Archive for June, 2010

Leave Your Mark

By:  Mary Hunter

There are so many reasons why I was personally drawn to work with Urban Durham Realty, but one of the top drawing cards was the genuine mission of supporting and giving back to the community. Having been a former primary grade teacher (with an emphasis in reading) in the Durham Public Schools, I was recently intrigued with the Bookmark project.

In the spirit of giving, Urban Durham Realty was invited to participate in actually handing out the books we had collected in our Bookmark Community Fundraiser to the students at Holt Elementary!  What a treat it was to see the bight smiling faces of the children as they selected these wonderful treasures.  Many of the children expressed with so much enthusiasm some of the following comments and questions:  “Do we  really get to keep these books?”  “Will you call my mom and tell her that I get to keep these books?”  “Wow, look there is Diary of a Wimpy Kid!”  “I can’t wait to show these to my family.”  “This is so awesome!”

Julie Marshall of the Office of Public Affairs, Durham Public Schools, has the right idea:  “In education,” she wrote me, “we are all convinced of at least one thing: the earlier and better a young person learns to read, the better he or she will perform in all subject areas throughout their educational career.  It is not an understatement to say that your support of BookMark stands to change lives.”

As you can imagine, it was a wonderful experience being involved with the children in Durham. We hope to be able to participate again next year and help the bring joy to many more children in the Durham Public Schools!  Thank you to everyone who helped us make this event so successful!


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The Top Ten Things I’ll Miss About Working at UDR

I’ll start with a disclaimer!  This is, admittedly, a bit of a self-indulgent blog post. I can’t help it.  I really love this place and the people in it, and I really want to make sure they know it.  Of course they’ll want to read it over and over in the coming months, and it’s just as well that the general public, too, understand what a top-notch time they’ll have when stopping by the office for business or pleasure!

Since joining the team at UDR, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would in regards to real estate.  I’ve also, though, been fortunate to learn volumes more.  Watching such a knowledgeable  group of individuals juggle a prosperous business, while also taking responsibility for how their success might relate to and benefit the community they serve – literally on a daily basis! – has been monumentally inspiring to me.  I hate to be trite, but you hear about how “one person” or “one company” can make a difference, and then you SEE how this is so, and one is so much more powerful than the other.  I’m not sure any of the chickens at UDR know how prideful I’ve been just to be a part of that effort, and how much of that ethic I’m taking with me because of them.

Here are a few other reasons why I will so genuinely miss UDR and company:

10. Chicken-related humor: With the UDR Chicken Chase in full effect within mere days of my arrival, fowl-themed banter has worked it’s way into the core of our daily exchanges.  I’m sorry that the next time I think of a really good chicken pun, no one will congratulate me, or point at me and wink.

9. Macs are everywhere: Not that I was ever confused on the issue, but swimming in a sea of Macs working in (mostly) seamless harmony has solidified my affection.  Even when realtors that will remain nameless insist on watching the Bachelor or World Cup on theirs, they still look smarter and sexier.

8. Speaking of computers…  I fear that without Mary, I will never again be made to feel like a brilliant technological trouble-shooter.  I’m pretty sure she invented a few bizarre computer glitches just so I could “fix” them and “save her life.”  Thanks, Mary.  I’ve been bragging about this for months.

7. Susan’s articles and clippings:  There is another dimension, whereby a working mother of 3 with her hand helping a thousand community pots actually has time to sit and clip (or forward) poignant articles and pertinent comics from any worthwhile publication you can imagine.  Either that, or Susan just never sleeps.

6. Jessica’s story-telling:  You know that person who tells a story better than ANYONE, and always makes you wish you were there?  That’s Jessica.  She’s so good at it, that I had to override my first and very strong inclination to highlight her skinny pants as my all-time most missed Jessica-ism.

5. Bill’s greetings: HOW will I ever know when I’ve reached my destination, without Bill yelling “Luci-Lu!” or Mz. Pestana!” at the top of his lungs upon my entry?  I’ll be confused about this for a while, and will surely miss the welcome.

4. Little girl laughter: Courtney and Mariana’s beautiful daughters often times “help” Mommy at the office, and I’ve reaped the rewards of having them around.  A Mom of 2 boys, I’m just not used to the girly laughter and chitter-chatter, and it’s been a divine awakening.  Squeezing Penny (not too hard, I hope) has also been a perk.  But most importantly, these two have demonstrated absolute grace in the way they balance their work and children (literally simultaneously.)  I know they may feel like it gets awkward at times, but on this side of the lens, it looks like they’ve got it all figured out… and I admire that more than I’ve ever been able to say.

3. Clever emails:  I really will miss the creative process that goes into formulating cleverly worded emails that essentially say the same thing (which is often a reminder or reprimand) in a new and inventive way.  Thanks, everyone, for helping me expand the parameters of my writing style, and for always thanking me for the extra effort!

2. Having to remind myself I’m “at work:”  It’s a problem I think everyone wishes they had…

1. One word: DREAMBOAT.  Yes, I dared.

I am very thankful for the experiences I’ve had with this firm, and I so cherish the lessons learned and especially the relationships that are mine to keep.  Good luck to you, Page, I know you’ll enjoy this too.   I’m trusting you all to keep me in the loop!

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Thoughtful Home Improvements Can Have a Big Impact

by Susan Herst

Ten years ago in the suburbs of Chicago, we remodeled the kitchen in our 1920’s home.  By reconfiguring existing space, we created a rather grand kitchen with an island without bumping out exterior walls which would have increased our footprint and made our already small yard smaller!  The trend was to create the family room off the kitchen; we really felt like we were working against all the pressures from the architect, neighbors, and family to work within our existing footprint.  I remember hoping that there would be a premium someday for homes whose exterior walls were still intact after 100 years.

Whenever I read Sarah Susanka’s books, I believe that day has come.  She advises her clients to not “rebuild their whole house, when in fact the house of their dreams is right under their feet.  The point is to determine where there is existing space they may not have recognized…. Ideally you want to stay within the footprint of the house.”  Music to my ears!

But here is the surprise… new data about the financial value of improving a home suggests that the entryway is where you get the BIGGEST bang for the buck.  Sarah agrees, “If you walk into a home that does not welcome you, that’s unfortunate.  I’m talking about having a gracious entry, ideally with natural light.”

So think about less invasive, thoughtful home improvements and don’t forget to consider the entryway!  Read more in Sarah Susanka’s book, Not So Big Remodeling.

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Cohousing Community Coming Downtown

By Jessica Sadler

Leaving yoga at Patanjali’s Place this week I ran across a flier Durham’s new Cohousing Community. I had been hearing talk about this around town but had yet to see anything official. I picked up the flier with a handy map and walked by the new location on my way to enjoy some breakfast at the newly opened Scratch Bakery (yum!)

It’s going to be located on Hunt St between Rigsbee and Mangum in what I personally think is a pretty hot area of Durham. The complex will have 24 condos ranging from 800-1500 sq ft and will all share a common dining room, kitchen, great room, meeting rooms, guest bedrooms, gardens, and rooftop patio.

According to their website, the community is one that:

  • Is supportive of and encourages the well-being of its members
  • Lives a cooperative, sustainable life
  • Maintains and strengthens links to the larger Durham community
  • Fosters a balance between private lives, our cohousing community, and the well-being of the wider community.

They hope to open in 2012 and have been hosting information meetings around town. You can find a lot more great information at their website:

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Ready, Set, Dough!

Saturday morning Urban Durham Realty participated in the third annual Doughman Race.  Although we were all quite nervous about eating and biking, running, and/or swimming we all had a great time.

The two Urban Durham teams (the Chickens and the Eggs) dressed up in bright green tutus (even the men!) and the third team we sponsored, the “Forest Hillbellies” sported 70’s style tube socks, wristbands, and headbands.  The great costumes that most of the teams wore made the race even better (check out the pics)!

I love food and thoroughly enjoyed that we got to eat local fare although I do wish I didn’t have to shove it down my throat so quickly!  The first leg of the race, which I did, began with eating a local yogurt parfait (delicious!), biking through Durham, and ended with eating barbecue, fried chicken, and hushpuppies at Hog Heaven (yum!).  The parfait was made with original yogurt, granola, and big chunks of strawberries.  All delicious but not so fun when it makes your teeth hurt from the cold and gives you brain freeze!  Same goes for Hog Heaven – all delicious but not so good when you have to drench the hushpuppies in water to have them go down faster!

But, really, my favorite part of the race was getting to see the city on my bike and going on roads that I don’t usually ride my bike on.  (Really, I mainly ride my bike on the American Tobacco Trail or on small residential roads).  Since I sell houses for a living I know the streets in Durham very well but it was still great to get a different prospective from a bike instead of a car.  Plus, I enjoyed knowing that the rest of the riders were also seeing a part of Durham that they may not usually see.  To tell you the truth, the Doughman team did a great job of making the bike course throughout the city and taking you on routes that are not well traveled by most, i.e., not necessarily the quickest way from point A to point B.

Last but not least, the reason why Doughman is a great race is because this year alone they raised about $20,000 for SeeSaw Studios and DIG! (final tally will be done in about a week)

P.S. The Forest Hillbellies came in 13th place, the Chickens came in 44th place, and the Eggs came in 54th place out of 70 teams.  Not so bad but it can only get better from here!

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