Original Contact by Carl Johnson
After living in downtown Durham for years, I had found our perfect "next step" home in the North Durham area. At the time, in the early 2010’s, my friends and colleagues were questioning my new location which was "more bang for the buck," a further drive from my favorite restaurants and theater, and the thought of jumping on 501 just to get downtown seemed silly. Flash forward to today and this lifestyle of a highway commute to work or living outside the city but still enjoying its benefits has become the new norm.
We continue to get squeezed in the Triangle as more and more people are moving in, for the Triangle is the new Austin/Silicon Valley! This changing scene in the real estate industry reminds me of our The Preamble to the Code of Ethics for the National Association of Realtors, which is like our Real Estate Oath. This preamble states “REALTORS® should recognize that the interests of the nation and its citizens require the highest and best use of the land and the widest distribution of land ownership”. I take to heart some key notes from the preamble, which are having the best interests of the nation, citizens, and land, always looking out for each one with all of my clients. This is why we get creative when needed, use our knowledge to the best of our ability, and work together as a team with our clients.
As land parcels become less available there are a few suggestions we make to our clients to help guide them through this time of growth for the area. Such as land use options, expanding your house search zone to include more locations, looking at a home/land parcel with the vision to renovate or update the unit in mine, and knowing your zoning and local municipal resources to make the most out of your land/unit are all ways we can help you!
Statistics from the local Triangle MLS (Multiple Listing System) show a staggering change in active land parcels available from 7,000 available in 2012 to only 2,250 in 2023! See the graphs below.
To counteract this ongoing land shortage issue, Durham and the Durham Planning Department (LINK) has worked hard to move restrictions and regulations around the area to free up more land. For example, the Department has made it easier for property owners to build ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units) in support of these structures. An ADU allows for a property owner of a single unit to build an additional detached or attached unit on their property. This gives opportunities for more rentals in the area which was otherwise not possible. The Planning Department removed the required parking restriction for ADU, making the option to build easier (LINK). An ADU gives flexibility to the property owner such as a rental unit for more income, a future home for a family member who can’t otherwise find a local house, or even a home office if needed. As always it is important to refer to the Planning Department's website for detailed information on ADU’s as well as contacts to learn more. CLICK HERE for their user friendly website and see if an ADU is an option for you.
You may think that if you do not have an existing property that an ADU may not be of much help to you, however the knowledge of an option to build one and the potential rental revenue it brings in, may add to your affordability with an increased income.
If land and home options are in such shortage in your area, looking for a home outside of the immediate downtown or your original ‘desired’ location leads to many new opportunities! With a larger zone you tend to find larger houses and lots, lower priced homes for their city counterparts, and more inventory options for both land and houses. We are seeing buyers that would normally have purchased in the Orange, Durham, Wake County markets buying in Alamance and Person areas to find a house that checks all their boxes. This is why one of our suggestions for a client looking for particular factors in a house or land is to expand their search zone. For example, the demand for homes in the immediate Durham area is so high, that as inventory comes and goes it is causing home prices to go up in that area. However, that very similar home may be well within your price range in a nearby county. Click the link below to learn more about these new growing areas to see how they can be a great fit for you: Click Here
Local home builders and land developers have also noticed the land shortage following the trend and draw to nearby counties. You can find great new construction homes being built in almost any county around Durham if a new home is a checklist item for you! Local WRAL News (The Triangle is losing trees... and getting hotter (wral.com)) states that from 2010 to 2020, 11,120 acres of tree canopy has been removed to make room for the land demand in the Triangle, that is more than 8,400 football fields to put it in perspective. Timothy Maloney, Wake County’s Planning Director, sees options to manage the growth better to help with tree loss, including a study which identified the opportunity for planting 1.5million trees back to the land.
If your property search location is a must for you, due to work, schools, or anything really, we understand. This is why when the land and unit inventory in that specific area is an issue we have other recommendations for you! Doing a property search with the idea of a renovation either small or major in mind can let more properties be on your radar. From opening walls to make an open concept style home, adding on a bedroom if the zoning allows, or just looking for simple cosmetic changes which can be made to make that house your dream home.
Our friend and colleague Teresa Chancellor is a fabulous local interior designer I highly recommend to our clients. She has a unique way of making any space work for you and help to bring your dreams to life. CLICK HERE to contact Carl and learn about Teresa, her style, and how to get in touch!
If you are looking for land parcels to build your own home on but having trouble finding options in your area due to land shortages, we have some recommendations for you too. Subdividing the parcel, or splitting of the property into two or more separate parcels, is an option not many people think of but can be useful with land shortage. For example you may find a parcel of land that is in a location you like but it is priced too far above your budget. As a Real Estate Professional I can reach out on your behalf to the listing agent and see if the owner would explore subdividing the land. If zoning permits this would allow the newly split parcel to be more affordable to you. There is also the option for you, if you research before you purchase it, to see if you would be able to split the parcel yourself, and then buy the land and sell off the divided land therefore generating some revenue back to you. If a home you find is too large for your needs or slightly outside your budget you can also explore, if zoning allows, dividing the unit into separate dwellings. For example if the structure and land allows, you can make a house into a duplex style home where you are gaining rental income from the new unit.
Another option that may exist for some, if budget allows and the right parcel comes on the market, is the full demolition of the existing structure. As houses are popping off and on the market in population dense areas such as Durham, demolition can be a realistic option for you to get all checklist items on your house at one location.
With demolition or even just a small renovation it is once again important to know the right resources to guide you through the process. Things to consider for any of these processes are zoning on the parcel, permits that will be needed, well/septic allowances, and the ability for utilities and cable/internet to get to the house.
As stated before, the City-County Planning Department of Durham has a fantastic and easy to use website: City-County Planning Department | Durham, NC (durhamnc.gov)
Every county and municipality has resources such as this which are there to help you with your parcel and house needs. CLICK HERE to visit our blog that has links to the Triangle area planning departments. You want to make sure to always start with them before beginning a project to avoid slowdowns along the way. For example you want to pay attention to wet lands and any part of the land that does have water on it. You may have setbacks about distance to waterways/wetlands which may restrict construction, you definitely want to know this before digging! As mentioned above other common restrictions that show up are use of well/septic systems. The addition of a new structure, both detached and attached, cause a review of well and septic size and needs. You will also find that there may be restrictions on the ability to get utilities such as gas, electric, and internet/cable to the property. After review you may be presented with options such as gas, propane, or an underground oil tank for the new structure all with varying prices to build them in. In the end you have to make decisions that are within regulations, best value for your budget, and in the long run what will make the land its best use for you!
From the start of your home search we will work with you each step of the way. Though the land shortage in the Durham area is very real, it does not mean that you will miss out or have to compromise. Working with you as a team, getting crafting, and keeping up to date on options as well as our knowledge and trust is why we help all of our clients win in this market. CLICK HERE to call or contact us today at Carl Johnson Real Estate and we can get started together.