Living in Raleigh
By Carla Turchetti
It’s not your imagination. Raleigh’s front door is wide open and welcoming to newcomers. Like a high school homecoming queen, the Capital City is one very popular girl. United Van Lines lists Raleigh as the number five moving destination in its 2015 National Movers Study. Forbes recently declared Raleigh one of the top five cities in the country poised to become America’s next boom towns. And Mattermark, an investment intelligence firm, says Raleigh is one of the seven hottest places for startups outside of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area. The good news for anyone coming here to live, or anyone who is already here and is looking to make a housing change, is that Raleigh offers many diverse options for creating a home.
In and around downtown and Inside the Beltline there are numerous neighborhoods with single-family homes. Danny Taylor, CEO, Broker and Founder at Raleigh’s DT & Co., specializes in offering his customers an entire home experience. Danny says he can find it, renovate it, design the inside and make it a home.
“We’re getting a lot of people who are empty nesters now and are looking to get rid of the big house,” Danny says. “They want a smaller footprint closer to everything because they are still vital and active. But they don’t want to sacrifice any of the luxury or any of the finishes they are accustomed to.”
Danny says that means his rebuilds and his redos of Raleigh’s older homes include gourmet kitchens, large closets, media rooms and spa-like bathrooms on the inside, while remaining true to the historical integrity of the neighborhoods. He says his buyers are not bothered by smaller square footage and homes without garages in homes around the downtown area.
“We’re finding that the people who live on the 18th hole in Wakefield or Brier Creek are looking to sell that, sacrifice the size and be closer to the core of what is actually happening in Raleigh,” Danny says. “They want to be close to the action. They don’t want to have to drive 30 or 40 minutes in traffic just to get to a good restaurant.”
Downtown Raleigh has apartment rental options in buildings that are loaded with amenities like rooftop pools, fitness centers, and kitchens with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Sister properties, The Devon Seven12 and The Devon Four25, are located across the street from each other in Glenwood South.
“A lot of people like this area of Glenwood South to live because it has a nice neighborhood feel to it,” says Ashley Bowers, who handles leasing and marketing for the buildings. “If they have pets they can walk their dog around, but they’re still in the middle of downtown. They can walk a block over and go have a drink or go to a nice bar or go to a restaurant, and Cameron Village is only a half-mile in the other direction. It’s out of all the hustle and bustle but in the middle of everything, and they can walk everywhere,” Bowers says.
Bowers says there is not one typical downtown apartment resident. She says Devon units are leased by everyone from single professionals to mature couples to newcomers from other cities who are used to an urban lifestyle.
The redevelopment of North Hills has brought additional living options to Midtown. There are new luxury apartment buildings with modern amenities.
“North Hills is a great area to live,” says Caroline Price, a middle school teacher who lives in the Park & Market apartment community. “I love being able to walk downstairs to Harris Teeter and grab groceries, run across the street to work out at Pure Barre, or walk across the street to Cowfish for dinner. North Hills is a great area to just go shopping, go for a walk and especially to live. I really love the staff and neighbors at Park & Market. It is by far the best community I’ve ever lived in,” Price says.
The new apartments exist side-by-side with older, more established neighborhoods.
“Homes that were built in the 70s and 80s are in mature, leafy neighborhoods with larger lots; they’re closer in, and there’s demand for that,” says Jennifer Spencer, owner and broker at Spencer Properties in Raleigh. “The further out you go the newer the houses get, but the tradeoff is the smaller lots and you don’t have the big, mature trees and you have a little bit longer commute,” Spencer says.
Top Trends in Housing Features and Relocation Services
When newcomers arrive in the offices of local realtors, what features are on their “must have” lists?
My downtown buyers and Midtown buyers are very focused on location and walking or biking to their favorite shops, bars, restaurants, museums and parks,” says Colleen Blatz, Realtor/Broker with Allen Tate Realtors Falls of Neuse Road office. “Location is huge in identifying what homes would suit those needs. Many of these buyers tend to like the house , even if it is a rehab, to have some original features left. Examples of that are original hardwood floors that were redone, or a fireplace that has original brick or stone but has an updated mantel. They often like to have a piece of the history of the home. They are definitely more concerned about picking a prime location over the size of the home. They are, however, very focused on adding as many new high-end updates as possible to really give the home their own stamp of style,” Blatz says.
“People want a great kitchen, they want the kitchen open to the family room and they want an office – and in some cases, two offices,” says Jennifer Spencer, broker and owner of Spencer Properties. “We often hear they want a first-floor bedroom; not necessarily a first-floor master, but a first-floor bedroom with a full bath so they can have aging parents come visit with them or live with them. What we hear consistently from buyers, and I mean almost 100 percent of the time, is buyers want it move-in ready. And when they say move-in ready, they mean, ‘I want it updated’.”
It’s All Perspective
Custom homebuilder Warren Smith, president of L and L of Raleigh, says reactions on the cost of housing in Raleigh from newcomers depend on where they currently live.
“If your buyer is coming from Atlanta or Houston or Dallas, where you tend to get a lot of square footage for your money, they tend to be in sticker shock when they get here because they can’t get the square footage they got in Atlanta or Texas. They might get better quality, a lot more moldings and things like that, but they definitely can be disappointed in the square footage they get. That’s the opposite of if they’re moving from California, New York or New Jersey. They are thrilled with the square footage they get here.”
Corporate relocation services have changed over the past decade. Today there is more flexibility for transferees than ever before as leasing high-end residential properties in the Triangle has become a new viable and popular option for local homeowners and Triangle newcomers. The appeal of renting swings both ways; owners may get transferred out of state yet love their Raleigh home and want to hang onto it, and new arrivals may decide to rent before they buy to get a feel for neighborhoods, travel times and social amenities.
A hassle-free solution for owners who are potential landlords is to enlist the services of a leasing expert. Families who are accustomed to owning a home can be perfectly paired with available leasing opportunities and lifestyles. Leasing is a great option for temporary corporate job assignments, both domestic and international; whether coming or going.
Broker/rental specialist Joshua Furr, a native of Raleigh, works for Block and Associates Reality and is the No. 1 independent leasing broker throughout the Triangle. He has held that mark since 2012. Furr says, “Residential leasing is a fast-paced, ever-changing business that always keeps me energized for the next opportunity.” Just as in regular real estate practices, Furr’s company offers free rental evaluations to homeowners. He continues, “The biggest challenge for us is keeping nice properties available for rent, as homes in good condition rent very quickly.”
Raleigh’s Oldest Neighborhood: Historic Oakwood
Downtown Raleigh’s Oakwood community is the city’s only intact 19th century neighborhood.
“We are united by our rich history and our love for historic houses and gardens,” says Matthew Brown, volunteer historian for the Society to Preserve Historic Oakwood. “Some families have been here for over a century, but new residents are immediately welcomed into the community. Our oldest house is 175 years old and our newest house is under construction now. We have million-dollar homes and tiny apartments. We have busy streets and quiet lanes. We have great-grandmothers and brand-new babies,” Brown says.
The non profit Society to Preserve Historic Oakwood was created in 1972 to fight a proposal to run a freeway through the center of the neighborhood. The neighbors won, and Oakwood’s history continues to unfold.
“Oakwood is a true community,” Brown says. “We have a potluck supper every month and parties throughout the year, including a Mardi Gras party, a spring jazz supper, a July Fourth picnic and parade, and a progressive party in December. Tourists visit nearly every day, but especially for the Garden Tea and Tour in May and the Candlelight Tour of Homes in December. Halloween draws thousands of trick-or-treaters.”
One of those newer communities is North Raleigh’s Bedford at Falls River. The size of a small town, Bedford features housing options from townhouses to estate homes, and all of them are close to a variety of amenities.
“Buyers like the planned communities,” says Spencer. “They like that there is a pool, playgrounds, and a clubhouse, but more importantly, they like the culture that comes with that. They say, ‘we want to move our children into a neighborhood where there are a lot of activities’. So they are drawn to Bedford and Falls River because they both have movies on the green and live music and festivals and Easter Egg hunts and pancakes with Santa, and all those things they can get involved with as a family,” Spencer says.
Spencer says residents of these communities also love how they can step out their doors and walk to gelato or sushi, or even a paint-your-own pottery studio.
“I know that walkability is important with people in North Hills and downtown and other places, but it’s important in the suburbs, too,” Spencer says. “One of the things they are drawn to in these communities is the walkability in terms of going to eat or going out for entertainment, and they love that fact they they’ve got greenway trails and they feel safe either riding their bikes or walking their dogs.”
Spencer says newcomers who aren’t familiar with the planned community concept sometimes offer up negative feedback on houses being close together with smaller backyards.
“It’s a little bit of an education process helping them understand that there is a lot to be said for the really high quality of life with small backyards and houses close together, because it’s such a strong community feeling,” Spencer says.
“I will say, ‘Let me tell you about how we live in these neighborhoods. Your children will probably not go into the back yard, they will go out the front door where the other kids are. They’ll go to the playground, they’ll go to the shops, they’ll go the pool, but your kids and even your dogs will rarely be in the backyard, because you’re going to be out walking the dogs.’”
Another planned development in Raleigh is Wakefield, which is located close to the city limits near Wake Forest. This neighborhood has apartments, townhouses, villas, and homes where you can watch golfers tee off while you’re standing in your kitchen. There are also shops, restaurants and an elementary, middle and high school together in a row.
“We have lived in a few different parts of North Raleigh and really feel like Wakefield is a perfect fit for our family,” says Ellen Steiner, who lives there with her husband, Jonathan, and their six children. “The proximity and convenience of the schools, shopping, and amenities like the YMCA and Wakefield TPC make life easy but, most importantly, create a real sense of community. Then, to top it off, living in Wakefield feels almost resort-like due to the ever-present golf course views and miles of greenway winding through the middle of the subdivision,” Steiner says.
For home buyers with their hearts set on moving into a brand new home, there are opportunities to do that all around Raleigh.
“There is land still left in Raleigh, but it has gotten very pricey, which has pushed a lot of the builders out to different corridors like Holly Springs, Fuquay, Knightdale, and places like that,” says Warren Smith, president of L and L of Raleigh, The Home Builder’s Association of Raleigh-Wake County’s 2015 Builder of the Year.
Smith says current regulations keep new homes from going up on pockets of undeveloped land in some of the flight patterns for Raleigh-Durham International airport in northwest Raleigh. And in parts of northeast Raleigh there are regulations surrounding development in the Falls Lake watershed. L and L builds new homes all around the city, from North Raleigh to Inside the Beltline, and Smith says Inside the Beltline addresses aren’t necessarily attractive to newcomers.
“If you’re coming from out of town, Inside the Beltline may not mean as much to you as someone who grew up Inside the Beltline and has always lived there,” Smith says. “My theory is only five percent of Raleigh wants to live Inside the Beltline, and they are not going to live anywhere else. Depending on where you work, it may or may not be a value for you. But if you live there, you live close to the hospitals, all the restaurants in downtown, you’re ten minutes from the airport, you’re close to Crabtree Valley Mall and North Hills. There are a lot of conveniences to living Inside the Beltline, that’s for sure.”