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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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Tips for Tipping this Holiday Season

November 20, 2012 5:28 am

The holiday season is upon us! And that means stores are already packed with festive shoppers, eager to find that “perfect gift” for everyone on their list. However, there may be a certain someone you may be forgetting when it comes to holiday gift giving.

The generosity of tipping the people you interact with on a daily basis is oftentimes an afterthought or entirely overlooked. According to a recent Rent.com survey, 61 percent of renters who live in an apartment building don’t tip their superintendent, doorman or building staff during this time of year. Luckily this year, Rent.com has a few tips for tipping etiquette this holiday season:

1) Budget Your Finances: Maybe the reason you don’t tip is because you don’t think you have enough holiday cash left for the staff. Make a budget sheet that includes the doorman and super in order to be sure you have enough cash for them as well. You don’t have to break the bank over their gifts.

2) Standardize the Amount: After you have worked out your budget, figure out the allotted amount of money you would like to give to your doorman and super and divide this equally among them. People talk and the last thing you want is for your doorman or super to be unhappy with the generous tip that you chose to give them. Likewise, if you did give your doorman or super a gift last year, make sure you maintain the giving amount this year.

3) Show You Care: Make sure you thank them for all that they have done for you. Add a card with their tip to show that you truly appreciate all of their hard work throughout the year and that it doesn’t go unnoticed.

4) Make it Personal: Spark up a conversation with your doorman or super and ask for recommendations of their favorite restaurants or their favorite places to shop. Instead of, or possibly along with, a tip, add a gift card for a place they love. It adds a great personal touch to the gift.

5) Get the Neighbors to Hop on the Bandwagon: Talk with your neighbors and see if they’d be interested in a group gift. If you get more people to give a little, you are able to get a nicer gift, while simultaneously getting others in the habit of tipping. So start spreading all of the knowledge you’ve gained on tipping to others in your building.

Source: Rent.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Freddie Mac to Donate $1 Million to Support Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

November 20, 2012 5:28 am

Freddie Mac is helping ease the burden for families impacted by Hurricane Sandy by donating $1 million to nonprofits supporting relief efforts, including the American Red Cross.

"We are helping families get the services they need and rebuild their lives in the wake of this disaster," said Freddie Mac Vice President Wendell Chambliss.

The American Red Cross is receiving $250,000 of these funds to support disaster relief efforts. Up to $750,000 is also going to local nonprofits in the disaster area to provide a variety of services such as housing assistance.

Recipients include:

• Faith Fellowship Community Development Corporation to set up a New Jersey meal facility that also provides packaged meals to people who can't access the facility, and will help residents apply for public assistance;
• Make the Road New York to deliver food to affected families in Staten Island and Long Island, New York, and to assist families with federal assistance applications in English and Spanish;
• Neighborhood Housing Services of East Flatbush to distribute cleaning kits to residents in Brooklyn, New York, an area which had extensive flooding;
• Asian Americans for Equality Community Development Fund to purchase basic supplies such as generators and flashlights to help low-income tenants and homeowners in Queens and Brooklyn, New York; and
• Long Island Housing Partnership to help low- and moderate-income residents find temporary housing or remain in their homes with services such as repairing hot water heaters and getting electricity restored.

In addition to these donations, Freddie Mac has extended its full menu of disaster relief options to help affected borrowers in jurisdictions declared Major Disaster Areas and where federal Individual Assistance programs are available. Freddie Mac's disaster relief policies provide mortgage servicers a number of ways to give homeowners relief — helping borrowers protect their credit ratings and financial interests in their homes. Freddie Mac allows servicers to reduce or suspend mortgage payments on Freddie Mac-owned mortgages for up to 12 months for borrowers affected by disasters. Freddie Mac has also directed its servicers to expedite the release of insurance proceeds and has placed a 90-day suspension on all eviction closings and foreclosure sales for those impacted by the storm, in presidentially declared disaster areas where individual assistance was granted.

Freddie Mac employees are supporting relief efforts by making donations to aid organizations through the Freddie Mac Foundation's matching gifts program. The Foundation matches employee charitable contributions dollar for dollar; contributions to housing-related organizations are matched 2-to-1. Employees are also taking part in a company drive for blankets and non-perishable food to help supply shelters and service organizations in the disaster region. Freddie Mac is coordinating delivery of these donations with the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department and the New York City Rescue Mission.

"As a company, we have a shared responsibility to provide relief to American homeowners who have been devastated by Sandy," said Hollis McLoughlin, Freddie Mac senior vice president for Corporate Communications and External Relations. "Beyond that, we want to provide our employees, who have asked how they can help, an opportunity to lend a hand to those in greater need."

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Should You Buy a Home in December?

November 20, 2012 5:28 am

This is the time of year where many people begin shopping for the holidays. They purchase gifts for their friends, family and loved ones. But one item that you may want to consider buying for yourself this holiday season is a new home. There are many benefits to purchasing a home in December, like:

1. Less competition. Many consumers who are interested in purchasing a new home wait until after the holidays to start searching through the listings. While the malls have more customers this time of year, the real estate market actually experiences a decrease in shoppers during the holiday season. So, if you find a home that is perfect for you, you'll probably have fewer competing bids from other prospective buyers.

2. Good deals if a house has been on the market for a few months - and didn't sell during the late summer and fall seasons - the seller may reduce the price during the winter months. In fact, in many areas of the country, homes prices are typically at their lowest during the month of December.

Homeowners who are showing their homes during the holiday season are often hopeful to sell it before the end of the year because of tax purposes, so they may also be more willing to negotiate on the price.

3. It's a slow time of year for REALTORS® and lenders, too! Sellers aren't the only ones affected by the drop-off in home sales during the winter months. REALTORS® and lenders also feel the sting of their industry's slow season. That means you may get more personalized attention from your real estate agent, and a lender may shave a few points off your interest rate, just so they can get one final sale and home loan on their books before the year is over. Also, because they are juggling fewer deals in December than at other times of the year, it's likely your paperwork will be processed faster as well.

4. Tax deductions. We've already addressed that many homeowners are hoping, because of tax purposes, that their home will sell before the end of the year, but if you buy a home in December, it can also be to your benefit during tax season as well. Closing on a home before the end of the year means you can deduct certain settlement costs from your taxes for 2012. That includes any pro-rated property taxes and prepaid mortgage interest paid at closing. And, since discount points are considered prepaid interest, you can deduct those from your taxes as well.

There's one more thing to remember if you plan on house-hunting in December. Fewer homeowners may be showing their homes during the holidays, and REALTORS® may be on vacation during this time of year. However, if you can find a home you are interested in, and one where the seller and the real estate agent are willing to fit you into their holiday schedule, there are many benefits to purchasing a home before the end of the year.

Source: www.realtypin.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Dine Safely this Thanksgiving

November 19, 2012 5:28 am

Many people have ceased to cook our stuffing inside our birds, like grandma used to do it. But what are some other food safety tips you can follow? The National Restaurant Association (NRA) estimates that more than 30 million Americans enlist the help of restaurants for their Thanksgiving feast by dining out or using takeout, but cooking at home remains popular during this holiday. Preparing that meal safely will ensure an enjoyable holiday with family and friends, so the experts at the NRA offer food safety tips for holiday meals:

Thaw your turkey in the fridge
. While you can thaw a frozen turkey under running water or in the microwave, the best way is in the refrigerator overnight (or longer). Be sure to follow the instructions on the package.

Store raw turkey away from ready-to-eat food. Make sure your raw turkey is covered and stored in a leak-proof container on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. You want to keep it away from foods that are ready to eat, such as desserts and salads, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

Clean and sanitize your sink and counters. After rinsing your raw turkey thoroughly, properly clean and sanitize the sink and surrounding area before starting to prepare any other food.

Cook your turkey to safe internal temperature.
 Use a properly calibrated meat thermometer to check that your turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Insert the thermometer to the dimple on the stem in the thickest part of the breast and thigh for accurate readings.

Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. 
Prep salads, cranberries and other colds items first and store them in the fridge until ready to serve. Then prep your hot dishes closer to serving time so they stay hot. Keep all food items outside the "temperature danger zone" (41 to 135 degrees) as much as possible.

Safely reheat leftovers. Whether from a meal prepared at home or picked up from a restaurant, leftovers are part of the holiday tradition. Store each dish separately in clean, sealable, leak-proof containers and reheat to 165 degrees when you're ready to enjoy round two of your Thanksgiving meal.

Sources: www.FoodSafetyMonth.com, www.restaurant.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Credit Worthiness - Know Fact From Fiction

November 19, 2012 5:28 am

These days, it seems easy for credit scores to be damaged and difficult to improve your scores even when you’ve done nothing wrong. Because scores can be so important to your buying power and even job fitness, and because every little factor counts in determining your scores, Forbes Magazine finance writer Erik Carter offers seven credit myths that could be hurting your scores and costing you money:
  • I’ve done nothing wrong–Some 70 percent of credit reports contain errors. So even if you think you’ve done everything right, you could be paying higher interest rates because a reporting error has not been corrected.
  • Checking my scores will hurt me – Checking your own scores once each year will not impact your credit rating.
  • Okay, I’ve checked – Remember, there are three credit reporting companies; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You need to check all three to be sure there are no errors.
  • The source doesn’t matter – Yes, it does. Some inquiry sites only give you access to one report. Others, like freecreditreport.com, ironically are not free. They charge a fee to see your report and then charge you a monthly fee unless you cancel. Go to annualcreditreport.com, which allows free access to each of your credit reports once every 12 months.
  • I’ve paid it off, so I’ll close it – Closing an account when you’ve paid it off can actually hurt your credit score. If it’s a card you’ve had for a while, closing it can reduce your credit history, which is about 15 percent of your score. Also, if you have any debt, closing a card can increase your debt utilization or the ratio of debt to credit available. Instead, you can always cut up the card and not use it.
  • Bankruptcy is the end of the world – It’s painful and can take seven to 10 years to be removed from your credit report, but many credit scores are practically recovered in far less time. If you can’t pay your debts, think of bankruptcy as a second chance that’s better than allowing the debt to continue hurting your score.
  • Maintaining a balance will increase my credit score – Opening and using a credit card can increase your score, especially if you’re starting to build or rebuild your credit. But keeping a balance will only increase your interest payments. Remember that having a lot of debt can hurt your score.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Ways to Save on Heating Oil This Winter

November 19, 2012 5:28 am

Experts are predicting a harsh winter this year in certain areas of the country, a stark comparison to last year—one of the warmest winters in recent history. 

However, those who experience winter’s wrath who heat with oil can save on heating costs this upcoming season by being proactive and taking a few small steps to conserve energy.

Thanks to many advances made in heating oil technology, today’s heating oil equipment is more efficient than ever. However, to get the most out of your equipment, you need to pair it with the right efficiency and conservation measures.

The heating oil industry’s Energy Communications Council (heatingnews.org) recommends doing simple things to save energy and lower heating costs:

1. Fill in gaps around windows and doors with caulking
2. Cover older windows with weather-resistant plastic sheathing
3. Insulate your attic
4. Wrap exposed pipes with proper insulation to prevent both heat loss and freezing
5. Replace your manual thermostat with a programmable model, and lower it just a few degrees while at work or sleeping
6. Open shades and drapes when the sun is out to help warm your home. Close them when the sun goes down to reduce heat loss through drafty windows
7. Eliminate any gaps between your door and threshold by adding a seal to the bottom of the door – it should brush up against the threshold to fill any gap
8. Close your kitchen vent, fireplace damper and closet doors, and remove, cover or close air conditioning units and vents when not in use
9. Move furniture away from heating elements, as it can block heat from circulating
10. Remember that hot water uses fuel too. Take notice of how much you use while bathing and washing dishes, and make an attempt to reduce consumption

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Consumers Show a Little More Cheer this Holiday Season

November 16, 2012 5:20 am

U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $521 on gifts this holiday season, The Conference Board reports today. Nearly 10 percent of consumers said they plan to spend more on holiday gifts this year, up from 7 percent last year. Approximately 31 percent plan to spend less than last year, down from 40 percent a year ago. 

The survey of holiday gift spending intentions, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The survey was conducted for The Conference Board in October. 

"As the holiday season approaches, consumers appear to be in better spirits than last year," says Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "Our survey results show a slight boost in holiday spending intentions. Retailers are cautiously optimistic that this holiday shopping season will be better than last."

Consumers will be searching for bargains this holiday season, with more than one-third saying they expect more than half of their purchases to be on sale or discounted. Nearly 70 percent expect to purchase a portion of their holiday gifts online, with about 20 percent saying more than half of their gifts will be purchased online.

Source: The Conference Board Holiday Spending Survey, November 2012

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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November 2012 U.S. Economic And Housing Market Outlook

November 16, 2012 5:20 am

Freddie Mac recently released its U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for November showing what a healthy national housing market should look like taking into account recent trends, key housing indicators and the shifting demographic patterns that will define a new and realistic trajectory over the next five years. A healthy housing market should have activity below the levels recorded during the peaks of the prior decade.

Outlook highlights - what a healthy housing market should look like:
  • Housing starts increasing to about 1.7 to 1.8 million dwellings per year compared with 2.1 million in 2005.
  • Home sales increasing to about 5 percent of the housing stock, or about 6.5 to 7.0 million homes per year, compared with sales of 7 percent of the stock in 2005.
  • U.S. house price appreciation rising gradually to about 3 percent per year compared to 11 percent of 2005.
  • Vacancy rates easing further to about 1.7 percent on for-sale homes and 8 percent for rental homes, down from peaks of about 3 percent in 2008 and 11 percent in 2009, respectively.
  • Serious delinquency rates nearing 2 percent, down from a peak of 9.5 percent in early 2010.
  • "What a healthy housing market should look like will dismay those who keep comparing housing to what it was during its peak years,” explains Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac, vice president and chief economist, However, taking into account recent trends, key housing indicators and the shifting demographic patterns that will define a new and realistic trajectory toward a healthy housing market, the long-term prognosis is promising – just don't expect the housing market to wake up at 98.6 degrees tomorrow morning."
Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Delinquency and Foreclosure Rates Decreased During Third Quarter

November 16, 2012 5:20 am

The delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four-unit residential properties fell to a seasonally adjusted rate of 7.40 percent of all loans outstanding as of the end of the third quarter of 2012, a decrease of 18 basis points from the second quarter of 2012, and a decrease of 59 basis points from one year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) National Delinquency Survey. The non-seasonally adjusted delinquency rate increased 29 basis points to 7.64 percent this quarter from 7.35 percent last quarter. Delinquency rates typically increase between the second and third quarters of the year.

The delinquency rate includes loans that are at least one payment past due but does not include loans in the process of foreclosure. The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started during the third quarter was 0.90 percent, down six basis points from last quarter and down 18 basis points from one year ago. The percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of the third quarter was 4.07 percent, down 20 basis points from the second quarter and 36 basis points lower than one year ago. The serious delinquency rate, the percentage of loans that are 90 days or more past due or in the process of foreclosure, was 7.03 percent, a decrease of 28 basis points from last quarter, and a decrease of 86 basis points from the third quarter of last year.

The combined percentage of loans in foreclosure or at least one payment past due was 11.71 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, a nine basis point increase from last quarter, but a 92 basis points decrease from the same quarter one year ago.

“Mortgage delinquencies decreased compared to last quarter overall, driven mainly by a decline in loans that are 90 days or more delinquent,” observes Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Vice President of Research and Economics. “The 90-day delinquency rate is at its lowest level since 2008, and together with the decline in the percentage of loans in foreclosure, this indicates a significant drop in the shadow inventory of distressed loans - a real positive for the housing market. The 30-day delinquency rate increased slightly, but remains close to the long-term average for this metric. Given the weak economic and job growth in third quarter, it is not surprising that this metric has not improved.”

“The improvement in total delinquency rates was accompanied by a further drop in the foreclosure starts rate, which hit its lowest level since 2007. Moreover, the foreclosure inventory rate decreased by 20 basis points over the quarter, the largest quarterly drop in the history of the survey. The level however, is still roughly four times the long-run average for this series as we continue to see back logs of loans in the foreclosure process in states with a judicial foreclosure system. The foreclosure rate for judicial states decreased slightly to 6.6 percent and the foreclosure rate for non-judicial states showed a steeper drop to 2.4 percent. The difference in the foreclosure rates of the two regimes is at its widest since we started tracking this metric in 2006.”

Source: Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Holiday Cooking and Decorating Safe

November 15, 2012 4:34 am

Cooking and decorating, both long standing holiday traditions, help make the season merry and bright. However, these activities can also increase the chances of home fires. In fact, cooking remains the number one cause of home fires, with incidents increasing during the festive season ahead. According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency), fires involving holiday lights and decor result in $25.5 million in property damage each year.

In an effort to help prevent home fires, UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a global science safety company, is encouraging families to follow a few important safety tips this holiday season.

"In the kitchen, even the most experienced chefs make mistakes," says UL Consumer Safety Director, John Drengenberg. "Trying to do too many things at once while cooking can potentially lead to accidental fires and related injuries. Protect your family by being a smart and safe chef."

UL offers the following safety guidelines to help prevent accidents in the kitchen.

Watch the Heat:
  • When simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check regularly
  • Never put metal in the microwave
  • Keep kids at least three feet from the stove and other areas where hot food is cooked
Clear Clutter:
  • Keep the cooking area clean and clear of anything that can catch fire, such as potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking, as loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner .
  • When cooking, it's also a good idea to turn the handles of pots inward, in case small kids enter the kid-free zone and reach for the handles.
Avoid Overloading Sockets & Check Cords:
  • Kitchens are particularly susceptible to overloaded outlets. Always pay attention to the recommended wattage for cords and power strips
  • Remember to remove the plug by reaching up and pulling it out of the socket rather than yanking on the cord. Cords should also not be placed underneath anything that is heavy nor should they be tacked to a wall to get them out of the way
Around the Home
According to the NFPA, holiday trees, lights and decor cause an average 390 fires resulting in 21 civilian deaths and 41 injuries per year. Fire research conducted by UL found that today's residential fires burn hotter and faster due to the combination of open floor plans and increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings and decor.

Each year, UL engineers and scientists perform thousands of rigorous tests on products such as holiday lights and electric decorations and is offering the following safety guidelines to help families identify and prevent hazards that too often result in accidents or tragedy.

Check Your Lights, Check Them Twice:
  • Inspect all of your electric lights and decorations for damage or wear
  • Cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections may pose a fire or shock hazard
Decorate with a Safe Eye:
  • Cords should not be run under carpets or tacked up with metal nails or staples
  • Small decorations can be a choking hazard for small children or pets and should be kept out of reach
  • Keep flammable materials "three feet from the heat" of lit candles or fireplaces
Indoor or Outdoor? Look for the UL mark:
  • Indoor-use-only light strings are marked with UL's green holographic label
  • Indoor- or outdoor-use light strings are marked with UL's red holographic label
  • Only use light strings and other electrical decorations that bear the UL mark. The UL mark indicates that samples of that product have been tested to UL's safety standards
Source: UL

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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