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Durham on the Rise: Overview of Downtown Developments

Original Content by Carl Johnson

To say Durham, NC is booming is an understatement. The city of Durham has grown in population year after year with an over 7% increase since 2019 and estimates to be nearly 300,000 by 2023. Durham’s unique location gives the benefits of the great outdoors that North Carolina offers, mixed with the resources of successful higher education institutions, such as Duke University and the University of North Carolina.

As companies move into the area to take advantage of Durham’s population pool, mixed-use commercial space and bio-lab research & development drive the need for new facilities as well as housing. Durham on the Rise, a recent article featured in Durham Magazine, highlights over thirty developments being constructed and proposed which will change Downtown Durham, while many are preserving the historical drive of Durham too! Below are some key locations to keep an eye on!

Brightleaf District

Located in the former Watts and Yuille tobacco warehouses Brightleaf Square has been transformed since 1981 to a location that houses restaurants, realtors, and offices while restoring its unique architectural design and history. Brightleaf Square offers shoppers local family owned stores from fashion to books and covers a wide range of culinary professions such as breweries to asiain fusion. In 2019, the historic property was purchased with nearly 200,000 Sq Ft mixed-use space, including Brightleaf Square, and propose to open the Brightleaf District to expand to even more areas including bringing in new Biotech companies!

The Grove

The Grove is a new housing development featuring 62 townhomes at 512 Gordon Street. With the hopes to incorporate natural beauty into the downtown lifestyle, The Grove is being built in four phases with construction starting in early 2020. The designer of The Grove have made sure to include key features such as Rooftop Terraces, tree-lined walkways, and spacious home offices. 75% of phase one homes have already sold out and phase two options are now available!

American Tobacco Campus Expansion – Phase 1

This 700,000 Sq Ft mixed-use project is being built on the west side of the already established American Tobacco Campus. The builders propose covering the 8 acres with 350,000 Sq Ft of space with creative offices for tech and biotech companies, a 14-story high-rise with over 300 multifamily units, and 100,000 Sq Ft of commercial space with a focus on grocery, shops, restaurants/draft, and theater. Their goal is to start construction in early 2022.

The Novus

Located at 400 W. Main Street, The Novus is proposed as demolition of the existing South Bank building site. The project covers nearly 2-acres of land and is to be mixed-use including condos, apartments, and ground-floor retail space. Construction is slated to begin in 2022 on these modern and luxury units in the Five Points neighborhood.

Durham Belt Line Trail

Located on the abandoned Norfolk and Southern rail bed, the City of Durham is in the process of acquiring the track surrounding downtown Durham and turning it into a bike trail. The city hopes to connect all areas of Durham so that all neighborhoods can enjoy what the city offers. The Durham Belt Line trail wants to break cultural and economic barriers that are created with modern developmental construction and displacement, by giving walking and bikeable access to the city’s new developed areas to low-income communities.

Downtown Durham sounding like a fantastic place to live and grow? Click here to contact Carl and our company today to see how we will help you be a part of the area!

Smart Home Technology – Whole Home Automation

Original Content by Carl Johnson

The World of technology is always growing and changing! You can find new devices hitting the market every day, some of which may not be worth your money, while others are made to save you money. From security to green efficiency, smart home technology is the way of the future! In this blog we dive into top new technology home devices and trends. We also list some of the major companies that people trust and turn to for their Smart Home. It is important to first look at how Smart Home Technology works and its industry leaders who influence it.

Voice Control Devices

Almost all of today’s smart home devices are controlled with voice control and use the power of the internet to function. Strong home internet and importantly wi-fi are necessary to get the most out of your devices. The bulk of smart home technology is run by Google with their Nest system along with Amazon and their Echo smart system. These two are so dominant in this market that even other companies’ smart home devices are made to be compatible with Google and Amazon to make everything tie together into one giant platform. The main control for these devices commonly come in the form of speakers or tablets. These main control devices are known as Whole Home Automation Systems. A great benefit of whole home automation is that they come in a variety of forms and pricing options making it available to just about everyone.

Smart Home Displays and Smart Speakers

A Smart Home Display is a tablet that is often the main connector to your other smart home devices. With basic smartphone functions your home display is able to give weather, calendar notes, recipes, show you your security cameras, set reminders, and much more. The Smart Speakers are able to do much of the same, just without a visual screen. If your home is outfitted with smart home technologies throughout you can control just with your voice or fingertips! Anything from your lights and blinds to your outlets and even essential oil diffusers have smart technologies available. Google launched their Nest Hub and Nest Speaker as their leading smart home devices, pictured below, in 2016 and they have come a long way since then!


Guide to Google & Google Nest Products | anicehome.com.au

Amazon’s smart home devices are called Echo with the Echo Speakers and Echo Show Displays, shown below, launched in 2014.


A Buyer’s Guide for Amazon Products | techhive.com

So what can you do once you have a smart home hub in your house? Well that depends on what other technology you have and what is important to you.

Digital Smart Thermostats

Digital Thermostats are now a common smart home technology, which a few years ago would have seemed like a futuristic dream! These thermostats have become popular because they are easy to install, control, and help you to save money! Both Google and Amazon have their own version of smart thermostats but you will see other common thermostat companies, such as Honeywell, in this market as well. Common characteristics of Smart Digital Thermostats are automatic sensors to tell temperature, humidity, and motion, they even optimize heating and cooling modes by sensing when you are not home and controlling the temp accordingly. If you aren’t home you can adjust the thermostat right from your phone, or simply when close to your smart digital display say “(echo) turn the thermostat down to 70 degrees”. The abilities for these thermostats to learn your temperature trends and even connect to outside weather patterns allows them to save money by running efficiently instead of constantly.

Smart Light Bulbs

While the move to LED light bulbs was a big step towards energy efficiency in the home, Smart Light Bulbs are the next step forward. Wyze is a company that offers affordable smart light bulbs which you simply screw in like normal then connect wirelessly through their app to control or through Amazon or Google devices. Major light companies such as Philips and Lifex also offer some more expensive options. Common characteristics of smart light bulbs are that they are controlled by your phone or home hub devices, dimmable, you can put them on a scheduled timer to turn off/on, and they can even adjust from warm to cool light. Wyze offers a color changing bulb too where you can set your lights to any color of the rainbow for a fun change!

Smart Home Security

Large home security systems are still very popular and effective but it is becoming more common to see homeowners installing their own home video security, which is made possible through smart home technology. Doorbell cameras are an easy and affordable option as a basic form of security. Ring doorbell, which launched in 2014, is compatible with Amazon and through wireless internet can let you look-in using your phone if not home or notice you of movement by your front door (or wherever your place the camera). Common characteristics of smart doorbells are live video look-in, options to record video to review later, two-way speakers to talk through, a typical button to ring the doorbell, and motion activated to send you alerts.

There are also many options for freestanding wireless cameras, such as the highly rated Arlo, which you as a homeowner can place on your own! The features of smart home security systems typically include wireless battery operated cameras for easy installation, either their own app or the ability to tie into your whole home automation system, options to record the video for later review, options for the video to be monitored by an outside security company for 24/7 emergency response, notifications of movements/sounds sent directly to your phone.

If you don’t want to shop around yourself for smart home devices there are companies that exist which help you organize and set up whole home automation that would work best for you. The following are a list of some companies people turn to for smart home: Control4, Creston, and Savant. Smart Home Technology and Whole Home Automation are the way of the future! Due to better and better technology this type of technology is now affordable and available to anyone. You can make your home tech friendly on your own are hire an outside company to help you set it up, but either way you can be saving time and money with this new devices.

Solar Panels: Energy Efficiency while Increasing the Value of Your Home!

Original Content by Carl Johnson

As the summer heat burns through your air conditioning unit or your heat keeps you warm in the coldest nights your electric bill may give you a fright. You may find yourself joking about getting solar panels installed on your home! But have you done the research to see all of the benefits that solar power actually offers? In this article we dive into how solar panels are installed on your home, their benefit to both the environment and your wallet, and the impact solar panels have on your home’s value. Maybe that joke will become a reality, and for the better!

How do Solar Panels Work on My Home?

When contemplating getting solar panels for your home you want to first research solar companies, both local and national, that would be best for your home. These companies will see if your home is a good candidate for panels, since there are several factors that come into play on the type of panel and energy that will be possible to generate. Some companies, such as Home Depot, even do free in home estimates!

There are factors that can influence your home’s ability to have solar panels, such as the age and type of roof, roof angles, roof size, and even nearby trees. You may have to do nothing and your roof is good to go as is! But if you are open to trimming some trees that overhang the house, or even installing a new roof if yours could not support that weight of panels (ie. slate roofs), the good news is that you don’t have to live in sunny California to produce energy! Google gives a great resource called Google Project Sunroof, where you can enter your address and see the energy possible to be produced based on your home’s location. See below the stats generated for a home in Durham, NC:


The Google Project Sunroof even lets you enter in information about your current electric bill, energy usage, and financing to see the full benefits of solar panels for your specific location.

Solar Panel Environmental & Economic Benefits

According to Google Project Sunroof, the home in Durham, NC with 1,558 hours of usable sunlight per year can generate enough energy that is the same as taking two cars off of the road for a year. See the diagram below:


According to SunPower.com a benefit of solar panels is that they are clean energy with no emissions. Gas emissions are known to be a major factor in global warming as they get trapped in the atmosphere and act as a blanket over the planet. The more clean-energy alternatives we produce, the less gas burning emissions we are releasing into the air. Another major benefit to solar energy is that it is 100% renewable! As long as the sun is in the sky, we cannot exhaust solar energy, unlike fossil fuels and other forms of current energy consumption.

Though the upfront cost of solar panel installation can seem like a lot, it is a long-term investment that will save you money! For the same Durham, NC home on Google Project Sunroof, it is estimated that over 20 years the solar panels will save you $7,000. See the chart below going over initial cost, total 20 year benefits, then the 20 years savings (benefits subtracting cost):


There are also many local, state, and federal incentives available for when you buy your solar panels, which will take that upfront cost down even more! Research your local state and area websites to see what savings are available for you. If the upfront cost is too high for you to invest, there are other financing options such as financing a loan or even leasing the panels. However, if you lease the panels, you may lose out on another economic benefit of solar, that is the increased home value they add! In some cases you can work the lease into the new owner’s purchase though!

Increasing Your Home’s Value

Just like updating your kitchen or master bath to increase your home’s value, adding solar panels to the home can have the same effect. According to CNBC’s article on solar panels, adding solar panels to your home “can potentially increase the home’s value by up to 4.1% more than comparable homes with no solar panels, according to recent solar research done by Zillow — or an additional $9,274 for the median-valued home in the U.S.” This added home value can be just as much as your energy bill savings from the panels!

Another home benefit of solar energy on your home that is more difficult to put an actual value on is the fact that having a Green Home makes your house more appealing to buyers, giving you a better chance of selling fast. According to the same CNBC article listed above, 80% of today’s home buyers stated that energy efficiency is important to them during their home search. By adding solar energy you are putting your home in at the highest level of energy efficiency opening the doors to many more buyers!

Good for You, Good for your Home, and Good for the Environment

Solar energy is becoming more and more realistic each year as the technology keeps getting better and more people are wanting it. Though the upfront cost can seem like a lot, when you look at solar energy as an investment into your home you can get back so much more than just power! Taking the energy bill savings of thousands of dollars plus your added home value, along with available tax incentives, you are chipping away at the majority of the upfront cost of solar panels! And of course, the environmental impact is priceless.

Click out our past listings below to see some of our homes which featured solar panels:
304 Faison Rd., Chapel Hill
110 Jennings Ln., Durham
811 Green St., Durham