Where Are the Gay Neighborhoods in Chapel Hill & Durham, North Carolina?

Periodically, we’ll run guest columns from our member realtors on their areas, and issues that affect gay and lesbian buyers.  Here’s the next in the series – a great column from Wendy Tanson about Chapel Hill & Durham, North Carolina’s gay neighborhoods.  (click here to see Gay Realty Network’s Central North Carolina real estate page):

Pelham RoadThe Triangle area is a progressive, dynamic and diverse place to live for LGBT individuals and families. In particular, Chapel Hill/Carrboro, Durham, Hillsborough and North Chatham county provide an environment of acceptance and warmth, where gay & lesbian activities are plentiful and the community supports diversity in, and self-expression of, sexual orientation.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro boast the best school system in the state, as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s oldest public university (and one of its best). There’s a wonderful arts scene here, with plentiful offerings of theatre, music, dance and other performing and visual arts. Chapel Hill/Carrboro attracts a highly intelligent, progressive demographic, one which is focused on healthy environments and is supportive of the LGBT community. For ten years Carrboro was led by a gay mayor, Mike Nelson, and currently, Chapel Hill has its first openly gay mayor, Mike Kleinschmidt. Transgender individuals have run for town council, each high school supports an active Gay/Straight Alliance, and the school system’s gay teachers have formed a group for support and to help educate their students and foster understanding.

Chapel Hill CommunityChapel Hill and Carrboro, along with its sister city of Hillsborough, are the major towns in Orange County. Both Orange and Durham counties recognize partner rights in adoptions and survival rights in same sex couples; I’ve had clients specifically move to these counties before starting a family for this reason. In addition, Durham hosts the annual NC Pride Parade & Festival, which held its 26th celebration in September 2010. Over 2,000 marchers, and an untold number of spectators, flock to Duke’s East campus for the yearly event. The parade and festival are the culmination of a multi-day celebration that includes a drag show at a local bar, followed by receptions, happy hours and dance parties throughout the Triangle region, and concludes with church services, lunch and music concerts.

Drag Bingo, Durham, NCDurham is also home to the beloved “Drag Bingo” event, a bawdy monthly bingo game, where participants get serenaded by drag queens, enjoy the wonderful hosting talents of Mary K Mart, and raise funds for The Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolina. Now in its eighth year, Drag Bingo has raised over a half a million dollars for this important organization, while raising spirits in the process.

The Triangle is also home to the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, now in its 15th year. Held each August in Durham, the NCGLIFF is the second largest gay and lesbian film festival in the Southeast. The festival features a wide array of feature films, documentaries and shorts, and has been named a Signature Event for Durham by the Durham Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. In addition to films, the festival features comedians, parties, and an array of vendors.

Franklin StreetGay/lesbian clubs are also plentiful in the area, including such offerings as the Capital Club, Flex, Legends, Steelblue, Stir, The L Club and Warehouse29. Meet-Up groups for gay men and lesbian women abound as well. In fact, at last count, there were 17 LGBT-associated Meet-Up groups throughout the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region. These include an active Gay Parent Meet-Up Group for LGBT families who are raising children; the group currently counts over 150 families as members.

Want more? How about the Raleighwood Squares, a LGBT square-dance group, the Common Women’s Chorus and Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus, or the Triangle Gay Scientists Group? As these organizations demonstrate, opportunities and outlets are abundant and varied.

As for the real estate market in the Orange/Durham county region, there’s never been a better time to purchase a home. Pricing has, in most neighborhoods, rolled back to 2005/2006 levels, presenting tremendous buying opportunities. And the amount of inventory is much higher than typical. Couple these factors with extremely low interest rates and very motivated sellers, and you have the perfect mix for a great home purchase. Chapel Hill/Carrboro commands the highest pricing due to the school system and village atmosphere; homes in North Chatham, Hillsborough and Durham offer less premium pricing. A buyer can purchase an entry level condo or townhome, even in Chapel Hill, for just over $100,000 in this market. Average home sale prices in Chapel Hill/Carrboro average about $300,000, and in Durham, about $200,000. Hillsborough and North Chatham are somewhere in between, averaging about $250,000 sales price at this writing.

And there are all shapes and sizes of housing here, from a strong condo/townhome market, to properties with ten or more acres, and everything in between. Both existing construction and new construction are quite popular; Chapel Hill and Hillsborough also boast historic sections with properties over 200 years old (which is quite old in our neck of the woods).

In sum, the Orange/Durham/North Chatham areas of the Triangle offer vibrant, progressive and accepting communities for LGBT singles and families. Combine this with very attractive area attributes such as great schools, wonderful weather, fantastic health care systems (UNC and Duke in particular), an outstanding arts scene, and a plethora of real estate options, and you’ve got a quality of life that’s hard to beat.

Wendy Tanson, RealtorWendy Tanson is an award-winning broker with RE/MAX Winning Edge in Chapel Hill. A long-time Chapel Hill resident, Wendy loves helping clients throughout Orange, Durham and North Chatham counties find just the right house. A gay-friendly realtor, Wendy is a Certified Residential Specialist, a GREEN broker, an Accredited Buyers Representative, and a Seniors Real Estate Specialist. She serves as an Ambassador for the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and is also active in Chapel Hill’s synagogue, the Chapel Hill Kehillah.

In 2009, Wendy was named among the top ten individual RE/MAX agents in North Carolina, and among the top 25 Triangle agents (across all companies). She was recognized as Ambassador of the Year for the Chamber of Commerce in 2008, and Rookie of the Year by Prudential Real Estate during her first year in the business, back in 2003. Wendy would be honored to help you navigate the ins and outs of the area’s many real estate choices. For more information about Wendy, as well as a great source of area information, please visit www.wendytanson.com.

You can also find Wendy on Gay Realty Network here.