City Guide / Raleigh-Durham

Moving to Durham, NC: Your Relocation Guide

By Bri Hand | Nov 15, 2021
Brightleaf Square shopping center near downtown Durham, which includes restaurants and specialty retail shops in renovated tobacco warehouses.

Situated midway between the East Coast’s collegiate north and its laid-back south, Durham, NC, unites the best of both U.S. hemispheres’ character. With three major American institutions in such close quarters, Durham is brimming with things to see and do, but Durham residents enjoy taking their sweet time in checking things off the list. 

Planning on moving to Durham, NC? This guide will cover the basics of what you need to know to get settled and inspired for your move to the Durham area, including: 

  • History
  • Climate and weather
  • Demographics
  • Cost of living
  • Transportation
  • Neighborhood guide

For your introduction to this warm and charming city, read on!

Moving to Durham, NC: A brief history of Durham

There are quite a few threads of history that brought Durham to what it is today, but these three forces were particularly impactful in shaping the city:

1. Tobacco

Durham owes most of its growth over the centuries to the tobacco industry. Washington Duke, the namesake for Duke University, was the preeminent tobacco magnate of the region. Today, Durham’s economic heritage is still symbolically inscribed in many popular gathering spots in town, like the American Tobacco Trail and the newly refurbished American Tobacco Campus.

2. Civil rights

Nearly 40% of Durham residents are African American, and Durham played a significant role in the Civil Rights movement both domestically and in the public eye. The Durham Committee on Negro Affairs was particularly influential in lobbying for Black voting rights on a national scale, and Durham is now regarded as the site of the first sit-in—known as the Royal Ice Cream Protest—in the Civil Rights movement writ large.

3. Duke University

Most Americans are familiar with Durham because of the prestigious institution that calls the city home: Duke University. Not only is Duke the largest employer in the metro area for young professionals , but its collegiate culture plays a part in much of city life and surrounding areas. Many of Durham’s premier cultural institutions are university-led or university-funded, giving the wider public access to world-class cultural, athletic, educational, and recreational resources.

With municipal initiatives designed to honor Durham’s heritage, Durham continues to find a balance between forward-looking perspectives while also honoring its past.

Moving to Durham: Weather

In Durham, temperatures remain mild from around April through October, with average summer temperatures hovering just below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters remain on the chillier side. January tends to be the coldest month of the year, with average temperatures ranking around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (with a low of 32 degrees Fahrenheit).

As a humid subtropical climate, Durham can get a fair amount of precipitation. The rainiest seasons are spring and fall, with precipitation reaching a peak in March and plenty of thunderstorms in August. Pack an umbrella or two, and bear in mind that those two soggier months are responsible for the lush, thriving local agriculture signature to the region.

Moving to Durham: Demographics

As of 2020, 283,506 people were living in the city of Durham. Ethnically, the U.S. Census Bureau divides population as follows:

  • 49.2% White alone
  • 38.7% Black or African American alone
  • 13.8% Hispanic or Latino
  • 5.4% Asian alone
  • 3.2% Two or more races
  • 0.3% American Indian or Alaska Native

15% of Durham residents were born outside of the U.S., with 19.6% of households speaking a language other than English at home.

Durham’s diversity is represented in the private sphere as well as the private sector. There are 21,339 businesses in the city, with 8,953 of those businesses identifying as women-owned and 8,305 identifying as minority-owned.

Age demographics in Durham are well-balanced:

  • Under 18: 22.7%
  • 18–24: 14.1%
  • 25–44: 33.6%
  • 45–64: 21.8%
  • 65 and older: 8.9%

Roughly 36% of households in the city belonged to wedded couples, while around 44% were non-families, with 33.7% being single-person residences.

Moving to Durham: Cost of living

On average, the cost of living in Durham, NC, is 11% more affordable than the rest of the U.S. What’s more, Durham is also the least costly to live in compared to nearby Raleigh, Cary, and Chapel Hill. 

Housing in the best neighborhoods in Durham rest around 43% below the national average, with apartments in Durham averaging the following rent per month:

  • Studio apartment: $961 per month
  • One-bedroom apartment: $967 per month
  • Two-bedroom apartment: $1,125 per month
  • Three-bedroom apartment: $1,451 per month
  • Four-bedroom apartment: $1,701 per month

In 2019, the median household income of Durham residents was $58,905 per year. Beyond housing, Durham residents enjoy utilities for 13% less than other Americans, though transportation costs are a hair steeper than in other cities (around 1%).

Moving to Durham: Transportation

To cover the most ground in Durham, its surrounding cities, and the lovely rolling countryside that shelters the Triangle, you’ll want to have access to a car. That said, there are several other ways to get around Durham.

Public transit

There are two public bus networks in the city:

  • GoTriangle: GoTriangle is the best way to travel around Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh without a car. There are 22 bus routes that knit the three Triangle cities together, with vehicles arriving every hour or 30 minutes. Passes are available for single, weeklong, and month-long terms.
  • GoDurham: The GoDurham bus system serves the Durham area, with 21 bus routes across the city. Like GoTriangle, buses stop every hour or half-hour, with passes available for daily or multi-day use.

Both Gotriangle and GoDurham have ACCESS passes that grant free access to public transit for specific types of trips, such as medical emergencies. 


Cycling is big in Durham as a form of both recreation and transportation. 

The city even has plans to further develop its biker-friendly infrastructure, with subsidized bike boulevards cutting through and around Durham. A comprehensive map of the myriad “bike and hike” trails webbed throughout Durham can be found on Durham NC’s Transportation portal.

Moving to Durham: Neighborhoods

More than others, Durham is a team player: This city is one of three cities in North Carolina’s “Research Triangle” (or simply “the Triangle”), along with its neighboring university cities Raleigh and Chapel Hill. 

As such, there’s plenty of neighborhoods to choose from if you’re looking to live near all that Durham has to offer. 

1. Old West Durham

Old West Durham has mill-town roots, and the modern influence of Duke University, whose east and west campuses bookend the neighborhood. Old West’s 9th Street is a vibrant concourse brimming with cafes, bars, and hangout spots, as well as some staple shopping centers like Harris Teeter and Whole Foods.

2. City Center

Bull City’s main mascot, a bronze bucking bronco statue, lives in Center City, which is the main commercial hub in the area. Here, you’ll find the Durham Convention Center, Durham Performing Arts Center, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and plenty of other venues for entertainment, bar-hopping, and dining experiences.

3. South Durham

South Durham rests below the belly of the city, with easy access to Central Durham, sister city Chapel Hill, and some excellent natural preserves below city lines. Removed from the hustle and bustle, with the best of the Triangle just a short drive (or bus ride) away, South Durham is one of the sweetest spots on the city map to find an apartment. 

4. The Triangle

If you’re moving to Durham, you should know a bit about the closeby cities in the Triangle, as well as some of their neighborhoods.

  • Raleigh: Raleigh is the second-largest city in North Carolina and hosts some of the south’s most renowned cultural institutions, like the North Carolina Museum of Art. Beyond central Raleigh, Millbrook, Umstead, and Greater South Raleigh are some of the coziest places to make a home out of this Triangle city.
  • Cary: While not technically part of the Research Triangle, Cary is a worthy contender and a bustling hub in its own right. Some of the highlights here include Lake Crabtree County Park, Sahlen’s Stadium, and one of the most popular kebab joints in the area, Bosphorus Restaurant.
  • Chapel Hill: As the home base of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill marries rich university resources with a family-centric vibe. The city possesses some of the best opportunities for outdoor recreation in the city, like Carolina North Forest and a hearty supply of trailheads spangled around the city.

Living in Durham is like living in three cities in one. Wherever you choose to settle, you’ll be in no short supply of ways to stay inspired by your surroundings—and to make yourself feel right at home.

Look forward to relocating with Landing

Durham has come a long way since its early days as a tobacco metropolis, pivoting toward modern times with a burgeoning tech industry even as it maintains its amiable southern charm.

If you’re thinking about moving to Durham, NC, you’ll need an apartment uniquely equipped for you to set you up from the get-go. 

From coast to coast, Landing offers fully furnished apartments in Durham with flexible-lease apartments across the country to help newcomers settle into their new city. No matter how long you plan to stay or your apartment needs, we’ve got your perfect rental match to make you feel right at home from the moment you land. Browse our apartments in Durham here, or contact us to learn more about what a Landing membership can do for you.

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.