Real Estate Information Archive


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An Improving Market Forecast

by Masha Halpern

While forecasting the economic future is still murky, there are signs of a growing rally in the housing market. Those conditions were the focus of discussions two weeks ago at the 2012 Realtors Conference and Expo in Orlando. Indicators such as housing starts, new home sales and existing home sales are all showing gains in contrast to the last four years.

And that means good news if you're selling or buying. Although, for buyers, there may be a limited window of time to act before the cost of borrowing for a house starts to go up. Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors® believes costs will remain low through 2014, and prices to rise meaningfully over the next couple of years. "Today," he says in this report on, "is a perfect opportunity for moderate-income renters to become successful home owners."

And if you're still not sure, perhaps some of recent moves by billionaire Warren Buffet might peak your interest. Buffet, as reported by Businessweek, has been buying real-estate brokerages around the country and partnering with Brookfield Asset Management. The investments will be very profitable for Buffet and Brookfield if the housing market continues to improve. 

So what does this mean to you? Every market is unique, but in general, if you're looking to buy, you'll want to act as soon as you can, but you still have some time before we see any upward movement on interest rates. And if you'd like to put your house on the market, the time to make the best of the situation is coming. Ideally, you'd like to see the value of your home rise before it gets more expensive for buyers to borrow money. Whatever the case, I can help you stay ahead of the curve and maximize the value of your money.

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

Low Foreclosure Rate in North Carolina

by Masha Halpern

Choosing A Pest Control Service

by Masha Halpern

Summer has finally arrived in Chapel Hill but so has the bugs! If you are a homeowner who has these uninvited guests they can be controlled. Household pests can be eliminated through a combination of preventive measures, including proper sanitation and over-the-counter pesticides. However, some pest infestations may be extensive or a particular pest may be difficult to control, requiring pest control services. While many household pests are merely a nuisance, some can cause serious damage to our homes or property and other pose dangers such as bites, stings and transmit disease-causing agents. Choosing a pest control company is a serious matter, you want someone who is honest, dependable, state-certified, and who has the proper training and expertise to use the pesticides safely in your home. Below are some tips to help you in your search to find a professional in your area.

• Select a company based on their reputation, time in the community and willingness to answer your questions. They should give you written material that describes the problem they propose to treat and how they propose to treat it including what chemicals will be used and in what amounts.

• Pest control companies differ in their guarantees so be sure to Inquire on the specifics. If a guarantee is given, know what it covers, how long it lasts, what you must do to keep it in force, and what kind of continuing prevention and management are necessary.

• While the cost is an important factor, it is important to not base your decison on price alone. An advertisement in the phone book or the "deal of the week". Be cautious of unsolicited sales pitches and never select treatment just because your neighbor's property is being treated or because there is "leftover spray from another job." Get references and check them. 

• Make sure you receive a written estimate detailing how much will they charge to do an inspection to determine the extent of your problem, outline the services they would perform.

• Ask how long it will take to solve your pest problem, and how often the company will return to do more work or to track results. Ask the company what other measures they can take to manage the pest problems, or what you can do to reduce future pest problems.

Choosing a quality
pest control company is an important decision. You want the company to get rid of the pests but you also want to keep your North Carolina home safe.  Do not be pressured by a sales person or a company to sign a contract immediately or to pay in advance, take your time to make a sound decision. The key to any decision is having confidence in the company you chose.



Know Your Debt-To-Income Ratio

by Masha Halpern

Knowing your debt-to-income ratio is important when you find your Chapel Hill dream home and are ready to apply for a mortgage.  Your lender will look at it and see if you are able, financially to begin this journey.  If you are not familiar with your debt-to-income ratio, below you can learn more about it and how it affects 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:

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


If you are either ready to buy a Durham home or are just interested in  your financial health, it is a great idea to know your DTI and understand the steps to lower it and become as close to debt-free as possible.


Home Appraisal Is A Must!

by Masha Halpern

If you are looking to buy or sell a Chapel Hill home it will be necessary to have the property appraised. The value of the home is a major part in both the buying and selling process. The appraisal has a variety of purposes in a transaction for both the buyer and the seller.  By having an appraisal, it will protect all involved in the sale: the seller, the buyer, the lender and the insurance company.

Most lenders require an appraisal before any financing can be finalized.  So even if the buyer wants to waive the appraisal contingency due to finding a home they want where they have competition, they will still need the appraisal.

It is important to understand that waiving the appraisal can be a dangerous way to purchase a home.  Buyers can lose some of their earnest money if the appraisal does not come in high enough for them to secure financing. Sellers can demand that some of the earnest money be used to compensate them for money lost due to financial losses as well as having to put the property back on the market because the buyer wrote a contract they can’t fulfill.

If you are buying a North Carolina home, it is very important to think it through. You wouldn’t purchase a car without knowing the true value of the vehicle. Purchasing a home should be held to even higher standards, and if you don’t follow these standard practices, it could cost you thousands of dollars.


More Jobs Needed to Boost Home Sales

by Masha Halpern

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors, recently wrote an article in a leading Realtor magazine about the lack of jobs & home sales. 

He mentioned that many businesses are seeing profit growth but because of uncertainties in the economy,he noted,companies are still not hiring employees.  With continued high unemployment,he said, buyers are not purchasing homes. 

I think Lawrence is "right on the money" with this! Real estate has been a bit slower to sell in Chapel Hill and Durham than we typically see in a late summer and fall market;and I attribute this to the local lack of hiring here in the "Triangle".

In areas like Houston and Washington, D.C., where businesses have started to create jobs, sales contracts have remained healthy. That's what we want to see in Chapel Hill and Durham, NC!! 

Do you agree with us?  Why do you think the housing market is slow?What's going on in your area?


August 2010 Market Statistics

by Masha Halpern

The August market statistics for the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area  have been issued. This report shows the total market overview for the area.

Pending Sales in the region decreased by 17.3 percent from last August to arrive at 1,661. New Listings decreased 1.2 percent since last August, and the overall inventory of 19,602 was up 9.1 percent.

Median Sales Price was up 3.5 percent compared to last August,registering in at $193,500. Average Days on Market, at 110, increased 8.9 percent versus last year. Months Supply of Inventory was also up 3.3 percent compared to 2009 to 10.4 months


Below is the breakdown of properties for the Chapel Hill/Carboro area.


Termite Inspections

by Masha Halpern

Termite inspections are a necessary inspection required by many states in the home sale process. If a home has termites, they can create significant damage and even destroy a home if left untreated.

In fact, if you notice evidence of termites, there’s a good chance the infestation is already quite advanced.

If you have any worries at all about termites in home, the best course of action is to locate a pest control or termite inspection so that you are aware of the full extent of the problem. Of course, pest inspections are an important part of the overall inspection process, so make sure you hire an expert in the field:

  1. Check out online or yellow page listings under Pest Control for a licensed, bonded inspector. Your real estate agent can also be helpful in location a company for you.
  2. Request estimates for the inspection cost and compare rates.
  3. Make sure that you get a copy of the inspection report and course of action needed before signing any contract papers.

Buying or selling a home usually requires a clear pest control report. The inspector looks for termite infestation as well as other pest infestation, plumbing leaks, obvious roof leaks, dry rot and water damage. Make sure that all areas of the home are accessible for the inspector. Try to stick with companies that do inspection and treatment only – and leave any wood repair to carpenters or contractors.


Consumer Electronic Tips for the Home

by Masha Halpern

Homeowners are increasingly interested in electronics for the home. Some find interest in the gadgetry and some enjoy home electronics for the lifestyle and enjoyment at home. However, many find the range and complexity of products on the market today overwhelming, but the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) is a great resource.

CEDIA consists of knowledgeable and talented professionals who can help you navigate through the maze of consumer electronics. They have developed the 10 Smart Consumer Electronic Tips for the Home, below is their list:

  1. Wire for everything now...even wireless – If you are building or remodeling a home, start with a plan for future wiring needs. Wire is necessary to support wireless applications.
  2. Insist on integrated systems – Make sure the electronic equipment you are buying can be hooked up together and operated with one, easy to use control system. Systems that communicate simplify your life and offer peace of mind by "watching" over your home.
  3. Integrate lighting and heating control – Going green meets convenience. Get the most out of your system with the least amount of energy consumption. System integration provides automatic energy-efficient adjustments saving you time and money.
  4. Think with your wallet, but lead with your head – Quality and long-term dependability are the most cost effective attributes that you can build into a home.
  5. Buy an experience, not a box – Find an electronic systems contractor that allows you to test drive the entire system or at least experience the thrill of a high performance system. Few people have the time to research and evaluate all the hardware choices. It's smarter to focus on the end result and make your choices based upon overall performance and value.
  6. Simplify your controls – Easy to use, all-in-one remote controls are available for any system. You can even have them custom programmed so they make perfect sense to you. New technologies offer control from other devices and even through Internet browsers anywhere in the world.
  7. Increase your expectations – Your home electronics system is a big investment and you deserve to be satisfied with it.
  8. Think "green" – By utilizing green practices, you can save money by having a more energy efficient system and help save the planet. Ask a professional about how you can "go green" in your home.
  9. Ensure the experts work together for you – Maximize your home's electronic systems capabilities by having your architect, builder or interior designer collaborate and partner with an electronic systems contractor from the beginning of the planning process.
  10. Consult a professional – Today's integrated electronic systems grow, evolve and change over time, constantly adding entertainment, comfort and security features. Select an electronic systems contractor you can trust and who will support your electronic integration needs for years. Having a long-term relationship with one professional will maximize the reliability and enjoyment of your home's electronic systems.

If you found this helpful and would like to know more, find a CEDIA Certified Professional near you at


Fanny Mae Implements New Credit Requirements

by Masha Halpern

Homebuyers who have been monitoring their credit score, watching their debt-to-income ratio and avoiding large purchases may still face another hurdle if appling for financing with Fannie Mae.

Unfortunately Fannie Mae has instituted more requirements, the LQI – Loan Quality Initiative. Changes in lending will take effect June 1 as a part of the government’s effort to monitor and regulate underwriting and fraud in the mortgage business. Now lenders can order an additional, last minute full credit screen before your loan actually closes. Any debt that you have incurred in preparing to move into your new house – from furniture to appliances or landscaping, could place your closing on hold.

If the debt is significant enough to affect your debt-to-income ratio, your deal could actually fall through. New rules under the LQI will require lenders to pull two credit reports for each mortgage and to perform additional verifications of borrower occupancy, Social Security information and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, among other changes.

So, if you buy new furniture for your home on retail credit, the lender will now be contacting the merchant to verify the credit terms and amount. The best course of action is to wait on any purchases that require credit until after you have officially closed on your mortgage.

For more information on the guidelines and what your lenders are required to do, check out Fannie Mae’s LQI page.


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 24




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Contact Information

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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