It’s not hard to see the signs. The housing market in some regions is roaring toward a complete recovery. Some developers are resorting to lotteries to handle the scores of prospective buyers each new home brings.  It seems every week brings new, positive reports on housing starts, sales and other statistics. So if buying a home is on your agenda this year, you’ll need to be prepared.

Know What You Can Afford
This part of the process can be difficult, because you have to be painfully honest with yourself or you risk problems down the road. You know how much you make. What you need to know is home much of that is available for a mortgage payment and insurance every month, as well as annual taxes and fees. Sometimes, it can be easier to work from the other direction and determine how much you have left over after other expenses are accounted for in your plan. These are things like car payments, monthly food purchases, and school related expenses.   However you can get there, you need to have a number to represent how much you can spend each month to pay for your housing. You won’t be the only one doing this, of course. Your lender is also going to make the same assessment when they decide how much they’re going to be willing to lend you!

Know What You Want
Here’s where you can go a little crazy. You want to make a list of all the things that would make a new house perfect for the life you envision living in it. Don’t add things unless they really would make you happy.  This isn’t about what you can afford, this is about what you’d like to have if you could get it. A media room? A three-car garage? A hot tub and his and hers closets in the master? Write it down.  A list like this can really help you narrow potential choices down as you compare what’s on this list to the features of houses you’ve seen.

Know What You Need
This one is a little harder, because you have to take the list you just made and take out everything that isn’t essential to the life you want. While the list above is what would be nice to have, this is the list of things that a potential new home must have. You might be able to live without wood floors, but what about central heating and air? Or access to top notch schools and medical care. Sharing this list with me means we'll be able to find your new home faster.

Having thought through these elements before you begin searching can save you a lot of time. When we begin looking at houses, you’ll see the benefit of this preparation right away. And with some luck, we’ll have you in the perfect new home in no time!

Masha Halpern, Broker, CLHMS, GRI,
Keller Williams Realty


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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

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