I am very mixed about renting first. The reason I say this is that when you rent, you start establishing relationships and driving/shopping patterns that are in the neighborhood and close by. I've seen so many renters buy in the same area. That said, it makes sense to spend time looking on line reading about Durham and the neighborhoods, looking at pictures, etc. Then make a trip out here and drive around because places you thought you'd like may turn out to be less desirable now and vice versa for areas you discarded at first. It is important to know what is important to you in a community, the activities you do, etc.
I like to look at google maps at the same time you are so I can talk you through neighborhoods. That ends up being very helpful and gives you a better sense of the area.
Interest rates just went down and prices haven't gone up as they will next Spring. Consider buying now.
Whatever you decide to do, good luck with your choice. If you want to call me, I turn my cell phone off when I'm in bed so don't worry about waking me.