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Edward E. Hodgson Jr.
1110 North Broad Street | Lansdale, PA 19446
Phone: 215-362-2260 | Office Phone: 215-362-2260 | Fax: 267-354-6844
Cell: 215-850-6973 | email: ed@edhodgsonrealtor.com

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Summer Safety: Lawn Mower Edition

June 20, 2013 4:41 am

In just a few weeks the school year will come to a close and thousands of children across the country will take on a familiar chore: Mowing the lawn. Safety is always a priority, and three national medical organizations are warning families that the routine task of lawn mowing can be extremely dangerous to children, the operator, and those nearby if proper safety precautions aren't taken.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2012 more than 234,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in a clinic or emergency department, or were admitted to the hospital. More than 17,900 of them are children under age 18, and approximately one-third of lawn mower-related injuries are serious enough to be treated in an emergency department.

"Every year at this time, children can be seen operating or playing around lawn mowers in unsafe ways. In thousands of yards, injuries will occur, and a beautiful summer day will become a painful occasion," says American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) President Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP. "We want parents and kids to be more aware of precautions to take so that injuries can be prevented."

Lawn mower injury prevention tips include:

• Only use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is let go.
• Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a driving lawn mower.
• Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
• Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower or is in the vicinity to wear polycarbonate protective eyewear at all times.
• Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
• Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
• Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris in lawn mowers.
• Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers and keep children out of the yard while mowing.
• Drive up and down slopes, not across to prevent mower rollover.
• Keep lawn mowers in good working order. When using a lawn mower for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure that it is working correctly.

Source: OrthoInfo.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Choosing a Cruise Line Can be as Important as Choosing Your Cruise Destination

June 20, 2013 4:41 am

As the summer cruise season approaches, cruise customers should take a closer look at not just cruise routes and destinations, but the cruise lines themselves.

"Most cruise customers are looking for not just a cruise, but an experience," said Deana Crouch, director of vacation sales for Adelman Vacations. "Some customers are young and single, some are retired couples, and many are families with children. Many of the cruise ships are massive in size, but still, they can't be all things to all people."

Crouch said that pictures of large, sleek cruise ships tend to give the impression that all cruise ships are the same. "Ships come in all sizes, shapes and designs – sometimes to accommodate the type of cruise and sometimes to accommodate the waters they navigate," she said. "For example, some river cruises may be limited to 100 or so passengers, where some Caribbean and trans-Atlantic cruise ships can carry over 5,000.”

The last 10-15 years has seen a large increase in family cruise vacations. "Some of the cruise lines focus on only family cruises," said Crouch. "They've done a good job of developing fun experiences for moms and dads and children of all ages – and helping families to connect through their cruise experience."

Crouch said although summertime is popular, there is no such thing as a single cruise season. "Cruises are global – they're on every ocean and designed for all seasons and occasions. "For instance, if you're looking for a scenic cruise in Alaska, go in the summertime. Many historic destinations are also only open in the spring and summer. But if you're looking for a tropical paradise, you may enjoy it more if you go in January or February."

Potential cruisers might want to consider booking their vacation through an experienced travel agent. "We often have access to unadvertised specials, and can help customers get extras like shipboard credits, spa credits and upgrades. Also, if a customer has any kind of an issue, we become their advocates," said Crouch.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Savvy Money Tips to Share with Your Teen

June 20, 2013 4:41 am

(Family Features) — Most parents have learned things about money they wish they had known at a younger age. But when it comes to broaching the topic with their own teenagers, about a third would rather talk to them about smoking, drugs and bullying than money. Parents can take the angst out of teaching money management by working it into everyday routines.

“Your kids are most likely interested in money and having more of it, but they may not know where to start,” says Susan Ehrlich, president of financial services for H&R Block. “Teaching money skills before they graduate will help them make smart choices and learn from their financial missteps now, so they’re better prepared when they’re on their own.”

Here are some tips about talking to your teen about finances:

Encourage learning by earning. You may or may not want your teen to hold down a job while in high school, but you can instill the concept of earning by encouraging occasional paying projects, such as babysitting or mowing lawns.

Practice makes perfect. Ask your teen to manage a portion of the family budget, such as writing the weekly menu and grocery list to fit your budget or keeping track of eating-out expenses every month.

Save now, spend later. Open a savings account for your teen to plan for future purchases. If you’re able, offer to match a portion of their savings to encourage the behavior. This can help convey the difference between needs and wants. Verbalize your own wants for something the entire family can save for and enjoy together, then share your progress toward the goal.

Set some limits. If your teen has a credit card, set a realistic credit limit so the balance can be paid in full each month. Your teen will also see the impact of interest rates and annual fees.

Be a good financial role model. Pay your own bills on time and ask your teen to be part of the process. Talk to your teen about the importance of a good credit score and how to maintain it – for example, paying your bills on time accounts for 35 percent of your score. Help them understand lower credit scores mean higher interest that could cost thousands of unnecessary dollars.

Source: H&R Block Dollars & Sense

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Pros of Rainwater Harvesting

June 20, 2013 4:41 am

For centuries, people have collected rainwater for drinking, washing and irrigation purposes. With the advent of municipal water treatment, rainwater collection became less popular in urbanized centers, though water storage cisterns can still be found in old farmhouses across Canada. But recently, rainwater harvesting has experienced an increase in popularity in countries around the globe as a result of droughts, water shortages and the rising costs of drinking water and storm water infrastructure. Canada, too, is experiencing an increase in rainwater harvesting for lawn and garden irrigation, and many municipalities have begun to offer rebates for rain barrels. But larger, more sophisticated systems that capture, store, treat and redirect greater quantities of rainwater for other uses are still relatively new.

Rainwater harvesting systems use rainwater collected from the roof and should not be confused with systems that recycle treated wastewater or greywater (water from baths, showers and laundry). Rainwater that has touched the ground is generally not collected, as it can be contaminated with leaked automobile fluids, road salt, pet droppings, pesticides, fertilizers and dirt.

Some municipal planning codes now permit the use of non-potable (not safe to drink) water for toilet flushing and subsurface irrigation, while others permit the use of rainwater for laundry washing. Codes and bylaws will set out requirements for the appropriate materials to be used, sizing, supports, protection and marking, as well as the steps needed to ensure that non-potable water does not mix with potable (drinkable) water from the municipality or your well. Before installing a rainwater harvesting system, it is important to check with your municipality first to ensure the design and installation of your system will be in compliance with local regulations.

Depending on what you wish to use your rainwater for, your system can range from very small and simple to large and complex, with the cost varying accordingly. A general rule of thumb is that your system will cost $1/liter so that smaller 2,000 liter systems will cost around $2,000.

The first step will be to determine the quantity of water you will need for your intended purposes, the size of your roof catchment area and the amount of rainfall your area typically receives in a year. Based on this information, a rainwater harvesting system designer can work with you to determine how much rain you can realistically collect, how big of a cistern you will need and what you can use this water for. Cisterns have come a long way from the simple rain barrel. They come in different sizes (50 - 200,000 L), shapes (rectangular, square, cylindrical, bag) and materials (concrete, fibreglass, plastic, steel, wood) and can be installed above or below ground. Cisterns and related components should be insulated or emptied to avoid freezing in the winter months.

While there are currently very few regulations for rainwater quality, a rainwater harvesting system can include some level of treatment to stop the system from clogging up and to help ensure good water quality. Gutter filters, screens and systems that divert the "first flush" of rainwater are used to reduce the amount of leaf litter, insects, pollens, dust and other pollutants that can collect on roofs and get into the rainwater system. Screens are also used on access openings on the cistern to keep out insects, rodents, etc. Stored rainwater can also be treated with cartridge or membrane filters and then disinfected with chlorine or ultraviolet light prior to use. Check with your local health agency to determine what treatment (if any) is required in your jurisdiction. Once installed, it will be necessary to maintain your system as per the manufacturer's instructions to ensure optimal performance. It is important to inspect and clean out gutters, check filters and check for leaks at least once a year.

In most cases, you will need a pump to deliver the treated rainwater from the cistern to the garden or your house. It is important to ensure that all plumbing and piping for the distribution system are adequately sized and installed for optimal flow. Consideration must be given to redirecting excess rain to a soakaway pit or infiltration trench to prevent the cistern from overflowing during heavy storm periods. Consider having your system designed, installed and commissioned by a professional.

Rainwater harvesting systems offer an effective way to reduce your water bills, use plant-friendly water in your garden and reduce your demands on local water infrastructure. To learn more about rainwater harvesting systems, visit www.cmhc.ca.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Happens When Interest Rates Rise?

June 20, 2013 4:41 am

Freddie Mac released its U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for June showing the effects rising interest rates are having on certain markets around the country and the overall housing recovery.

• Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages have risen about 0.5 percentage points over the past several weeks and are expected to hover around 4.0 percent during the second half of 2013.

• With rising mortgage rates, expect a sharp decline in refinance volume in the second half of this year; refinance originations are expected to total about $1.1 trillion in 2013, down from $1.5 trillion in 2012.

• At today's house prices and income levels, mortgage rates would have to be nearly 7 percent before the U.S. median priced home would be unaffordable to a family making the median income in most parts of the country.

"The recent upturn in interest rates is sparking fears among some that the nascent economic and housing recoveries will be choked off before they produce sustained growth. However, with the exception of high-cost markets, which are already challenged with affordability, house prices in most of the country are very affordable,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “So while rising interest rates will reduce housing demand, rates would have to increase considerably more before the reduction in demand for home purchases would be substantial. Nothing in the recent trends suggests that we need to fear a major slowdown. A gradual rise in interest rates will not derail the recovery, and are an indication that the overall economic situation is improving."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Make Sure Your Storage Unit Is Properly Insured

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Whether you are downsizing to a smaller home, safeguarding heirlooms after a death in the family or just cannot let go of those old mementos, storage units can provide a useful solution for dealing with extra belongings. While storage units may be the answer to de-cluttering your home, adequate insurance coverage is the answer to protecting your belongings, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"If an item is valuable enough that you are willing to pay for storing it, the item should be financially protected with the proper amount and type of insurance," said Loretta Worters, vice president for the I.I.I. "Even in the best managed storage facilities, theft, fire and other disasters can and do occur. That's why before signing a rental agreement, it is important to find out what types of losses will be covered by the storage facility and whether supplemental insurance may be needed."

The Self Storage Association notes that one out of every 10 households in the U.S. currently rents some kind of storage unit, including portable on demand storage (PODS).

Most storage facilities require that you maintain insurance for the full replacement cost of the contents of your storage room and ask to see a copy of your homeowners or renters policy. One way to satisfy your insurance obligation is by purchasing insurance through the storage facility. However, most storage facilities limit the value of property that can be stored in a unit, basing it on the size and the amount of your rent (usually up to about $20,000). If your property is worth more than the assigned amount, some storage facilities will allow you to increase the assigned value of the property in your unit. There are also exclusions including art, antiques, jewelry, furs, watches, money, securities and other documents of value. Be sure to check your homeowners or renters insurance policies first to determine whether your contents may already be covered.

One of the best ways to substantiate the value of your personal property is to create a detailed home inventory of all your possessions, including those in storage. If your property is stolen or damaged, an inventory can help speed the claims process and substantiate your loss. It will also help you determine how much insurance to buy to adequately protect your possessions.

The I.I.I. offers the following tips for choosing a storage company:

• Look for a secure facility. Fencing that secures the entire property and access control are the very minimum that a storage business should offer.
• Consider the safety of the immediate area surrounding the facility. Does the storage building have onsite security features such as 24-hour video surveillance cameras and coded security pads to access the building? If so, does the code work only for your floor or for the entire facility? Are there video cameras throughout the building or just at the entrance? An informed manager should have the answers you need.
• Look for a unit with climate control options. This will ensure your appliances and furniture are not in a harmful environment. Very high or low temperatures, as well as dampness can quickly cause damage. And make sure that rising ground water from snow or rain is unable to penetrate your storage unit.
• Select a company that offers insurance along with their space. If you do not already have coverage through your renters or homeowners insurance, look for a storage company that offers insurance, and make sure you fully understand how their insurance will cover any potential damage. Find out about the facility's procedures in cases such as fire, flood, etc. and keep in mind that any facility should also have their own insurance to cover damages or injuries that occur on their premises.
• Check that the storage facility is clean and well-maintained. If a storage facility is not routinely and thoroughly cleaned, there is a good possibility no one is monitoring for bugs and rodent infestations. Verify that the facility has a permanent, reliable pest extermination contract in place before you trust them with your belongings.
• Investigate the reputation of the storage company. Check with friends and neighbors who may be familiar with the facility, or ask the storage company for referrals.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Top Ways to Gift a Graduating Teen

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

If there’s a high school graduate on your gift list this spring, it’s good to remember that cash is king to most teenagers, who undoubtedly have big plans to start a job or college soon and/or to enjoy a last fun-only summer.

But if giving cash to your favorite teen does not seem personal enough, there are plenty of fun and unusual ways to make the gift memorable. From Omaha mom Jane Crawford, an aunt to eight Nebraska teens, here are seven ideas she has used with great success over the years:
Put it in a wallet – Choose a good leather wallet that will last for years. Put the cash in the wallet and wrap the wallet as a gift.

Clip it – For a boy, clip the money in a quality money clip that has been engraved with his initials.

Box it – for a girl, choose a small jewelry or keepsake box and insert the cash before you wrap the box.

Book it – Put the money in a card and place the envelope, like a bookmark, in the book of your choice – perhaps a book on investing.

Bank it – Choose a fat pink piggy bank or any bank that appeals to you. Before you wrap it, stuff it with dollar bills. Include some change to make it jingle.

Turn it into gift cards – Disperse the cash into gift cards to the teen’s favorite stores. Include a note encouraging happy shopping – with or without your company.

Turn it into college cash – If you know what school your teen will be attending in the fall, get online and turn your gift into a spending account he or she can use for meals, books and more on campus.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Six Reasons to Paint Before You Move in

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Moving to a new house, condo, or apartment this spring?  Before filling your home with furnishings, there’s something you might want to do first: paint.  Experts of every stripe – from REALTORS to authorities on painting -- say that one of the very best times to do interior painting is just before moving into a new home.  Here are six reasons why, according to Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute:

Reason #1.  It’s easy now.  Interior painting is a very simple project – and not at all physically demanding -- when you can move freely within a room.  Why wait till later when you may have to move heavy furniture from side to side, or work around big items, to do your painting?

Reason #2.  It saves time.  Painting can take a lot longer when you have to cover and uncover things, move them back and forth, and take down and re-hang artwork.  It’s better to paint just before moving and short-circuit these time-consuming and unproductive steps.

Reason #3.  It can save you money – lots of it.  If you’re using a professional painting contractor, he or she can complete the work far faster in rooms that are empty.  That’s extremely important, since time charges for labor typically account for 80 percent of the cost of painting, according to Zimmer.  “Bottom line:  Calling in a contractor before moving into a home can drastically lower the cost of painting the space,” she says.

Reason #4.  It safeguards your furnishings.  No matter how carefully you or your contractor work, there is always the chance of a paint spill, or a few stray flecks finding their way onto a prized possession.  Painting before bringing in your furnishings keeps these items out of harm’s way.

Reason #5.  It can simplify interior decorating.  Don’t yet have your furnishings?  There’s no better way to set the stage for your décor than by adding a fresh paint color scheme before decorating.  Doing so greatly simplifies the selection of new furniture, carpeting, and accents, allowing you to choose just the right tints, tones, and shades to make your new home picture perfect.

Reason #6.  It feels good.  Adding a new coat of paint makes any home seem cleaner, fresher, more welcoming, and best of all...more “yours”.  To keep your paint job looking great, Zimmer recommends the use of top quality, 100-percent acrylic latex paint;  it will produce a more stain resistant finish that will look new-home fresh for years to come.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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32 Percent of Men Overwhelmed by Wedding Planning

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

June is the height of wedding season and brides coast to coast are sure to be obsessing about every detail, from the centerpieces to the guest list. However, recent Mintel research found that men are becoming just as flustered as women, with 32 percent of men saying that planning a wedding is overwhelming, compared to 42 percent of women reporting as much.

Fiona O'Donnell, lifestyle and leisure analyst at Mintel says:

"As grooms take on a more active role in wedding planning, it's understandable that their stress level surrounding these decisions will escalate. They aren't exactly 'groom-zillas,' but they are feeling the pressure. The implication for industry players is to acknowledge the groom's role in wedding planning and help him feel more at ease and less overwhelmed by the whole process. There are numerous planning tools marketed to brides, but opportunities exist to engage men."

It also seems that men might be taking a more active role in planning, as 39 percent of men reported that they were solely/mostly responsible for picking the ceremony site and a surprising 19 percent said they were solely or mostly responsible for choosing the bride's wedding dress. Meanwhile, a quarter (25 percent) were solely/mostly responsible for picking the bridal party gifts.

"Women are still the primary wedding planners, but the bottom line is that the groom is a key consumer for industry players to consider when developing marketing strategies—particularly in regard to groom and wedding party attire, food or catering, music, ceremony site, and reception venue. The groom is still somewhat an untapped target in the wedding market. Forward-thinking innovators will recognize the increasing influence the groom has in the wedding planning process and seek to connect with him in unique ways," concludes O’Donnell.

When it comes to the big day, what do couples think is the most important aspect? Forty-six percent of men, compared to 36 percent of women said the ceremony site was the most important, followed by the wedding dress (12 percent of men vs. 30 percent of women) and the reception venue (15 percent of men vs. 13 percent of women).

Source: Mintel

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Five Mosquito Facts

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Just as temperatures are beginning to climb, pest control leader Orkin reports that customer calls about mosquitoes have increased. Last year had the highest number of West Nile Virus disease cases reported since 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reported 80 percent of the 5,387 total cases were from 13 states. The experts at Orkin have listed five mosquito facts to help protect you and your family.

1. Even though you do not necessarily see standing water around your property, there could still be a variety of places where mosquitoes can breed.
There are probably several unexpected mosquito breeding areas around your property. Besides emptying water out of flower pots, bird baths and old tires, make sure to clean gutters and downspouts regularly or cover with mesh to prevent leaves and debris from collecting and holding water. Children's toys and playground equipment can have small crevices where water can collect. A few other odd places where water can collect include your car, landscape statues, rain gauge, garden hoses and even large plant leaves. If a full plastic garbage bag sits in the rain, it can develop a small pocket where water can collect. Remember, it only takes about a cup of water for mosquitoes to breed. Just because your yard may be free of standing water, it does not mean your neighbor's yard is, too.

2. The typical mosquito season runs from April through October.
Mosquito season can start as early as April, depending on which area of the country you are. Breeding season is usually July through September, while peak West Nile Virus season is usually not until late August through early September or even October in some areas. Temperatures need to be around freezing before mosquitoes will start to die off for the winter.

3. Mosquitoes typically lay their eggs in water, but eggs can survive in wet dirt.
Most mosquito species prefer to lay eggs at the edge of water bodies against mulch, grass, foliage or refuse that will hold the eggs at the surface of the water. If the water evaporates – or you pour it out – before the eggs develop, which usually takes about seven to 10 days, the eggs will not develop completely into adults, and they will die. If water is not present but the ground is moist, those eggs can sit for months until there is enough water to float the eggs to develop and feed the larva.

4. There is no telling what this year's mosquito population will be or how severe the nation's West Nile Virus outbreak will get.
Winter of 2012 was abnormally mild, and, along with last summer's record-breaking temperatures across some areas of the country, mosquitoes were able to thrive. This past winter saw more seasonal temperatures, depending on which area of the country you reside. Other factors to take into consideration are droughts and hurricanes. Even a little bit of water from a thunderstorm, washing your car or watering your lawn can be enough to encourage mosquito breeding. Strong winds from hurricanes can displace mosquitoes, including those that carry West Nile Virus. The virus is carried in and transmitted by birds, and wind can also move birds to different areas.

5. Most mosquito species are only active during dusk and dawn.
There are more than 3,000 mosquito species throughout the world, and about 200 of those exist in North America. Prime mosquito biting hours are between dusk and dawn, but some species are active during the day.

Orkin experts also recommend people take the following precautions to protect themselves:
• Wear EPA-approved insect repellent along with long sleeve shirts and long pants.
• Stay indoors during dusk and dawn and an hour before and after dusk and dawn.
• Protect your yard; call a professional pest control company for a customized mosquito inspection and treatment program.
• Replace outdoor light bulbs with yellow bulbs that are less attractive to mosquitoes.

Source: Orkin

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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