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Get Organized Before You Shop for a Home

by Masha Halpern

The process of buying a home has gotten more complicated in recent years. To make sure everything goes smoothly, you’ll want to get organized before you even begin to look for a house. Once you’ve taken care of these things, you’ll be ready to shop for the home of your dreams.

Check Your Credit Score. Examine and fix any blemishes on your credit score, before you apply for a loan. Also, avoid taking on any new debt at this time. This includes buying a new car or other large item on credit.

Look at Your Finances. Take an honest look at your budget and figure out how much home you can afford. There are many online calculators available to help you with this. In general, most loan programs require that your mortgage payment be no more than 28% to 31% of your gross monthly income.

Beef up Your Savings. You should have enough cash saved up to cover your down payment and closing costs. Depending on your mortgage, you’ll need anywhere from 3.5% to 20% down, plus money available for closing.

In addition, mortgage lenders like to see borrowers with a healthy savings account. This shows that you have enough money to pay for your closing costs and any incidental expenses, as well as enough to live on once you move in. Savers aren’t likely to be living paycheck to paycheck, and are good candidates for a loan.

Apply for Your Mortgage. Get preapproved for a loan before you even start to look at homes. Applying for a loan first gives you a definitive answer on how much mortgage you can afford, and ensures you have financing ready when you find your dream home.

Refine Your Shopping List. Finally, think about the features you really want in a house. You’ll probably live in this house for several years, and you want it to serve your needs the entire time. After all, if you change your mind in a few years, you may not be able to sell this house quickly.

Shopping for a home is exciting. Take the time to organize and prepare before you look at properties, so you can be ready to make an offer when you do find a home that you love.

 

Masha Halpern, Broker, CLHMS, GRI
Keller Williams Realty
Masha@MashaHalpern.com
919-414-0337  

Get your latest Home Value
Receive Your Personalized Listing Alerts

Masha Halpern and The Smart Move Team is your ultimate real estate resource for Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

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 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.

Photo courtesy Kristja, Stock.XCHNG

Easy Ways to Go Green in Your Home

by Masha Halpern

The term “green living” means a lot of things. Mainly, though, it’s about living in a way that’s friendly to the environment. When you think about a green home, you may think of solar panels, wind turbines, grey water recycling, and other expensive projects. An environmentally friendly home doesn’t have to be expensive, however.

Homeowners that want to go green on a budget have many different ways to do it. With some time and a little work, you can go green in your home without spending a lot of cash.

You can get a big bang for your buck from basic maintenance projects around your home that make your home more energy efficient. Using less energy to heat and cool puts less strain on natural resources. Some of these projects include weather-stripping your doors and windows, plugging leaks in your walls and foundation, switching to low flow shower heads, and fixing dripping faucets. Each of these tasks only takes a few minutes and costs very little. However, they can significantly cut your energy use.

Going green is not just about energy savings, however. It’s also about using products that have less impact on the environment. Green up your shopping by buying products that use less packaging, buying local so that less fuel is used to transport items, and switching to household cleaners and detergents that are environmentally friendly. You may end up buying fewer things overall, which can save you money as well.

There are many other simple things you can do green up your home, including:

  • Install a programmable thermostat, and set it so your air conditioning doesn’t run when you are not home.
  • Switch to energy-efficient LED light bulbs.
  • Plant landscaping in your yard that will shade your house in the summer but allow sunlight through in the winter.
  • Replace old appliances with a newer, energy-efficient models. This is an investment, but can save you money in the long run on your utilities, which will help offset the cost.

You don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars for new solar panels on your roof or a wind turbine to go green. There are many other ways you can green up your home and routine. Remember, every time you make an environmentally friendly choice, no matter how small, you make a difference.

Masha Halpern, Broker, CLHMS, GRI
Keller Williams Realty
Masha@MashaHalpern.com
919-414-0337  

Get your latest Home Value
Receive Your Personalized Listing Alerts

Masha Halpern and The Smart Move Team is your ultimate real estate resource for Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

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 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.

  Photo courtesy B Cleary, Stock.XCHNG.

Do You Know the Value of Remodeling?

by Masha Halpern

If you're thinking about doing some remodeling, you probably know how much you'll likely need to spend for your project. But, when it comes time to sell, how much of your investment will you get back in the improved value of your home? The folks at Hanley Wood have the information that you want.

They've released the results of a nationwide survey, which includes specific data on the Raleigh metro area. The cost versus value report contains specific descriptions of various projects like a roofing replacement or remodeling a bathroom. The report provides an average of how much the job will cost, how much it will be worth in resale value and the percentage of the cost you'll recoup.

For example, roofing replacement for a mid-range home, costs an average of $17,302. The report indicates you'd recoup 66.9% of that expense, or $11,574, when selling the house. Remodeling the bathroom in an upscale home runs an average of $47,786 and is worth $28,910, or 60.5% of the investment. By reviewing the report, you can get an idea of which types of projects will be more cost effective. Some of the more cost effective projects include replacing windows, vinyl or wood on midrange or upscale homes with an average 75% return on the cost of the project. Conversely, a new home office in a midrange home, or a master suite addition in an upscale home, generally returns less than 55% of the cost.

The report itself is copyright 2013 by Hanley Wood, LLC. Complete data from the Remodeling 2013 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com. The Raleigh area report can be downloaded as a PDF once you register on this link. You may have other reasons for remodeling, but if you want to be smart about your investment, this report can be very useful. And when it does come time to sell, be sure to let me help you get the most value from your home.

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

What Will 2013 Mean for the Housing Market?

by Masha Halpern

Ah, the last day of the year. Time to celebrate and begin looking forward to good times in 2013. Some of you have been waiting for a good time to buy and/or sell a home. And many of the experts are cautiously optimistic that 2013 will be a better time for that than 2012 was. Let's take a look at what they're saying now:

Home Prices should continue to rise, although modestly. That should mean an increase in new construction. And more homeowners, who have been underwater on their mortgages, will be comfortable putting their home on the market. Rental prices are expected to continue to increase, making buying a home, in some markets, more attractive. Foreclosures are expected to decline, while short sales will increase. This means fewer foreclosure bargains will be available.
 
Getting a mortgage will continue to be more difficult than it was before the crash, but could get a bit easier as more qualified buyers enter the market and competition for their business heats up. And new mortgage rules to be announced in January by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may also have an impact on the availability of mortgage credit. Congress may try to cut the Mortgage Interest Deduction. That would make it more expensive to own a house and might reduce home values.
 
Mortgage rates are expected to rise. They've been at historic lows throughout 2012. Analysts at the Urban Land Institute and Barclay's see rates going up slowly over the course of the year, driven by improvements in the market.
 
What all this comes down to is that the very best time to buy or sell in the coming year is going to be difficult to determine. That's just one of the reasons you and I should talk about your plans for 2013. Working together, we can identify the market factors and your personal situation and come up with a plan.
 
For more information, these are the sources for this post:

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

Planning for a New Year

by Masha Halpern

It's that time of the year again, when people begin seriously focusing on what the new year will bring. New Year's resolutions are, sadly, often put aside once the year gets underway. But, if you're serious about buying and/or selling this year, it is a great time to develop a plan for getting what you want for the best price possible. Some of this I can help you with, but some of it you're going to need to do yourself or with a financial adviser. 

If you think you'll be buying, you need to immediately take a look at your credit. In the wake of the market fall-out, it's become much harder to borrow money. Banks want to know they're going to get their money back, and they'll take a hard look at your previous credit habits. Now, many people simply stop right there, knowing their credit just isn't going to be good enough. But, if that is the case, you can take steps that will change that evaluation. Get current credit reports from the main credit agencies and review them. If there are mistakes, you can get them fixed. If there are problems, you can work out solutions with individual creditors to clear them up. I'll give you some suggestions for more information about credit repair at the end of this post.

You will also need to have a sizable down payment if you're going to buy. And of course, the bigger the down payment, the more willing banks are going to be to make you a good deal for the remainder of the purchase price. The key to a saving for a down payment is to have a clear goal in mind and to find ways to make it a reality. Cutting out luxuries for a year or two while you put money away can be a quick way to accumulate money for a down payment. Tax refunds and work bonus money are excellent sources of down payment funds. Building a big enough down payment may take time, but then buying a house is a long-term investment and worth the effort.

If you already know the location where you want to find a new home, begin taking a look at prices for houses already on the market. This is where I can really help you identify the right houses for you and just how much money a house in the neighborhood or town you like will cost. Once you have that ballpark figure, you can determine how much money you'll want to have saved for a down payment and how much money you'll need to finance. 

With these three things, you can begin to build a reasonable plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Everyone will have their own unique plan, and some people will have an easier road to home ownership than others. But, just having a plan, and a real estate professional to help, is a solid foundation for reaching your goal for the year ahead. Let's work together and see what we can accomplish!

Credit Repair Resources

 

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

Inman News ranked Raleigh-Cary housing first on the list of Real Estate Markets to watch in 2012. 

The News & Observer reported in March that home sales in February were the best they had been in 4 years! That's an increase of 35% from the same time last year.

Masha represents clients that are currently under contract on 2 properties selling at or above listing price. She is also under contract on 2 other homes where the list to sale ratio was 99%! Although, it's still a buyers market, the real estate market is more competitive than it has been in years. Right now interest rates are low. Whenever interest rates increase, the amount of money a buyer has to purchase a home decreases. Its a good time to speak with Masha if you are planning to buy real estate in Cary, Raleigh or the surrounding areas of Durham and Chapel Hill.

The Triangle area when compared with nationwide data of other metropolitan areas showed above average price appreciation, job market, home affordability, home sales, distressed sales and other factors. Raleigh-Cary was the only area in the top ten located in the southeast region of the country. The Triangle has consistently received good rankings. Forbes recently named Raleigh tops for Most Wired, Safest City and Best Place for Business and Careers. These rankings attract the interest of potential buyers from around the country.

If you are looking to buy in the Triangle area, give us a call! Masha Halpern & The Smart Move Team has been representing buyers and sellers in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, Durham, Raleigh and Cary for more than 20 years! If purchasing also includes selling your current home, speak with Masha about the best way to manage both and give you the best service!

 

 

Raleigh Listed As Fastest Growing City!

by Masha Halpern

Yahoo recently published their list of the top 15 up and coming cities.  Not only did Raleigh make the list but Durham did too!  Below is more information on what positive growth increases that our area offers.

Fastest Growing City-Change in Population, 2000-2008: 36.6%

While many parts of the country are experiencing high unemployment and a sluggish economy, the "research triangle" of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill has helped to boost the economy of North Carolina. A major contributor to the strong employment is Duke and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Many students to choose to stay in the area after graduation and as a result, the city has risen to first place by increase in population from 2000-2008.

3rd Biggest Increase in Wages:Change in Average Weekly Wage, December 2008 — December 2009: 9.5%

The Durham area also made the list with the 3rd biggest increase in wages. With almost a 10% increase in the average weekly wage from December of 2008 to the same time a year earlier, Durham has seen a population increase occur along with rising wages. With many cities struggling this is great news for residents, especially during a recession.

Yahoo based their findings by looking at unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, focusing on the three places with the most significant increases in employed persons, to find that the biggest gainer in the year up to last December improved their employment rate by only half a percentage point.

Other economic factors such as changes in wages and personal income were reviewed based on Census data to see what areas were showing economic growth and stability.

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In our current economic status, companies throughout the U.S. are facing a number of challenges, from the credit crunch to soaring commodity prices. In Forbes 10th annual ranking of the Best Places for Business and Careers,  #1 on the list is  Raleigh, N.C.   Following on the list, the Southeast is home to half of the top 10 for a third straight year.

For the second straight year, low business costs, strong job growth and a very educated labor supply have contributed to the outstanding ranking. According to Forbes, business costs are 14% below the national average, and the area boasts one of the most educated labor supplies in the country, with 38% of the adult population possessing a college degree and 12% holding a graduate degree. Raleigh has seen a growth of new residents over the last few years; net migration has averaged 25,000 or 2.4% of the population, seventh highest in the country.  Contributing to the growth are big employers in the area like Cisco SystemsGlaxoSmithKline and the SAS Institute.

Throughout the list, a common factor for the top ranked metros include solid job growth, an educated labor supply and low business costs. Forbes rankings cover the 200 largest metro areas (populations over 240,000) as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and are based on nine factors. The economic research company Economy.com, supplied data on five-year historical job and income growth as well as migration trends. The business cost index, which looks at labor, tax, energy and office space costs and its living cost index, which factors in housing, transportation, food and other household expenditures was also reviewed.

Raleigh is ranked among the top of many "Best Places to…” lists, it is a wonderful place to work and play!   It offers many advantages, opportunities and possibilities. Get started on your search for the perfect home in the area! 

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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

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