Chapel Hill is a proud part of the Research Triangle—an area so named because of its abundance of universities. Yes, Chapel Hill is a college town--par excellence--that comes with all the trappings of campus living, including loud parties and a transient population. However, the campus has imbued the area with a strong, diverse and liberal atmosphere that makes Chapel Hill living quite pleasant, and helps to explain why students don’t seem to want to graduate around here…
Unfortunately, along with a high student population and all the activities and amenities it brings, you’ll find that renting in Chapel Hill can be expensive for a city of its size. Be prepared to shell out big bucks to secure the apartment of you’re after, but know that the money you put down will be worth it in terms of overall levels of fun and availability of good eats and conversation.
Most Chapel Hill residents will agree, there’s no stereotypically “bad” area of the city. Yes, all of the city’s neighborhoods are characteristically different from each other, so when you start your apartment hunt you’ll need to know what you’re looking for. Do you want an older, established family-friendly neighborhood? An all-inclusive new urbanist type development? An apartment close to campus and nightlife action?
Young and Rowdy
Let’s start at UNC’s campus, which occupies a large portion of the center of town. If you’re a student, you’ll be able to find a wide variety of housing located here—no matter what type of student you are. For instance, Baity Hill has housing for graduate students and families, while Odum Village is a mix of undergrads and older students, meaning more righteous house parties to annoy the bejeezus out of you.
In many of the areas along the perimeter of campus, there will be rental housing available. Houses and apartments in this area are in older, historic homes with great character. The neighborhoods here are varied, but many rentals are occupied by the professors and faculty of UNC. You’ll need to have a professional’s salary to settle in here, as two bedrooms generally range from $900-1100.
Cool and Calm
While nothing in Chapel Hill is too far from campus, if you’re not concerned with walking or biking to class, consider living in some of the non-UNC neighborhoods of town. For those reluctant to move into cookie cutter type homes, the Kings Mill-Morgan Creek neighborhood is a good place to look, located just southeast of campus. A family-friendly atmosphere pervades here, with a number of rentals in older, more established buildings. This area is also famous for its miles of walking and biking trails. Two bedrooms range from $800-1000.
Quiet and Convenient
To the north lies plenty of development great for people who want a more suburban feeling lifestyle with all the convenience of the city. New developments on Homestead Road, directly north of the city center, attract a mix of graduate students, families and young singles. These rentals have the added benefit of being close to large, convenient shopping centers. Two bedrooms here generally range from $900-1100.
New and Fancy
Additionally, there are two notable new urbanist developments located within Chapel Hill city limits. Southern Village and Meadowmont are intricately planned, walkable, all-inclusive neighborhoods located in the southern and eastern portions of town, respectively. New urbanist living will cost you, as two bedrooms in these developments generally range from $1200-1400.
Okay, yes, there are a lot of rentals in Chapel Hill, but there are also a lot of renters. The fall term rush can really overwhelm the market, driving up prices—and hassle—for renters, particularly in the areas surrounding the campus. Try to start your apartment hunt in the spring or summer to locate the best rental without all the endless yammering of undergrads. If this is impossible, allow an extra 30 days for securing your dream apartment. It should also be noted that many of Chapel Hill’s newer developments will be listed through rental agencies and realtors. If you’re looking for apartments in newer developments, go straight to the source. Otherwise, a realtor will be the gateway for some of the best apartments in older, more established neighborhoods.
Because of its large campus and its density, Chapel Hill is relatively navigable without a car. However, if you need to get into neighboring Research Triangle cities by car, traffic can be a headache. Rush hour generally runs from 7:30 to 9:00 in the morning and 4:30 to 6:30 in the evening. During this time, the 30-minute commute to Durham can take up to an hour and nearly double your blood-pressure as well. As for public transport, Chapel Hill Transit provides fixed route bus service throughout the city, from campus to the northern suburbs, as well as into neighboring Carrboro. Additionally, Triangle Transit has local and express bus lines from Chapel Hill into Raleigh-Durham.
Student or not, you’re going to be really busy in Chapel Hill: University events, a vibrant music scene, cultural and scientific institutions, parks, and proximity to outdoor recreation keep just about any type of Chapel Hill resident happy. Chapel Hill also has a number of accolades, including Bon Appétit magazine’s “Foodiest Small Town” and one of the highest ranked public school systems in the state, so rest assured you’ll be well-educated and well-fed in whatever apartment or other fantastic dwelling you may choose. The only thing left is to get out there and find one. So go!