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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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Improving Consumer Attitudes Suggest Continued Strength in Housing Market

December 11, 2012 5:56 am

Despite continued uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff, Americans are showing increased confidence in the housing market and the direction of the economy. According to results from Fannie Mae’s November 2012 National Housing Survey, such improvement bodes especially well for continued strengthening in the housing sector, which in turn is likely to support overall economic growth.

“Consumer attitudes toward both the economy and the housing market continue to gather momentum, with many of our 11 key National Housing Survey indicators at or near their two-and-a-half-year highs,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. “On the housing front, attitudes about the current selling environment continue to improve, with a significant increase in those saying it would be a good time to sell. This growing confidence in a housing recovery, in addition to other factors, may reinforce growing consumer optimism regarding the improving direction of the general economy.”

The November survey results show significant movement across many of the indicators. The share of respondents who say now is a good time to sell a home jumped 5 percentage points in November to 23 percent – the highest level since the survey began in June 2010 – narrowing the gap with those who say it is a good time to buy. The percentage of respondents who expect mortgage rates to go up increased by 4 percentage points to 41 percent. Those expecting home prices to go down within the next year also rose by 4 percentage points to 14 percent over last month, a rebound from the survey's record low in the prior month, while the share who believe home prices will go up in the next 12 months edged up to 37 percent, tying the survey high. Of note, 51 percent of respondents now say it would be easy to get a mortgage, marking the highest rate since the survey’s inception.

Survey Highlights

Homeownership and Renting

• Average home price change expectation held steady at 1.7 percent.
• Fourteen percent of those surveyed say that home prices will go down in the next 12 months, a 4 percentage point increase over last month.
• The percentage who think mortgage rates will go up continued to rise, increasing 4 percentage points in November to 41 percent.
• Twenty-three percent of respondents say it is a good time to sell, a 5 percentage point increase over last month, and the highest level since the survey’s inception.
• The average rental price expectation hit 4 percent in November, a 0.9 percent rise over the past two months.
• Forty-eight percent of those surveyed say home rental prices will go up in the next 12 months, a slight decrease from last month.
• The share of respondents who said they would buy if they were going to move held relatively steady at 67 percent.
• Fifty-one percent of respondents now say it would be easy to get a mortgage, marking the highest rate since the survey’s inception.

The Economy and Household Finances

• Hitting 50 percent for the first time since the survey’s inception, the percentage who think the economy is on the wrong track has declined by 25 percentage points over the past year, and by 6 percentage points from last month.
• The percentage who expect their personal financial situation to get worse over the next 12 months rose 5 percentage points to 18 percent, the highest level since December 2011.
• Meanwhile, 21 percent of respondents say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago.
• Household expenses remained stable over the past month, with 56 percent responding that their household expenses stayed the same compared to 12 months ago.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Lighting and Energy Reduction Tips for the Winter

December 10, 2012 5:54 am

For homeowners looking to decorate their homes for the holidays, it's a great time to review some tips to help save money and conserve energy throughout this time of the year.

On average, holiday lights cost just pennies a day. However, elaborate displays that use large incandescent bulbs can add as much as $80 to a monthly electric bill, depending on the number of bulbs and how long they're lit each night.

There are many less costly, more energy-efficient options available today that even the most elaborate lighting display can fit into anyone's budget. Six 100-bulb sets of large, incandescent bulbs (600 bulbs total), plugged in six hours each night, can add up to $80 to a monthly electric bill. By comparison, six 100-bulb sets of similarly styled light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs would increase a monthly electric bill by $7.

Customers can estimate their holiday lighting costs using an energy calculator like the one found here: www.duke-energy.com/holidaylights.

Safety Tips

• Before installing lights, check each set – new and old – for damaged sockets, loose connections and frayed or bare wires. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.
• Never use more than three standard-sized sets of lights per extension cord.
• Plug exterior lights into ground-fault interruptible (GFI) outlets only. If the home lacks outside GFI outlets, call an electrician to install them.
• Before climbing a ladder, inspect it to ensure it's in good working condition and follow the weight limits specified on the ladder. Ladders that lean against a wall or other support should be angled so the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about one-quarter the working length of the ladder. Never use a ladder for any purpose other than the one for which it's designed.
• Never use a ladder on or near power lines.

Energy Efficiency Tips
The thermostat is the real culprit of a higher December bill, so homeowners are encouraged to select the lowest comfortable setting when they're home, then bump it down a degree or two when they leave.
Other money-saving tips include:

• Hire a qualified technician to inspect home heating and cooling equipment each season to ensure proper operation.
• Change air filters monthly, year-round.
• Ensure drapes, furniture, rugs and holiday decorations do not block heat registers and vents. Clean registers and vents regularly with a vacuum or broom.
• Take advantage of natural solar heat. On sunny days, leave the drapes or blinds open to allow the sun's rays to warm the house.

For more simple ways to control home energy costs, visit www.duke-energy.com/youtility.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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NAR Survey of Homebuyers and Sellers Shows Dual Income Couples Fueling Market

December 10, 2012 5:54 am

Dual income households are comprising a greater portion of the housing market and helping sales recover, according to an annual study. The 2012 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers continues a long-running series of large national NAR surveys evaluating the demographics, preferences, motivations, plans and experiences of recent homebuyers and sellers.

According to the new survey, 65 percent of all buyers are married couples, 16 percent are single women, 9 percent single men, 8 percent unmarried couples and 2 percent other; percentages of single buyers were slightly higher in 2011. However, just two years ago, 58 percent of buyers were married, 20 percent were single women, 12 percent single men and 7 percent unmarried couples; the overall marketshare of single buyers declined a total of 7 percentage points over the past two years. Before 2010, the marketshares moved within a very narrow range, generally a percentage point or two.

Paul Bishop, NAR vice president of research, said the study is painting a clearer picture of the impact of mortgage limitations. “We’ve known for some time that stringent mortgage credit standards have been holding back home sales, but these findings show single buyers have been hurt the most over the past two years. Total home sales would be 10 to 15 percent higher without these unnecessary headwinds,” he said.

“The continued growth in married couples as single buyers shrink demonstrates that households with dual incomes are more successful in obtaining a mortgage. However, given the historically favorable housing affordability conditions, most single-income buyers could also purchase a home and stay well within their means, if lending requirements were more sensible,” Bishop said.

First-time homebuyers edged up to a 39 percent marketshare in the past year from 37 percent in the 2011 study. Long-term survey averages show that four out of 10 buyers are typically first-time buyers, who are critical to a housing recovery because they help existing homeowners to sell and make a trade.

The study shows the median age of first-time buyers was 31 and the median income was $61,800. The typical first-time buyer purchased a 1,600 square-foot home costing $154,100, while the typical repeat buyer was 51 years old and earned $93,100. Repeat buyers purchased a median 2,100-square foot home costing $220,000.

The median down payment for all homebuyers was 9 percent, ranging from 4 percent for first-time buyers to 13 percent for repeat buyers. “First-time buyers historically make small down payments, but repeat buyers like to put down 20 percent if they can to avoid paying mortgage insurance,” Bishop said.

“The general loss in home value since the peak of the housing boom means many repeat buyers in recent years had to make smaller down payments. Fortunately, prices have turned up this year and are showing sustained increases, so we’re on the road to a recovery in home equity.”

Source: NAR

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Brick Exteriors Test Strongest in Severe Weather

December 10, 2012 5:54 am

After the third most active storm season on record, tests continue to show that genuine clay brick outperforms other home exteriors in severe weather conditions. As homeowners head into peak home fire season in December and January, brick also offers a one-hour fire rating by itself—unlike other exteriors that need to incorporate fire-resistant materials in their wall systems.

In cumulative studies, genuine clay brick beats competitive exteriors in wind resistance, moisture resistance, earthquake resistance and protection from wind-blown debris.

"As a sustainable building product made from natural abundant resources, genuine clay brick exteriors can also help reduce property damage and increase survival odds," said Gregg Borchelt, president and CEO of the Brick Industry Association (BIA). "Combined with proper design, installation and maintenance, brick is an essential element of strong, safe homes."

A 2010 study by the NAHB Research Center comparing moisture resistance among typical residential exteriors evaluated genuine clay brick veneer as the highest in moisture resistance and dryness. Of the eight wall systems tested—accounting for approximately 90 percent of the cladding systems used today—brick veneer wall assemblies performed the best overall in controlling moisture.

In 2009, a brick seismic study funded by the National Science Foundation showed that buildings constructed with genuine clay brick veneer can resist earthquakes above the Maximum Considered Earthquake for Seismic Design Category D without collapse.

Videos of a 2004 wind-blown debris study at the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University demonstrate that a medium-sized and wind-blown object, such as a 7.5-foot long 2 x 4, would penetrate homes built with vinyl siding or fiber-cement siding at a speed of 25 mph, but would need to exceed 80 mph in order to penetrate the wall of a genuine clay brick veneer home. The tests showed that a single wythe of brick exceeded the impact resistance for high velocity hurricane zones in the Florida building code.

Free of volatile compounds, earth-friendly genuine clay brick is a key element of green building design with benefits including a 100-year lifespan, no- to low-maintenance, termite resistance, durability and other competitive benefits.

Source: Brick Industry Association (BIA)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Money Tips to Make Your Holidays Merry, Bright...and Affordable

December 7, 2012 5:52 am

The 2012 holiday shopping season is underway and shoppers and budget-minded consumers should be reminded that it's never too late to start planning for an affordable holiday season and debt-free New Year. Now is the time to get together with family and friends and discuss a game plan for the remainder of the season.

In honor of the season, here is a five-step plan to help keep your finances in check:

1. Dial down the holidays. Consider asking family and friends to downsize the holidays to something less commercial, with fewer purchased gifts, more valuable time spent together and a "less is more" sentiment. You'll be well on your way to a very meaningful holiday that doesn't evolve into overwhelming financial stress in early 2013.
2. Start saving and budgeting now. Set a specific and reasonable amount for each person on your "must-buy-for" list. Before you start socking the money away, make certain the amount won't impact your ability to manage your existing monthly expenses.
3. Consider making your own gift. Gifts made from inexpensive materials can go a long way in showing someone you care because people do understand the value of your time. It can be extremely meaningful to your relationship and to the holiday, not to mention light on the pocketbook.
4. Don't end up shopping at the gas station. As the old holiday joke goes, wait until the last minute and you'll be shopping at the 24-hour GasMart. Have a plan and stick to it. Plan your shopping early on. If you wait until the last minute, you may end up spending more just to get the shopping done quickly.
5. Save on wrapping. Inexpensive wrapping paper (even a brown paper bag or color Sunday comics), combined with a nice bow or a well-placed flower, pine cone or holiday ornament, works wonders for adding significance to an inexpensive gift. If you don't have a talent for wrapping, find someone who does and ask for their help.

Source: GreenPath Debt Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Bring Cybercrime Home for the Holidays

December 7, 2012 5:52 am

Cybercrime is on the rise and the holidays are no exception. In fact, this holiday season may prove to be the biggest ever for cybertheft. Hackers observe no holidays, instead using them as yet another theme to entice and trick computer users into letting them into their networks. Compounding this, many retailers and other businesses conduct more transactions and process more credit cards during the holidays than at any other time of the year, which makes breaking into any company's networks all the more lucrative and enticing, regardless of size.

Here are a few strategies for keeping the cyber-grinches out:

• Know what is happening on your network. With good security monitoring architecture in place, if a network incident occurs, you would be able to go back and trace when and how the breach happened and detect if any sensitive data was stolen. Network recording devices, such as full packet capture appliances, quickly establish the facts and timeline of any incidents and provide the forensic evidence necessary to pursue prosecution.

• Beware of holiday e-cards, even if received from a trusted sender. Unbeknownst to the sender, holiday-themed screensavers, e-cards and other free digital content from the Internet may contain malicious spyware, malware and trojans. Downloading these digital "freebies" onto your office computers can open your network up to intrusion and exploitation by cybercriminals who have no intent of spreading holiday cheer.

• Encourage employees to keep their holiday Internet shopping activities at home. Seemingly benign and legitimate retail sites may be fronts for disseminating malware, compromising both computers and networks. Hackers are fully aware that even a short-lived exploit on a busy website can bring high exposure. Hackers even go so far as to hide their malicious payloads in paid-for advertisements. Remember: a firewall cannot keep malicious programs out if an insider invites them in.

• Review what your business liability insurance covers and what to expect from lapses in PCI and other regulatory compliance. Standard business insurance does not cover the costs and liabilities resulting from data theft and a breach of your credit card processing system can result in suspension of your merchant account.

The reality is that business losses from cybercrime overtook losses due to physical theft for the first time in 2010, and 2012 stands as no exception, with a growing list of breach victims in all industries.

Cybercrime is on an upward trend and the question now is not whether an intrusion will happen, but when you will need to respond to a cyber-event. Businesses cannot afford to put cybersecurity off until the new year.

Source: IPCopper, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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HARP Enhancements Continue to Bolster Program

December 7, 2012 5:52 am

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released its September Refinance Report, which shows that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans refinanced through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) accounted for nearly one-quarter of all refinances in the third quarter of 2012. More than 90,000 homeowners refinanced their mortgage in September through HARP with more than 709,000 loans refinanced since the beginning of this year. The continued high volume of HARP refinances is attributed to record-low mortgage rates and program enhancements announced last year.

Also in the report:

• Since the program’s inception in 2009, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have financed more than 1.7 million loans through HARP.

• In September, half of the loans refinanced through HARP had loan-to-value (LTV) ratios greater than 105 percent and one-fourth had LTVs greater than 125 percent.

• In September, 19 percent of HARP refinances for underwater borrowers were for shorter-term 15- and 20-year mortgages, which help build equity faster than traditional 30-year mortgages.

• HARP refinances in September represented 45 percent of total refinances in states hard hit by the housing downturn–Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Georgia–compared with 21 percent of total refinances nationwide.

• Also in September, HARP refinances for borrowers with LTV ratios greater than 105 percent accounted for more than 70 percent of HARP volume in Nevada, Arizona and Florida and more than 60 percent of the HARP refinances in California.

Source: FHFA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Expert Tips for Getting the Sold-Out Toys Your Kids Really Want

December 6, 2012 5:52 am

Every parent or grandparent wants to make the holidays a special time, one that the beloved children in their lives will always remember. Be the holiday hero by getting the gifts they really want – those super popular toys making headlines across the country. Of course, the hottest holiday toys quickly sell out. With a few smart shopping strategies, you will be able to get the gifts they really want without a lot of hassle.

Your children or grandchildren are sure to squeal with delight when they tear open their presents and find a Nintendo Wii U, a Disney Doc McStuffins doll or a Furby in one of the hardest-to-find colors. How were you able to get the toys that your friends and neighbors could not get? You followed some simple shopping strategies for locating high-demand items:

Visit the manufacturer's website
The first step to tracking down a popular toy is to find out where the toy can be found. Each manufacturer's website will list where its toys are sold. Contrary to popular belief, not every major retailer carries all the popular toys of this year. Some manufacturers have exclusive agreements with certain retailers, while other manufacturers may stock at smaller toy stores as well as large retailers.

Call early and be courteous
Call when the store opens so you can speak with a department manager before peak shopping hours. Be courteous and ask if a toy is in-stock. If possible, ask for the item to be held for you. If you are told it is out of stock, do not be shy about asking when the store receives its shipments. On that day, call the store and ask if your item was in the shipment. Better yet, be there for when the store opens.

Use technology to your advantage
The Internet has changed the way people shop for holiday gifts. If you are having trouble tracking down a special toy visit TrackAToy.com, a free resource that helps people find the most popular toys. You can create a free profile and set up toy-availability alerts in three easy ways: email, text message or Internet browser notification. Free alerts can save you time and reduce holiday stress, notifying you as soon as your needed item is back in-stock at many major online retailers such as Walmart.com and ToysRus.com.

Online discussion boards are another valuable resource for holiday shoppers. A quick search and you will find a number of different online forums, where people chat about the season's top toys, where they found them and other unique shopping topics.

Finding that perfect holiday toy does not have to be an impossible mission when you utilize a few smart shopping strategies. From calling stores in the morning to free online product alerts, you will make this the most memorable holiday yet.

What are the top toys this holiday season? Here are a few of the most popular:

1. Nintendo Wii U
2. Furby – 2012 Collection
3. Disney Doc McStuffins Time For Your Check Up Doll
4. Monster High Werecat Sister Doll Pack – Meowlady and Purrsephone
5. LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer Learning Tablets
6. Monster High Ghouls Rule Doll – Abbey Abominable
7. Skylanders Giants Character Packs (Series 2)
8. Lalaloopsy Holiday Collector Edition Doll – Ivory Ice Crystals
9. LEGO Minecraft (21102)
10. Playskool Sesame Street LOL Elmo

Source: TrackAToy.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What to Do with Your Old Electronics

December 6, 2012 5:52 am

(Family Features) Mobile phones, laptops, tablets, game consoles, cameras – electronic devices are a big part of American life. In fact, Americans own an average of 24 electronic products per household, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. With technology changing so rapidly and new “it” devices hitting the market every few months, a lot of those devices get discarded quickly. That adds up to a lot of potential e-waste.

In fact, a recent survey sponsored by RadioShack found:

• More than 90 million American adults 18 and over have unused technology products lying around the house.
• As part of that pile of retired tech, a third of mobile phone users report owning unused phones — and more than half of those with unused phones own two or more.

Some unused electronics just collect dust, but many get thrown away. The Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent report showed that nearly 1.8 million tons of e-waste was simply trashed. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to keep old electronics out of the waste stream.

Donate. Donations give schools, nonprofits and lower-income families access to equipment they might not otherwise afford. Before donating, check with the organization to see what they need.

Trade Up. If you are ready to upgrade to something new, try a program that lets you swap retired technology for store credit toward your purchase. Simply bring eligible working electronics and accessories to a participating store or log on to www.radioshacktradeandsave.com for appraisal information. When you complete your trade in a store, you’ll immediately receive the appraised value in the form of a store gift card (except where prohibited by law). Trade-ins may also be completed via mail by requesting a free shipping label available on the program website. In that case, a store gift card for the trade-in value will be mailed after the product is received. There’s even a free Trade & Save app available to appraise your unused technology using iOS and Android devices. Products traded in are refurbished or recycled.

Recycle. Electronics in nonworking condition should be recycled. Check www.Earth911.com or www.e-stewards.org to find a recycling center near you. Many states have regulations about disposing and recycling electronics. Learn more about your state’s laws at www.electronicstakeback.com.

Don’t Forget the Batteries. Recycling your rechargeable batteries is another easy step you can take. Retailers like RadioShack also recycle rechargeable batteries. To date, the company has collected more than 5 million pounds in rechargeable batteries through Call2Recycle (www.Call2Recycle.org).

Don’t let your old electronics gather dust or add to the waste stream. It just takes a few simple steps to put your devices to better use.

Source: RadioShack

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Will Santa Help You Sell Your Home?

December 6, 2012 5:52 am

If decking the halls and busting out the egg nog helps you feel merry and bright, be warned. It doesn't make everyone feel that festive. While Santa may know if you've been naughty or nice, he isn't quite as much of an expert on real estate. That's why the big guy should lay a little low if you're trying to sell your home this holiday season. We're not saying you need to keep Santa and his reindeer away altogether.
However, if you go overboard with your holiday decorations, it can actually prevent your home from selling. Keep in mind, there's a big difference between putting out a few personal touches and turning your home into Santa's workshop. Even if potential home-buyers aren't Grinches, they'll be turned off by too much holiday decor. Here's why:

1. It makes the space yours, not theirs. Above all else, your goal is to make potential home buyers walk into your home and envision propping their feet up and calling the place "home." However, that's really tough for people to do when you've got a giant picture in the middle of the living room of you dressed up as Santa, your wife as Mrs. Claus, your kids dressed up as elves, and your dog donning a set of reindeer antlers. Putting up the picture may be a treasured family holiday tradition for you, but for potential home buyers, it's an unavoidable reminder that they're "trespassing" in someone else's home. If they feel uncomfortable in your home, it may prevent them from putting in an offer.

2. You might accidentally make your home look smaller than it really is. Let's face it – all of those holiday decorations that you love so much take up a ton of space. When you've got a listing that describes your home as "open, airy, and spacious," the last thing you need is for potential home buyers to come in and find a house that's actually cluttered, cramped, and disorganized. So, if your Christmas tree takes up half the room, you might want to think about downsizing this year. After all, is having a giant tree worth making the wrong impression to potential buyers?

3. It shifts the focus. Even if you pay to have your holiday decorations put up by a professional and they look like something out of a magazine, you could still have a problem. After all, you don't want the focus to be on your decorations. You want the focus on your home's natural beauty, like on the great archway by the front door, the beautiful staircase, or those awesome granite countertops on the kitchen. If people are too focused on your holiday decorations (things that are going to be gone in a few weeks), they're not going to fall in love with what your house really has to offer. In the end, they won't end up buying it.

Source: RealtyPin.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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