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Planning for a New Year

by Masha Halpern

It's that time of the year again, when people begin seriously focusing on what the new year will bring. New Year's resolutions are, sadly, often put aside once the year gets underway. But, if you're serious about buying and/or selling this year, it is a great time to develop a plan for getting what you want for the best price possible. Some of this I can help you with, but some of it you're going to need to do yourself or with a financial adviser. 

If you think you'll be buying, you need to immediately take a look at your credit. In the wake of the market fall-out, it's become much harder to borrow money. Banks want to know they're going to get their money back, and they'll take a hard look at your previous credit habits. Now, many people simply stop right there, knowing their credit just isn't going to be good enough. But, if that is the case, you can take steps that will change that evaluation. Get current credit reports from the main credit agencies and review them. If there are mistakes, you can get them fixed. If there are problems, you can work out solutions with individual creditors to clear them up. I'll give you some suggestions for more information about credit repair at the end of this post.

You will also need to have a sizable down payment if you're going to buy. And of course, the bigger the down payment, the more willing banks are going to be to make you a good deal for the remainder of the purchase price. The key to a saving for a down payment is to have a clear goal in mind and to find ways to make it a reality. Cutting out luxuries for a year or two while you put money away can be a quick way to accumulate money for a down payment. Tax refunds and work bonus money are excellent sources of down payment funds. Building a big enough down payment may take time, but then buying a house is a long-term investment and worth the effort.

If you already know the location where you want to find a new home, begin taking a look at prices for houses already on the market. This is where I can really help you identify the right houses for you and just how much money a house in the neighborhood or town you like will cost. Once you have that ballpark figure, you can determine how much money you'll want to have saved for a down payment and how much money you'll need to finance. 

With these three things, you can begin to build a reasonable plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Everyone will have their own unique plan, and some people will have an easier road to home ownership than others. But, just having a plan, and a real estate professional to help, is a solid foundation for reaching your goal for the year ahead. Let's work together and see what we can accomplish!

Credit Repair Resources

 

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

Manage Your Home's Online Image

by Masha Halpern

In the next few weeks, a lot of people will be trying out their brand new smart phones and tablets. And with the help of iPhone and Android apps, some of them are going to be looking for a home to buy as we move into 2013. Zillow, Trulia, REALTOR and many other real estate companies have apps available for both systems. So, more than ever before, buyers are doing a lot of window shopping before they ever leave the comfort of their living room.

This has some important implications for folks with houses on the market. You need to ensure that your listing gives a potential buyer the best possible picture of why they should consider your property at the price you want for it. Whether you’re selling on your own or have the help of a real estate professional, you need to make sure your listing has the following:

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a great picture of your home maybe worth your asking price. As visual creatures, we’re never going to get past that first impression. You must make sure that the photos you use in your listing capture the best possible image of your home. You want a buyer to not just see your home, but see themselves living in your home. If you’re not sure of your photography skills, don’t hesitate to enlist help (or even pay for it) from someone who is a great photographer. You’re not looking for anything tricky or deceptive. But a working knowledge of framing and light can yield a picture that’s just a little better, and captures the eye of browsing buyers.

The words used in your listing are also extremely important. Advertisers know that the right words have a powerful impact. You want the description to strongly sell the best aspects of your house, and to complement and reinforce the photos being used. Longer is not better. Short descriptions that evoke powerful, positive images in a reader’s mind are always best. Also, no one is going to intentionally misspell words or use incorrect grammar, but mistakes happen and wind up in an online listing. You’ll want to make sure to have your listing proof-read for those little mistakes.

Once your listing goes online, you may want to double check how it looks on the web as well as in various real estate apps people download to their smart phones and tablets. You can find iPhone real estate apps here, and Android versions here. You want to make sure the photos and descriptions match what you expect to see, and you might have to make changes to improve what you see. If you’re working with a real estate professional, they’ll help make sure everything looks good. And if you do need some help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Images courtesy Realtor.com

The Basics of Door Security

by Masha Halpern
After you are settled into a new house, relaxing after the process of buying and moving, the last thing you want is worrying about your safety. It is an important thing to do before you put away your 'check list from moving' though.
 
 Home security should always be a priority, and almost always should be installed and maintained by professionals. But, if you're going to upgrade your security, it can be helpful to know a bit about what goes into that security. Today's focus is on doors, but we'll talk about windows and sliding glass doors in the future. 
 
Doorknob locks are the most basic type. And with that comes the inherent problem that they are easy to defeat. On doors leading from the outside, they aren't really enough to provide reliable security. They should always be paired with a dead-bolt. An attachable chain lock on the inside might make you feel safe, but is easily overcome with physical force.
 
The Deadbolt lock is a physical safety lock, securing the door in the frame with a metal bolt that slides into a receptacle in the door frame. A study [pdf] by the city of Chula Vista discovered "that 87% of the break-ins ... targeted 'the one door that had no dead-bolt lock.'" The bolt itself should be steel and at least an inch long. The strike plate, where the dead-bolt locks into place, should be securely set into the door frame with screws that are strong, durable and at least three inches long. Shorter screws are easily torn out of the wood.
 
Masha's clients know that having access to her  "concierge program", Masha arranges for her clients to meet with her trusted locksmith to schedule lock replacement after closing. "We are always sharing our keys with neighbors and friends to watch our homes when we travel' says Masha," Its really very hard for us to keep up with where they have all gone and who we have passed them to." She said. "It just makes sense to be safe and secure your home when you buy."
 
There are also a variety of high tech lock systems on the market. Keypads are the most common of these, and are widely and successfully used in commercial settings. Biometric dead-bolt locks read your fingerprint before they release the bolt. These locks are not perfect, and some of them failed in tests conducted by Consumer Reports.
 
The best back up for any door is a good alarm system. The major reason for this is that very few criminals want to get caught, and the alarm is going to scare most of them away quickly.  Alarm systems usually come with contracts for monitoring by companies, so its best to speak directly with those professionals for details on their contracts for security system monitoring. 
 
If you want to do more research, try Consumer Reports which offers a buying guide and a set of reviews. If you're in the market, security is something that we can prioritize as we look at possible homes. Contact me and let's get started!
 
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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 CyberStars 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.

 

 
 

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photos courtesy tymesynk/flickr.com and vflockcom/flickr.com

Thanksgiving Client Appreciation Event a Huge Success

by Masha Halpern

What a wonderful time we all had at our 1st Annual Thanksgiving Pie Give-Away! We are very excited to have had such a great turnout and look forward to making this an annual event.

    Everyone working with Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team loves giving back to our past clients and this year it was "pie"!'. By presenting  them with a complimentary Thanksgiving Pie Masha wanted to continue to show her thanks because  they are always referring us to family, friends and co-workers to help them with their real estate needs.   Watch the below video to hear Masha's heart-felt thank you and some exciting news about 2013

A huge thank you to InterFaith Food Shelter of Chapel Hill, North Carolina for allowing us to deliver the extra pies for their Thanksgiving Feast.

I want to thank everyone for keeping  those referrals coming!  You know they will receive the best service from the best agent in Chapel Hill, Durham and Carrboro, North Carolina.

Keep checking our Client Appreciation page for new photos of our events and upcoming Client Appreciation events.

Renovate a Bathroom in a Jiffy

by Masha Halpern

Home owners considering putting their house on the market often know they have work to do to maximize the value of the property. Renovations that include new flooring and appliances can go a long way, but usually need to be done by professionals, are expensive and time consuming. But, there are things you can do yourself. Today, let’s talk about making the most of your bathrooms.

The first step is to do a maximum cleaning job on the bathroom. It’s going to be easier to identify the biggest problem if everything is a spotlessly clean as possible. I’m talking about the old-fashioned, Momma’s watching you type of clean. Wash the sides of the cabinets and make sure that the area behind the toilet shines!

With that out of the way, what you see is the best of what you’ve got. Now you can start to prioritize ways to give the space a quick renovation.

Some things are almost mandatory if you’re looking ahead toward selling. The walls, for example, should be spotless and a simple, neutral light color, preferably white. Any other choice you make is a potential problem for possible buyers, who will be looking for things they’ll have to do after buying. Strip that wallpaper! Prime and paint. A fresh coat of paint is an amazing start on a great renovation. And it’s easy enough that just about anyone can do it themselves.

Got grout? You need to make sure it’s as white as possible. The Do-it-Yourself Life website has an excellent article on cleaning tile grout quickly and inexpensively. And don’t overlook the shower or tub.

Make sure your light fixtures are clean and the lights bright. Fixtures are easy to overlook when cleaning, but clean fixtures keep the look bright. Make sure the bulbs are fresh and match, and don’t even try to hide imperfections with dim light.

Add decorative touches, but keep them simple. Again, a buyer is going to do their own thing in the room, and it’s hard to imagine that when your own stuff is cluttering up the space. Make sure you coordinate colors, and avoid garish artwork.

At this point, you may want to replace a fixture or alter the flooring. But, you’ve already got a good start on improving your home and making some potential buyer a little more interested in your home. For more ideas, check out this article on Stylist Home.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy b4ssm4st3r/flickr.com

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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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