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Ways to Pay for Home Improvement Projects

by AH for Masha Halpern

Regardless of whether or not you are looking to put your home on the market, it’s important to keep your home in the best shape possible. Some projects are important for regular maintenance, such as replacing appliances or the roof, while others add value to the home such as updating the kitchen or adding on a screened porch.
 

We’ve found this great article by The Money Pit that lists 5 different possible ways of paying for these needed repairs or updates. Read 5 Best Ways to Pay for Home Improvement Projects by Tom Kraeutler.

If a home improvement project is something in your near future, Masha can help you determine which projects will add the most value to your home. She can also provide you with names from her great network of tradesmen to help get the job done.
 

Let us know how we can help with your projects & goals. Our mission is to not just sell houses, but to help families love their homes while building & maintaining solid roots in their communities.
 

VISIT OUR WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE

www.MashaHalpern.com
 

Masha Halpern Boutique Real Estate is your ultimate real estate resource for Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro and surrounding areas. Visit my website at www.MashaHalpern.com for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets. Masha Halpern can be contacted for a private consultation by calling 919-951-1780 or by emailing Masha@MashaHalpern.com.

5 Ways to Save Money on a Fixed Income

by AH for Masha Halpern

Avoid These Major Home Buying Mistakes

by Masha Halpern

Right now, it’s a great time to buy a home. Properties are priced affordably, and interest rates are historically low. That doesn’t mean that you can go out and buy without thinking. You still need to do your homework and proceed with a plan.

After all, buying a home is likely the largest purchase you will ever make. Make sure you do it right by avoiding these major home buying mistakes.

Buying more house than you can afford. Spending more than you planned on a home may seem like no big deal, especially when you spread it out over a 30 year mortgage. Over time, however, those extra dollars each month can put a strain on your finances. Get preapproved for a mortgage so you know exactly how much you can spend, and stick with that figure.

Not having an emergency fund. Remember, once you own your home, you have to pay for anything that needs to be fixed. With any house, there will be expenses that you didn’t budget for. Make sure you have an emergency stash of cash to help you get through unexpected repairs.

Not getting an inspection before you buy. You’ve looked over the house thoroughly, and so have your in-laws, and all your friends. However, there still could be hidden surprises waiting for you. A crumbling foundation, bad electrical wiring, or hidden roof damage are among the things likely to be spotted by an inspector’s trained eye.

Not thinking about resale value. Remember that you will probably sell your home at some point. Choose a home based on what you want, and also consider what other buyers are looking for. Look for desirable neighborhoods, schools, and other amenities so your house will hold its value.

Trying to do it yourself. Buying real estate is a complicated process. You need a professional to help guide you through buying your home. That’s where your Realtor® comes in. It just makes sense to have someone who is an expert to help you out.

Don’t just stumble blindly through the home buying process. Take care to avoid these mistakes, and you’re more likely to end up buying your dream home, instead of getting stuck with a nightmare.

Masha Halpern, Broker, CLHMS, GRI
Keller Williams Realty
Masha@MashaHalpern.com
919-414-0337  

Get your latest Home Value
Receive Your Personalized Listing Alerts

Masha Halpern and The Smart Move Team is your ultimate real estate resource for Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

Masha is a certified member of The Luxury Home Marketing Institute, participates in its annual Leaders in Luxury Conference, and works with The Institute’s thousands of members worldwide to share information about current listings.

Masha is also a certified member of Keller Williams Luxury International and is also a member of Cyber Stars International – Top Realtors Using Technology – a group dedicated to taking the best and latest technological advances and applying them to real estate advertising and marketing for her clients in all price points. Masha Halpern can be contacted for a private consultation by calling 919-414-0337 or by visiting www.TheSmartMoveTeam.com.

Image courtesy of Luiz Fernando Pilz, Stock.XCHNG

The Chicken and the Egg of Real Estate

by Masha Halpern

Should I buy first, or sell first? I don’t know what to do. A commonly asked question without a correct answer. Many people find themselves in this classic real estate predicament most associated with “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Unfortunately, there is no right answer that covers the board. Circumstances, finances, and many other variables play a role in determining which best case scenario is for you.

If you buy first, you may find yourself in the quandary of owning two homes, paying two mortgages, and having to pay all of the other expenses that come along with home ownership. With any luck, your current home will sell quickly, and the problem is then solved. However, there are no guarantees that accompany this scenario. If your house does not sell quickly, you may be forced to close on your new home, and then you have become the proud owner of 2 homes, that you cannot afford. If you sell first, a whole different realm of possibilities opens up. In this scenario, you sell quickly and luck into finding an ideal home, and closing on it in a reasonable fashion. Otherwise, you sell your home, and are stuck with having to put your belongings in storage, and find yourself shacking up with friends, or family. Either scenario presents its own risks and uncertainties. There are too many conditions involved in determining a correct answer for the “Do I buy first, or sell first” question.

Generally speaking, there is less pressure, and less risk, involved in selling your current home first. Put your house on the market, while at the same time, be out house hunting. As your house is showing, you can be compiling a list of potential contenders in a new home. And speaking in financial terms, the majority of home buyers need the equity, and profit, of their current home in order to purchase their new home. Many people need to sell their current home in order to qualify for a loan, leaving them with no choice, but to sell first. Not all people, especially in the eyes of the bank, are in a financial position to carry two mortgages.

While your current home is on the market, you can feel free to write a contingency offer on any home you find while house hunting. But, bear in mind that you will be paying a premium with a contingency offer. That is, if the seller even gives it any thought. Also, you may deem it necessary to take less for your current home in an effort to get it sold more quickly. So, be cautious. You can have comfort in knowing that you do have an opportunity to write a contract if the perfect house arises, but don’t lose sight of your current home’s value.

Or...do I buy first? With the economy still on the rebound, and interest rates still low, many people are entertaining the thought of running out and buying first. The market, like the economy, is also in recovery mode, meaning home prices are still somewhat lower than they traditionally would be. The housing market is moving very quickly because of this, and dictates that homebuyers are more focused on buying, than on selling. Motivated buyers are being recommended to obtain a mortgage commitment that is not contingent upon selling their current home, in order to dive into this fast-paced buyer’s market. Homebuyers are realizing that even in a strong market, the selling end of a transaction can drag on, potentially leaving them in the dust when it comes to landing a good deal on the purchase of a new home.

Either way, the choice of buying, or selling first, is 100% circumstantial, and financially dependent on each individual. Circumstances may have you in a position where you have to sell first in order to obtain the money to buy. Or, they may have you in a position where you have to buy because of a job relocation.

In today’s market, there are benefits and perks to each version. Buy first, and plunge into the hot buyer’s market. Or, sell first, and have the relief of knowing that you will not be trapped into the potential payment of two mortgages. For most people, the stress level is much lower when selling their current home first, and buying second. Nonetheless, it is a decision only you can make, given your current circumstances and financial position. There is no universal right answer to “Should I buy, or sell first?”

Masha Halpern, Broker, CLHMS, GRI
Keller Williams Realty
Masha@MashaHalpern.com
919-414-0337  

Get your latest Home Value
Receive Your Personalized Listing Alerts

Masha Halpern and The Smart Move Team is your ultimate real estate resource for Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

Masha is a certified member of The Luxury Home Marketing Institute, participates in its annual Leaders in Luxury Conference, and works with The Institute’s thousands of members worldwide to share information about current listings.

Masha is also a certified member of Keller Williams Luxury International and is also a member of Cyber Stars International – Top Realtors Using Technology – a group dedicated to taking the best and latest technological advances and applying them to real estate advertising and marketing for her clients in all price points. Masha Halpern can be contacted for a private consultation by calling 919-414-0337 or by visiting www.TheSmartMoveTeam.com.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-wanderers-eye/

Get Organized Before You Shop for a Home

by Masha Halpern

The process of buying a home has gotten more complicated in recent years. To make sure everything goes smoothly, you’ll want to get organized before you even begin to look for a house. Once you’ve taken care of these things, you’ll be ready to shop for the home of your dreams.

Check Your Credit Score. Examine and fix any blemishes on your credit score, before you apply for a loan. Also, avoid taking on any new debt at this time. This includes buying a new car or other large item on credit.

Look at Your Finances. Take an honest look at your budget and figure out how much home you can afford. There are many online calculators available to help you with this. In general, most loan programs require that your mortgage payment be no more than 28% to 31% of your gross monthly income.

Beef up Your Savings. You should have enough cash saved up to cover your down payment and closing costs. Depending on your mortgage, you’ll need anywhere from 3.5% to 20% down, plus money available for closing.

In addition, mortgage lenders like to see borrowers with a healthy savings account. This shows that you have enough money to pay for your closing costs and any incidental expenses, as well as enough to live on once you move in. Savers aren’t likely to be living paycheck to paycheck, and are good candidates for a loan.

Apply for Your Mortgage. Get preapproved for a loan before you even start to look at homes. Applying for a loan first gives you a definitive answer on how much mortgage you can afford, and ensures you have financing ready when you find your dream home.

Refine Your Shopping List. Finally, think about the features you really want in a house. You’ll probably live in this house for several years, and you want it to serve your needs the entire time. After all, if you change your mind in a few years, you may not be able to sell this house quickly.

Shopping for a home is exciting. Take the time to organize and prepare before you look at properties, so you can be ready to make an offer when you do find a home that you love.

 

Masha Halpern, Broker, CLHMS, GRI
Keller Williams Realty
Masha@MashaHalpern.com
919-414-0337  

Get your latest Home Value
Receive Your Personalized Listing Alerts

Masha Halpern and The Smart Move Team is your ultimate real estate resource for Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

Masha is a certified member of The Luxury Home Marketing Institute, participates in its annual Leaders in Luxury Conference, and works with The Institute’s thousands of members worldwide to share information about current listings.

Masha is also a certified member of Keller Williams Luxury International and is also a member of Cyber Stars International – Top Realtors Using Technology – a group dedicated to taking the best and latest technological advances and applying them to real estate advertising and marketing for her clients in all price points. Masha Halpern can be contacted for a private consultation by calling 919-414-0337 or by visiting www.TheSmartMoveTeam.com.

Photo courtesy Kristja, Stock.XCHNG

Thinking about Renting Instead of Buying? Think Again

by Masha Halpern

The housing market has been through a hard time recently. Home values declined for several years, and many places are just starting to recover. Because of this, many potential buyers are nervous about home ownership.

It’s not surprising that many would-be buyers are thinking about staying on the sidelines and renting for a while. After all, to many people, renting seems far safer bet right now than buying a home.

Are you are wondering if you should rent your next home or take the plunge and buy? If so, you should consider a recent report by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) before you make your final decision.

The NAR released its quarterly commercial real estate forecast in August. In it, they predicted that apartment rents will rise by about 4% in 2013, and another 4% next year. That means the cost of rent is rising faster than annual wage growth and other consumer prices.

Construction has picked up, but is still not keeping up with demand for new apartments. Inventories of available apartments to rent remain low, while demand is high. Low apartment inventories indicate that we are in a landlord’s market right now. The competition makes renting difficult and expensive, and is keeping pressure on rents to keep rising.

In addition, owning your home provides benefits you can’t get from renting. If you buy your home now, you can take advantage of historically low mortgage interest rates, as well as bargain prices. Owners can build equity and get tax deductions. Owners also get the benefit of being able to renovate their homes to save money, such as making changes to increase energy efficiency.

If you are looking at moving to a new home, carefully consider your options before you make the decision to rent. It may well be a better option to buy right now, especially if you are planning to stay in your home for a long time. This could be one of the best times to invest in a new home.

Masha Halpern, Broker, CLHMS, GRI
Keller Williams Realty
Masha@MashaHalpern.com
919-414-0337  

Get your latest Home Value
Receive Your Personalized Listing Alerts

Masha Halpern and The Smart Move Team is your ultimate real estate resource for Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

Masha is a certified member of The Luxury Home Marketing Institute, participates in its annual Leaders in Luxury Conference, and works with The Institute’s thousands of members worldwide to share information about current listings.

Masha is also a certified member of Keller Williams Luxury International and is also a member of Cyber Stars International – Top Realtors Using Technology – a group dedicated to taking the best and latest technological advances and applying them to real estate advertising and marketing for her clients in all price points. Masha Halpern can be contacted for a private consultation by calling 919-414-0337 or by visiting www.TheSmartMoveTeam.com.

 

How to Successfully Approach the New Market

by Masha Halpern
Is now the right time to purchase a home, or should you
continue to wait and see how the market fares in the future? According to the latest reports, real estate markets in many areas are nearing a return to normal. With a combination of rising prices and declining foreclosure rates, many prospective buyers feel the time for waiting is over. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Trulia, 75 percent of people believe it is better to buy now rather than wait another year. Not all sellers agree, however. Only about one-third of sellers feel that now is the right time to sell. As a result, buyers who are ready to take the plunge are now facing a combination of low inventory levels and rising prices for the first time in years. In our area we are 39% down in inventory from this time last year. Click the video to see what local appraisers and our own MLS reports
 
 
What exactly does this mean for you? It is only natural for prospective buyers to be concerned.
While it is important to avoid the temptation to make snap decisions, working with Masha you will be given the most up to date real estate statistics to help you understand if moving quickly- and at what price point, you ought to be considering to make THE smartest move for you and your family.
 
 Make sure to take the time to analyze your financial situation carefully. By understanding where you
stand in terms of finances and looking at the statistics of your potential home's recent sales history provided by Masha Halpern, you may find that you are better able to afford a home that is more in
line with your needs and Masha will help you purchase it.
 
In addition, it is important to make certain you are working with a qualified agent. As
multiple offers become the norm and inventory becomes more limited, it is imperative that you
work with an agent who is knowledgeable regarding the local market. When working with Masha you will find she is  highly resourceful and reliable.  Masha will also be
able to guide you in best practices for making your offer stand out from the crowd if you do find
yourself in a multiple offer situation. 
 
The local real estate market IS evolving, requiring a change in how you approach home
buying. Call us so Masha can help you get started on the right path to home ownership.

Masha Halpern, Broker, CLHMS, GRI
Keller Williams Realty
Masha@MashaHalpern.com
919-414-0337  

Get your latest Home Value
Receive Your Personalized Listing Alerts

Masha Halpern and The Smart Move Team is your ultimate real estate resource for Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

Masha is a certified member of The Luxury Home Marketing Institute, participates in its annual Leaders in Luxury Conference, and works with The Institute’s thousands of members worldwide to share information about current listings.

Masha is also a certified member of Keller Williams Luxury International and is also a member of Cyber Stars International – Top Realtors Using Technology – a group dedicated to taking the best and latest technological advances and applying them to real estate advertising and marketing for her clients in all price points. Masha Halpern can be contacted for a private consultation by calling 919-414-0337 or by visiting www.TheSmartMoveTeam.com.

 

This is becoming a VERY popular sign in many Durham and Chapel Hill neighborhoods!

 

And if this is the first time you are visiting my blog, Ill first say, "Welcome!", and second share with you that this has been a year-long event! Monthly, quarterly, and now I can report, all year long, in Chapel Hill, Durham, and surrounding communities, we have had more homes sell and lower inventory as compared to 2011.

Our own T.M.L.S. ( Triangle Multiple Listing Service ) interviews Appraiser, Stacey Anfindsen and he shares news about our 23% increase year -to- date from last year, news of a great month for January 2013,decreasing inventory- currently at four months supply ( just a 'hair' above short supply ), and more! Watch this short video that gives the in-depth analysis of our monthly, quarterly and year to date figures...and please check the RSS feed so you can be up to date on local events, home ownership tips, and real estate news ( local and national ).

 

 

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Masha is a certified member of The Luxury Home Marketing Institute, participates in its annual Leaders in Luxury Conference, and works with The Institute’s thousands of members worldwide to share information about current listings. Masha is also a certified certified member of Keller Williams Luxury International and is also a member of Cyber Stars International – Top Realtors Using Technology – a group dedicated to taking the best and latest technological advances and applying them to real estate advertising and marketing for her clients in all price points. Masha Halpern can be contacted for a private consultation by calling 919-414-0337 or by visiting www.TheSmartMoveTeam.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is another way of looking at and understanding 'how' changes in property ownership laws could effect you. This information is also available and gathered by the National Association of Realtors. Here are some of the important information my clients, and you , will want to to keep handy when you buy and  when you sell property:

Mortgage cancelation relief is extended until January 1st, 2014.  This is for people doing short sales and not wanting to be taxed on the amount shorted to the bank.

Deductions for mortgage insurance premiums for filers making under $110,000 is extended through 2013 and is retroactive for 2012.

Effecting every homeowner is the energy efficiency tax credit of 10%. The total for this credit is $500 and  was extended through 2013 for improvements- but ONLY to EXISTING homes.

Capital Gains Rate: The C.G.R.  will stay at 15% for those making under $400,000/$450,000  After that tax rate will now be  20%.  The $250,000/$500,000 exclusion for the sale of a single family residence stays in place.

Estate Tax:  The first $5 million in individual estates and $10 million in family estates are now exempt from estate taxes.  After that the rate is 40%.

The market here in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham has improved significantly. Homes are selling faster and in some cases, seeing multiple offers. Having a great negotiator is important now, more than ever, in a real estate sale! My team, and as a result, my clients, have  been so successful because of this and  we had a GREAT year helping our clients find new homes!

If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Chapel HIll, NC or Durham, NC please contact me at www.thesmartmoveteam.com or 919-414-0337, or Masha@MashaHalpern.com

____________________________________

Masha is a certified member of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, participates in its annual Leaders in Luxury Conference, and works with The Institute’s thousands of members worldwide to share information about current listings. Masha is also a certified certified member of Keller Williams Luxury International and is also a member of Cyber Stars International – Top Realtors Using Technology – a group dedicated to taking the best and latest technological advances and applying them to real estate advertising and marketing. Masha Halpern can be contacted for a private consultation by calling 919-414-0337 or by visiting www.TheSmartMoveTeam.com.

 

 

 

How the DC Deal Will Affect Your Taxes

by Masha Halpern

With political drama over the "Fiscal Cliff" over for now, home owners should know that several key tax provisions have been left in place. Mortgage interest deductions and mortgage debt forgiveness provisions remain in effect. In addition, you can continue to deduct the amount you pay for private mortgage insurance and take the energy efficiency tax deduction. These could have a big impact on any decision you make to buy or sell this year. Let's take a look at some specifics.

  • The mortgage interest tax deduction has long been a significant reason for people to buy instead of rent. Although there had been some talk about the mortgage interest tax deduction, it was never seriously in trouble.
  • Homeowners in trouble and considering a short-sale will still be able to tax advantage of the won't have to pay taxes on the difference between the principal they owe and the amount the lender accepts. That makes short-sales much more attractive to owners.
  • The Washington deal also reinstated a deduction that lapsed a year ago for people who pay for personal mortgage insurance, which is often required for borrowers who make less than a 20% down payment. The result of the tax credit will save some borrowers hundreds of dollars.
  • The non-business energy property tax credit offers up to $500 off your taxes if you make energy-efficient improvements. Retroactive to January 1st, 2012, it means you can use it on projects you do this year or did last year. There are a variety of restrictions and caveats, which you can read about in this article.

Taken all together, Real Estate experts expect the provisions will help the growing housing market continue to improve in 2013. That's good news if you're in the market. Call me at 919-851-1780 and we can work together to get you the best deal possible in the coming year.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.

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Photo of Masha Halpern - Boutique Real Estate Real Estate
Masha Halpern - Boutique Real Estate
Keller Williams Realty
101 Cosgrove Avenue, Suite 200
Chapel Hill NC 27514
Direct 919-951-1780
Toll Free 877-478-4669
Fax: 919-928-9030




Masha Halpern of Keller Williams Realty provides real estate services in the Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham, North Carolina area including real estate services for buyer, sellers and those relocating to the surrounding areas of Apex, Bahama,Cary, Efland, Hillsborough, Holly Springs, Mebane, Raleigh, and Wake Forest. Search for homes in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham or the surrounding communities.  Request a market analysis for your North Carolina property.  I list and sell residential real estate, investment property, vacant land, lots for sale in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham, North Carolina area.

Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham, North Carolina real estate and homes for sale in North Carolina - Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team

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