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Brighten Your Home and Landscaping

by Masha Halpern

One night, when the weather is cooperating, take a walk around your home.  What do you see? If the answer is nothing, then turn the lights on! Adequate outdoor lighting is sometimes overlooked by home builders. Even a small investment in lights can provide safety, security and beauty. And if you are considering selling, you'll want to show off your home in the best possible light. 

Safe from Accidents
Patches of ice. A tree root. A child's toy. Those three things are among the reasons you need to have some degree of lighting on the outside of your home. It seems like it's always the case that when you need something the most, you don't have it. Lighting walkways with path lights and post lights can ensure the safety of your family and guests at all times.
 
Securing the Perimeter
Being able to see outside at night from the safety of your home can bring some peace of mind. Using strategically placed floodlights can light up large areas. You can add motion sensors and timers to automate when the lights come on and go off.
 
Take Pride
If you're proud of your home and want to show it off, light it up. Here, the goal isn't to provide widespread illumination, but to put the best features of the property in the spotlight.  One common design idea is to decoratively light living areas like patios or pools. Backyard play areas can be lit so the fun can continue for the kids after sundown. Lights planted at the base of trees can be an attractive way to show off your property.
 
Powerful Options
As you survey your outdoor lighting needs, keep in mind you have a variety of options on powering the lights. Solar lets the Sun do the work of providing power during the night. Line voltage power is 120 volts, just like your appliances. It requires more extensive knowledge of working with electricity, and you may want the help of a  professional electrician. Low-voltage lighting is just 12 volts, more energy efficient and easier to install. 
 
Resources
The internet provides some great resources for people interested in outdoor lighting projects. Here are several to get you started. 
 
Outdoor lighting is like any other investment in your home. It will improve your quality of life, as well as create added value when the time comes to sell.
 

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

Three Signs the real estate market is recovering

by Masha Halpern

We are always looking for signs, right? Well it is no different in real estate. One resource for reporting trends and other news on the housing market is Altos Research, and they are sharing some of their "signs" that the real estate market is recovering.

 Click this link to see their full article and then scroll my blog to see how well their signs match with what is being reported by myself from our local Triangle MLS!

The Chapel Hill and Durham Real Estate markets have held their own over past years with rather flat appreciation, reasonable list to sale ratios, but did have a slight over supply in some price ranges of homes for sale. In the last year (2012 ), we saw a reduction in days on the market, increase in sale price and decrease in the number of homes for sale on the market - all signals from Altos that our area is trending accurately with the overall real estate market.

I think part of the popularity of our home sales has a lot to do with so many of the wonderful lifestyle choices we offer to families of all sizes in the Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh- Cary communities. Read all about them on my website when you click here.

And if you're still curious, take a peak at some of the homes we are currently seeking families for on our featured homes page.

 

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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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Wary of Winter's Toll

by Masha Halpern

Winter is not a great time for roofs. Freezing temperatures, strong winds, and rain, snow and ice combine to make winter the worse time of the year for extensive water damage. The cycle of water freezing and melting causes roofing to expand and contract, creating gaps that can leak. Older homes or those with poorly designed or constructed roofs are the most vulnerable, but it doesn't take a large mistake on an otherwise perfect roof to put the value of your home in jeopardy.

A buildup of snow and ice on the roof is never a good thing, and you want to prevent that as much as possible. Adding insulation to your attic is another way to prevent roof problems. In addition to keeping the cold out, the insulation keeps the heat inside from melting ice, which can run down from the peak and freeze again, causing ice dams. One telltale sign of ice dams are icicles, as seen in the image to the right.

If you have asphalt shingles, you're more likely to have issues with snow building up on the rough surface. Metal roofing with a PVC coating allow lets snow slide off. Snow guards and heating cables can also be used with metal roofs.

You don't have to go outside to check for leaks in the roof. The first sign is often water spots on the ceilings of upper floors or wet spots in attics.

You can look for damaged shingles from the ground by using binoculars. A closer look is often required, but moving about on the roof is generally something best left to an experienced inspector or roofer.

If you suspect you may have a problem, don't hesitate to get your roof inspected by a professional. A minor problem now can quickly become a major repair. The good news is that winter is not a roofer's busiest season, and you may find some steep discounts on repair costs. When looking for a roofer, make sure they have experience doing winter repairs.

Knowing the condition of your roof is especially important if you're planning on selling your home in the future. Problems and damage will have to be accounted for before most buyers will even consider making an offer on your home. The longer you wait, the more repairs will cost. So take a little time out of your weekend to check for roof problems. When it is time to sell, you'll be glad you did!

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

James beard award blog

by Masha Halpern

http://blogs.newsobserver.com/food/triangle-restaurants-chefs-named-as-james-beard-semifinalists

Ways to the Beat the Traffic Nightmare

by Masha Halpern

This will not come as a shock to you, but commuting to and from work is taking more and more of our time. Congestion on roads and highways cost the nation $121 Billion dollars last year. Here in the Triangle, we're wasting an average of $502 dollars a year sitting in traffic. This information comes from a large study conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute [pdf]. Their research shows that, if you don't want to regularly be late, you need to plan on spending 23 minutes in the car for a rush-hour trip that takes just ten minutes in ideal conditions!

Now anyone who has to commute already knows how frustrating it can be to spend a large fraction of your day inching along in traffic just to get back and forth to work. Add in the time spent chauffeuring children, and you might as well live in your car! But, because that's really not a solution, what can you do? Here are a few ideas:

Many employers share your commuting nightmares, and are willing to consider letting some employees work from home on at least a part-time basis. Even one day a week out of the rat race can be a blessing. Companies are also often willing to adjust your work schedule so that you can come in earlier or later, avoiding the worst parts of rush hour.

Sometimes a better route can be the key. It can really pay off to study a map and talk to friends and co-workers about their routes. Sometimes you just can't avoid highways, but maybe there's a faster way to work on surface streets during rush hour. And maybe you can work out a carpool solution where you can share gas costs and driving duties.

And, if you're already considering a move, I can help you find a location that might provide some relief. Perhaps a new neighborhood that provides easier access to you work, to schools and other key locations in your life. Enjoying a fantastic home is even better if you're not spending all your free time stuck in traffic. So, give me a call and let's find the right place for you!

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

Have You Considered Renting?

by Masha Halpern

As the housing market makes a slow recovery, many families have opted to rent homes instead of buying. And some homeowners have discovered that renting a home is a smart financial move. If that's something you've considered, let's talk about your options. When we do, we're going to consider a number of things, including how much you'll rent your house for and whether or not to consider professional property management.

When you're trying to determine how much you can charge for rent, you need to consider several things. First off, how much are homes similar to yours in similar, nearby neighborhoods being rented for now? Going to high over the average is going to turn away some potential renters. You can determine the lowest possible rent by considering the costs you will still have for the home after you've rented it out. You'll be paying, at the least:
  • Mortgage Payments
  • Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Major Repairs
  • Fees
Depending on your individual situation, you might also be paying for utilities, yard work, minor maintenance and professional services like a property management team and a legal consultant. Adding all of the costs up will give you a ballpark expense just for owning the home. You definitely don't want to lose money by renting, so the rental price is going to be higher. Working together, we can set a rental price that will make the house a reliable investment and be attractive to potential tenants. 
 
Before any potential tenants every see it, your house needs to be:
  • Clean
  • Empty (unless you want to rent it furnished)
  • In good working order (no repairs or maintenance needed)
  • And up to code
 
Now comes the important question. Are you going to be the landlord or will you have a property management team handle dealing directly with tenants? 
 
There's a lot to consider when screening tenants, signing rental agreements, and handling the daily chores of dealing with maintenance requests and other issues. If you've been a landlord before, you already know what you're getting yourself into by handling the duties yourself. If you've not been a landlord, or don't want the extra work of being one, you can consider using a property management firm. They'll charge a fee to handle all the aspects of renting a house for you. For example, ten percent of the monthly rent, and perhaps half of the first month's rent. 
 
We can discuss these issues in depth and I can guide you to a decision you'll be happy with in the long run. So, if renting is something you've ever considered, contact me and we'll arrange a time to sit down and discuss the possibilities!

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

Spruce up Your Curb Appeal

by Masha Halpern

Having your house on the market in the winter means you'll be facing some special challenges. Without the benefit of landscape in full bloom, a home can take on a drab appearance. To avoid turning away potential buyers, here are three tips for better winter curb appeal.

Adding a few winter-flowering shrubs and perennials to your landscaping can quickly turn drab into fab. Pieris japonica (pictured), the hellebore or Christmas rose and winter jasmine are some options that can do well in the Carolinas.

If you've got mulch around your trees and shrubs, make sure it's fresh. The longer mulch sits in the sun, the grayer it becomes, to the point you can't even tell it's mulch anymore. Rake up the old stuff and put in a layer of color against otherwise dormant landscaping.

Take a good look at areas where ice becomes a problem around your home during a winter storm. You might not have a problem with it, but it can be a negative for the elderly or those with disabilities. While shoveling snow and spreading salt or melting agents can alleviate the problem after it happens, look to more permanent solutions. Make sure you have good drainage away from your driveway and your house. Have your gutters and downspouts checked and cleaned if necessary.

Selling a home in winter may not be the most ideal time to show off your home's beauty, but you can fix that. And if you want help get some response from the market, just let me know and I'll be happy to help.

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

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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