Real Estate Information Archive


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Mistakes Home Sellers Make

by Masha Halpern

1. Asking Too Much-if you price your home too high, you risk turning away potential buyers (especially in a slow market).  Your home is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it.  When real estate times were better, it was easier to get comparable prices going back 6 months.  Because market prices have gone down, now you must compare prices for similar properties currently on the market.

2. Questioning the First Offer-Sometimes the first offer might be the best offer.  You can’t assume you will get a better offer the longer you hold out.  It’s actually the opposite-the longer your home sits on the market, the greater chance a seller will have to reduce his/her price.

3. Failing to Respond to All Offers-If you get an offer that is too low, do not reject it.  See if you can negotiate.  It’s a buyer’s market right now so they have the upper hand.  If you really need to sell your house, it will cost you more money in the long run if it sits on the market for a long time.

4. Paying for a Home Stager-You want your property to stand out but I don’t think it’s necessary to pay someone to stage your home.  Not everyone can picture how a home will look after they have added their own touch to it, so if possible, keep the walls clean and bright, get rid of the the clutter and knick-knacks and make all necessary repairs, even the smallest of problems, before buyers enter your home. A clean, neat, bright home gives off a much better vibe than a dark messy home.

5. Picking the Wrong Buyer-After the recent national mortgage disaster,  it’s especially important to choose the right buyer.  Choose someone with a prequalification letter issued no more than 4 to 6 weeks ago.  Also watch out for a buyer who needs a contingency (stating the deal won’t close until they sell their own home).  The best buyers are first time home buyers who qualify for a mortgage in advance or someone who has already sold their existing home.

I hope these seller tips have helped you. If you are looking for an experienced, successful broker to sell your home, please give us a call!


4 Tips for Buying a HUD Home

by Masha Halpern

A HUD home is nothing more than a house that was purchased with an FHA loan that has since fallen into foreclosure.

(I’m not sure why these homes aren’t called “FHA foreclosures,” which would be more intuitive for home buyers and investors, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] is the federal office that takes ultimate responsibility for FHA and its home loans gone wrong.)

Buying a HUD home is different from buying another type of foreclosed property. For starters, HUD homes are sold exclusively online in an auction process known as an “offer period.”

You may make an online offer during the offer period. At the end of the offer period, all offers are opened and considered to be received simultaneously. The highest acceptable net bid is then accepted, and the buyer’s agent is contacted.

If the home isn’t sold in the initial offer period, buyers may submit a bid any day of the week, including weekends and holidays. Bids are opened the next day.

What you probably don’t know is that if no one makes an offer for a HUD home within a certain amount of time, HUD lowers the price. The price of the HUD home continues to drop until an offer is made and accepted.

How do you find out if your bid was accepted? It’s your agent’s responsibility to check the website to see if your bid was accepted and to complete all the necessary paperwork.

Companies like PEMCO Ltd. are direct contractors with the government. They list and sell these homes online from HUD. Only agents who are registered with HUD may represent buyers and investors in the purchase of these properties.

There used to be a different site for different areas of the country, but it’s been consolidated into one website:

How can you navigate the website and find the right home to buy? Follow these four tips for buying a HUD home:

  1. Find the right real estate agent. Only real estate agents who are registered with HUD may represent home buyers and investors in the purchase of HUD homes online. But just because an agent is registered with HUD doesn’t mean he or she is going to be the best agent to represent you in the purchase of a HUD home. To find the right agent, you can search through the website that lists HUD homes in your area and find out which agents represented the most winning bids. Interview the top two or three agents. Be sure to ask how long the agent has represented buyers and investors, how the process typically works, whether the agent will accompany you to inspect the property, and what special knowledge the agent has garnered from writing so many winning bids.
  2. Inspect the property before making an offer. The local listing broker (who should be listed on the HUD home website) can gain access to the property and show it to you. However, you don’t need to call the listing broker to see the house with your agent. Any HUD registered agent can gain access to a HUD home. When you’re inspecting the property, take a lot of notes and photos of the property so you can be mindful of any improvements that need to be made when constructing your offer.
  3. Make an offer. The offer process on a HUD home is probably different from what you’re used to. Offers can be cancelled with no earnest money forfeiture. Once an offer is submitted, it can be cancelled before the HUD agent opens the bid electronically, or after by sending an email to the company managing the home. Until the contract is signed, the earnest money is not in jeopardy, so there are a few days after the bid is accepted to cancel.
  4. Be ready to close on your HUD home. Right now you might forty-five to sixty days to close on your HUD home, but HUD is moving toward 30-day contracts so get your financing together ahead of time. You may be able to qualify for FHA financing or special FHA deals, like the $100 Down Payment Incentive program or the Good Neighbor Next Door program, which offers a discount for HUD homes to law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who meet eligibility requirements. But it helps if you get your loan documentation together ahead of time, including your W-2; your paycheck stubs; your tax returns; copies of your savings, investment, and retirement accounts; and documentation of other assets and liabilities. You’ll need to provide copies of your driver’s license and other identifying information. Create a file for these documents so they’re ready when you are. You will also have to submit a prequalification letter with the sales contract in order for it to be accepted. The letter must indicate the buyer is qualified for the amount of the contract, the type of financing and any assets that have been verified for closing.

For more details, check out this HUD home FAQs page, or start your search for a HUD home in your state.

Thanks Ilyce Glink for sharing this information with us.





Mistakes Home Buyers Make

by Masha Halpern

1. Waiting to Sell Your Home-It’s more important to sell your existing home before you commit to buying a new one.  It takes a lot longer to find a buyer than it would have a year ago.  With the current state of the economy, you don’t want to be stuck carrying two mortgages.

2. Your Credit Score-Every year you should obtain a copy of your free credit report, especially if you plan on buying a home.  Most credit reports contain some type of error and it can take at least several weeks to have an error corrected.  Sometimes an error can disqualify you from a competitive interest rate or a mortgage altogether.

3, Skipping the Mortgage Preapproval Process-In a tight lending market, it’s important to shop around for a mortgage and get preapproved by a lender before you start looking for a home.  It’s not as easy to get a loan as it used to be.  Your mortgage rate will be based on how risky they feel you are.

4. Your Budget-It’s a buyers market.  Don’t be afraid to make an offer that’s below the asking price.  Also, don’t be foolish to walk away from a property you really like over a few thousand dollars.  I was involved in a situation like this in NY.  I was told as a buyer “You can’t make an offer like that, it’s too low”. I said “Yes I can, worse case scenario they will say no”.  I lived in that home for 7 years!!

5. Signing a Contract with Contingencies-Not only do you need to secure a mortgage, you also need to find a seller that is ready to move at the same pace as you are.  You don’t want to get yourself involved in a situation when the sale is dependent on the seller finding a new home first.

I hope these tips have helped you.  Let us know if we can help you find a home that is right for you!





What does Jordan Lake mean to you?

by Masha Halpern

I wonder how many people are aware of the pollution problem at Jordan Lake.  Scientists first identified pollution problems around 1995 and they have only gotten worse since then.  Jordan Lake is not just for recreational use.  The lake provides clean drinking water to more than 120,000 Wake, Durham and Chatham County residents.  In addition, growth and development are taking their toll.

Environment North Carolina is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. They are working to win real results for Jordan Lake and to set the stage for how other lakes across the state will be restored.

When cities discharge treated sewage into the lake, it causes excessive algae, increases the cost of drinking water and threatens the lake’s ability to sustain fish and swimming for years to come.  It’s also up to the boaters and other recreational users to clean up after themselves when leaving the Lake.

We can all be happy if we work together.  Development can still take place if the proper measures are in place to control runoff and sewage pollution.

I have been kayaking on Jordan Lake for several years.  I would much prefer kayaking in a clean body of water as opposed to a polluted one.  Wouldn’t you?

Looking forward to kayaking on Jordan Lake very soon.  How many more days until summer?



Top Ten Reasons Why Now Is the Time to Buy

by Masha Halpern

While you may be thinking that due to the poor economy its a bad time to buy a new Chapel Hill Home, its actually the opposite! For many North Carolina residents, it can actually be more cost effective to own than to rent!

Here are ten great reasons that NOW is the time to buy!

10. You'll get a better home. In different parts of the country, it's hard to find a good rental.

9. The National Association of Realtors puts the current inventory at around 4 million homes. That's enough for a years worth of sales. That means a lot of choices as well as great prices.

8. Sooner of later, the market will improve. There will be more demand than supply. The population is supposed to grow by more than 100 million people over the next 40 years. That means a lot of people will be looking for new homes in the future.

7. Your home isn't the stock market and it shouldn't be viewed as a way to get rich. Real Estate prices will go up again. Equity in your home is another way of investing in your future.

6. If offers some inflation protection, especially if you are young and raising a family.

5. It will be yours. You can have the kitchen and bathrooms you want, you can move walls or build an extension. You can even paint your home bright red. Few landlords will allow you to do that.

4. It's a buyer's market. We all like a good deal, we feel a sense of satisfaction after negotiating.

3. It's forced savings.  If you rent an apartment for $2000/month instead of buying one for $2400/month, renting seems like a good idea but will you save the $400 for the future? Most people won't and since part of that monthly payment as an owner is tax deductible, you do the math.  You are just paying yourself by building equity in your home.

2. You'll save on taxes. You can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes from your income taxes.

1. Mortgages are cheap. Interest rates are at historic lows. Two years ago they were around 6.3%. Now they are around 4.3% for a 30 year fixed loan. That's a big difference in your monthly payment.  When inflation goes up, interest rates will go up.

Questions and not sure who to ask? Need help finding your dream home? This market we are facing poses challenges but also opportunities.  Contact us to help you find the best home in this buyers' market for your family!



How Do You Differentiate Your Home From Other Listings?

by Masha Halpern

The real estate market is picking up but how do you differentiate your home from all the other listings out there?

Kitchen View 2 - showcases beautiful hand-rubbed cherry cabinetry.

I have had many of my seller clients prepare "Top Ten Reasons Why We Love Our Home" Lists. It can also help if a seller writes a "Seller Love Letter". Both express the love the seller's family has had for the home and explain the facts and events behind their feelings.

Buyers like to hear about sweet, fond family memories about a property, which is better than a home filled with tragic stories or sadness regarding a short sale or foreclosure.

Other good ideas to include in these lists/letters are:

1)Favorite neighborhood restaurants, dry cleaners, house cleaners, landscapers, carpet cleaners.  

2)Local dog parks, playgrounds, running trails, yoga studios, health clubs, libraries, bookstores, museums and other recreational activities.

3)History of upgrades, a landscape plan.

4)Neighborhood activities, listservs.

In such a competitive market, it's always a good selling point to share happy memories and logistical information. Buyers sometimes get weary of dealing with bank sellers or stressful short-sale situations.

If you would like Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team to help you sell your home and provide you with more seller tips, please do not hesitate to give us a call. We'll get the job done!


Displaying blog entries 1-6 of 6




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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