Real Estate Information Archive


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VA Housing Loans

by Masha Halpern

If you are shopping for a new home and are a veteran and in need of financing, a VA housing loan might be for you. A VA loan is a mortgage that is guaranteed (insured by) the Veterans Administration. There are millions of veterans in the United States that are eligible for a VA housing loan.

The VA Loan became known in 1944 through the original Servicemen's Readjustment Act also known as the GI Bill of Rights. The GI Bill was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and provided veterans with a federally guaranteed home with no down payment.

The VA Home Loan program allows veterans with qualifying income and credit to purchase a primary residence without putting any money down towards the sale price of the home, as long as that sale price does not exceed the appraised value of the home. Veterans are eligible for loans without down payments until 2011. Veterans do need money towards closing costs as well as earnest money, which the seller generally requires when a sales contract is signed. Closing costs may be paid by the seller, which can be negotiated. Below are some important facts and information if you are a veteran considering a home purchase.

  • To be eligible for a VA housing loan, you must be a veteran that has served on active duty. A total of ninety days of service are required during wartime. The requirement is 181 consecutive days during times of peace. Click here for more information on eligibility.
  • Any itemized fees and charges related to the purchase of a property, such as inspections and appraisals may or may not be the responsibility of the veteran. It is a goof idea to check with your local VA office for a list of reasonable and customary fees veterans are allowed to pay.
  • While poor credit within the last 12 months may be a deterrent in loan approval, VA housing loans have been given to veterans who lack established credit.
  • Veterans can prepay their VA Home Loans without a penalty.


Spring Home Improvement Projects

by Masha Halpern

The first day of spring has arrived! Soon spring blossoms will usher away the winter cold, and now it is time to take care of a few important improvements around your home. The cold, harsh weather can damage your home. Below are some spring home improvement projects that can help to reduce the damage that cold weather brings!

  • Repair storm doors and weatherstripping. Harsh winter temps and strong winds can take a toll on storm doors. Many times doors can become bent, broken or can pull away from the doorjamb. It is important to repair these damages as drafts can cause expensive energy losses.
  • It is vital to have your air conditioner serviced before warm weather. Having a professional check the system and make sure it is in good running condition before you start it for the season can save money and headaches. Be sure to change your filters as well as a good furnace filter can help reduce allergens. When filters become clogged with dust, efficiency is reduced. Change filters quarterly or sooner if they look dirty.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts. No one likes this chore but it is very important to make sure your gutters and downspouts are in good working condition before summer storms.
  • It is important to repair any water damage that might have occured during the winter. Damage can be repaired easily on the outside of the home by filling the area with an epoxy patch, rather than replacing the damaged area. For small areas that need repair, use a chisel to dislodge most of the loose, rotted wood. Drill a few 1/4-inch holes into the damaged wood. Soak the entire rotted area with liquid epoxy "consolidant" to transform the area into a sturdy base for filler. Let the wood absorb it for about 5 minutes, then reapply, wait, reapply, and continue until the wood ceases to accept consolidant.

Mortgage Protection Insurance

by Masha Halpern

If you are a homeowner with a mortgage, you might have looked into or received offers for mortgage protection insurance. While there are different variations, this type of insurance typically will offer coverage that will pay your mortgage in the event that you are not able to.

Mortgage protection insurance (MPI) is essentially life insurance that pays your mortgage if a certain event, such as death, disability or job loss occurs.

This type of insurance is not for everyone. Such factors as your financial situation and your health can factor into your decison to obtain this isurance or to forgo this protection. It is best to do your research to see if this might be something for your situation. Below are some pros and cons of mortgage protection insurance and some things to look for when doing your homework.

The way this insurance works, is that if in the event you die, the insurance company will send a check directly to your mortgage company. If you are disabled, suffer a job loss, the mortgage payments will also go directly to your mortgage company. The terms of these payment such as length in time will vary, typically for a few years.

Another benefit of MPI is most polices are issued on a "guaranteed acceptance" basis. " This means that when you apply, there will be only a few questions and you are accepted-guaranteed. If you are someone who typically is uninsureable due to health issues or work in a high risk occupational field, this is a great opportunity for coverage.

Some cons of mortgage protection insurance is that it is a declining-benefit policy, which means that payoff amount decreases as you pay down your mortgage.
In addition, some financial advisors recommends that homeowners consider other ways of planning for their future. 

If you decide to obtain this type of insurance, be sure to shop around and ask about specifics and services in additon to cost. Be sure to research their rating thru A.M. Best Co.


February Total Market Overview

by Masha Halpern

The February TMO for Triangle MLS (all areas/properties) and Chapel Hill/Carrboro have been issued. This overview shows the total market overview for the area. Below is the breakdown of properties for the Chapel Hill/Carboro area.

 Below is the total market overview breakdown for all areas.


Buffett Says U.S. Housing Will Recover by Next Year

by Masha Halpern

In Business Week today, an article focusing on the housing market indicated that Billionaire Warren Buffett said the U.S. residential real estate slump will end by about 2011, predicting that’s how long it will take demand for homes to catch up with the supply.

In his annual letter to shareholders of his Berkshire Hathaway Inc, he wrote: “Within a year or so, residential housing problems should largely be behind us,”  “Prices will remain far below ‘bubble’ levels, of course, but for every seller or lender hurt by this there will be a buyer who benefits.”

The current real estate market has left one in five U.S. mortgage holders owing more than their houses are worth. In addition, record foreclosures last year flooded a real estate market already stocked with unsold property, causing new construction to fall to the lowest in at least 50 years.

“People thought it was good news a few years back when housing starts -- the supply side of the picture -- were running about two million annually,” said Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire. “But household formations -- the demand side -- only amounted to about 1.2 million.”

Berkshire, which owns a real-estate brokerage, a business that constructs pre-fabricated houses and units that make products used in homebuilding, has suffered amid the slump. Profit at Clayton Homes, the pre-fab housing business, fell about 9 percent to $187 million before taxes, while earnings at carpet manufacturer Shaw Industries fell 30 percent. “High-value houses and those in certain localities where overbuilding was particularly egregious” will take longer to recover, he wrote.

Buffett joked that curbing home construction was the best of three ways to reduce supply. The other two, he said, would be to explode homes in a “tactic similar to the destruction of autos that occurred with the ‘cash-for-clunkers’ program” or “speed up householder formations by, say, encouraging teenagers to cohabitate, a program not likely to suffer from a lack of volunteers.”

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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