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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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Last Call for Energy Efficiency Homeowner Tax Credits

December 15, 2011 3:58 pm

The Alliance to Save Energy urges American consumers to give themselves the gift of energy efficiency this holiday season – and reap the benefits when they file their 2011 federal tax returns – by taking advantage of tax credits for energy efficiency home improvements. The tax credits of up to $500 are set to expire on December 31 and Congress may not renew them for 2012.

"The outlook for renewal of federal energy efficiency tax incentives is uncertain at best," stated Alliance President Kateri Callahan, "so we encourage homeowners to complete those upgrades before the ball drops in Times Square at midnight on New Year's Eve.

"Making efficiency improvements this year will lower home energy bills and improve home comfort for years to come, while also reducing 2011 federal income tax bills," Callahan added.

The specific home improvements that qualify for tax credits fall into a number of categories:

Exterior windows, skylights and storm windows.
Insulation, exterior doors, roofs, storm doors and products to seal air leaks such as caulking, weather stripping and foam sealants.
Highly-efficient heating and cooling equipment, including central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and biomass (e.g. corn) stoves.

Each product category also must meet specific energy efficiency requirements, which are spelled out on the Alliance's tax credits web page.

Percentage and/or dollar limits on particular energy-efficient upgrades include:

• 10% of the cost of insulation and sealing materials, exterior doors and roofs.
• 10% of the cost, up to $200, of exterior windows or skylights.
• Up to $300 for electric heat-pump water heaters, electric heat pumps, central air conditioners, biomass stoves and natural gas, propane or oil water heaters.
• Up to $50 for advanced main-air circulating fans.
• Up to $150 for natural gas, propane or oil furnace or hot-water boilers.

For more information, visit http://ase.org/.


Ten International Christmas Traditions

December 15, 2011 9:58 am

Here in the States, people celebrate Christmas with caroling, presents, seasonal music, and more, but have you ever wondered how other countries celebrate the holiday? Here is a list of 10 international Christmas traditions showcasing how people all over the world celebrate the spirit of the season.

Brightly lit, decorative stars light the night and day in this dark country. Christmas Eve is ladies night out - or rather off - because the men-folk take care of their families and fun family games are played after the Christmas dinner. Unfortunately, barbequed caribou is served – poor Rudolf!

While we often complain about how commercial Christmas has become, India is a great example where multiple religions come together in celebrations with their Christian neighbors - a true world peace on earth experience! Christmas Day is called 'Bada Din' (Big Day) in Hindi. It is a national holiday in India and people from all religions join their Christian friends to make the most of the joyous celebrations.

“Christmas Old Man” (as the translation goes) is greeted by muslin stockings for the Christian children. The season ushers in the Chinese New Year and is a great time of celebration, vacation and honor of ancestors. The Chinese are truly on to something because they take the rest of the year off...and most of January too!

“Arahaba tratry ny Noely.” Might be a good clue for a guessing game? Merry Christmas is the answer! In this hot climate, the people still find ways of decorating for Christmas including holly and snow. The best however, are the giant Poinsettias which flower at Christmas and are also the national emblem of Madagascar.

“Ded Moroz and Snegurochka and the golden troika.” Sounds like a great title huh? It depicts the delightful tale of Father Frost and his granddaughter helper as they travel to deliver gifts to Russian children. Beware parents, if your children hear that some Russians celebrate two Christmas’s we may never hear the end of it.

South Africa
Carols by candlelight and campfires! Christmas falls during high summer and while North Americans are gathering firewood to keep warm inside, the South Africans are heading out to take in the stars and go camping. Perhaps they can get some reindeer from Greenland for the “Braai’s” or summer barbeques.

British kids have to wait until the afternoon following Christmas Eve to open their gifts from “Father Christmas.” Not to worry, however, because with actors called “Mummers” and celebrations everywhere, there is plenty to do during this magical time and of course you can get the traditional plum pudding from the actual place it was invented.

The Netherlands

The merry old soul many know as “Santa Claus” evolved from the Dutch figure of “Sinterklaas.” The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas on the fifth of December with small gifts and a personal note or rhyme. SinterKlaas has a helper and a white horse. The best part is if you are naughty, you get put in Sinterklaas’ sack and sent to Spain.

“Prespio,” The Nativity Scene and “Papa Noel” rule in Brazil and the celebration of Christmas reflects the diverse population throughout Brazil. Traditions from European roots exist and the best part of the Brazilian Christmas is plenty of wonderful Brazilian food and the warmth because it is summertime! Feliz Natal!

Logs, luck and the reason for the season! Like the Dutch, the children are taken care of early in December and the celebration of Christmas is a true celebration of Christ’s birth. Many traditions are involved and many offer reverence of the birth of Christ. Our favorite is that even though the children get gifts in early December, they leave treats out on Christmas Eve - not for “Pere Noel,” but for the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Source: Whirled Peas


What You Should Know About Carpet, Asthma and Allergies

December 15, 2011 9:58 am

Not only does carpet add warmth and comfort to any room, it also helps keep the air free of allergens and pollutants when properly vacuumed and maintained.

Simply put, what falls to the carpet – such as allergens, common dust, pet dander and other pollutants – tends to stay on the carpet until it is vacuumed, unlike smooth surfaces that allow these particles to re-circulate. Properly maintained carpet leads to improved air quality and a healthier indoor environment because regular vacuuming with a Carpet and Rug Institute-certified vacuum cleaner locks pollutants in the machine and removes them from the air you breathe.

Here are several facts that support the use of carpet to help prevent asthma and allergy symptoms:

There is no scientific study linking the rise of allergy and asthma to the use of carpet. Indeed, several studies actually disprove any correlation.

A 15-year Swedish study found no link between carpet usage and the incidence of allergy or asthma. In fact, even when carpet usage in Sweden decreased by 70 percent, allergy reactions in the general population increased by 30 percent.

Carpet may even be helpful to people with asthma: an 18-nation study of nearly 20,000 people found a statistical relationship between carpeted bedrooms and reduced asthma and allergy symptoms and improved breathing.

A 2003 study of more than 4,600 school children in New Jersey found that having carpet in a child’s bedroom was associated with fewer missed school days and less need for asthma medication.

Studies have compared the distribution of airborne dust associated with normal activities on hard and soft flooring surfaces. Findings show that walking on hard surfaces disturbed more particles. These particles became airborne and entered the breathing zone. In contrast, carpeted surfaces trapped more particles so that walking disturbed fewer particles. The result was less dust in the breathing zone over carpeted floors.

What You Can Do

Vacuum regularly and thoroughly. It may come as a surprise that something as simple as regular vacuuming can have a big impact on the air you breathe. When vacuuming, remember to keep the following guidelines in mind:

Use slow, repetitive front-to-back motions in an overlapping sequence. A quick once-over doesn’t do much. Move slightly to the left or to the right every four strokes.

Don’t ignore the corners or crevices where dust builds. Use the proper attachments to clean those difficult-to-reach areas.

“Top-down” cleaning saves you the step of vacuuming after dusting. Dust blinds, windowsills, and furniture surfaces first and then vacuum away any fallen dust.

Remember to remove and replace or empty vacuum bags when they are half to two-thirds full.

Use CRI Seal of Approval cleaning products. An independent laboratory tests solutions, spot removers, vacuums and deep cleaning extractors and systems. Only those that meet high performance standards receive the Seal of Approval.

Professionally clean your carpet every 12 to 18 months. Regular vacuuming removes soil and dust, but periodic professional cleaning is needed to remove embedded dirt.

For more information, visit www.certifiedcleaners.org.


Holiday Survival Guide for Busy Families

December 14, 2011 3:58 pm

Lets face it: sometimes the Holidays are stressful. With all of the parties, shopping and other obligations to tackle in a very limited time, families must somehow manage to balance it all. Here are a few tips on how to survive the holidays and enjoy yourself in the process.

Get Organized: Have the kids make their wish lists and then organize them on a master shopping list. Create a gift spreadsheet if you feel you need extra organization. A column for each recipient, rows with product name, price and ordering info for each gift. For Holiday cards, invest the time in creating a mailing address label template on your computer that you can print out and just update each year.

Shop Online: Once you have your master shopping list, do as much shopping online as possible. No hassles at the store or in traffic equals more time enjoying the season at home with your family. Buying gifts can even be relaxing if you follow this lead and online shop with your well-organized list while watching The Daily Show from bed.

Don't Over Commit: Remember it’s okay to say no, even to a business opportunity. If taking on a new project means you will be uncomfortably above capacity during the holidays, everyone will lose. Schedule new projects for start-dates after the holidays instead of turning business away.

Share the Work: Make a new tradition and get the family in on the action! Have the kids stuff, stamp and label all the holiday card envelopes. They'll be happy to be part of the process. If this is your business crunch time, plan to be a guest rather than a host. Offer to host a different holiday at another time of the year.

Stock Up On Extra Gifts: There are always those last minute gifts you forget about—whether for holiday toy drives or unanticipated reciprocation—that fail to make it onto the most organized of lists. Buy a little extra (especially when you find a great sale). If they don’t get used this year, donate them or recycle them next year. There’s nothing worse than realizing you have to enter the fray on those final days after you’ve already taken that deep breath thinking you were all done!

Set Boundaries Between Work and Family Time: For those working from home, it is a blessing and a challenge. The temptation to work all the time is always there, especially during a busy season. Work while the kids are at school and activities, complete online tasks while the kids do homework and get in some evening work after the kids go to bed.

Don't Forget To Breathe: Maintaining a calm attitude while getting through a mountain of work, for both business and holiday prep, takes less time and energy. Do one task at a time, calmly, and then move on to the next. It will all get done as it always does. Forget non-essentials like making sure the house is spotless and the beds are made. Having a relaxed attitude even if there's no time to relax can make all the difference.

Source: Susan Miller, www.shopskm.com


New-Home Sales Rise 1.3 Percent in October

December 14, 2011 3:58 pm

Sales of newly built, single-family homes inched up 1.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 307,000 units in October, according to newly released data from the U.S. Commerce Department. The gain is from a downwardly revised rate in the previous month, and marks the best pace of new-home sales activity since this May.

"Builders have been seeing some marginal improvement in sales activity over the past few months, particularly in select markets where consumer confidence is higher due to improved economic conditions," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "While this trend is encouraging, overall sales activity is still well below normal due to the effects of overly tight credit conditions for builders and buyers, the continued flow of distressed properties on the market, and inaccurate appraisal values on new homes."

"Today's report is right in line with our forecast for modest and gradual improvement in sales activity through the remainder of the year," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Particularly encouraging is the fact that builders continue to hold down their inventories to match the current sales rate, with the number of new homes for sale now down to a sustainable, 6.3-month supply."

Regionally, new-home sales held unchanged in the Northeast and gained 22.2 percent in the Midwest and 14.9 percent in the West in October.

Meanwhile, the nationwide inventory of new homes for sale held at an all-time record low of just 162,000 units in October, which is a 6.3-month supply at the current sales pace.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.


Help for Community Associations and Homeowners

December 14, 2011 3:58 pm

With more than 60 million Americans living in 315,000 U.S. homeowners associations and condominium communities, tension, frustration and conflict are inevitable.

Associations can face a range of problems—from financial strife related to the current economic climate and housing crisis to conflict between homeowners and association leaders. Issues can involve mandatory homeowner fees, budgetary shortfalls, home foreclosures, architectural guidelines and rules enforcement related to yard signs, holiday decorations, flag poles, pets and parking.

Fortunately, there is free help and information—for homeowners, association leaders and community managers.

The nonprofit Community Associations Institute (CAI) offers free, downloadable information that can help homeowners better understand how associations should function and how to improve communities that are failing to meet resident expectations. Included are:

• An Introduction to Community Association Living—an online presentation that explains the nature, obligations and benefits of living in a common-interest community.
• Rights and Responsibilities for Better Communities—42 principles and practices to help associations promote harmony and reduce the potential for conflict.
• Community Association Governance Guidelines—12 principles that can help association boards identify and meet basic benchmarks of responsible governance.
• Model Code of Ethics for Community Association Board Members

By knowing your rights and the rules and regulations of normal homeowners associations, you can know what to expect and better your living situation.

For more information, visit www.caionline.org/help.


Home Builders Applaud Congress for Restoring Higher FHA Loan Limits

December 13, 2011 9:56 pm

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently applauded Congress for reinstating for another two years the higher conforming loan limits for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), noting that this is an important step to help mend the struggling housing market.

“We commend congressional leaders in both parties and each chamber of Congress for taking this action to boost overall mortgage liquidity in the marketplace, create jobs, and provide homeowners and homebuyers with safe and affordable financing,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev.

“Restoring the higher FHA loan limits will help to stabilize home values, provide constancy while private investors re-enter the market, and enable millions of creditworthy consumers to get home loans with the best mortgage rates and lowest fees and down payment requirements,” he adds.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.


Simple Steps for Choosing Childcare

December 13, 2011 9:56 pm

Earlier this fall, an unlicensed childcare worker in Lincoln, Nebraska was charged with criminal child neglect, only one of many recent childcare and daycare employees to come under such scrutiny. These continued problems with childcare institutions have left many parents concerned. With this series of practical steps, parents can minimize the chances of placing their kids in an unsuitable facility. Basic vigilance and a little research can help parents make more informed and ultimately safer decisions.

Parents have a great deal of power with which to investigate a childcare service’s history and its true values. Doing this kind of work on the front end can ultimately minimize the risk of trouble down the road.

1. Pursue all possible avenues of research. Do not only conduct online searches, but also ask family and friends for referrals or recommendations.

2. Call the manager and inquire about general policies and practices. If possible, visit the facilities in person.

3. Interview other parents who use, or have used, a particular facility in the past. Ask why they find it to be either acceptable or not.

4. Take your child to the facility and watch how he or she interacts with other kids. If your child gives the impression that something is “off,” trust that instinct and keep looking.

5. Ensure that the childcare facility you are considering is licensed. Also make certain that it is well-staffed and that the facilities are clean.

There is no such thing as being too thorough when investigating a childcare facility. Doing the proper research in advance is ultimately what keeps parents from unwelcome surprises.

For more information, visit: thadpryorsite.org.


The Art of Toasting: Raising a Glass with Class

December 13, 2011 9:56 pm

When you deliver your holiday toast, what words will you say? What pithy wisdom, humorous thoughts or warm expressions will you share with family and friends?

Like fine wine itself, a toast is an opportunity to savor. Over the next few weeks, countless people will stand up and say a few words at holiday meals, office parties and various New Year's festivities. Delivering a toast is a classic form of public speaking. It's an easy way to make a connection with an audience, either formally or informally. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are preparing to give a toast at your next social function:

Be Brief. Keep your comments short and they'll have a greater impact. Talk for more than a couple of minutes and the guests will grow antsy.

Be Bold. Step up and act confident. Speak loudly and clearly.

Be Prepared. Know what you want to say ahead of time. Your words might inspire reflection or provide some much-needed laughter, so make the most of the moment- don't wing it.

Be Fresh. Your drink shouldn't be stale and neither should your words. Clichés and platitudes mean little to listeners; be original and speak from the heart.

Be You. Don't try to be hilarious if that's not who you are. Skip the serious message if it doesn't feel right. Just be yourself.

For more information, visit www.toastmasters.org.


Simple Tips for Real Christmas Tree Care

December 12, 2011 9:56 pm

Real Christmas trees are a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays, filling the home with a fresh evergreen scent and unmatched appearance. To maintain your tree throughout the season, follow these simple tips for proper care.

Stand Strong – Traditional reservoir-type stands are the most effective way to maintain tree freshness and minimize needle loss. As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter.

Fresh Cut – If the tree has been cut within the past 12 hours, it is not necessary to recut the trunk. If it has been more than 12 hours since harvest, remove a 1/4-inch disk of wood from the base of the trunk before placing the tree in the stand. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle or into a V-shape, which can make it far more difficult to hold in a stand and reduce the amount of water available to the tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient at taking up water and should not be removed. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not improve water uptake.

Water, Water – Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Don't bruise the cut surface of the trunk or get it dirty. Do not use additives in the water. Clean water is all that is needed to maintain freshness. Check the stand daily to make sure the water level does not go below the base of the tree.

Temperature Control – Keep trees away from heat sources (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption. The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.

Light Use
– Choose lights that produce low or no heat, such as miniature or LED lights, to reduce drying of the tree. Always inspect light sets prior to placing them on the tree. If worn, replace with a new set. Do not overload electrical circuits and always turn off tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed.

For more information, visit http://www.christmastrees-wi.org/.


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