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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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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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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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

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5 Ways to be Ready for Whatever the Economy Brings

July 9, 2012 2:12 am

Regardless of how the economic landscape progresses in the coming months, there are certain steps consumers can take to safeguard their own financial well-being. Nonprofit firm InCharge Debt Solutions advises following these five steps:

1. Reduce your debt – Paying for debt instead of life's necessities (food, shelter, utilities) is counterproductive, particularly during a recession. Take steps to pay down your debt as much as possible before another downturn.

2. Create an emergency fund. Even if you only have a small amount of "extra" money every time you receive income, put as much as you can away.

3. Cut your expenses. It is amazing how many things you can save on when you really put your mind to it - cable, insurance, entertainment. There are always ways to cut back.

4. Be a better employee. Work harder, do more at work, become more visible and more valuable to your employer. Who knows, you may get a raise or a bonus!

5. Do a financial inventory – Have a certified professional evaluate your financial situation, budget, and spending habits, and develop a strategy to help you deal with whatever the economy throws at you.

Source: InCharge Debt Solutions

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How to Save on Power Bills this Summer

July 6, 2012 2:08 am

As we move into the dog days of summer, Georgia Power offers some helpful tips to stay cool and save on energy bills.

Keeping cool

  • During the summer, the air conditioner is usually the biggest user of electricity. For many homes, it accounts for more than half of the summer electric bill.
  • Set your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher and leave it there. For every degree below that setting, you'll use 3 percent to 4 percent more electricity.
  • Set the thermostat even higher when at work or away from home for long periods of time, but no more than five degrees higher.
  • Invest in a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts your home's temperature to your schedule so you're comfortable when at home and save energy while away.
  • Change or clean your air conditioner filter regularly to maximize the unit's cooling potential. Dirty filters restrict airflow and reduce efficiency.
  • Check your windows and doors for a tight fit. Apply weather stripping or caulking if needed.
  • Use fans whenever possible. Ceiling fans can make the air in a room feel 6 degrees cooler and allow you to save energy. However, remember to turn them off when you're not in the room.
Proper insulation
  • Increasing attic insulation can reduce heat loss/heat gain by up to 28 percent.
  • Insulation is measured in R-value, which is a measure of resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation value.
  • Experts recommend you use an R-value of R-30 or higher, depending on local energy codes, in ceiling areas.
In the kitchen
  • Try to use the range instead of the oven. Or better yet, turn on the microwave or use a pressure cooker. Both use less power than a standard electric range. 
  • Whenever possible, cook a lot of meals at the same time. This uses less energy than cooking each meal separately.
Using the refrigerator
  • Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Check them by closing a piece of paper in the door, half in and half out. If you can pull the paper out easily, you may need to make some adjustments or replace the seal.
  • Set the refrigerator thermostat between 35 and 38 degrees, and your freezer at zero degrees.
Clothes washer/dishwasher
  • Turn down your water-heater thermostat. A setting of 120 degrees is adequate for most homes and will save money and energy.
  • When using the dishwasher, turn off the drying cycle if you don't need the dishes right away.
  • Run the dishwasher, dryer and stove in the morning or after the sun goes down to avoid adding heat to your house during the hottest part of the day.
  • Wait until the dishwasher is full before running it. Partial loads use just as much water and power as a full load.
  • Dry clothes in consecutive loads so the dryer does not have to reheat every time. Always clean the lint filter after each load.
Source: Georgia Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mid-Year Job Forecast Points to a Better Hiring Picture in Back Half of 2012

July 6, 2012 2:08 am

While the jobs recovery continues to lag that of previous recessions, the outlook for the back half of 2012 shows continued improvement over 2011, according to a survey from CareerBuilder. Forty-four percent of private sector employers reported they are planning to hire full-time, permanent staff from July 1 through December 31, 2012, an increase of nine percentage points over the same period last year. In last year's forecast, the number of companies planning to hire full-time, permanent employees (35 percent) increased seven percentage points over 2010. The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive© from May 14, 2012 to June 4, 2012, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.

"The rate of job creation has been slower than what we would have expected at this point in the recovery, but the market is stable," explains Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Two years ago, the hiring activity in the U.S. was driven primarily by large employers recruiting in metropolitan areas for a handful of industries or job functions. Today, we see job listings in all industries, market sizes and company sizes. The outlook for the remainder of the year is better than 2011, but it will follow the same pattern of steady progress rather than a surge in job growth. Employers will remain careful as they assess barriers and opportunities for growth in the economy and their own businesses."

Employers plan to add a mix of new employees over the next six months, with each category trending up from last year:
  • Hiring full-time, permanent employees – 44 percent, up from 35 percent in 2011
  • Hiring part-time employees – 21 percent, up from 15 percent in 2011
  • Hiring contract or temporary employees – 21 percent, up from 12 percent in 2011
The top functional areas for which businesses plan to hire first are those directly impacting revenue and innovation. Customer Service remains in the No. 1 spot for recruitment with Information Technology and Sales rounding out the top three.
  • Customer Service – 24 percent
  • Information Technology – 22 percent
  • Sales – 21 percent
  • Administrative – 16 percent
  • Business Development – 13 percent
  • Accounting/Finance – 12 percent
  • Marketing – 11 percent
More employers are also reporting that their organizations have created entirely new job functions within their organizations to respond to evolving business demands. When asked if their organizations currently have positions that didn't exist in their firms five years ago, employers pointed to the following:
  • Positions tied to social media – 16 percent
  • Positions tied to storing and managing data – 15 percent
  • Positions tied to cyber security – 12 percent
  • Positions tied to financial regulation – 10 percent
  • Positions tied to promoting diversity inside and outside the organization – 9 percent
  • Positions tied to green energy and the environment – 8 percent
  • Positions tied to global relations – 8 percent
One-third (34 percent) of employers added full-time, permanent headcount in the second quarter, up from 29 percent last year and 33 percent last quarter. Nine percent decreased headcount while 56 percent made no change to staff levels and 1 percent were unsure. Looking ahead, 30 percent of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in the third quarter, up from 26 percent last year. Given that employers historically have been more conservative in estimates than actual hiring activity, the number may come in higher at quarter end.

Source: CareerBuilder

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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May Home Price Index Shows Third Consecutive Monthly Increase

July 6, 2012 2:08 am

Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 2.0 percent in May 2012 compared to May 2011, according to CoreLogic’s May Home Price Index (HPI®) report. CoreLogic is a provider of information, analytics and business services.

On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, also increased by 1.8 percent in May 2012 compared to April 2012*. The May 2012 figures mark the third consecutive increase in home prices nationwide on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.

Excluding distressed sales, home prices nationwide increased on a year-over-year basis by 2.7 percent in May 2012 compared to May 2011. On a month-over-month basis, excluding distressed sales, the CoreLogic HPI indicates home prices increased 2.3 percent in May 2012 compared to April 2012, the fourth month-over-month increase in a row. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned (REO) transactions.

The CoreLogic Pending HPI indicates that house prices, including distressed sales, will rise by at least another 1.4 percent from May 2012 to June 2012. Excluding distressed sales, house prices are also poised to rise by 2.0 percent during that same time period. The CoreLogic Pending HPI is a new metric that was introduced within the April 2012 HPI report. It provides the most current indication of trends in home prices, and is based on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data that measure price changes in the most recent month.

Other highlights as of May 2012 include:
  • Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Arizona (+12.0 percent), Idaho (+9.2 percent), South Dakota (+8.7 percent), Montana (+8.2 percent) and Michigan (+7.9 percent).
  • Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Montana (+9.1 percent), South Dakota (+8.5 percent), Arizona (+7.3 percent), Idaho (+6.6 percent) and Wyoming (+6.6 percent).
  • Including distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the national HPI (from April 2006 to May 2012) was -30.1 percent. Excluding distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the HPI for the same period was -22.2 percent.
  • Of the top 100 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) measured by population, 29 are showing year-over-year declines in May, 12 fewer than in April.
*April data was revised. Revisions with public records data are standard, and to ensure accuracy, CoreLogic incorporates the newly released public data to provide updated results.

Source: CoreLogic

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Five Ways to Maximize a Small Kitchen

July 5, 2012 2:06 am

A small kitchen can quickly become cluttered and feel cramped. According to Consumer Reports, a few small upgrades can make a big improvement. To maximize the space you have, rethink where you store things, especially if counter space is at a premium. Here are five additional ways to make every available inch count:
  1. Place your dishwasher strategically. Choose a location near the sink but where the dishwasher won't stop traffic when the door is open. Remember to think about access to other appliances, too. You don't want the dishwasher door to block the refrigerator door, for example.
  2. Incorporate a landing spot for food by the refrigerator and for pots and pans on at least one side of the stove. These small details can easily improve your kitchen's efficiency.
  3. Install roll-out cabinets where possible. A roll-out spice rack near the range is a great use of space and eliminates clutter on the countertop or in a cabinet.
  4. Drawers and pull-out shelves can make a big difference. They're a perfect way to store pots, pans, kitchen tools and even dishware. Most commercial cabinets can be outfitted with pull-out shelves and other organizers.
  5. Before making any updates, take an inventory of everything you need and use in your kitchen and where it's kept. Remember to plan storage for small, easily overlooked items such as pot holders and plastic bags.
Source: Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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