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Buying your first house is likely to be the greatest financial commitment you will ever make. While buying your first home is an exciting experience, it can also seem overwhelming and can leave you asking lots of questions.  There are many things to consider, from budgeting to choosing the house, and getting financing you want to make sure you have all the information you need to make smart decisions. Here are a few easy steps to get started!  

How Much Can You Afford?
Before you can start actually looking for a home, you need to set some basics, such as how much can you actually afford. There are two major factors that you need to consider, how much you can borrow and how much of a monthly payment you can realistically afford.  Keep in mind you will most likely be pre-qualified for an amount that may be unaffordable to your budget. As a general rule of thumb, your annual mortgage payment, taxes and homeowner's insurance shouldn't exceed 28% of your gross income.  Use this home buying worksheet to help you figure the costs.
In addition, you will also need to determine your closing costs, which can add up to 3% to 5% of your total home's value. This closing cost estimator will help to give you a better understanding of the costs.

Do Your Homework-Start Your Search Online
Almost 80% of all home searches today begin on the Internet. With just a few clicks of the mouse, yours can search through hundreds of online listings, view virtual tours, and sort through dozens of photographs and aerial shots of neighborhoods and homes.   With detailed knowledge about neighborhoods, school districts or any other factors that are important to you, you can narrow your search to find your perfect home even before you step foot outside!

How Long Will The Home Meet Your Needs?
When you do find some homes that you are seriously considering, ask yourselves these questions. What features do you require in a home to satisfy your lifestyle now? Five years from now? Depending on how long you plan to stay in your home, you'll need to ensure that the home has what you'll need. For example, if you are a young couple with no children just starting out and you found a two-bedroom home that you love, it may be perfect now. However, if you start a family, you will quickly outgrow the space. Best advice is to consider a home with room to grow. Could the basement be turned into a den and extra bedrooms? Could the attic be turned into a master suite? Having an idea of what you'll need will help you find a home that will satisfy you for years to come.

What To Look For In First Time Home Loans
Because there are several different mortgage programs available for as a first time home buyer, it can be confusing and difficult to decide what is best for your when faced with many different loan types. Use this list  to help you narrow down the choices to what is best.

In addition, here are a couple of tips and guidelines:
1. Flexibility - Make sure you get a program that offers a monthly payment you can really afford. Be honest with your mortgage broker if your payment seems out of reach. You may be able to obtain a three or five year ARM mortgage with a lower interest rate and lower payments or an interest only loan to get you into your home without giant mortgage payments.
2. Down payment assistance. If you are unable to pay a down payment there are programs available to help you.  Down Payment Assistance Programs  are loan programs designed to assist first-time home buyers with the required down payment and closing costs.
3. Long Term Goal - Are you planning on staying in this home forever, for three years, for five years? Communicate your goals to your lender because in situations like these they may have several mortgage options from which you can choose

Purchasing your first home does take research and work, but buying a home is the American dream and you can fulfill your dreams. While it can be exciting to look at different types of homes, don't be tempted into excess when first time home buying. Don’t purchase a home that is really more than you can afford and you need to be strong and stay within your budget. For more information on all the aspects involved in purchasing a home from start to finish, click here.

Homebyers - How To Negotiate


Of course, negotiating is a huge part of the homebuying process.  There are some principles that are universal, though.

You’re in a strong bargaining position if:

  • You’re an all-cash buyer
  • You’re already preapproved for a mortgage
  • You don’t have a home that needs to be sold before you can buy

These circumstances give you a little more leeway in negotiating. However, even if you are in a strong position, in a "hot" market, you may want to make your offer more desirable by offering more than asking price. When the market is "soft," homes tend to sell more slowly, creating a larger pool of homes from which to choose. On the other hand, when the market is "hot," there may be a limited number of homes to visit and the demand for them may be high.

Overall, here are some suggestions:

  • Enter into negotiations with the maximum amount you are willing to pay for the property firmly in mind.
  • Keep in mind (and add to the contract) some terms you can live without – then you can make concessions without compromising the items that are important to you.
  • Always have a few alternative homes in mind – knowing you have other options will help you stay objective during bargaining and may encourage the seller to be more reasonable.
  • Try to ascertain what the seller wants and needs. If, for example, the seller’s new home is not ready by the closing date, you might consider allowing the seller to rent back the home for a short time, provided your schedule permits.
  • Terms may be negotiated as well as price, and the changes can result in financial savings.

Get Ready For A Garage Sale


We find that many families use a change of residence as an opportunity to dispose of many outgrown and no-longer-wanted items. It beats taking the items with you and can even put several hundred dollars in your pocket toward buying furnishings for your new home.
As Realtors®, we are expected to be wise in all matters relating to a change of residence. Even though garage sales are far from our primary field of expertise, allow us to pass on the best advice we have picked up over the years.


Allow plenty of time – three to four weeks – to prepare. Choose a date that will not conflict with holidays or other events that might lure prospective customers away. More people are likely to show up on weekends than weekdays. Your sale is likely to attract more customers if you join together with neighbors in a larger effort with more merchandise – some homeowner groups sponsor neighborhood sales that are proving popular.

What to Sell
Practical household goods, bicycles, children’s toys and clothes, sports equipment and garden tools are popular. Adult clothing has less appeal – price accordingly. All items should be clean, polished and in good repair.


Merchandise your items attractively in neat, clean surroundings. Paper tablecloths offer a pretty setting for glass and ornamental items. Cluster things in categories. Place more desirable items toward the back so browsers can notice other merchandise on their way to the most popular items. Have a 25-cent miscellaneous table for young shoppers. Clothes should be sized accurately and hung on a temporary rack.


Locate your appliance table near an outlet so customers may try before they buy. Set aside adequate parking and a place to load large items. Have plenty of bags and boxes on hand for packing and newspapers for wrapping glass items. Ideally, a place for trying on clothing should be provided.


Place a classified ad in the local papers – include three or four of the more tantalizing items for sale, directions and other pertinent details (you may or may not want to include your phone number). Take advantage of free publicity provided by bulletin boards in grocery stores and other public places. Provide directional signs to your property using an indelible pen. If your house is listed for sale, have your Realtor® hold an open house on the same day, thus increasing traffic for both the house and the sale.


Visit other sales to get an idea on how to price things. Remember that garage sale shoppers are looking for deals, so be prepared to bargain and lower your prices. Really valuable items such as antiques should not be sold at a garage sale; they are not likely to bring the desired price from bargain hunters. Nothing is too worthless to be valuable to someone, so have a giveaway box for old magazines and other assorted odds and ends.


Post a notice that all sales are final and payment must be in cash. Keep ample change in a cash box in a protected spot. Keep a record of sales, especially when there are several sellers. One recording method that is simple and efficient is to use small adhesive stickers to price items, then transfer the sticker to the name of the seller when the item is sold.

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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