Real Estate Information Archive


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Good News For The Real Estate Market

by Masha Halpern

We finally have some good news for the Triangle Real Estate Market! Sales were up 11% over the same period a year ago. Although showings were down 3%, pending sales were up 8 percent. When the federal homebuyer tax credit expired at the end of June last year, sales were down for 6 months but now they seem to be on the rise which is good news as we head into 2012!

There were 19% less homes on the market this November than a year ago. One problem that continues is a lack of qualified buyers.  The average price of homes that sold in November was down 11% from a year ago and the average days on the market for homes that did was up to 129 days from 110 days a year ago. Clearly, it is still a buyer's market.

As we exit 2011, prices still not have rebounded after their huge declines, inventories are still well above normal, and the foreclosure rate is still high but as job gains continue to rise, the real estate market should steadily improve.

The winter months are typically the slowest period of the year however I have a good feeling as we approach the new year. Onward and Upward!

Until then, Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team wish everyone a Happy and a Healthy 2012!








The Importance of Pre-Approval

by Masha Halpern

Are you ready to buy a new Chapel Hill home? You are probably realizing that there is a lot of information you should know about the financing part. Have you considered the importance of obtaining a pre-approval letter? 

Pre-approval can be a very valuable step towards purchasing a home. Many home buyers get pre-qualified for a home loan early on, and then become pre-approved before beginning a serious home search. By completing your mortgage application prior to choosing a home, you can get a pre-approval letter stating how much home you can afford.

Your pre-approval letter lets you know exactly how much you can spend, and it shows home sellers and real estate agents that you're serious about buying a home. This may give you leverage in the negotiation process. Many sellers actually prefer to work with pre-approved buyers, especially in hot real estate markets.

Contact me to find a mortgage professional and get started with your pre-approval for a loan. My goal is to provide you with practical information as you consider your next move!



Avoid These Top 10 Pitfalls When Buying a Home

by Masha Halpern

You’re ready to buy a home in Chapel Hill, or so you think. Many home buyers make mistakes when purchasing a home, especially a first home. But these mistakes can lead to a bad purchase or even a foreclosure. Here are the top ten pitfalls and mistakes many people make when buying a home – don’t fall into these traps!

1. The “No Money Down” Pitch.  Beware these online or cable TV ‘gurus’ who tell you how to get rich in real estate without a penny down. The only money these guys make is off of you if you buy their CD, book or attend a seminar. It takes experience AND capital to make money in real estate, whether it is one home or ten.

2. All Realtors are the Same, Right? Wrong. Holding a real estate license does not mean that the agent you are talking to is the best one in your market or for your situation. Get referrals, look at the agents sales statistics and interview potential agents carefully.

3. Depleting Your Savings. Most lenders require 20% or more down on a new mortgage. If you don’t have it, wait until you do. Completing wiping out your savings or borrowing a down payment leaves you in a precarious financial situation if something happens.

4. Ignoring Professional Advice. Unless they sound really off base, listen to your realtor and mortgage broker when they offer advice or guidance. You should also do your own homework when looking for the right neighborhood or figuring out the best mortgage package for your family. Let the professionals guide you with their expertise and experience.

5. The “Too Good To Be True” Monthly Payment. Low monthly payments can mean that you are building no equity in your home – even going in the hole on your principal balance. Make sure that you completely understand ALL the terms of your mortgage agreement – from interest rates to monthly payments, and what the consequences are.

6. Landing in the Wrong Neighborhood. Do your homework on the neighborhoods you are looking at. The city should have demographic information, school information and ranking and crime statistics. Is the neighborhood full of foreclosures? IT could affect the value of all the homes in the neighborhood. Make sure you understand the comps and the real value of your potential home site.

7. Buying Above Your Means. Tough times mean that everyone has to revaluate priorities. Be sure to carefully consider the features and prices of homes that will really suit your needs and allow you to live comfortably without spending your entire income on your monthly mortgage payment.

8. Foregoing the Home Inspection. Even if the conditions of your loan don’t require a home inspection, go ahead and spend the relatively small sum to get the home thoroughly checked out by an objective third party. You may uncover problems that the seller should be responsible for, and at the very least, you’ll go into the purchase with the right information about the condition of the home.

9. Acquiring More Debt Before Closing. With credit requirements continuing to tighten, rest assured that your lender will run additional credit reports right before closing. If you have made additional credit purchases – from a new car to furnishings for your new home, it can reflect negatively on your credit and your debt to income ratio. In some cases in can cost you your new mortgage, even if you were pre-approved.

10. Sinking Into Debt After Closing. Many people breathe a sigh of relief once the home loan has closed and then immediately begin purchasing for the home or buying items they have been putting off while waiting for the mortgage to go through. Take it easy! You’ve just added a big responsibility with that mortgage payment.

You may not realize it at the time, but many of the decisions you make when looking for a new home will affect your ability to stay in it once the loan has closed. Respect the advice of professionals, do your homework and avoid the common pitfalls of ‘too good to be true' pitfalls.




holiday hazards for dogs and cats

by Masha Halpern



Happy Holidays - Safety Tips for the Holidays


I want to thank my favorite veterinarians at Colony Park Animal Hospital in Durham, NC for sending me this timely info during the holiday season!


Lights, decorations, good food... every year, as we celebrate the holidays, we fill our homes with seasonal cheer for ourselves and our families. However, what may seem beautiful and harmless to us may pose hidden dangers to our pets. Don't let an emergency spoil the festivities! Below are some common holiday hazards for dogs and cats and ways to prevent them.



Holiday Hazard


How to keep your pet safe



Dangerous Foods


The following can be toxic to pets: chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, garlic, onion, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, bread dough, and sugar-free candy and gum containing the artificial sweetener xylitol.



Regular Foods


Despite tradition, bones should never be given to pets. Even beef, ham, and other "regular" foods that are not considered toxic can cause illness in pets. If your pet is a moocher, keep a saucer of his regular treats on the table to offer when he asks. He probably won't know the difference!



New Treats and Toys


Even a pet-safe treat can cause stomach upset if it is new to your pet. Offer only one of these at a time (ideally, separated by a few days). If your pet becomes ill after eating a holiday treat, it will be easier to trace the source and discontinue it. Also, check new toys for sharp edges, pieces that can be chewed off, or other potential hazards.





Hazardous plants include mistletoe, some evergreens (including some types of pine), and holly bushes and berries. Try to keep these plants away from pets, or at least supervise pets when dangerous plants are nearby.





Tinsel, tree ornaments, ribbons, string, and garlands are some items that can be dangerous if eaten by pets. Keep these items away from pets — especially when pets are unattended. Don't forget to cover any electrical cords or keep them out of reach.



Fire and Carbon Monoxide


Monitor pets near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, candles, and portable heaters. Also, don't forget to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are functioning properly. Space heaters, furnaces, and idling cars (in a garage) can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in pets and humans.



Christmas Trees


Monitor your pets when they are around your holiday tree. Pets may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink water from the base of the tree, which can be toxic (especially if there are preservatives in it). Keep electrical cords and decorative lights out of reach, too.



In many cases, if your pet has eaten or drunk something toxic, warning signs will include gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Other signs may include tiredness and lack of appetite, especially in cats that have eaten lilies. If your pet shows any of these signs, or if you think he or she has eaten something dangerous but is not showing any signs yet, please call your vet. Treating your pet as soon as possible is essential!



Here's hoping you and your pets have a safe and happy holiday season!



Toys For Tots at Harrington Bank Through December 15th

by Masha Halpern

Tomorrow, December 15th is the last day to help out Toys For Tots! Over the 62 years of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, Marines have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million needy children.  This charitable endeavor has made U. S. Marines the unchallenged leader in looking after less fortunate children at Christmas.  Over its 18 year life span, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has supplemented local toy collections with more than 81.3 million toys valued at more than $487 million; plus has provided promotion and support materials valued at over $6.3 million.

Support the Marine Corps annual Toys For Tots drive to help disadvantaged children celebrate Christmas here in North Carolina.

Please bring new, unwrapped toys to the official collection box at Harrington Bank in Southern Village to support your local community this holiday season!




4th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting

by Masha Halpern

Mark your calendar for this Wednesday, December 14th from 5:30 - 6:15 pm for the 4th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting. This fun. local event for all members of the family will take place on the Village Green and is  guaranteed  to be a festive outdoor evening of singing, snacks & the lighting of the tree by a special guest! Warm yourself with a cup of hot cider, while listening to musical entertainment.

The evening will begin with music from the Christ Church children's group, with Worship Leader Mary Saou, followed by the heartwarming voices of the Mary Scroggs Elementary School chorus, directed by Sheila Fleming.

The surprise guest will make an appearance shortly after 6:00 to officially light the big tree on The Village Green. This is a fun event guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit!






Southern Village Light-a-Luminary for Ronald McDonald House

by Masha Halpern

Join your North Carolina neighbors in illuminating Southern Village to support the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. 7,000 Luminaries will be placed in front of all houses and will be lit just after sunset (around 5:00 pm.) This annual event is in it's 18th year and for the past 17 years, neighborhoods throughout the triangle have lined their streets and sidewalks with beautiful luminaries to show their support for the families staying at the House throughout the year and especially during the holiday season. Last year, Light a Luminary raised $58,000 and over 40,000 luminaries were lit!

If you would like to help and take part of this amazing event, you can help in two ways:

1.Volunteer to assemble & deliver luminary kits: Gather at 11 am on Saturday, December 10th at the Southern Village Club parking lot.  Bring your family & friends and enjoy cider and treats as you work.  Youth volunteers can fulfill service learning requirements (forms available at the event).  Sign up in advance, or just show up!

2.Donate to Ronald McDonald House: When deciding how much to contribute, please consider the following:   $65 provides one night of lodging for a family, $25 feeds a family for one day. 

Send contributions, payable to Ronald McDonald House, to Chris Simmons at 306 Westside Drive.

'Tis the season to give back and support your community!





Search for Chapel Hill Properties with Your iPhone or iPad

by Masha Halpern

If you are in the market for a new home you want the most current information at your fingertips. With todays' technology, you can do just that!  

Buying a home is one of the biggest commitments and decisions you will make, you need to be prepared as possible with up to date information and easy access to the homes that are the best fit for you and your family.

Now you can use your iPad or iPhone to search for Chapel Hill, Durham or Carrboro properties! This amazing application is called myAgent and is an invaluable tool in your home search is you are looking for active MLS listings in your area right now.

Download the myAgent by IDX application and it will help you to find your dream home now using the dynamic map search tools. Be sure to enter my “IDX Agent Code” which is 4240 and you will then have immediate access to all the active MLS listings in the areas I serve.

Click here to download the app and follow the instructions to search for your next home like a pro.



Is It Time for a New Roof?

by Masha Halpern

How do you know when it’s time to replace your roof in Chapel Hill, NC?   There are three main reasons for replacing roof shingles: the age of the roof, weather damage, and previously improperly installed roofing.

Start by taking the life expectancy of the type of shingle you currently have then subtracting for age, weathering and weather-related damage to see how many more years you may be able to get out of your roof before needing to replace it.

Roof shingles generally are supposed to last at least twenty years.  Some shingle manufacturers have products that last twenty-five or more years.  Take your standard twenty-year product and subtract the age of your current roof.  If you’re in a newer home, or you are the original owners of your home this is an easy number to get.  If there have been previous owners, or you are otherwise unable to determine the age of the roof, you will have to estimate.

Next, inspect for any physical evidence of damage.  Do your shingles show curling, severe hail damage, cracked flashing or sealer around vents and fireplace flues?  How about brittle shingles due to a southerly exposure?  What about damaged or rotting eves?  The condition of your current roof has a drastic impact on its remaining life expectancy.

Lastly, let’s not forget the obvious.  If your roof is leaking you can skip the process above.  A leak trumps everything else.  You’re going to need some repairs at a minimum, potentially much more.  Keep in mind even newer roofs, if improperly installed, can leak or lose shingles in gusting wind.  Have leaks checked out immediately.

Estimate how much time your home has with your current roof and if you are concerned you’re near the end of its life expectancy, speak only with qualified, experienced, licensed contractors when considering having work done.  You may even weigh the pros and cons of doing the job yourself.  Whatever your decision, don’t wait until you have that first leak.  At that point your repair bill , pardon the pun, is likely to go through the roof!







Chapel Hill North Carolina Luxury Real Estate

by Masha Halpern

Masha Halpern of Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team, Keller Williams Realty-Chapel Hill, attends invitation-only luxury real estate conclave.


“Leaders in Luxury 2011” draws top luxury real estate professionals

Dana Point, CA. November 15-18.2011 – From across North America, top real estate professionals working in the upscale residential market converged in mid-November at The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel Hotel in Orange County (CA) at The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing’s annual Leaders in Luxury (LIL) conference where they discussed strategies for better serving buyers and sellers in today’s luxury home market.

According to Masha Halpern, a leader in the luxury real estate market in Chapel Hill, North Carolina  at Keller Williams Realty- Chapel Hill, the exclusive event was an invitation-only educational and networking opportunity for real estate professionals who handle million and multi-million dollar homes and estates. “This prestigious conference provides cutting-edge information on what’s happening in the luxury market segment, offers insights on best practices in the business, and creates valuable networking opportunities,” said Halpern.

“Leaders in Luxury registration is limited to professionals in the luxury home niche,” said Laurie Moore-Moore, Founder of The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, the event host. “This gives LIL attendees the opportunity to build an exclusive network of contacts focused on the upscale residential industry while sharing with the best in the business. Since competency is the key to working successfully with the luxury buyer and seller,” added Moore-Moore, “LIL is designed to provide attendees with important knowledge and insights, giving them a competitive edge in meeting the needs of the affluent.”

Masha Halpern considers attendance at Leaders in Luxury to be essential for success in today’s marketplace. “Attending the Leaders in Luxury event is an investment for my clients,” said Halpern. “With the current real estate market, I have to be proactive to stay on top of the market conditions. By networking with the best in the business, sharing ideas, and learning about the latest trends and outlooks, I can help my affluent clients find success where others are finding challenges.”

Keynote speakers included David Michonski, author of the new book, “Power Marketing for Luxury Real Estate” and Catherine Marcus of Sotheby’s International Real Estate, who was involved in the record-setting $100 million residential sale earlier this year in California’s Silicon Valley.

The Leaders in Luxury conference is an annual event.

About The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing (ILHM)

The Institute trains real estate professionals, like Masha Halpern, who work in the luxury home market internationally and awards the Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist (CLHMS) designation which is the official designation for many North American real estate brands. Masha Halpern is one of a few local Real Estate  Brokers in Chapel Hill and Durham, with this international designation.


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Contact Information

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