Real Estate Information

Chapel Hill NC and Beyond

Masha Halpern


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Summer Vacation In Your Own Backyard


With record-high gas prices at the pump, it is forcing people to stay closer to home instead of driving or flying long distances for their summer vacation.  However, that does not have to mean any shortage of fun. The Chapel Hill area area is full of fun things to do with something for everyone! You can enjoy a fun and relaxing destination in your own backyard. Below are just a few of the wonderful attractions that you can enjoy-close to home!

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
250 East Franklin St
Chapel Hill, North Carolina  Phone: 919-962-1236

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, one of the largest planetariums in the United States, is located on the north end of the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Morehead Center Building and grounds, complete with a 68-foot, domed Star Theater and Zeiss Model VI Star Projector, scientific exhibits and classrooms, 24-inch Cassegrain reflecting telescope and observation decks, Visitors' Center, art galleries, rose gardens and the massive sundial were built for students of all ages with all interests
Ackland Art Museum
101 S Columbia St
Chapel Hill, North Carolina  Phone: 919-966-5736

The Museum's collection consists of more than 15,000 works of art, featuring North Carolina's premier collections of Asian art and works of art on paper (drawings, prints, and photographs), plus significant collections of European masterworks, twentieth-century and contemporary art, African art, and North Carolina pottery. The Ackland organizes more than a dozen special exhibitions a year.
Kidzu Children's Museum

105 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514


Kidzu Children's Museum is a hands-on museum in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill where children 0-8 years old and the adults in their lives can safely discover, pretend, and play to their heart’s content. 

North Carolina Botanical Garden
Old Mason Farm Rd,
UNC Campus, Totten Center
Chapel Hill, NC 27599  Phone: 919-962-0522

The NC Botanical Garden showcases plants in artful, authentic displays. Roam the water gardens, inhabited by water lilies, goldfish, tadpoles and koi, to the Mountain Habitat Garden, filled with bluebell, blood root, mountain laurel, rhododendron, and azalea. A fairy garden with hands-on activities such as digging with play shovels, tic tac toe and hopscotch appeals to children.

Summer goes quick, so get out and enjoy what the Chapel Hill area has to offer and save money at the same time!

Bridge Loans


You may have never heard of a bridge loan before and that is probably because the housing market has been doing well for so long that most people haven't needed them as homes sold within days of being listed. Homeowners did not have to worry about paying for their new homes before they'd sold the old ones.  But in recent times, the housing market slowdown has given the bridge loan a boost in popularity.

What is a Bridge Loan?

Bridge loans are temporary loans to cover the difference between the sales price of a new home and a home buyer's new mortgage if the old home hasn’t sold. The bridge loan is secured to the buyer's existing home. The loan is  then used as a down payment on the new home, helping the homeowner to bridge the gap between buying and selling a home.

There are two types of bridge loans. The first pays off the mortgage on your current home and makes a down payment on the new one. This means that you pay the mortgage only on the new property, agreeing to repay the bridge loan when the old home sells.

The second type of bridge loan is more risky, allowing you to borrow against the equity of the current home to use for your down payment. The scary part is that while you're paying off a bridge loan, you're still responsible for the mortgage payments on both homes.

Pros and Cons:

The Pros
• You can immediately put your house on the market.
• Bridge loans often have a grace period, without payments, for a few months.
• If the buyer has made a contingency offer  to buy and the seller issues a Notice to Perform, forcing the buyers hand,  the buyer can move forward still move forward with the purchase without the contingency.
• It allows you to get your new home without the stress of waiting on the sale of your old one.

 The Cons
• Bridge loans cost more than home equity loans.
• Buyers will be qualified by the lender to own two homes and many buyers cannot qualify for this.
• You will essentially have two mortgage payments PLUS interest.   Not the best situation for the long term.

Although there are cons that need to be considered with this type of loan as well as other short-term mortgage financing, they may be necessary when home buyers land in tight spot. Do your research and check with your mortgage consultant to explore the options that work best for your situation.

When you decide to retire that doesn’t mean your brain has to retire too! In fact your brain needs more stimulation than ever. The good thing about retirement is that finally, you have the time to supply the required intellectual input. Keep in mind that the location that you decide to pick to retire can be key to that process. Most retirees want to continue learning and there are several communities that boast thriving intellectual centers where cultural activities keep residents (and their brains) as busy and interested as they want to be.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, they consulted their list of more than 1,000 Best Places to Retire and came up with 10 retirement destinations that attract highly educated folks.  Chapel Hill, N.C. was on that list of the most brainiest places to retire. Residents might spend their evenings paddling out in kayaks to watch the stars with an astronomy educator from the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

One of the factors for Chapel Hill  being selected for this list is the vast cultural attractions throughout the area. Chapel Hill offers a multitude of activities for residents and tourists. The University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides the ability to look at one of the finest universities for higher education in the United States that also has three art museums. The North Carolina Botanical Garden is the largest natural botanical garden in the southeast. In addition, the area offers many Museums,Planetariums and Centers for Performing Arts.

Other cities across our nation that made the brainiest places to retire list:

• Ann Arbor, Mich.
• Berkeley, Calif.
• Boulder, Colo.
• Brookline, Mass.
• Chapel Hill, N.C.
• Hoboken, N.J.
• Lake Oswego, Ore.
• Reston, Va.
• Upper St. Clair, Pa.
• West Lafayette, Ind.

BBQ Safety


Summertime means more time spent outside and more meals cooked on the grill.  However, before you do it’s a good idea to go over a few simple safety tips to ensure that your trip to the barbecue does not end with a trip to the hospital.

Food Safety- There are a few things to keep in mind when cooking out.

• The safe temperature for food is below 40 degrees and above 140.  If food is kept outside of the safe range you risk food poisoning.
• Foods should be refrigerated within an hour of when they finish cooking.
• While you might like that steak really rare, remember that undercooked meats can give rise to several food borne illnesses that would ruin a cook out.
• With that said, don’t overcook the meat either. Studies have found that a cancer causing agent, heterocyclic amines, can be found in the blackened charred meat.  Better to avoid it.

Grill safety: Before you start up the grill remember the following:

No matter what kind of grill you are using, keep a fire extinguisher near by.  Never wear loose shirts or sleeves that might catch fire.  Finally, keep flammable things like gasoline and other flammable substances that don’t need to be there, away from your grill.  

 Charcoal grills:
• Charcoal grills must placed on a level spot away from vegetation and OUTSIDE, where there is proper ventilation.
• Use only lighter fluid on charcoal.  Don’t substitute kerosene or gasoline.  What might sound like a good idea at the time, will ruin the food and possibly cause and explosion.
• Do NOT use lighter fluid on coals that have already been lit.  A serious flare up or even an explosion could occur.

Gas and Propane Grills:
• Before starting up the grill be sure to check the grill for leaks.  Make sure the lines are not crimped and if you use a propane tank that it is in good shape; free of dent, corrosion, bulges or anything else that may signal that it is compromised.
• Use caution when lighting your grill and never keep an open flame around the grill which might find its way to even a small gas leak.
• Never remove the valve on a propane tank.  Always recycle or exchange your tank and be sure to store it away from the grill and in an upright position.

Grilling is a summertime pastime, just remember that a little safety and common sense will go along way to helping you enjoy the summer tradition.

Summer Festivals 2008


Memorial day kicks off the summer season and our area offers many festivals and events all summer long to enjoy. From music to art and everything in between, there is sure to be something to do for everyone! Summer always goes quick so take time to enjoy the below events!


 American Dance Festival Performance Season

June 5, 2008 - July 20, 2008
The largest and most influential modern dance festival in the world featuring more than two dozen modern dance companies and hundreds of choreographers, writers and students participating in classes, seminars, and performances.

Latino Festival

June 14
Cultural arts festival highlighting Hispanic traditions. Featuring Health Information. Diabetes/Blood Pressure Tests, Multicultural Booth, Arts and Crafts,Variety of Booth Vendors and games and prizes. For all ages and the event is free.

Third Friday on the CCB Plaza

June 20
A free multicultural event featuring local talent and music  for all ages.Enjoy an evening program of arts and music on the CCB Plaza from April to November. Third Friday/Culture Crawl is a year-round city-wide free art event that occurs on the third Friday of each month.

2008 Summer Music Festival

June 21-August 2
The City of Durham Parks and Recreation Department will transform Durham's historic parks into a weekend get-away full of music, fellowship and fun. This summer, citizens will enjoy a summer-long succession of concerts at Duke, Rock Quarry, Pineywood, Twin Lakes, Forest Hills and Oval Parks. The concerts will feature the sounds of Blues, R&B, Gospel, Jazz, Old Skool and Reggae music. All concerts are free and will be held on Saturdays from 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. No alcohol is allowed.


Questions To Ask HOA's


If you are looking to buy a house, condo or townhouse you will likely look at some that are part of a homeowners association. New home buyers who have never lived in a community with an association before typically have many questions. The Community Associations Institute estimates that nearly one out of every six Americans lives in a community association and that, in 2007, HOAs governed 23.8 million American homes and 58.8 million residents. 

A HOA is essentially an internal regulatory board often found in planned communities, gated communities, condominium complexes and subdivisions.  A homeowners association collects fees or "assessments" from individual home owners to cover certain expenses, such as maintenance of common areas, insurance, and health or safety improvements.  An HOA also enforces the rules and regulations set forth by the developer or property owner.

Before purchasing a home that is regulated by an HOA it is important to read the by-laws governed by the association and ask questions. Below are some questions that can get you started so you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.

  • Ask the HOA about parking limitations/restrictions, pet limitations/restrictions with respect to quantity, size and type, restrictions related to outdoor decor/furniture/grilling restrictions (for balcony/patio), and if there are any current outstanding assessments the new owner will be responsible for assuming.
  • Be certain to ask if there is any active litigation, as this may affect buyer financing, and also indicates possible red flags with property in general you will want your home inspector to do extra due diligence on.
  • If you don't agree with something in the bylaws/restrictions, do you have any recourse?
  • What do monthly HOA assessments/fees cover? HOA fees typically cover common ground concerns such as landscaping, pest control, pool and fitness center maintenance, guard gate/security services and common area taxes. They sometimes cover utilities such as trash, water or cable television.
  • How often do HOA assessments/fees increase (and at what percentage), so you can be prepared for rising costs down the road?  Also ask, will the members be able to vote on the rising cost?

There are pros and cons to being a part of a homeowners association, it may or may not fit with your lifestyle and ideals.  Before considering a home with an owners association read the agreement.  Ask the homeowners in the community about the services they receive.  This way you can get a feel for how happy the locals are about their association.  Also, be sure to make sure you know how the association deals with issues that arise.  It is better to be safe and know what you are getting into before you fall in love with the house.

Saving Money On Gas


Everyone is talking about the steep gas prices and are feeling the pinch at the pump. The entire nation is seeing record high prices and the current average for a gallon of gas is now hovering at $3.73 according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Prices have now risen to the level at which the Energy Department forecasts they’ll peak in June, on a monthly average basis; that means prices may still go higher. Those feeling the sting the most are commuters as well as businesses that depend on driving as part of their job such as delivery persons and truck drivers. With summer coming up and the threat of stagflation -- inflation coupled with slower economic growth -- there doesn’t seem to be much relief in sight.

To help you make the best of the situation, we have found a great resource to locate the cheapest gas closest to you in your area. Just enter your zip code and it tells you which gas stations have the lowest and the highest gas prices in your zip code.  It will even give you a map to show where they are. It is updated daily, every night MSN Autos receives pricing data from over 90,000 gas stations across the nation.  

In addition to helping you find the cheapest gas you can below are a few other tips to help you stretch your gas dollar!

Car Check Ups. Vehicle maintenance saves gas. Use the recommended motor oil, replace dirty air filters, keep tires -- including the spare -- inflated to the proper pressure, and tune up your engine.

Check Your Driving Habits.  Flooring the pedal at every green light, then slamming on the brakes at the last minute, guzzles gas at a surprising rate.  By trying to drive more moderately, you can save over 30 percent of the gasoline you use.

Use Your Cruise. Many people don’t know that using your cruise control can yield surprising increases in fuel economy. If your car is so equipped, try using it on the freeway to keep your speed at a consistent rate.

Fuel Alternatives.  The alternatives to standard gasoline are growing in number and popularity. Biodiesel, the blend of gasoline and ethanol known as E85, and other alternative fuels aren't available everywhere yet, but check to see if your car can accept what's sold in your community.


Prevention and Treatment of Mold


Preventing mold from growing in your home is key, but if you have a mold issue all is not lost and it is not impossible to treat it.  Mold spores are unavoidable, they are in the air all around us.  The only way to keep them from taking hold is to prevent the conditions that foster their growth.

Mold needs very little moisture and dirt to grow, below are few things to help you get prevent the growth of mold:

  • Remove moisture- If you have a room which feels damp, a dehumidifier will go a long way to removing the catalyst.
  • Proper ventilation- If an attic is stuffy and improperly ventilated moisture can gather creating mold growth.
  •  Dirt- It doesn't take much to feed mold but keeping an area like a basement free of organic debris keeps from feeding the spores that land.
  • Keep a vigilant eye on the areas under sinks and around fixtures.

So what if the unexpected happens?  A line breaks in the basement while you are away and the basement gets flooded.   In just a few days you have mold growth.  What can you do?

In order remove mold and prevent recontamination you can do the following:

  •  Depending on how sever the mold problem is, you may be able to treat the problem yourself. The EPA recommendation is that if the affected area is less than 10 square feet you can probably handle it yourself, any bigger than that it is best to hire a remediation specialist. 
  •  If you do decide to remove the mold yourself remember to wear protective gear.  Protective gear includes: goggles without ventilated openings, a N-95 respirator (this item is available a many hardware stores).  Also, don't forget the gloves; normal household cleaning gloves can be used if you are not using a biocide.  If you are going to be using a biocide you should wear natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC. 
  • Clean-up can be as simple as cleaning the area with a chlorine bleach mixture. Other biocide options can be found at:  Dispose of anything that you can that is likely to recontaminate the area, such as rugs or paper.  
  • Close off the contaminated area while clean up is ongoing so that further contamination does not occur. 
  •  If items are particularly of sentimental value or expensive pieces which chlorine might damage you should consult a remediation specialist.

In some areas with high moisture, like bathrooms, mold will always be present.  A simple daily or weekly cleaning with a product containing chlorine will often take care of that.  Also, increasing ventilation with a good fan will help keep the mold to a minimum. While a completely mold free house may not be possible, the key is keeping the mold from growing into a problem.


Carpet Cleaning Options


The appearance of your carpets are one of the first things noticed when people enter your home. If you are selling your home, having your carpets professionally cleaned is an easy, cost effective way to give your house a facelift before showing prospective buyers.  Stains and worn traffic areas can disappoint potential buyers and new homeowners alike. Having your carpets professional cleaned can help to extend the life of the carpet and also help allergy and asthma sufferers by removing germs and dust.

There are many different options you have when looking for a professional to clean your carpets, below are some of the methods available.

Hot Water Extraction or "Steam" Cleaning
This is the most common method where a cleaning solution is sprayed on the carpet and immediately extracted (along with the dissolved soil) by a wet vacuum. Extraction equipment can be portable or truck-mounted, the latter being more powerful in terms of spray pressure, heating capabilities and power of the vacuum pumps. Hot water extraction is often referred to as "steam" cleaning and is considered by many carpet manufacturers as the most thorough method. Drying time is generally between 4 to 6 hours.

In this process a shampoo is applied to the carpet and then agitated with a brush mounted on a floor machine. The solution absorbs soil and crystallizes as it dries. Soil and shampoo are then removed through vacuuming at a later time. This method is also referred to as encapsulation. Drying time is generally between 1 to 2 hours.

Bonnet Cleaning
This method is similar to the shampooing process in which a pre-spray is applied to the carpet and then is absorbed with cotton or synthetic bonnet pads attached to a floor machine. This removes the soil as it is absorbed on the shag pad.  When one side of the pad becomes soiled, the pad is reversed until both sides are soiled, at which time it is replaced. Drying time is generally between 1 to 2 hours.

Foam Cleaning
This system uses detergent in the form of a foam.  A machine generates a foam, which is agitated on the carpet by brushes. The foam is then removed, with trapped soil, by an extraction-vacuum pickup.

Dry Cleaning
In this process the cleaning agent, an absorbent dry compound (containing solvents and detergents) is sprinkled on the carpet and worked into the pile by a machine. It is vacuumed off after about half an hour, removing the soil suspended by the compound. Drying time is usually less than 1 hour.

For many reasons, a professional carpet cleaning company is a good investment. A deep clean not only improves the carpets appearance but also lengthens the life of your carpets and makes your home healthier. Contact a professional in your area if you are not certain which method is best for your style of carpet. 


How Much House Can You Afford?


Now is the time to buy a home, there are so many homes on the market at great prices, but you want to make sure that you still purchase a home that won’t leave you overextended.  To make sure that the house you are thinking of buying is going to be affordable, make sure you do your research and budgeting before you sign the paper work.

To get started, figure the amount you've budgeted for your monthly mortgage payment. If you're not sure how much to spend on your mortgage, a great guideline to start with is somewhere between 30% to 40% of your monthly income. This should include principal and interest, as well as property taxes and homeowners insurance.

 Most people can afford a home that costs up to three times their annual household income, if they can make a 20% down payment and have only a moderate amount of other debt. If you have little to no debt and can put 20% down you can probably buy a house worth up to four times your annual income. Calculate how much house you can afford with this home affordability calculator to see an estimate of how much you can potentially afford for your new home.

When it comes to deciding how much you can afford to spend consider the following:

  •  Make sure you get pre-qualified or pre-approved for your loan before you start looking.
  •  If you buy a condo or a home that requires you to join the homeowner's association, your monthly dues will directly reduce how much you can afford to spend on a home. Some dues can be very costly, be sure to include the cost into your budgeting.
  •  Remember to assess and figure in the costs for any remodeling and repair projects.

If you're considering a new home purchase, it is crucial that you spend time calculating what you can truly afford. Remember, just because the bank says they will give you a certain amount of money, that doesn't mean you can actually afford it. Everyone's situation is different, and by planning ahead to ensure you're not overextending yourself, you can make it through the difficult times

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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