Durham Bulls Athletic Park at Night

Top Ten Durham Websites

by Jay on June 10, 2010

My Picks for the Ten Best Websites to Learn about Durham

If you believe that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location, it probably seems a little bit of a paradox that the descriptions most real estate agents write about their listings barely mention it. Part of this is just habit left over from the boom days when marketing a home wasn’t that important. But some of it is a twist on the forest and the trees conundrum.

Describing the forest and not just the trees

Local agents in any market are usually so familiar with the forest, or their communities, that they forget that many potential buyers are from out of the area and are shopping for homes online. This is true for Durham real estate and Durham luxury real estate. The experience of living in identical homes in Forest Hills or Hope Valley would be totally different, to say nothing of Duke Forest, Treyburn or Croasdaile.

Researching Durham – the Forest AND the Trees

My regular readers know that much of what I write about in these posts is about our community here in Durham. I can only add some flavor to the experience but can’t cover everything. To help people who come to the site to search for a home I’ve put together my list of the top ten websites you need to check out to learn about Durham. Use this shortened URL to bookmark the post so you can come back as you continue to learn more about Durham. If you Tweet or Facebook you can use the tools at the bottom of the post to share this with your friends and acquaintances.

Number 1. The Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Link to Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau

Exploring this site is like a day at the circus. Don’t let the official title fool you, the DCVB is Durham’s official marketing agency and has gone all out to provide information and links to everything positive about Durham. They provide a number of free subscription services too. Bloggers and other webmasters can use their resources too. For example, there’s are links in the sidebar here to the on-line visitors guide and the events calendar maintained by the DCVB. Many of the images of Durham are also provided by the DCVB. If you want just one site to learn about Durham, this is it.

Number 2. Bull City Rising.

Link to Bull City Rising

Durham has a lively blogging community. My favorite one is from Kevin Davis, who is not a long time Durhamite but has captured the essence of what attracts so many younger people to the Durham community. Some of his posts are newsy almost gossipy, like restaurant openings but frequently he will do thorough analyses of some vital community issues. A lot of times the comments are very lively and insightful. The fact that Kevin publishes as much as he does while still working a full time job at Duke is rather amazing. He’s my blogging hero and BCR reflects a lot of the personality of the new Durham.

Number 3. Durham Cares.

Link to Durham Cares web site

Durham Cares is the brainchild of the folks at Bandwidth.com who are committed to what they call social-entrepreneurism. What the site does is link up volunteers to the myriad of organizations in Durham trying to improve our community. The really interesting feature of the site is the dozens of videos featuring people who have volunteered through the organization. Here’s a total antidote to those who still think Durham is some sort of lawless gang ridden bastard child of the Triangle.

Number 4. BestHomePro.

Link to Best Home Pro Search

BestHomePro is a real estate search engine developed locally. In the last year or two they have shifted their business strategy to providing services to real estate agents by matching them with potential clients looking to buy or sell homes. Implementing that strategy has meant attracting potential clients with lots of good Durham neighborhood information. They are now the number two real estate site in the Triangle in terms of traffic and are still moving up the chart. Using the site is free including matching you with an agent. I hope if you’re on the site to shop for a home that eventually you will come to me to represent you but if you want proposals from others, BHP is the way to go. Full disclosure…I share office space with Jeff Johnston, the founder, and Brian Davis, the customer service manager and we help each other out a lot. But that doesn’t affect my opinion that BHP is the best real estate site in the Triangle…other than mine, of course, but each has it purpose.

Number 5. The Durham Chamber of Commerce.

Link to Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce website

Besides being a great place to buy a home and live, Durham is a great place to do business. The Chamber’s website definitely takes a business slant. If you are planning on moving not just you but a bunch of employees to Durham, take advantage of the Chamber’s “Make IT Durham” program that helps with relocation.

Number 6. The Independent

Link to Independent Weekly website

Indyweek.com is the website of The Independent, the Triangle’s truly independent tabloid weekly. The paper is distributed free around town especially in urban neighborhoods. If you lean to the right in your politics and social views you might not appreciate the paper or the website but it has great coverage of the arts and music scene. Although The Independent has its roots in Durham it really covers the whole Triangle so you might find its events calendar a little more comprehensive than the DCVB.  A fun site you can browse for long stretches.

Number 7. Durham Public Schools.

Link to Durham Public Schools website

DPSNC.net is the official site of the Durham Public Schools. A dozen or so years after Durham’s two school systems merged the new system has started attracting accolades. This has not been easy because a part of Durham’s legacy as a textile and cigarette manufacturing center was that it was home to a large class of working poor and the problems that persist in many urban school systems. The reputation of Durham’s public schools has lagged the reality. Somewhere along the line administrators realized this problem and the system’s communications programs are now generally excellent and doing their job. The website is part of this effort and is well organized to provide information for parents that may be moving to the area. I can’t swear that it is totally unbiased but it is a good place to start to learn about public education in Durham.

Number 8. The Herald-Sun.

Link to Herald-Sun website

The hometown newspaper has not been immune to the pressures in its industry. It has gone through several evolutions in its online presence and is still struggling to find its legs on the web. But for concentrated and timely news about Durham, it can’t be beat.

Number 9. Durham County.

Link to Durham County Government website

I prefer the county site to the city’s site for most things although both are useful.  The city’s site is definitely more attractive.  As a real estate agent I find it much easier to find out information from the tax records about Durham residences on the county site than similar information from either the Orange or Wake county sites. It’s a good place to learn about services and the city site lets you do things like pay water bills online. On city manager Tom Bonfield’s page you can sign up for his newsletter which is surprisingly full of what’s happening kind of stuff.  It’s great to see good communications efforts from our government officials.

Number 10. Duke University and Medical Center.

Link to Duke University website

You really can’t talk much about Durham without talking about Duke which is the largest employer and user of office space. The medical center is one of the best in the world and Duke athletics claim at least two national championships this year…men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse. The university and the medical center have a sprawling web presence with every school and department having their own little corner. But a good place to start is the main site. One branch is the human resource area including a search tool for Duke jobs. But don’t count on really using it to find a job. The descriptions are largely boilerplate and vague and give no clue to salaries or real responsibilities. Submitting resumes is totally useless.

Honorable mentions.

  1. Downtown Durham Inc. DDI had been led by Bill Kalkhof since its founding. Bill and his small staff (two additional people at the moment if I’m not mistaken) should really get credit for being the catalyst for turning around Durham’s downtown, which is not both symbol and part of the reality of Durham’s emergence as the jewel of the Triangle. The website is attractive and useful if you want to find living or commercial space downtown. Bill is an excellent writer and overall communicator and I often wish he would catch the blogging bug and add it to the DDI site.
  2. BullCityMutterings. Speaking of blogs, BullCityMutterings.com is the blog of the longtime leader of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau, Reyn Bowman. Reyn is retired now and spends a lot of time on his Harley. The blog is often about “destination marketing” issues that may be obscure to most of us but as the guy who was most responsible for helping create a Durham “brand” Reyn often shares great insights about our city. Some recent thoughts about the potential for merging the city and county governments was reprinted as a guest editorial in the Herald-Sun.
  3. Endangered Durham. This is obviously a labor of love that preserves the history of Durham in old photos and occasional commentary from Gary Kueber. It’s kind of spooky when these “old” photos often don’t feel all that old. One picture of an old Esso gas station reminded me of when my dad filled up his ’54 Plymouth (the family’s first car) and we would get these amber glass tumblers as a premium. Fun site and a great service to preservation.

There are dozens of sites I could have added here. Assembling the list has been a lot of fun and I learned more about the “forest” in the process. If anyone has any suggestions for things I’ve missed, feel free to let me know. If I agree that a site contributes to understanding Durham, I’ll do updates to the list.

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