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Check Your Credit Before You Shop for a New Home

by Masha Halpern

Buying a home is a big step. A home mortgage is a long-term commitment, unlike any other item you’ll buy. To prepare for applying for a mortgage, take these steps to make sure your credit is in good shape.

The first thing to do is check your credit reports. You can do this once a year for free. Pull your records from all three credit bureaus. Read over them, and make sure all of the information is correct. For a small fee, you can also get your overall credit score.

If you find any errors on your credit report, work on getting them cleaned up before applying for a mortgage. It will make the process easier, and it could raise your score, which could get you a better rate. That can translate into saving thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan.

Common credit report errors include payments showing as late that really weren’t, and bills showing outstanding that have been paid off. Follow the credit bureau’s instructions to fix any errors you find.

Late payments can drop your credit score, but you can improve it by making all future payments on time. Experts also say that you can bump your score up by a few points by paying down your credit card balances. However, you’ll need to keep your balances down, so don’t charge new purchases to those credit cards.

Applying for new credit will also temporarily lower your credit score, so don’t buy any big ticket items, like a car or furniture, in the months before applying for a mortgage loan. Ideally you should not take on any new debt within a year of buying a home.

Finally, don’t close old accounts thinking it will raise your score. In general, you want to show a long, reliable credit history, so make sure you keep your oldest credit card open. Use your credit wisely, but don’t abuse it.

Making sure your credit is as good as it can be can save you money in the long run on a mortgage, as well as let you know how much house you can afford. This will let you shop for a home with confidence.

If you have any questions about checking your credit score or getting a mortgage pre-approval, contact me to set up an appointment for a consultation. I’d be happy to offer you suggestions on how to improve your score and help you find the home of your dreams.

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 Marius Mauresan, Stock.XCHNG.

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

Getting a Mortgage Loan when You Are Self-Employed

by Masha Halpern

The thought of qualifying for a mortgage can be stressful for many prospective buyers. If you are self-employed, you may have even more concerns. Even if you do not have a regular W2 or tax form from an employer, you can still qualify for a mortgage. There are some tips to follow, however.

Prior to the housing crisis and recession, many self-employed home buyers could simply attest to the amount of money they earned and that was it. Today, that is no longer the case. You will need to provide additional evidence beyond stated income. In order to document your income, you may be asked to provide business and personal income tax returns for the past two years along with financial statements. Documentation is critical when you are applying for a mortgage as a self-employed individual. Ensuring that you have all of the relevant documentation gathered together prior to applying for your mortgage loan can be a critical element in ensuring a fast turnaround. If any additional documentation is requested, provide it as quickly as possible.

You may also find that your chances of being approved for a mortgage loan increase if you are able to demonstrate that you have access to financial reserves in the event your business experiences a downturn. In the end, the lender simply wants to be assured that you can afford the home you are planning to purchase. Paying off consumer debt or consolidating your debts to a lower interest loan may also help in improving your cash flow while providing the lender with greater peace of mind regarding your ability to repay your mortgage loan.

If you are purchasing a home with your spouse who has a regular job, your chances may also be improved if your spouse applies as the primary borrower. You can then be listed as the secondary applicant. If that is not an option, you might consider asking a parent to co-sign the mortgage for you. It should be kept in mind that if you are not able to keep up with your mortgage payments, the co-signor will become responsible for the loan.

Although it is more challenging to obtain a mortgage loan today if you are self-employed, it is not impossible. With some careful advance planning, your dream of becoming a homeowner as well as a business owner can become a reality.

 

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.

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.

What do Credit Score Changes Mean for You?

by Masha Halpern

Owning a home is major investment in your financial future. Unfortunately, the last several years have been tough for a lot of people who would like to buy a home. So, it comes as good news that the way the three major credit bureaus calculate your credit score is changing to help people with limited or no credit histories. Under the change, debts paid in full or settle will no longer be taken into account. Previously, those debts would be a factor for up to seven years, even if the balance on them was zero. In addition, victims of natural disaster won't be penalized for negative accounts in the aftermath of the event. VantageScore is used by seven of the top ten U.S. financial institutions and four of the top ten auto and mortgage lenders.

FICO, the most used credit scoring model, may be making changes as well. Monday, they announced they would look into ways to take alternative records into account for people with limited to no credit histories. People who are trying to improve their scores should consider FICO's top three tips for repairing credit.

Check Your Credit Report – This is your first step to identifying what needs to be paid or corrected.

Setup Payment Reminders – Your best strategy for repairing your credit is to pay your debts on time.

Reduce the Amount of Debt You Owe – This sounds obvious, but even paying off a debt a little at a time can be a big boost for your credit.

You have to show lenders you are serious about being financially responsible before they’re going to be willing to give you a mortgage loan. For more about those tips and repairing your credit history, see this story on myFico.com and this report from the Federal Trade Commission.

If you're ready to buy now, let's sit down and talk about what you want and need. And make your dreams come true!

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

Five Questions to Ask Yourself

by Masha Halpern

So you've decided you need a new home. Perhaps you need more space for your growing family. Or you're downsizing now that the kids have grown. Or something closer to work to ease your commute. Maybe work is taking you somewhere else in the country. There are many reasons why people need to buy a new house. With that in mind, there are several things you need to have in place when you're ready to get down to the actual business of finding and buying that new house.

What Do You Want in a Home?
If you're going to live there, you need to be clear about what you want out of a new home. An easy way to organize your thoughts is to make a list. Make three columns: Must Have, Would Like and No Way. Get feedback for the list from everyone who'll share the house. Be reasonable, of course: You can probably live without a fifty-seat theater and a bowling alley in your next house. You may not be able to get everything you want, but you'll want to be able to live with what you can get. And, you can hand me the list and I'll be able to show you exactly what you're looking for. Maybe even with a bowling alley.

Where Do You Want to Live?
If you already know the neighborhood or street you want to find a home, you're way ahead of the game. But, if you're not sure, or if you're new to the area, this is something I can really help you with. A choice of neighborhoods should take into account your comfort and safety, the quality of nearby schools, availability of retail and restaurants, and distance to your job. Because I'm familiar with the area, I can help you select a neighborhood that will be the best of all of those details.

Do You Know Your Credit Score?
Get a copy of your credit reports, preferably one of from each of the three major credit bureaus. You need to know ahead of time if you've got any problems. Fix the problems that show up on the report. Banks will loan money to people who don't have perfect credit, but you're probably going to have to put more money down and prove you can afford your mortgage and insurance.

How Much You Can Afford?
And that's the next step. Exactly how much money do you have for a down payment. Ten percent of the purchase price is often quoted, but except in rare cases, a bigger down payment is going to be best. It's going to show the lender you're serious about the purchase, and in the long run, it's going to cost you less money to own the house. Take a hard look at your monthly budget and be honest about what you can really afford as a monthly mortgage payment. You also need to plan for fees and taxes, both annual and at closing. And once you sign the paperwork, the house is yours, along with any and all maintenance and repair costs. You really must have some sort of emergency fund set aside just in case.

Is it too Good to Be True?
It's hard not to think about the impact the last several years have had on the housing market and the ability to get a homeowner loan. Owning a home is a fantastic goal for anyone, but don't forget that if it sounds to good to be true, it isn't true. Far too many people have lost their homes because they made deals that sounded great in the moment, but wound up being too much of an investment for them.

Working closely with a real estate professional can help you avoid so many of the pitfalls and nightmares of home buying. My job is to make the experience as pleasant and problem free as possible. So whether you're ready to buy now, or just considering it for the future, lets work together to get you the best deal on your next home.

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

It's Fall And Triangle Real Estate Statistics Are Still Improving

by Masha Halpern

It's Fall, kids are back in school and the Triangle real estate statistics are still improving.  
 

According to TMLS, (compared to the same time one year ago), this is what we are seeing:

 

1. Sales in the Triangle region were up 26.4% percent to 2310.

2. New listings in the Triangle region increased 7.5% to 3240.

3. Pending Sales were up 26.4% to 2310.

4. Inventory levels shrank 25.3% to 13,052 units.

5. Prices moved higher. The Median Sales Price increased 3.8% to $192,100.

6. Days on Market was down 8.8% to 115 days.

 

Click here for the latest statistics on video.

 

Election Day is less than 2 months away. There will be extra emphasis on jobs and unemployment as we move closer to the election. Because there is a relationship between jobs and housing, it's important for those in real estate to stay tuned in to what the politicians and economists have to say. With that being said, 2012 has been a good year in the real estate market so far and there is good reason to remain optimistic from this point forward.

 

If you are looking for a home this Fall, there are plenty of great homes to choose from. Give Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team a call and we can help find the right home for you.

 

By the way; Are you registered to vote?

 

SEG

 

 

Summer Is Hot And So Is The Real Estate Market!

by Masha Halpern
Summer is hot in more ways than one! Temperatures are rising and the Real Estate market is hot!
The Market Statistics this month are very encouraging for the Triangle and in our office! We have been very busy showing homes, signing contracts, and selling homes.
 
According to Triangle MLS, Pending sales are up 26.7% from one year ago. Closed sales are up 18.7%. This means that there are serious buyers out there! The Days on Market was down slightly from 121 days to 115 days which means sellers still need to be patient, but the numbers are moving in a positive direction.
 
The number of 2nd quarter showings for 2012 was 192,529. A year ago, the number of showings was 173,315, that's 19,214 more showings, a 10% increase!
 
We know that unemployment is a huge factor when buying homes. Unemployment is down from 8.4% to 7.8% in the Triangle area. This means there are jobs being created in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Interest rates are still very low which makes housing affordability high. The government has said they will keep interest rates around 4% through mid 2013, which is great news!
 
Watch this video from Stacey Anfindsen to listen to the latest trends in the Triangle real estate market:
Let's hope these trends continue. If you are interested in buying or selling a home, please contact me so I may be of service to you.
 
SEG
 
 
 

 

Mistakes Home Sellers Make

by Masha Halpern

1. Asking Too Much-if you price your home too high, you risk turning away potential buyers (especially in a slow market).  Your home is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it.  When real estate times were better, it was easier to get comparable prices going back 6 months.  Because market prices have gone down, now you must compare prices for similar properties currently on the market.

2. Questioning the First Offer-Sometimes the first offer might be the best offer.  You can’t assume you will get a better offer the longer you hold out.  It’s actually the opposite-the longer your home sits on the market, the greater chance a seller will have to reduce his/her price.

3. Failing to Respond to All Offers-If you get an offer that is too low, do not reject it.  See if you can negotiate.  It’s a buyer’s market right now so they have the upper hand.  If you really need to sell your house, it will cost you more money in the long run if it sits on the market for a long time.

4. Paying for a Home Stager-You want your property to stand out but I don’t think it’s necessary to pay someone to stage your home.  Not everyone can picture how a home will look after they have added their own touch to it, so if possible, keep the walls clean and bright, get rid of the the clutter and knick-knacks and make all necessary repairs, even the smallest of problems, before buyers enter your home. A clean, neat, bright home gives off a much better vibe than a dark messy home.

5. Picking the Wrong Buyer-After the recent national mortgage disaster,  it’s especially important to choose the right buyer.  Choose someone with a prequalification letter issued no more than 4 to 6 weeks ago.  Also watch out for a buyer who needs a contingency (stating the deal won’t close until they sell their own home).  The best buyers are first time home buyers who qualify for a mortgage in advance or someone who has already sold their existing home.

I hope these seller tips have helped you. If you are looking for an experienced, successful broker to sell your home, please give us a call!

 

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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