Photo Credit: rudresh_calls
Much of Chapel Hill is dominated by the University of North Carolina but don’t be fooled. The city and its surrounding areas have much more to offer beyond the typical college town bells and whistles.
The city has one of the fastest-growing populations in the country, due in large part to the startup boom happening in nearby Durham.
Moving to a new city can seem overwhelming. That’s why we put together this guide jam-packed with all the vital info you’ll need to relocate to Chapel Hill.
- Which Chapel Hill neighborhoods are most affordable?
- Which neighborhood in Chapel Hill is the best fit for me?
- How long is the commute in Chapel Hill?
- How’s the walkability, bikeability, and public transportation in Chapel Hill?
- How dangerous is Chapel Hill?
- Where can I find apartments and houses in Chapel Hill?
- How much will it cost to move to Chapel Hill?
- Don’t forget, all of these things need updating!
- What’s fun to do in Chapel Hill?
And if you’re looking for more info on moving to Chapel Hill, check out our Chapel Hill move cost guide.
- Chapel hill has a population of 59,246, making it the 15th largest city in North Carolina.
- The average 1 bedroom rent in Chapel Hill is $1,040 as of 2018.
- Due to an influx of well paid tech workers and its proximity to major universities, the cost of living in Chapel Hill is currently higher than the national average.
Now, before we get too deep into details, check out this video of Chapel Hill natives explaining what makes their city so special.
When it comes to layout, Chapel Hill is in an interesting position.
It’s considered its own city, but Chapel Hill is frequently viewed as a suburb of Durham. The city is also part of The Research Triangle, a region formed around the three major universities located in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill
You’ll also frequently hear Carrboro, a town located directly to the west, lumped in with the greater Chapel Hill metro area.
Basically, if you want to be in the vicinity of Chapel Hill there’s no shortage of towns and neighborhoods to suit a variety of needs and lifestyles. Let’s take a look at what they cost.
Judging by the above Trulia Rent Hotspot Map, you can see that rental prices are pretty similar to Chapel Hill and only change drastically when you get into Durham.
Here’s how the prices roughly break down
- If you’re looking for something on the (relatively) cheaper side, consider places like Downing Creek, The Oaks, and Finley Forest where average rents fall between $1,000 and $1,200.
- Meanwhile, Briar Chapel, Hope Valley, and Woodcroft represent a few mid-range areas with prices around $1,300 and $1,600.
- And, if you don’t mind paying anywhere from $1,800 to $3,300 per month, you can look into living in Downtown Chapel Hill, Governors Village, and Governors Club
Alright, now that you’ve found a place you can afford, let’s make sure you’re going to like your neighbors.
Everyone wants to live in an area near people they can relate to and Esri’s Zip Tapestry tool is designed to help you determine exactly where those areas are.
Let’s say you want to know more about Downtown Chapel Hill (27516). All you have to do is plug in the zip code and the tool will display the three largest demographic subsections in the area. It’s super cool!
Okay, let’s make sure your commute makes sense before you go signing a lease.
Chapel Hill features a pretty diverse mix of travel options.
It’s pretty common for people to commute to places like Raleigh and Durham which are both 30 – 40 minutes from Chapel Hill.
The availability of decent mass transit has definitely lessened traffic issues throughout the city as well, leading to less congestion during rush hours.
In fact, Obrella has ranked Chapel Hill as the 24th best city for commuters in North Carolina.
Still, if you aren’t a fan of driving, Chapel Hill has you pretty well covered.
Chapel Hill has good but limited public transit, a decent cycling infrastructure, and is relatively walkable for a city its size
It’s possible to get around Chapel Hill on foot, but with a walk score of 35, it’s not a completely walkable area.
You’ll be able to get around pockets of the city pretty easily on foot, but those don’t really extend past the centralized areas.
Chapel Hill has a pretty solid public transit system
Even though Walkscore only gave it a transit score of 41, Chapel Hill’s bus system has a lot to offer.
The biggest advantage of taking public transit here is there are no bus fares, which is pretty phenomenal.
Still, much like with walking around town, the bus system is limited to basically Downtown, making the commute to surrounding neighborhoods difficult without a car.
Chapel Hill’s cycling infrastructure is in the midst of massive growth
So yeah, Chapel Hill isn’t really set up for widespread biking, but the Chapel Hill Bike Plan is aiming to change that by 2020.
As you can see from the map above, there aren’t a ton of bike paths in Chapel Hill unless you’re already living somewhere that’s walkable and accessible by bus.
But no matter how you’re getting around town, you’ll probably want to know a bit about its crime rate.
No matter where you’re living, there’s bound to be at least some crime. The trick is knowing how to interpret all the statistics you see about an area’s crime rate.
Take, for example, NeighborhoodScout’s crime score of 21 out of 100 (100 being safest).
While that number might not look great, it’s actually pretty on-par with crime rates of similar cities.
It should also be noted, while the overall crime score isn’t very good, only 7% of total crime in Chapel Hill is violent crime.
The largest portion of crime in Chapel Hill consists of property theft and damage which, while not great, isn’t dangerous.
Also, the city of Chapel Hill makes it incredibly easy to keep up with crime statistics in your area.
But really, avoiding crime almost always boils down to staying aware of your surroundings, knowing where and when to avoid certain areas, and doing your best to avoid dangerous situations
And now that we’ve gotten the nuts and bolts out of the way, let’s jump right into the task of finding a place to live.
When looking for apartments, your first priority should be ammeneties
With Chapel Hill being in the Southeast, you can look forward to some pretty mild winters along with summers that can get pretty hot.
Due to the high temperatures in the summer and the chilly lows of winter nights, you’ll definitely want heating and air conditioning.
Hot summers means you’ll also want to budget for some high utility bills like your average power bill.
Also, unless you’re living Downtown or a walkable region with easy access to laundromats, you’ll probably want a washer/dryer too.
Where to find apartments in Chapel Hill
As mentioned, Chapel Hill is surrounded by schools. This means a lot of rentals will get dumped onto the market around 2 months prior to a semester-ending when landlords receive notice.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite websites to find apartments.
Once you know what you’re looking for, use the search functions to narrow down places that match your specific budget, location, and amenity needs.
Even though it might seem a bit sketchy, Craigslist can be a pretty solid resource for finding reasonably priced places too. As long as you know where to look, that is.
Note: This DOES NOT mean you should trust Craigslist implicitly. Here’s their own guide on how to recognize potential scammers.
Chapel Hill’s Rental Market
Chapel Hill’s rental market isn’t great, but it’s starting to improve…slowly.
As of the first few months of 2018, Chapel Hill’s average rent has increased by 0.16, which isn’t too much worse than the 0.4% decrease experienced by the US as a whole.
Chapel hill’s vacancy rate is also on the upswing, currently at 8.91% as opposed to the US’s average of 5.85%.
Still, between growing demand for student housing and steady gentrification, the rental situation in Chapel Hill is far from ideal.
North Carolina Rental Law
With a rental market this competitive, you’re bound to run into some bad landlords. We’ve compiled a handy list of important rental laws so you don’t get scammed.
- North Carolina Required Landlord Disclosures
- North Carolina Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines
- North Carolina Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent
- North Carolina Landlord-Tenant Laws
And if you’re in the market for a more permanent living situation, we’ve got you covered too.
Chapel Hill is a suburb itself and has plenty to offer people looking to buy a home. But if you’re looking to live outside of Chapel Hill proper, you’ll need to look towards Durham’s other suburbs.
Chapel Hill’s median home value is $354,300, which is up 4% from 2016.
Since this is the most expensive area in the Research Triangle, you might want to look outside of Chapel Hill to find a better price.
Located to the northeast of Durham, Gorman makes up for the distance from Chapel Hill with some very affordable homes and close proximity to Durham and is an ideal place for newly married couples who are buying their first homes.
Carrboro is also a great area. Benefits include excellent schools, diverse culture, and a slightly lower cost of living while avoiding all the students and difficult rental market of Chapel Hill.
Use our moving cost calculator to estimate your moving costs to Chapel Hill.
Also, if you are coming from out of state, be sure to have a look at our out of state moving guide for more info and tips.
Parking Permits for Moving Vehicles
If you’re planning on moving somewhere within the city where you won’t have a designated parking spot, you’ll probably need a parking pass for your moving truck.
Fortunately, the Town of Chapel Hill On-Street Parking Pass is pretty simple to apply for.
That’s it! You’ve got the hard part over with and officially live in Chapel Hill. Now, there are just a few things left to do and you’ll be a full-fledged resident.
- Voter Registration: This is a big one. It’s your civic duty and also one of the few ways to positively influence your community. Go here for info on registering to vote in Chapel Hill.
- Driver’s License: You should also get an updated ID with your new address as soon as you can. Here’s where to get a North Carolina driver’s license.
- Out of State Vehicle Registration: Along those lines, if you bring a car with you, you’ll need to get some North Carolina license plates.
- Trash & Recycling: It’s easy to overlook, but you should definitely figure out how to set up trash collection sooner rather than later.
- Make Friends and Meet New People: One of the hardest parts of moving is making new friends. Luckily, the internet makes things much easier. Meetup is a great way to hook up with groups of people who have similar interests and r/chapelhill is a solid source for keeping up with things going on around town.
When trying to figure out what to do in a new city, a good first stop is the city’s own visitor’s guide.
Or, if you prefer more under-the-radar attractions, this New York Times piece digs into what makes Chapel Hill so unique.
If you’re looking to unwind with a nice cold one after a long day, there’s no shortage of great places to drink in Chapel Hill. Though your tastes may differ, a few options to get you started include Top of the Hill Distillery, The Crunkleton, and Steel String Brewery.