Real Estate Information Archive


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Avoiding Staging Mistakes

by Masha Halpern

It is easy to make mistakes, but below are some of the top mistakes sellers make when they are preparing their house for the market:

  • You don't go it alone, don't be afraid to get advice from others on what looks neat and organized. Get your realtor’s advice; or if selling on your own, have a trusted third party walk the home with you and point out areas that look cluttered or cramped.
  • Keep in mind that you do not have to make extensive renovations or replace all the furniture to be successful. Keep things simple and your investments small. Updates to paint, replacing light fixtures or changing out pillows or bedcovers can all go a long way to giving your home an updated look without major expense.
  • Leave out personal items and knick-knacks. Be sure to remove family photos, school projects and other personal items that might make it hard for a new family to envision themselves living in the space. 
  • If you need some inspiration, visit a few model homes for sale for ideas on attractive staging and open spaces. Open up heavy curtains with tie backs and make sure that your furniture isn’t in the way of creating, bright open spaces. If you need to take some things out, try temporary storage.
  • Avoid painting with dark or intense colors. Keep your wall and flooring colors to neutral, adaptable tones. Even if bright or varied color palettes are trendy, they are too much for most prospective buyers..
  • Avoid overstaging with accessories. Over the top accessories, including flowers, scents, and home décor items not only make it look like you are trying too hard, they can detract from the real form and functionality of your house.

Simplicity is the key to correctly staging your home for sale. Clean, uncluttered and neutral surroundings show off the possibilities of your home to your buyers and make your house the number one choice!



The Global Elementary Model United Nations was held on May 14 and 15th, 2010 in Dallas Texas.  This event is held for elementary and middle school students who take on the different roles of delegates to the United Nations.  This event has been held since 1990 it provides these young students to broaden their educational experiences.  They have the opportunity to learn about other countries people and their cultures along with the utility to gain an understanding about how these countries interact.  This in itself provides the opportunity for many awesome achievements.
There is a lot of preparation that students do before the conference.  Students who are participating from each school are assigned a particular country.  Throughout the school year, they are involved in preparing themselves for the United Nations event.  They have to do research to begin to understand all of the facets of their assigned country.  The purpose of the project is to give the students a better understanding about how the UN really works and the information is relevant to today's global environment.  Once they arrived at the conference, they perform the various roles of delegates at the UN.  Relevant topics are debated and discussed.  This model UN even includes the entire delegation voting on numerous referendums.  For individuals or schools to score points, they must convince their fellow participants to vote for their particular agenda.

Some of the awesome achievements include three students from the Duke School delegation.  Noah Mlyn, Ethan Fox and Joseph McGuire , each one the best delegate and peace prize awards.  These are prestigious awards and was based on their ability to get their resolutions passed.  The additional members of this team include Zack Balleisen, Aliza Gersing, Caroline Manson, Claudia Sollee, Issac Lutz, Jose Lopez, Joshua McClain, Zain Clapacs, Eli Rice, Nancy Sullivan, Kevin Quinn, Miranda Turner and Nadia Parashkeovova.  Congratulations go out to all of the delegates who participated and got a chance to learn a little bit more about global issues of today.


Understanding Your Debt to Income Ratio

by Masha Halpern

If you have found a home you want to purchase and are applying for a mortgage, your lender will look at what is called a debt-to-income ratio. If you are not familiar with this, below you can find more information as well as why is it important to you and how it effects your financing.

Debt-to-income ratio is simply a comparison of the money you earn to the money you owe. It includes credit card debt, existing mortgages, auto loans, and any other personal debt.

Your mortgage lender will look at your Debt-To-Income (DTI) to evaluate your ability to afford your new mortgage. You should have a good idea of what your DTI ratio is before you approach a lender or consider buying a new home.

You ultimately want to achieve a low DTI ratio. A high number means that you have less disposable income and less ability to maintain the home once you purchase it. With foreclosures at an all time high, lenders are not willing to assume any additional risk in lending.

Most lenders seek DTI ratios in the 20-36% range or lower, with no more than 28% of debt dedicated to the mortgage itself. While some lenders will consider higher ratios, DTIs in the upper 30% range are considered high risk.

There are several different calculators available online to help you determine your ratio, and you can always check with your financial institution for guidance on determining your DTI ratio.

Here’s a simple formula:

  1. Add all your monthly payments (mortgage or rent, car, credit cards, any other debt payments)
  2. Add your gross income (before taxes), bonuses, alimony, or any other outside income and divide by 12
  3. Then divide the total number in (1) by the final number in (2)
  4. The result is your DTI ratio

Whether you are ready to buy, considering a home purchase, or are just interested in your financial health, it’s a good idea to know your DTI and understand the steps to lower your ratio and become as close to debt-free as you can.



FHA 203(k) Program Loan

by Masha Halpern

Warmer weather has arrived and many homeowners are starting to think about making some home repairs or improvements. However with the current economy, these projects may not be in the budget. The good news is there an option, the FHA 203(k) program loan. This program allows homeowners to secure a loan for home improvements, provided the property has adequate value to secure the loan.

In order to qualify for an FHA home improvement loan, the property must be a residental home, one-to-four-unit dwelling that is older than one year. Condominiums can also qualify, but only for interior improvements.

Many additional costs can be financed into the 203(k) loan, including permits, inspection costs, work write-ups, and supplemental fees. Other expenses that can be rolled into the loan include the escrow for contingency costs and up to six months worth of the proposed mortgage payment.

It is important to know that these FHA home improvement loans cannot be used for anything other than home improvement or repairs. The loan recipient cannot use the funds for other expenses like debt or other purchases. Specific improvement of the property such as roof repair or other major repairs/improvements are the only purchases that may be used with the funds.

FHA loans are typically easy to apply and qualify for.  The FHA guidelines for loan qualification are very flexible and typically require less than 5% down payment. This allows homeowners quick and easy access to home improvement funds at some of the lowest interest rates available.


What To Avoid Before Buying A Home

by Masha Halpern

If you are ready to buy your first home or move up to your dream home, do you know what to avoid before you even start to look at properties? Below are some some important lessons from homebuyers who wish they had not made these mistakes:

  1. Don’t make any major purchases – at least not on credit. If even you are pre-approved, do not make any large credit purchases or take out any loans before you close on your new home. For example:
  • Autos, boats or other vehicles
  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Electronics
  • Student loans
  • Refinanced property
  • Personal loans

2. Don’t wait to get your approval from your mortgage lender – the more up front work you do before you are ready to sign, the better. This includes making sure your credit is in good shape, with no mistakes or surprises on your credit report.

3. Don’t change jobs – unless you absolutely have to or you are making a major step UP the career ladder. A steady and stable employment history is another important piece to getting approved and getting a good rate on your mortgage.

4. Don’t skip the home inspection or rely on the seller’s inspector. Get an objective third party home inspection (your agent should be able to recommend one) and make sure that any repairs or problems are not on your contract.

6. Don’t buy a home you can’t afford – this sounds simple, but don’t forget to take into account the property taxes, utility bills, HOA expenses, insurance and maintenance. The price of your home is much more than the mortgage payment!

Don’t let your dream turn into a nightmare – get pre-approved, be prepared and avoid these home buying mistakes!



Displaying blog entries 1-5 of 5




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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