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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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Bankrate: Mortgage Rates Hit New Record Lows

July 13, 2012 2:24 am

Mortgage rates moved lower once again, with the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate setting a new record low of 3.79 percent, according to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.40 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 3.05 percent, while the jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage ticked lower to 4.44 percent, both record lows. Adjustable mortgage rates were mixed, with the average 3/1 ARM rate inching higher to 3.08 percent while the rate on the popular 5/1 adjustable dipped to a new record low of 2.95 percent.

A disappointing jobs report raised further concerns about the U.S. economy and helped push mortgage rates to the 10th new record low in the past 12 weeks. The last time mortgage rates were above 6 percent was Nov. 2008. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 6.33 percent, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,241.86. With the average rate now 3.79 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $930.78, a difference of nearly $311 per month for anyone refinancing now.

Survey Results

  • 30-year fixed: 3.79% -- down from 3.87% last week (avg. points: 0.40)
  • 15-year fixed: 3.05% -- down from 3.13% last week (avg. points: 0.35)
  • 5/1 ARM: 2.95% -- down from 2.96% last week (avg. points: 0.35)
Bankrate's national weekly mortgage survey is conducted each Wednesday from data provided by the top 10 banks and thrifts in the top 10 markets.

Source: Bankrate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Downsizing 101: Where Do I Start?

July 13, 2012 2:24 am

There are many reasons to consider downsizing your living space. Maybe you just want less house to maintain and less "junk" to look after. Perhaps your nest is empty and you just don't need all that space. Or you may be looking for a change of venue; moving to a more urban setting will likely mean a smaller home.

Whatever the reason for your move, downsizing your home and your stuff can be overwhelming to contemplate. Boston real estate sales professional Peggy Patenaude says that the best approach is to take it in steps. “The first step is to hone in on what you want,” she advises. “Ask yourself what-when-where questions to get to the heart of what you really want in your new space.”
Patenaude suggests you ask yourself the following:
  • Consider your needs. What type of home will best suit you? A smaller house? A condominium or townhome? A retirement residence or assisted living community?
  • Location, location. Where do you want to live? Is a suburban setting right for you, or are you seeking an environment closer to the attractions of a big city? Do you want to be near family? Good schools? Shopping?
  • Timing. When are you hoping to move? If you don't need to make a change immediately, you can afford to take a more leisurely approach.
  • Inventory. Once you decide on the where and the when, it's important to look at what is out there on the market. Peruse the ads in your targeted area and see what types of homes are available as well as pricing and the kind of space you will have.
  • Go shopping. Attend open houses, book showings, pore over photos on the Internet. Take a close look at the possibilities, and the enthusiasm you generate will help you tackle the next step in downsizing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Calculating Car-Loan Payments

July 12, 2012 2:22 am

In an effort to empower car buyers with below-prime credit, CarFinance.com released the following auto-financing tips which provide advice on calculating potential auto loan payments by identifying the car, and monthly loan payment, they can actually afford.

1. Monthly payment:
Understand what level of monthly payment you can afford by doing a detailed, hyper-honest, budget-setting exercise. Take your monthly income minus all payroll tax or estimated monthly tax deductions, then subtract everything: monthly mortgage payments or rental costs, credit card and other loan payments, health and car insurance (calculating how much more the latter will be with the new car) and get serious about estimating real-world living expenses (from food to fun, etc.) by looking at the last six months of your real spending (bank statements, withdrawals, checks, etc.) from your monthly income. What is left over is what you can afford each month.

2. Know your APR up front: The higher the APR (Annual Percentage Rate - the cost you will pay on the loan, including your interest rate), the higher the monthly payment – and the more you will ultimately pay for the car. Waiting until you get to the dealership to find out your APR could mean you drive off in a vehicle that you can't afford. The good news is that today you can get pre-approved online for a loan in minutes, providing you with key numbers, including your APR, to help you make a rational decision on which cars you should be looking at.

3. Length of loan:
For a given amount financed, the lower your monthly payments, the longer the term of your loan, but the longer the term, the more interest you pay, meaning you will ultimately pay more for your vehicle. Calculate what you will be paying overall to determine if you are willing to pay extra in the long run in order to pay less each month, or if you should look at a lower-priced vehicle.

4. Rebates vs. rates: Understand the difference between the benefit of a cash rebate versus lower monthly interest rate before including it in your calculations. In many instances, you have the option of a manufacturer cash rebate or a low APR. While a low APR sounds enticing, remember that a cash rebate decreases the price of the vehicle, thereby lowering the amount you need to borrow, reducing your interest expense and less overall money spent in the long run. If you trade your vehicle in early, you can lose much of the benefit of the low interest rate. Plus, if you have less than perfect credit, you may not be eligible for the low interest rate anyway.

5. Total price of the vehicle you can afford: This is the holy grail and to calculate this using one of the many calculators you can find online, you will need to allow for your down payment, monthly payment, APR, and the realistic price of the vehicle you are interested in, as well as trade-in (be sure to do your research to get a realistic sales price, whether you are selling the car yourself or trading in), rebates, sales tax, and loan term. You also need to allow for title and licensing fees; a good rule of thumb is 10-15 percent on top of the selling price. But remember, fees vary by state, from as little as $50 to as much as several thousand dollars depending on the state and the value of the vehicle.

6. Go shop: Now that you know what you can afford, you can research online on sites like Edmunds.com to find vehicles that fit your budget. Many online sites offer a search by monthly payment or search by the amount you plan to spend; just be sure you are using the amount that you can afford and that their formulas take into account all the information you have accrued. Once you have found the vehicle that you can afford and want to buy, go ahead and get financed online so your conversation at the dealership is about the vehicle itself, and not the financing.

Source: CarFinance.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for a Healthy Roommate Relationship

July 12, 2012 2:22 am

Creating a harmonious relationship with your roommate can be an arduous task, often falling prey to a lack of communication, pent-up frustration or selfishness. Here are a few helpful tips from Rent.com to get you and your roomie back on track.
  • Make it known. Don’t skirt the issue when it comes to describing your day-to-day activities. Before you sign a lease, it’s important for your roommate to understand your schedule to avoid conflicts later. If you are an “early to bed, early to rise” kind of person, a roommate who works on mixing his DJ tracks at night may not be your best bet.
  • Talk it out. Working to communicate your needs and expectations to one another is crucial for a happy roommate relationship. For example, if your roommate is a student and wants to use the kitchen table to study, decide not to watch TV loudly in the same room during study hours. Likewise, if you’re hosting a “Bachelorette” season-finale party at your apartment, give your roommate fair warning to make other plans.
  • Give a little. By speaking with your roommate about both of your priorities and interests, you can find the greatest common ground and meet somewhere in the middle. Giving a little on both sides shows mutual respect, which makes for an ideal living situation.
  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T. One secret to roommate success is creating boundaries between public and private space. Bedrooms should generally remain off limits to the other roommate, and personal items should not be borrowed without permission. Make sure to talk with your roommate about what is meaningful to you and set clear boundaries together.
  • Clean up your act. As indicated by Rent.com’s survey, keeping clean is a must. While some people are naturally tidier than others, it’s important to divide cleaning responsibilities so the burden is shared. Be sure to discuss expectations for cleaning before you sign on the dotted line. Talk about who will clean what and how often, and what’s acceptable in terms of daily and weekly up-keep.
  • Bills, bills, bills. Make sure you decide on when and how bills and rent will be paid for before making the roommate bond permanent. For instance, if one person is in charge of utilities, make the other in charge of submitting the rent check each month. Designating bills as a shared responsibility helps foster timeliness when it comes to deadlines.
Source: Rent.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Baby Boomers Moving Forward on Retirement Plans

July 12, 2012 2:22 am

In a survey of still-working adults age 55 and older, the majority of the respondents say they are not delaying retirement and believe they will be financially prepared to retire when the time comes.

According to the most recent PulteGroup Home Index (PGHI) survey conducted by national homebuilder PulteGroup, Inc., 61 percent of the respondents plan to retire in less than 10 years, including 46 percent who believe they will be financially prepared to retire in the same time period. Among this same group, 59 percent said that they are either not delaying retirement or plan to retire at a younger age than originally anticipated.

"The survey results seem to defy expectations that the economic slowdown of the past five years has forced many baby boomers to rethink their retirement plans," says Deborah Meyer, senior vice president of PulteGroup, Inc. "On the contrary, these results suggest that future retirees are likely making financial adjustments now so that they can enjoy the full benefits of the next chapter of their lives.”

When comparing previous consumer surveys, Meyer reports there is an upward trend in the percentage of baby boomers becoming more financially prepared for retirement. In the 2010 Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey, approximately 46 percent of the respondents said it would take 10+ years before they would be financially prepared to retire, compared with only 14 percent of the respondents polled in this quarter's PGHI survey.

Other survey highlights include:
  • 32 percent plan to retire in less than five years
  • 49 percent of respondents’ expected age of retirement has not changed
  • 10 percent of respondents expect to retire at a younger age than originally anticipated
  • 27 percent believe they will be financially prepared to retire in less than five years
  • Only 12 percent of those who are delaying retirement say that selling their home and/or the value of their home is a barrier to retirement
Additionally, for today's 80 million boomers, the choices vary on where to spend their retirement years. Some consumers surveyed choose to stay in place in the city where they currently live; whereas others move to seek warmer climates, such as Arizona, the Carolinas and Florida.

In a significant shift, 62 percent of survey respondents think their home in retirement will be within the same state they currently live. This represents nearly a 20 percent increase compared to just two years ago when Del Webb asked the same question in the 2010 Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey.

Another key trend is a desire to continue working. “We've seen the desire to continue to work. To better accommodate the work and play needs of baby boomers, Del Webb has opened communities near large metropolitan cities and employment corridors, better allowing customers to stay in place and continue to work," Meyer says. "With more than 50 percent of our Del Webb residents working part-time, starting new businesses or new careers, it's not surprising that they want to stay connected to their current community, but still take advantage of the active lifestyle at a Del Webb community."

Source: Pulte Homes, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Heading off on Vacation? Protect Your Home from Burglars

July 10, 2012 2:12 am

Summer vacations may be fun, but they can be costly if you fail to prepare your home and property adequately. Burglars see vacations as an opportunity to target empty homes, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

There are more than 2.15 million burglaries each year, over 65 percent of which are residential break-ins. The FBI notes that the summer months of July and August have the highest rates of burglaries, usually about a 10 percent increase over other times of the year.

"Once in your home, a burglar can easily steal computer equipment, televisions, CD and DVD players, as well as jewelry and other valuable items," explains Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson, I.I.I. "In fact, the average dollar loss per burglary is over $1,700."

However, criminals tend to be opportunists. If you make your home more difficult to break into, the crook will likely target another home. Research shows that if it takes more than four or five minutes to break into a home, the burglar will go elsewhere.

The I.I.I. offers these five preventive measures to keep your home safe:
  • Make it time-consuming to break into your home. Dead-bolted window and door locks can slow a burglar down. You may also obtain a discount of 2 to 5 percent on your insurance policy for installing these devices.
  • Make it noisy to break into your home. Invest in a burglar alarm. The most effective systems ring at an outside service, which alerts the police, fire department and other emergency services. A sophisticated alarm system could result in insurance discounts of 15 to 20 percent.
  • Make sure you have strong doors. Outside doors and frames should be made of metal or solid hardwood and be at least 1 3/4-inches thick. Each door must fit its frame securely. Even the best lock will not deter a burglar if it is installed in a weak door. Garage doors also need strong locks. If you have a tool shed, keep it locked since burglars can use the tools to break into your home.
  • Turn off your computer and disconnect it from the Internet. If you save personal information on your computer, make sure it is difficult to access. You don't want a hacker at work while you are on vacation.
  • Keep valuables under lock and key and well hidden. Do not leave personal documents in your home office or desk - burglars know to look for them there. Put critical documents in a lock box or safe somewhere else in the house. Keep copies of important documents at another location -a relative's home, for example. Expensive jewelry should also be hidden somewhere other than the bedroom or left in a safety deposit box at the bank.
As you prepare to leave on vacation follow these additional steps:
  • Keep your home well lit. Mount exterior lights out of reach of would-be burglars in your yard or on your house.
  • Make the house look inhabited. Leave blinds or curtains open in their usual position. Put indoor lights on a timer. If you are going to be away for an extended period, arrange to have your lawn mowed in the summer and your driveway shoveled in the winter.
  • Arrange to have mail picked up or held by the post office. Stop newspaper deliveries and ask a neighbor to pick-up "throw-away" circulars.
  • Ask a neighbor for help. Ask a neighbor you trust to keep an eye on your home while you are gone. You may also want to tell your local police you will be away.
  • Only tell people you know and trust that you are going away. Be careful not to discuss your vacation plans at the supermarket or hairdresser or other public places where you don't know who may be listening.
Standard homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for theft of personal possessions and damage to the home caused by the break-in. With replacement cost coverage, which is only about 10 percent more than actual cash value coverage, damaged property is replaced without deducting for depreciation.

Source: The Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Avoid Heat-Related Health Risks

July 10, 2012 2:12 am

With many areas of the country expecting dangerously hot temperatures and high humidity, precautions must be taken against heat-related health risks.

While healthy people of any age can experience heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to handle high temperatures, those at greatest risk are people over 65, infants and young children, and those with heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems or other chronic conditions.

Poor air quality often associated with hot weather can add to the health risks. Ground-level ozone, a key component of smog, forms during warm weather when pollution from vehicles, industry, households and power plants "bakes" in the hot sun. Young children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems, such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution and should limit outdoor activities when this occurs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health offers the following tips for avoiding heat-related illness:
  • Stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible when extreme temperatures occur. Air conditioning is the No. 1 protective factor against heat-related illness and death.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and don't wait until you are thirsty to drink liquids. Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar as they can cause dehydration.
  • If you must be outside in the heat, limit activity to morning and evening hours, and try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Also use a sunscreen of SPF15 or higher.
  • Check frequently on those who may be more at risk from high temperatures like infants, children or older individuals.
  • Never leave your children or pets in vehicles.
The two most common types of heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which is more serious.

Someone suffering from heat stroke may experience a body temperature above 103 degrees; red, hot, and dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness. If someone is experiencing heat stroke, call for emergency medical assistance via 911 and attempt to cool the person off in a shady place while waiting for help to arrive. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Heat exhaustion can occur after sun exposure or not drinking enough fluids after spending time outside. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. To treat heat exhaustion, rest, drink plenty of water and cool off the body. If not treated, heat exhaustion could result in heat stroke.

During heat waves, many communities and organizations such as senior centers set up "cooling stations" offering residents shelter from the heat. Contact your local government for information on cooling station locations.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Summer Ushers in Highest Consumer Sentiment in Four Years

July 10, 2012 2:12 am

The Consumer Reports Index, an overall measure of Americans' personal financial health, saw a sharp improvement in its consumer sentiment measure, which jumped to its highest level since October 2008.

The rise in sentiment (53.1 from 47.5 the previous month) was broad-based, with significant gains among those Americans in households earning less than $50,000 (+5.5 pts) as well as more affluent households earning $100,000 or more (+7.7 pts).

"With more than half the country earning less than 50,000, any improvement among that group may have a significant impact on the economy. They still have some distance to climb, but these are positive signs," explains Ed Farrell, director of Consumer Insight at the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The improvement in consumers' mood was supported by a decline in financial difficulties, which reached the lowest level since first measured in April 2009. The Consumer Reports Index's Trouble Tracker, a gauge of financial difficulties faced by Americans in the past 30 days, dropped to 41.8, down from 46.5 last month.

The decline in financial troubles was evident in both lower- and upper-income households. However, the level of financial difficulties faced by those in households earning less than $50,000 is three times as great as experienced by those in more affluent households (earning $100,000 or more) as measured by the Trouble Tracker, 58.9 versus 19.5, respectively.

The Consumer Reports Index's employment measure climbed into positive territory this month (50.9), up from 49.7 last month, indicating that more Americans have started a new job versus those that reported losing a job in the past 30 days. The employment measure's improvement was driven by a gain in job starts (5.5 percent), up from 4.0 percent last month, reversing a three-month decline.

After a five-month slide, the index's past 30-day retail measure moved upward this month to 9.9 from 8.9 a month earlier, but is virtually unchanged from a year ago (10.2). Planned purchasing over the next 30 days (8.6), reflecting intent to buy in July, was also up versus last month (7.0), but lags last year at this time (7.7).

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Smart Advice for Bathroom Renovations

July 9, 2012 2:12 am

Updating or remodeling your bathroom is a sure-fire way to add value to your home and enhance your everyday lifestyle. 

When considering bathroom renovation, whether you choose to do an extensive remodel or a smaller project, most kitchen and bath designers agree on these tips:

Take size into account. A sleek, stylish glass shower enclosure helps your bathroom appear more spacious, and in most instances, a frameless shower enclosure will provide the cleanest, most open look. If you decide to go with a framed shower enclosure, you'll have two choices: frameless sliding doors or framed doors. For framed doors, be sure the finish of the metal framing and handles matches your bathroom fixtures.

Be innovative. Taking a creative approach to bathroom necessities can help you make the most of your space. For instance, the majority of shower enclosures are square or rectangular, but today's designers encourage you to think about other shapes. Don't be afraid to consider a circular or oval-shaped enclosure, a triangle or even a standard shape with an artfully bowed glass door, which can redefine the space and make your bathroom more versatile.

Brighten things up. Repainting your bathroom with light colors can make it feel more spacious. If your bathroom has windows or skylights, use window treatments and accents that maximize the amount of light that comes through to give the room a more airy feel.

Find the best use for your space. Move bathroom cleaning items to a hall closet if you are stretched for storage space in your bathroom, especially if you have freestanding storage units that are taking up valuable floor space. If you need more storage space, consider adding built-in compartments if possible between your wall studs to maximize useable space.

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Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

July 9, 2012 2:12 am

While regular watering and mowing are standard for maintaining a healthy and attractive lawn, preventing lawn moss and algae is also critical. Moss and algae are harmful non-flowering plants that compete for space with healthy grass when it is on the verge of being in bad shape.

Removing shade helps to keep your lawn strong by providing natural nutrients. So, if you have any trees in your garden, cut branches that prevent the whole yard from receiving sunlight. Also, take down any umbrellas or lawn furniture that may block sunlight from reaching the lawn when they are not in use.

Drainage and aeration also help to solve the issues of compacted soil and too much moisture. You can spike the affected area to allow air in, break up the soil and eliminate excess moisture. You can also work to increase sunlight to the area, when possible, and improve growth of turfgrass. You should also avoid watering your lawn without spiking it first to allow for proper drainage.

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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