Real Estate Information Archive


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Adding Curb Appeal With Landscaping

by Masha Halpern

Investing in a well-landscaped yard is definitely something to consider for your North Carolina home. It creates curb appeal and helps your property retain maximum value when you choose to sell it.

A beautiful yard is a head-turner, no doubt about it. The good news is that even if you can’t tell a tulip from a turnip at the garden center, you can still create eye-catching curb appeal by paying attention to the basics of good landscaping. Ignoring your yard—or doing something that’s out of character with the neighborhood—can jeopardize the assessed value of your home. Poorly maintained landscaping can be as much as a 5 or 10% deduction in its value.

Appraisers are quick to praise the allure of a well-tended lawn and good-looking landscaping when it comes time to sell your home, but most do not assign any specific increase in monetary value for upkeep.
Nevertheless, most professionals agree that curb appeal and a well-maintained appearance prevent your property from losing value. Here are the top suggestions from real estate agents, appraisers, and landscape designers for boosting the curb appeal of your yard:

Green up the grass

If your house has a front yard, make sure it‘s neat and green. You don’t want bare spots, sprawling weeds, or an untrimmed appearance.

It’s very simple to go to Home Depot, buy fertilizer, apply it every six weeks, and water it. This easy maintenance will keep your yard looking green and beautiful.

If the yard looks really scruffy, you may decide to invest in some sod. According to the National Gardening Association, the average cost of sod is 15 to 35 cents per sq. ft. If you hire a landscaper to sod your yard for you, labor will add 30% to 50% to the total cost of the project. 

Another alternative is to plant low-maintenance turf grasses. Turf grasses are durable and drought-resistant. Expect to pay $18 to $30 for enough turf grass seed to plant 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area.

Add colorful planting beds

Flower beds add color and help enliven otherwise plain areas, such as along driveways and the edges of walkways. In general, annual flowers are a bit cheaper but must be replaced every year. Perennials cost a bit more but come back annually and usually get larger or spread with each growing season.

If you’re not sure what to plant, inquire at your local garden center. Often, they’ll have a display of bedding plants chosen for their adaptability to your area. Also, they‘ll be inexpensive because they’re in season. Pansies are good in the summer, and asters and mums in the fall add vibrant color.

Add landscape lighting

For homeowners who have made a sizeable investment in landscaping, it makes sense to think about adding another 10% to 15% to the bill for professional lighting. You can’t see landscaping after dark, and buyers are not always looking at houses on a Saturday afternoon.

The cost of a system runs from $200 for a DIY installation to more than $4,000 for a professional job. If you‘re doing it on your own, the key is to light what you want people to see, such as mature trees and flowering shrubs. 

Plant a tree

The value of mature trees is particularly difficult to determine. Mature trees contribute as much as 10% of a $100,000 property’s overall value. In addition, a properly placed shade tree can shave as much as $32 a year on your energy bills. Expect to pay $50 to $100 for a young, 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree.

You can make your own initial assessment of the value of your property’s trees by visiting the National Tree Benefit Calculator. For example, a mature Southern red oak tree with a diameter of 36 inches in the front yard of a house in Augusta, Ga., would add $70 to the property value this year, according to the calculator.




Great News for Durham Public Schools!

by Masha Halpern

The Durham Public Schools now have full accreditation. It's the first time in the district's history that all of its schools are accredited. "I think it does say we're on the right track and moving in the right track," Durham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Becoats said.

Durham Public School officials hope their new accredited status can help turnaround the district's image to skeptical parents and potential buyers. "I would strongly encourage families to visit the schools that are in the neighborhood because I think every school has something to offer our students," Becoats said.

In addition to its improved academics, Durham is a community that is home to over 300 restaurants, more than 40 annual festivals, Duke and North Carolina Central Universities, Durham Bulls Triple-A baseball, art and science museums and Southpoint Mall. 

Durham is so convenient to everything in and around the Triangle area. If you're at Southpoint Mall, you can get to Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Raleigh, Downtown Durham, Hillsborough, Apex and Cary, all in around 15 minutes.

When you combine great schools with convenience, affordable homes and quality health care, Durham is a great place to live!







Is Seller Financing For You?

by Masha Halpern

It can be tough to get a mortgage loan these days with increasing credit requirements. Even buyers who have excellent credit are having difficulties getting approved. On the flip side, many people anxious to sell their North Carolina property can’t get qualified buyers to the closing table. If you are interested in taking out the middle man and controlling more of the process, you may want to consider seller financing.

If you have never heard of this before, basically the person selling the home lends the potential buyer the money to purchase the house. The seller becomes the mortgage holder and the buyer sends monthly mortgage payments directly to the seller. The transaction is usually completed using a promissory that states the interest rate, length and terms of the loan and default consequences.

In today’s market, sellers may need to get their homes sold quickly, and seller financing is a way to get the property sold faster – it opens up the market to more buyers and the paperwork process moves quickly.

Some advantages to doing this type of financing:

  • Faster closing – Sellers and buyers can avoid long waits for loan committee review, underwriting and legal review.
  • Lower Closing Costs – buyers don’t have to shell out additional money for bank fees and other closing costs associated with a traditional mortgage.
  • Flexible down payment – most sellers are willing to take less money down than lending institutions.

Of course this is not for everyone and many home sellers may not be in a position to where they can offer financing. On the downside, there is risk involved on both sides – the seller is taking a risk on someone who may have some shaky payment history or poor credit, and the buyer is dependent on the seller to have been upfront on the terms of the sale (like making sure that the seller’s lender approves the arrangement). As with any large transaction, especially a property purchase, both parties should consult with a real estate attorney and financial expert to make sure that the transaction is legal and is financially sound. If you are ready to buy and can’t find a lender, seller financing may be worth checking out!




Print This and Keep in Your Car for Emergencies

by Masha Halpern

4 Things You Might Not Have Known About Your Cell Phone

This is for everyone with a cell phone, whether you live in Chapel Hill or somewhere else. (This should be printed and kept in your
car, purse, and wallet. It’s good information to have with you at all times.)

There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies.Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival.

Check out the things that you can do with it:

FIRST (Emergency)

The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112. If you find yourself out
of the coverage area of your North Carolina mobile network and there is an Emergency, dial
112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the
emergency number for you, and interestingly, this number 112 can be dialed
even if the keypad is locked. Try it out.

SECOND (Hidden Battery Power)

Imagine your cell battery is very low. To activate, press the keys *3370#.
Your cell phone will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show
a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge
your cell phone next time.


THIRD (How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone?)

To check your Mobile phone's serial number, key in the following Digits on
your phone:
*#06# .
A 15-digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your
handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe.

If your phone is stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them
this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief
changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won't
get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't
use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in
people stealing mobile phones.

And Finally....

FOURTH (Free Directory Service for Cells)

Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 to $1.75 or more for 411
information calls when they don't have to. Most of us do not carry a
telephone directory in our vehicle, which makes this situation even more of
a problem. When you need to use the 411 information option, simply dial:
(800) FREE411 or (800) 373-3411
without incurring any charge at all. Program this into your cell phone now.
This is sponsored by McDonalds.

This is the kind of information people don't mind receiving, so pass it on
to your family and friends.



Moving and Kids

by Masha Halpern

It can be very stressful to move. There’s so much to do! You’ve got to pack and unpack, notify the Post Office of your change of address, do closing paperwork on the home you’re selling and the home you’re buying in Carrboro, hold last minute yard sales, etc. It seems like a lot, and it is, but  here’s a great checklist to help you get it all straight two months prior to your move. 

Now, what about your kids?  If you’re stressed out, imagine what’s going on in their young minds:  Will I make new friends?  Will I hate the school?  Does anyone else like baseball as much as I do?  How far away is McDonalds?  I’ll never remember my new phone number, address, locker combination…  They won’t be concerned about the same things as Mom and Dad.  They will worry about things that directly affect them. 

How do you settle your children’s nerves during a move to your new North Carolina home?  Give them an opportunity to participate by working on small projects that address their own personal needs.  Children of any age can help pack boxes.  Have them label their own boxes so they get placed in their new room in the new house.  Have them draw out a plan for their new room, or make a list of things they want to learn from their parents about their new town before they get there. 

Pack plenty of music, movies, and games if you have a long cross-country drive to your destination.  Keeping kids entertained when cooped up in a car all day goes a long way in soothing their nerves as well as Mom’s and Dad’s.  Once you arrive, here are some great ideas for the whole family once you get settled in.




Displaying blog entries 1-5 of 5




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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