I'm moving to Durham, NC. Help!
So after much deliberating, soul searching, and fretting
, I've decided to attend Grad School in Durham, North Carolina. While I'm relieved to have finally made a choice (hooray for me! I'm not entirely incapacitated by indecision!) and am genuinely looking forward to getting to know Durham (you MeFites made it sound so divine in my previous question), I'm a little stressed about the whole situation. (Of course I am. I wouldn't be me if I weren't continually racked by overwhelming and unnecessary amounts of stress).
My biggest concern is, understandably, about housing. I read these three previous
questions, and found them quite useful, but my situation is a little different in that, due to financial limitations, I will most likely not be able to travel to Durham to do any apartment hunting, and will therefore be searching for a place on the web, and ultimately moving in somewhere sight unseen. This is terrifying to me.
To that end, can anyone provide any advice about the best way to go about this? Are there any reputable housing search companies in the area? I don't know anyone in Durham, but have considered enlisting the help of one of the grad students currently in the department to do some investigating of places on my behalf once I've done a preliminary internet search. Is this an unreasonable favour to ask of a relative stranger? (I stayed with her while I was doing campus visit, so I do know
her.....just not so well that I would feel comfortable asking her to go out of her way doing favours for me). I am sure the school also has some housing resources that might prove useful, but I am inherently distrusting of Student Housing Services (bad experience, long story), so would appreciate any other ideas to supplement their offerings.
My preliminary searches on Craigslist have been flooded with listings by what appear to be big property management companies flogging "gated communities" and "secluded villages" and the like.....essentially, big generic apartment complexes that are not all that appealing to me. I would MUCH prefer to rent a house (or apartment within a house) that has some character and sense of "home" (and maybe even a backyard!) and would prefer to deal with an individual landlord rather than a Big Company. Is this possible in Durham, or is everything run by a few big rental companies? Where should I be looking outside of Craigslist? (I've found every apartment I've ever lived in off Craigslist, so I'm a little lost without it and shocked to find the Durham edition kind of useless). Any Durham rental companies you've had particularly good (or horrid) experiences with?
Somewhat unrelated: I'm looking into getting a driver's license (yes, I'm 27 years old and don't have one. Stop laughing.), since it has been suggested to me that getting by with only my bike might not be a great idea in Durham. My original plan was to get a learner's permit here in Canada, and then transfer it to an NC permit once I get there. I know this is (obviously) common practice for people with full licenses, but am not so sure about learner's permits....will the 5 months of "learning" I'm going to do before I move be worth anything to the DMV? Or will they make me start from scratch anyway? Should I bother getting a permit here, first? Advice from people who understand the system better than I do would be appreciated, since I couldn't find any info pertaining to my situation on the NC DMV website.
Last question (for now!): What's your favourite Durham neighbourhood? Where should a progressive, single, late 20's, active, non-driving, vegan gal be looking?