or drive from Durham or wherever, park in park & ride lots, and take the bus from there.) There are a couple of areas where the developers planned housing, grocery store, and other retail in a walkable area. Look for Southern Village (south of town) and Meadowmont Village (off Highway 54). I'm not sure what prices are like, but it's something to look at if that's the sort of thing you'd be interested in.

    Again - I'm sure there are some areas in Raleigh to investigate; I just don't know what they are specifically. Durham may also have some places you'd be interested in - there are definitely some places I'd look into in Durham (the Southpoint area, for one), but I just don't know about schools. North Raleigh is one place to start looking, but hopefully someone more informed will see your post and chime in.

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    Hi There,

    I've lived in both Raleigh and Carrboro/ Chapel Hill and worked in Durham and Raleigh so I've got some definite opinions about each. For my money, I would invest in Chapel Hill or Carrboro. Carrboro has a funky, small community feel, (big on local food production, local industry etc.) but is literally, and I'm not kidding here, walking distance to Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill as you know is home to UNC-Chapel Hill which is one of if not the top ranked public Universities in the US. The best public schools are also located in Chapel Hill. There are multiple routes to Raleigh, Durham and RTP and even in crap ola traffic days it was never more than 45 minutes, but more like 25. They folks are pretty nice, it is probably the second most diverse town. They University is a big part of that. Chapel Hill is one of the prettiest towns in NC, but it is a smaller town. My husband moved from Boston to Chapel Hill to attend business school there and it took him a bit of an adjustment, but he grew to love the town quickly. We actually met there and though we had to move for jobs, it is still our favorite place to be. Southern Village is a great little neighborhood to live in, the area around the university is very nice, honestly, it's hard to find a yucky part of Chapel Hill. Be aware that things are WAY cheaper down here, so don't fall for the McMansion trap that a lot of folks who move in from out of the area fall into. Do your research, take your time, pick the neighborhood first, and house second. You can get a really great quality house, in a great location, for well under $350K if you take your time.

    Durham is VERY close to Chapel Hill. I would not recommend Durham. It used to be a great city, and they are working to regain their former glory, but the loss of the tobacco industry in that town hit it hard and crime, poorly planned urbanization, and an impossible city budget have left alot of things in disrepair in the city. As I said, it is improving, but it is a long hard road ahead of it. They also have a less than ideal public schools.

    I agree with jent103. Cary is Suburbia squared, and if you are looking for diversity, it is not a great place to be. I have several friends that teach in the area and they all agree that Chapel Hill has the best public schools and that the children from Cary are holy rotten terrors for the most part. That being said, it is a very popular place for folks to move to who come from up North, and they have alot of "Mommy" networks. Still, it is a new town and does not have alot of the character and personality that Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Raleigh or even Durham have.

    On to Raleigh. I spent a few years there and I know the area pretty well. For my money, if I needed to move back to Raleigh I would live in the 5 points area. It is VERY close to downtown, has late 19th century to mid century homes, has great little shops, theaters, etc. and is very close to the beltline. Some of the better schools in Raleigh are also here. This is considered the "Old Raleigh" and maintains the character of the town as it has grown and changed in the last 100 years. If you do live in Raleigh, make sure you live somewhere near the beltline. I had an apartment in North Raleigh for a little while, and while it does have some of the fancier homes, I found the area to be a bit to sterile and shopping center centric. There are plenty of new home development neighborhoods in North Raleigh, but honestly, those are a dime a dozen down here. The Briar Creek area is allright, and is near a lake, but it is farther from down town Raleigh, where most of the cities restaurants, bars, and theaters are. It is definitely not walkable and would be an expensive cab ride. In West Raleigh, back behind NC State university ( BEHIND, NOT!!! to the LEFT of ) there are some nice homes and cozy neighborhoods. You would be walking distance to downtown, and to Hillsborough Street which is the main venue location for student coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Your neighbors would be professors. I can't speak to the local integrity of the schools in West Raleigh, as I have no experience with them. Again, if you move to Raleigh, I would really recommend the 5 Points area. Hope that helps!

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    That was fantastic feedback and I appreciate the thorough response. It's actually funny that you mention McMansions...we are actually in the process of selling ours. My wife and I now realize that bigger is not necessarily better...even with kids. We both came to the realization that we would rather scale down and live in a neighborhood where we can walk to interesting places rather than a vast development with cookie cutter homes. I would like to have some semblance of a yard for the kids to call their own...and because we have a dog, but as long as there are parks within a short walking distance then I am good.

    Thanks again for your insight!

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    Do you have a job here? I'd suggest living as close to work as possible. Sure the traffic here is better than Boston, but if you've been stuck on I-40 because of a nasty car wreck it isn't fun. It will also met #4 on your list.

    Schools. I grew up in Chapel Hill and now live in Durham. My neighborhood school is in the top percentile based on the N.C. Board of Education rankings. Check their website for school rankings. The Raleigh/Wake County school system is in a bit of debate at the moment. The newest school board is moving to neighborhood schools over diversity/busing. Lots of discussion but once again the kids will get redistricted to meet the standards. It seems every year thousands of Wake County school kids change schools. That won't happen in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system because it is much smaller.

    Though Chapel Hill and Carrboro are in Orange County, there are two separate school systems for the county. Yes, they should merge, but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

    The Durham School system has some better schools than others. It's pretty easy to see based on rankings which schools have more parent involvement and are in wealthier areas. It's a shame it is this way. As I said earlier, my neighborhood school is well ranked. I don't have kids so I'm not as familiar with the schools as others. There are traditional calendar, year-round, and magnet programs (I think only at traditional calendar).

    I think you could find a home under $350k in any triangle community, you just have to work with the Realtor to get what you want.

    Not sure what you mean by progressive culture. There are a lot of arts and entertainment options.

    Weather is warmer than Boston in the winter. That's a plus for me.

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    I would say Morrisville or Cary. The school system is good.
    Especially Morrisville has a lot of communities right in the heart of rtp for affordable housing and that makes your commute short and convenient. the weather now is just lovely.

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    My daughter went to grad school at UNC-Chapel Hill for 2 years & just graduated in May, so we did visit her several times while she was in school. Even though I never lived there, I do agree with Archeaology based on our visits & my daughter's opinions. Chapel Hill/Carrboro is very pretty and definitely the nicest location (and my favorite)if you are comparing Raleigh, Durham & Cary. It is roughly the same size as Northampton, if you have been there. The campus is beautiful & there are great restaurants (ethnic, southern, burgers, etc.) Carrboro is great, more funky & artsy with interesting & different shops (not what you find in a mall), a farmers market, & literally within walking distance of Chapel Hill. My daughter's professors told her that Chapel Hill has the best school system.
    Her 2nd favorite is Raleigh. The downtown is nice. She didn't care for Durham at all. The Duke campus is nice but as Archaelogy points out, Durham's downtown is in disrepair.

    We did a lot of driving around & shopping to help her move in, & what I remember of Cary is lots of shopping malls/centers with your typical mall stores, Targets, etc. She did buy furniture from a couple in Cary who were downsizing, & I remember they had a beautiful home, nice size (but not a McMansion) that I believe they sold for about $300,000 (this would have been in summer 2007).

    According to her professors, Chapel Hill is pricier as far as housing goes. There is ethnic diversity in Chapel Hill because of UNC. She bought furniture from a couple from South America, someone from India, etc.

    Will you post again after you visit? Have you been to the area at all?

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    Thanks for all the postings and information. To answer some of the questions...

    By progressive culture I mean strong artist community, open-minded people that are accepting of people from different walks of life. I guess it really goes with the diversity characteristic. I guess to put it in perspective I think of Cambridge, Somerville, Northhampton, Boston South End, Allston, etc. as towns/cities with a progressive culture.

    Thanks for the link "absolutkz", I will certainly take a look.

    I am currently looking for a job in the area mostly looking online and have submitted a couple of resumes. I work in the Financial industry specifically in brokerage, but I also have a technology background. I know that Credit Suisse and Fidelity are in the area so I am looking at those companies. So if anyone knows of a company hiring in the area that needs my skill set please let me know...I would really appreciate it!

    I haven't been to the area yet but am planning to visit soon. I will make another posting after I visit. I did speak to a former neighbor of mine who relocated to Hillsborough, NC near Durham/Chapel Hill and she has nothing but good things to say about the area. She went for a large house in a planned development which is not we are interested in, but her description of Chapel Hill is consistent with all of the descriptions on this thread. She compared Chapel Hill to Cambridge Mass. but with a better school system which sounds exactly like what we are looking for. One other benefit that she mentioned was the reasonable tuition for the NC state universities for NC residents. That is another huge bonus.

    Thanks again for all the responses and keep 'em coming! The more information the better.

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    Hillsborough is a really nice town. It's Orange County school district, though, which isn't as good as Chapel Hill/Carrboro. (I don't know that it's *bad*, though, so definitely do some more research before ruling it out.) I'm not sure it would be a good fit for you, as it's definitely more rural/suburban than urban, but it's grown a lot over the last few years and is worth checking out while you're in the area.

    Do most states not have reasonable tuition for in-state students? Just be aware that admission to UNC-Chapel Hill, if that's what you'd be aiming for, is very competitive even for NC residents (though it's better than trying to get in as an out of state student, for sure). There are certainly other good universities in the UNC system, as well as NC State.

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    I moved here in 1971 and have seen it grow in tremendous steps. Here is my opinion.

    1. Diversity
    ---It is a diverse place and getting more diverse as we speak and for as the south has diverse (although not always fair), different population groups are growing including Asian, Spanish speaking and European SE Asian influecnces. There is still good ole boys if you look but not as much as other areas of the south (my opinion) but good ole boys are OK as long as not ignorant. But funny you ask as the Wake County School board (Raleigh) just eliminated its diversity policy and is going back to neighborhood schools. Still, some schools will still be diverse just not as much in the new suburbs like Cary/Apex/etc. when they get finished. Durham is very diverse and a very ecletic population

    2. Educated population
    No place better

    3. Strong school system
    There are some good schools and that will be a selling point from real estate agents when looking for a place to live

    4. Short commuting distance to work
    Nothing to is too far away but if you work in Durham proper, you would probably want to live in Durham or Orange County. If you work in Durham/RDU airport, Raleigh is OK. (For tax reasons, Durham has moved as near the airport as it can for tax reasons and the corps call Durham home when they are acutally closer to Raleigh.
    5. Affordable homes (i.e. decent homes for <$350K)
    should be no problem but living in Chapel Hill might be hard at thta cost, but might be easier just outside of CH.

    6. Progressive culture
    Orange county is probably more progressive but Raleigh, especially closer to DT, can be quite progressive. For an overall view, many people who have lived here and other "southern" cities say Raleigh has a more Northern feel. Take that for what it is worth. Having a hockey team helps !!! Go Canes !!!

    7. Economic diversity
    Not exactly sure what you mean but the level of cash and business opportunties is wide and vast. If I may say so, not just a bunch of rich people of one color. Due to very good jobs here from many kinds of business along with a strong government base, it is stable economy with good jobs and it draws people here who are successful, so therefore, good for families and a strong family feel, no matter how you want to raise your kids.

    8. Warmer/sunnier weather than Boston!
    Don't think there is a problem there as we have 4 seasons.


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    The triangle is a fabulous place to live and work. They left out amazing education opportunities with top rated colleges and univerisities with affordability. Also, great health care options.

    I moved to the Chapel Hill area in 2004 from Pittsburgh and as much as I missed my family, one winter was the cure for that. I just moved to Cary to be more centrally located for business. I am a realtor and want to offer my website to you which has a lot of information about the area.

    www.mariescheuring.com or www.movetoraleighdurham.com
    I post reports on the housing market, which is primarily stable compared to the bubble cities. It is a great time to buy though with prices at the lowest since I have been there, down about 10% overall. Check out the "local info" section to see this data.

    There are great schools throughout the area and each city has its own personality within a neighborhood for every lifestyle.

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