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Time Saving Tips For Your Move

by Masha Halpern

Anyone who has moved knows that it can be a time consuming and frustrating process. Even the best laid plan can run into a snag so being flexible is key. Below are some helpful tips that can help you to get organized so your move runs smoothly and help you save some time.

1. Change your address and notify companies before you move. Start by filling out a change of address form in advance of your move. Doing this ahead of time can help you to avoid hassles like past-due bills, service lapses and even identity theft. It is also a good idea before you move to set dates to discontinue your utilities at your old address as well as arrange for these services to be turned on at your new address. .

2. Create a moving schedule.
It is a good idea to set up a
moving schedule a few months before you move. Set it up as a week-by-week checklist to manage the process and help to stay on track. A moving schedule helps you to keep track of the little details or things that may be over looked, thus helping you to avoid last minute headaches. 

3. Establish a packing system.
Packing is a major time consumer so thing about coming up with a packing system so all of your boxes end up in the right rooms when they get to your
new home. Many professional movers recommend that you use the color code system where you color code each box with a particular room to avoid any confusion with the movers. It is also helpful to give your movers a floor plan of your home with each room labeled.

4. Get rid of unnecessary items.
The less boxes you pack the less you have to move and finally unpack. So it makes sense to thoroughly go thru your items and get rid of the things you just don't need. Items such as unread books, half-empty cleaning products, clothes that you know you wont wear again should be given away or sold at a garage !sale. You don't want to bring the clutter to your new home!

Home Ownership Is Still A Good Investment

by Masha Halpern

I read an article in the January issue of Realtor Magazine that discussed whether homes are still a good investment in this economy. "Even with several years of price declines, the typical seller who purchased a home 8 years ago experienced a median equity gain of $33,000-a 24% increase-while sellers who were in their homes for 11-15 years saw a mediun gain of 40%." Those percentage calculations were according to NAR's latest survey of home buyers and sellers, available at REALTOR.org/research. "85% of recent home buyers see their home as a good investment, and nearly half think that a real estate investment is better than investing in the stock market."

It's good that people still see home ownership as a long-term investment goal.

If you or anyone you know is interested in buying or selling their home, now is the best time of year. Call Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team. Masha is The Best Listing Agent in Chapel Hill.

Have a great weekend.

Staci

 

 

Improvements In The Economy

by Masha Halpern

At a recent Keller Williams Chapel Hill Market Center sales meeting, Brian Kennedy from Corporate Investors Mortgage Group noted some improvements in the economy. "Most economists agree that there are marginal improvements in the economy. There is no significant inflation, it's hovering around .8%/year. Interest rates for mortgages should remain at +/- .25% of where we currently are, at 4 3/4%. Rates are not expected to change in a drastic way. This is good news for new home purchases, not as good for investment purchases. Small business lending did go up for most credit worthy businesses which means there should be an increase in job opportunities." More jobs, more people looking to buy homes. It's a win-win.

After reviewing real estate statistics in the Triangle area, I also noticed December sales were better than November sales and pending sales are off to a better start in 2011. The Triangle led the state in employment gains, foreclosures are no longer dominating the market, consumer spending, the stock market and the economy are all gaining momentum and building confidence.

With low mortgage rates and a sound local economy, now is a great time to buy.

If you or anyone you know is interested in buying or selling their home, call Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team. Masha is The Best Listing Agent in Chapel Hill.

Have a great day.

Staci

 

Signs You are Ready To Be A Homeowner

by Masha Halpern

The current market is perfect for homebuyers. There are great homes priced right, a huge selection and low interest rates make purchasing a home now seem like the right way to go. But how do you know if you are ready to take that leap and become a homeowner? Below are some things that can help you know if you are ready!

  • Your have your finances in order. Becoming a homeowner, especially in a difficult economy can be financially challenging. If you have created a budget and stick with it you are on the right path. Having good money-management skills are a must-have so that when you do own a home you will be able to have a smooth financial flow for monthly home expenses.
  • You have a sizable down payment of at least 20%. While this is a large amount of money to come up with it is important to have as you will start out with having some equity. There are options out there for zero or low money down loans but if you have to sell your home before you expect you can potentially loose money and you will also need to pay for PMI (priviate mortage insurance).
  • You have a steady source of income. Of course in a recession there is no real thing as job security but when you buy a home you are going to be required to have a reliable source of income to cover not only mortgage payments but all the other monthly and unexpected expenses that come along with homeownership. It is important to look at how stable your source of income is as well as having an emergency savings fund where you will have enough funds to cover these expense in case of a loss of a job or other emergency.
  • Your debt and credit are clean. Having a good credit score will help to not only get a home loan but will also get you a lower interest rate on your mortgage. Hold off on any large purchases such as cars before applying for a loan as this could effect your rating. Also review your credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com before even applying for the loan to check for any errors.
  • You are ready for the responsibility. In addition to the financial aspect of homeownership, you need to be sure you are ready for the other things that come along. Things like lawn care, upkeep as well as unexpected repairs need to be considered as part of owing a home. 

Choosing The Best Remodeling Project

by Masha Halpern

A common question that anxious homesellers will ask me is   what home home remodeling project will pay off. The last thing a homeowner wants to do is invest money into their property which will not pay off in the end. So which home improvements really pay off--and which don’t?

Each year, Remodeling magazine and REALTOR magazine produce one of the real estate industry’s top tools: “The Cost vs. Value Report.” The 2008 edition  ranks home improvements around the nation. The clear winners overall for resale value v. job cost: exterior replacements like windows, siding and decks. Inside, midrange kitchen and bath remodels and attic-to-bedroom conversions led the pack. Buyers love kitchen, bathroom and bedroom upgrades!

To make the most of your remodel, Carl Vogel of This Old House magazine recommends the following:

* Invest in the right projects. Kitchens and baths get the job done; swimming pools and home offices don’t. And minor projects may fare better than more expensive remodels.

* Choose the right styles. Think “classic” and “neutral” for interior finishes--and don’t overpersonalize. Adding on? Make sure the addition blends with the rest of the house.

* Match your renovations to the neighborhood and the region. Make sure your remodel matches the value of your house and the value of other houses in the area. And make sure you’re not investing in an improvement that buyers may not consider much of an improvement. Will they really appreciate that deck in Anchorage? Or that fireplace in Phoenix?

* Keep real estate demand in mind. Buyers will pay more for remodels in a pricey, active market than they will for those in a softer market. Don’t “over-renovate.”

The bottom line is that remodeling can add value--if you know what buyers want and you’re willing to play by industry rules.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have on remodeling values and trends in your community.

Chapel Hill ranked again as 'best place' to raise kids

by Masha Halpern

I read in the newspaper this weekend that Business Week once again voted Chapel Hill as one of the 'best places' to raise kids. This is what the article had to say about Chapel Hill: "Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina. It attracts residents who enjoy a healthy lifestyle, cultural and historic attractions, and an intellectual environment. It is one of the most educated populations in the U.S."

Factors that were taken into consideration were school performance, number of schools, house hold expenditures, crime rates, air quality, job growth, family income, museums, parks, theatres, and diversity.  Affordability, safety and school test scores were given the greatest weight.

The Chapel HIll-Carrboro City Schools have 3 high schools, 4 middle schools and 10 elementary schools. The district has the state's highest average SAT score. More than 90% of students go on to college.

I have lived in Chapel Hill since 2004. My children attend Chapel Hill schools. I have taken advantage of all that Chapel Hill has to offer. Masha has lived in the Chapel Hill area since 1975 and has been a Real Estate Broker in the area since 1992. We both agree that Chapel Hill is a great place to live.

If you are thinking of buying or selling your home, now is the time to contact Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team.

HAPPY NEW YEAR~

Staci

 

 

 

 

 

Paying Off Your Mortgage

by Masha Halpern

Every homeowner dreams of the day they make their final mortgage payment and can say they offically own their home. Paying off your mortgage if you are able to is a good idea for the obvious reasons, you will save thousands of dollars in interest. If you obtained a 30 year loan you will most likely pay more than twice the purchase price of the home before you actually own it.

Another top reason for paying off your mortgage is the satisfaction of actually owning your home. In addition, the mortgage payment is typically the highest of a household's monthly expense, so not having to worry about that each month can bring peace of mind, especially in the case of a loss of a job or retirement. 

Some financial advisors do however advise that paying off your mortgage is a bad financial move. Some arguments that the money should be invested as to gain a  higher return in the long run. While this advise might sound good in theory there is no guarantee that a higher return can be achieved. 

Paying off your mortgage has many benefits, but the question many homeowners ask is "How?", especially in a difficult economy. Below are some strategies you can use to help you get to your payoff goal!

  • Keep an eye on interest rates and, if they fall, consider refinancing. If you can reduce your interest rate, shorten the term of your loan or both, refinancing can be an excellent strategy. 
  • Overpay a fixed amount every month. Even if you can afford to pay an 5-20% of your total payment, it can add up to be 1-2 extra payments a year.
  • Biweekly mortgage payment plans. By paying half of your monthly mortgage payment every two weeks, you end up making the equivalent of an extra payment every year.  Instead of making 12 monthly payments, you’ll make 52/2 = 26 biweekly payments — the equivalent of 13 monthly payments. This will shave years off your mortgage. Moreover, if you’re paid on a biweekly basis, this approach might match your budgeting process better than monthly payments.

In a difficult economy paying your regular monthly obligations can be difficult, and it can be very challenging to try to make any additional payments. They key is to make an attempt, every little bit counts and gets you closer to your goal!

Chapel Hill - Durham Real Estate Stats

by Masha Halpern

Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team are SELLING Durham and Chapel Hills Homes

Now more than ever EXPERIENCE counts!
Call Masha at 1-877-478-4668 when you're ready
to BUY or SELL

Since 2005, Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team have CLOSED over $27 million dollars in real estate sales in Durham & Chapel Hill. Masha has SOLD an average of 18 homes/year since 2005 and maintains a 98% average list to sale price ratio!! Masha has over
20 years of experience. Now more than ever -

EXPERIENCE counts!

 

www.TheSmartMoveTeam.com 

Masha@MashaHalpern.com

877-478-4668

 Refer us to your friends!

The Changing Face of Lending – Getting a Home Loan in 2011

by Masha Halpern

We’ve weathered a tough year in the mortgage market and if you’ve been waiting it for it to turn around, don’t expect much of a change in 2011. The market and mortgage collapse have changed the face of lending for some years to come. Planning on buying a new home in the new year? Here are five things you should be prepared for:

  1. It’s tough to get a mortgage. Lenders today face a couple of huge challenges – they just can’t get on the hook for more bad mortgage debt and they must operate under strict regulations on how much real estate they can have in their portfolios. How does this affect you? Your bank has no more ‘easy money’ for you. If you are borrowing outside of FHA backed guidelines, you may have a hard time getting that loan approved and closed.
  2. Good credit counts more than ever before.You can be turned down for a mortgage on the credit criteria alone. A good credit score will affect your ability to get a loan and the interest rate attached to it. If your credit is less than perfect, get busy now to repair it.
  3. No money down is no more. You are unlikely to find any lender that will offer 100% financing. Be prepared to hand over as much as 20% down, less (and more negotiable) on FHA loans. Your lender will also look at the status of your cash reserves, to make sure that you can handle your first payments
  4. Banks are cutting off their ARMS. Adjustable Rate Mortgages contributed to the housing bust and most lenders are wary – and you should be too. With interest rates so low, you are probably better off with a 30 year fixed, especially if you are planning to be in your new home for some time. In a volatile economy, an adjustable rate mortgage can blow up quickly if you haven’t prepared properly for it.
  5. Interest rates should stay low in 2011. While rates have crept up a bit recently, don’t expect a significant increase in mortgage rates this year. Experts see them hanging below 5%, so this could be the year to take action if you have been hesitant about buying a new home.

Overall, the mortgage business is still shaky. The good news is that you will still find great homes at low prices and that interest rates should remain favorable in 2011. The tricky part will be getting a lender to handle your loan.

 

/kh

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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