Archive for November, 2009

Why a chicken?

Today we are interviewing Courtney James, Broker-in-Charge of Urban Durham Realty:

Susan Herst: Hi Courtney, word on the street, and around the barnyard, is that UDR is letting the chickens out of the coop. What is this all about?

Courtney James: Yes, this week we are launching “The Great Urban Durham Chicken Chase.” Keep an eye out for the signature UDR chicken which, you may have noticed, appears on our UDR client designer tees.

SH: So how does the Chase work?

CJ: Each Urban Durham Realty listing will have a ceramic chicken hidden somewhere in the house.  When the house is shown to a prospective buyer, the buyer or their agent can win a prize for finding the chicken. They simply take a picture of the UDR Chicken with their cell phone camera and send it to

SH: Sounds like fun. Does this reinforce UDR’s “Urban Lifestyle” values in some way?

CJ: Absolutely. For one thing it highlights UDR’s commitment to supporting local businesses. The chickens themselves were designed and made by Charlie Dillingham of Durham’s Claymakers. In addition, the prizes that we give to brokers and their clients, who often are new to the area, are products of local businesses. For example, through the end of the year, the reward comes in the form of a petit pie from Scratch, Seasonal Artisan Baking.

SH: Cool. Sounds like this might also be a way of “spicing up” a day of showing houses to clients interested in moving to Durham?

CJ: That is true. An underlying goal of the Chase is to add a fun aspect to house hunting and make UDR’s listings stand out. For the buyer, this unique and amusing challenge adds an element of the unexpected into the home viewing experience.  Rising to the challenge of the hunt also bonds the broker and client and distinguishes our listings making them more memorable as “the one with the Chicken Chase.”

SH: Last question; why a chicken?

CJ: Several people have asked why we chose a chicken to be at the center of the promotion.  We feel that the chicken has become a symbol not only of sustainability, but also for a new urbanism – and we are ardent supporters of both.


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$8000 just for buying a house?

By Jessica Sadler

As you probably know, Congress has passed legislation expanding and extending the home buyer tax credit into 2010. This credit allows for many first time homebuyers to receive an $8000 credit on their 2009/2010 taxes. It also offers a credit to those “trading up” if they have been in their current home for 5 or more years. It can be a little complicated so I’ve listed the details below.

There are essentially two credits but they have some of the same qualifications. Both are described and the general eligibility requirements are listed below.

1. First Time Home Buyers:

The purchaser or his/her spouse may not have owned a residence during the three years prior to the purchase.

Maximum credit: $8,000.

2. Current Home Owners:

Current home owners who have used the home being sold or vacated as a principal residence for five consecutive years within the last eight.

Maximum credit: $6,500.


  • Effective 11/7/2009
  • Written binding contract to purchase by April 30, 2010
  • Close by July 1, 2010
  • May be applied to primary residences, including: single-family homes, condos, townhomes, and co-ops.
  • Homes purchased for $800,000 or less.
  • Single buyers with incomes up to $125,000 and married couples with incomes up to $225,000—may receive the maximum tax credit.
  • The credit decreases for buyers who earn between $125,000 and $145,000 for single buyers and between $225,000 and $245,000 for home buyers filing jointly. The amount of the tax credit decreases as his/her income approaches the maximum limit.
  • The buyer does not need to repay the tax credit, if he/she occupies the home for three years or more. However, if the property is sold during this three-year period, the full amount credit will be recouped on the sale.

See,,id=204671,00.html for more information.

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From Our Home to Yours

By: Susan Herst

What better way to start or end your day than sitting down at a cozy table in a friend’s home and catching up over a cup of tea? At Urban Durham Realty we are proud of our downtown home and invite you to stop in to get to know us and the Durham real estate market over a cup of tea.

Location. I guess we’ve all heard the old cliché location, location, location used to describe the most important thing about a new home. We are pretty fortunate in this respect. Our home is in the middle of the flourishing scene that is Downtown Durham. We are a stone’s throw from the Farmer’s Market, Central Park and artists’ studios galore. We are a short walk to everything and our “kitchen” is the Piedmont: one of Durham’s friendliest and tastiest restaurants. The people in our neighborhood are an eclectic blend of business, artist, student and more. Folks walk by constantly and our door is always open.

Furnishings. We decorated with functional, all white Ikea furniture and had our handy husbands help with assembly. We have a spacious reception area with great views and comfortable seating. Our oversized Mac monitor displays a slide show of great Durham homes. We have high ceilings, exposed beams and a fun area for kids to play while we chat. Our conference room doubles as a living room for entertaining guests and local artwork adorns the walls.

Family. We are 8 professional women. Meet us. Our newest additions are Mary Rae Hunter and Luci Pestana. Together we have lived in 25 houses with our families, have 20 children, one grandchild, and 9 dogs, cats and chickens. We have lived in Durham for a total of 69 “women years.” We love to talk about the real estate market and current opportunities for upgrading, downsizing, going urban with a loft or going country on the Eno River. As a business we are a small family and share what we are doing for clients so someone is always here to help you.

What all this means to you. We like to think of our new home as the perfect place to begin a relationship built on helping you with yours. We are patient, understanding, experienced, nurturing and have an eye for detail. We really like to get to know our clients and build long term relationships.  The ideal profile of an Urban Durham Realty client is a friend who needs professional support in the real estate market. If that is you, a family member or friend, or even if not, please stop by our new home and let’s have a cup of tea.

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Downsizing, is it for you?

By: Mariana Byrd

As someone who just moved from a 2800 square foot house to a 1700 square foot house, I can attest that downsizing was the right move for us; however it may not be for everyone.

Before I tell you what I learned about downsizing, I will tell you a little bit about us and why we did it.  First, we are not your traditional “downsizer”.  We are not retired, our children are not grown, nor did we pay less for our smaller house versus our larger house.

We are a young couple in our 30’s with 2 children (ages 5 and 3).  Up until our last house we had always lived in smaller houses, mostly due to the fact that one of us was always a student and we couldn’t afford anything larger.  Needless to say, we always made it work, had room for the occasional guest, and it always felt cozy.

The pending birth of our second daughter and the fact that both of us had “real” jobs, prompted us to expand and buy the biggest house we could afford.  Similar to going to the grocery store on an empty stomach!  After the initial excitement of more space wore off, we quickly regretted the purchase.  Not because of the mortgage payments (we did buy within our comfort range), but because in actuality we didn’t like maintaining such a large house.  Here are the things we did not consider when buying our large house:

  1. Buying lots of furniture and accessories was not our idea of fun, nor where we wanted to spend our money.
  2. Cleaning takes (at least) 10 times longer and, it turns out, is not how we wanted to spend our weekends.  Go figure!
  3. Several rooms remained unused, yet had to pay to heat, cool, and spend time to clean them.

I do have to say that, in the beginning, we did enjoy our large house.  We had ample room to roam around, the kids had their own room plus a bonus room, we had a guest bedroom, and we had a garage (a nice luxury we never had before).  As time went on, we realized that the large rooms were good for making large messes and closing the doors (to hide them), but not a comfy place to enjoy family time.  Therefore we started making plans to downsize…which is the hard part.

As a Realtor I see houses everyday.  Unfortunately, what I have found out is that you cannot judge a house by it’s square footage.  The main criteria you have to look at is a home’s floor plan and how adequate it is for your current and future lifestyle.

We had very specific needs/wants in regards to location, rooms, etc., so it took us several years but we did finally find the right home for our lifestyle and needs.  Luckily, we had already began to get rid of the clutter in our home.  And, by clutter, I mean clothing, toys, and anything else that we did not use on a regular basis and just stored in our house because we had the space.

De-cluttering helped us tremendously in feeling more relaxed in our house but this was just the beginning.  As you read in last weeks blog, staging is a very critical element in selling a home.  Therefore, before putting our house on the market, we had a very wonderful stager help us move furniture, add accessories, and remove even more items  from our house.

The house sold within 13 days and we were thrilled.  Our house looked bare in comparison to even few months prior so packing, although time consuming, was not as difficult as it would have been had we not already de-cluttered or put some items in storage.

It was another 2 months before we closed on our houses and just last week we moved into our new house.  We already feel more at ease in our new, smaller house and the whole family loves the fact that we can each enjoy different activities in separate areas of the house, yet still feel close and intimate.

But here was the hard part: unpacking.

We have realized that we probably “really” need only need half of our belongings.  When we were about half way done unpacking, we thought we had everything we needed (which we did), but we still had many more boxes to unpack.  And, as we’ve been unpacking those boxes, we have decided that most of the items will be sold or given away.  This does not even include the many boxes we have in storage.  As always happens with storage, we can’t remember what is in there except for one item (a winter duvet cover).

Downsizing has taught us that:

  1. We are willing to pay more for a smaller house because of the many lifestyle benefits.
  2. We can do without a garage.
  3. We love smaller, more intimate spaces.
  4. Built-in storage is critical in making smaller spaces work.
  5. We can live, and actually thrive, without so many possessions.
  6. And last, but by far the best, our family enjoys more quality time together in a smaller space.

Downsizing is not a term that only has to be used for empty nesters or retirees.  For us, it was definitely a lifestyle choice.  A choice that we gladly made.

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