Last year some big-name companies and organizations got hit by data breaches. LinkedIn comes first to mind. According to news reports, its system was breached and millions of account passwords were potentially compromised. eHarmony, the University of Nebraska, Yahoo! and many others were also in the news because of data breaches.
Congress has been looking at data security and privacy for years, and the Federal Trade Commission has done a lot of work on the issues, studying them and creating best practices for protecting against violations. But as of right now, for the most part, data security and privacy are issues mainly addressed at the state level, and virtually all states have some laws on the books.
Unfortunately, a survey NAR conducted in 2010 found that real estate brokers and sales associates are neither well-informed about these laws nor have in place anything close to a rigorous system for protecting against security breaches, or protecting customers’ privacy. (Security involves protecting sensitive information like bank account numbers from breach; privacy involves letting consumers know what you do with the information you collect and potentially giving them a chance to opt out.)
Of course, data security unpreparedness isn’t an issue unique to real estate. Surveys show most small and medium-sized businesses, regardless of industry, are equally in the dark about what to do.
Looking ahead to 2013, there’s a good chance Congress will look at data security and privacy issues anew and maybe even consider legislation that would create federal requirements that would have to be met by any businesses that collect names, numbers, and financial information.
Regardless of what lawmkers in Washington do, it’s clear that having measures in place is vital to your business. The good news is, you don’t have to start from scratch. NAR leaders in 2010 adopted a set of data security and privacy best practices, and in 2011 the association followed up with a toolkit, called the Data Security and Privacy Toolkit, that gives you a running start for taking action.
First, the toolkit introduces you to the types of information you collect that require protection. This is information like bank account numbers, Social Security Numbers, and credit card information—the kind of information you have when you hold onto clients’ good-faith offer checks and things like that.
Second, it lists what the most applicable law is in each state, so if you’re in, say, Arizona, you can look up the law—Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 44-7501—and bring it up on your computer. That way you’ll know what you need to do at a minimum to meet your state law.
And lastly, it shares the best practices that the Federal Trade Commission has developed for putting in place good safety procedures. Under the guidelines, you’re to 1) take stock of the data you collect, both digitally and in hard copy, 2) scale down so that you only collect and hold on to what you need, 3) lock it up, whether it’s digital data or hard-copy files, 4) pitch it—appropriately— if it’s unneeded information (“appropriately” is key, because disposal is a big way data thieves get information if you’re not careful), and 5) plan ahead so that you’re prepared in the event of a breach. That means know when to notify customers of a problem, what to say, and where to send them for more information.
Data security and privacy protection are matters that take you away from your primary business, but as the high-profile breaches in just the last year show, if you ignore these things for too long, bad consequences could be the result. The toolkit NAR prepared last year at a minimum should help you get started, and that’s not a bad thing if Congress acts to make security and privacy protection federal matters.
Existing-home sales are up 2.1 percent in October from the previous month and home prices are up more than 11 percent from this same time last year, to $178,600. Sales are being driven by strengthening fundamentals—the improving jobs picture, rising rental rates, continuing low interest rates and housing affordability—and prices are gaining on reduced supply.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said yesterday in his national press conference in Washington to release the association’s latest sales figures says inventory shortages are cropping up in markets across the country. Although that’s good for home price gains in the short-term, in the long-term it’s a negative that reflects weak home construction by builders. Ideally, supply growth will increase to provide a healthy counterbalance to demand so prices can rise at a sustainable pace.
In any case, due to the steady price gains home owners have seen, total home owner equity has risen by $760 billion so far this year. Should home prices rise 5 percent for the year, equity gains could reach $1 trillion by year’s end, a healthy development for the economy, Yun says.
Access NAR’s press release on the latest home sale numbers.
Smile. It’s a simple but powerful gesture.
Smiling says something about your character. It puts people at ease, increases attractiveness, and it’s contagious.
“Some of us need to have more peace in our lives. People want to be around positive people,” said Darryl Davis, New York-based speaker, trainer, and comedian who has been in the real estate business since he was 19 years old. Davis presented stress-relieving tips during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando Sunday. “It’s hard to smile and be angry and pissed off at the same time.”
A career in real estate can come with a lot of stress, so much so that it’s often ranked one of the most stress-filled jobs. The amount of endorphins released from smiling actually equals 2,000 bars of chocolate, inducing happy feelings and lowering blood pressure.
So, next time you’re in an argument with someone, just plant a smile on your face. It will either defuse the situation, or you’ll get the better of the other person. Either way it’s a win for you, Davis joked.
In addition to showing your pearly-whites, there are other ways to stress less. Here are Davis’s top three tips:
- Let go of your baggage. You’ve made choices in your business and your personal life; many of those choices were spot-on, and some maybe weren’t so great. If you keep beating yourself up over those bad choices, you’re going to continue living in the past. “It’s like driving a car looking in the rear view mirror. Eventually you’re going to crash,” said Davis. It’s time to accept the choices you’ve made in life, for better or worse, and re-focus your energy on moving forward.
- Be committed to what’s possible. Davis ran the New York City Marathon in 2006. He had never done anything like it before. In fact, he said he was so out of shape, that he only made it 0.33 miles during his first training run. But because he had a higher purpose for running the marathon – raising money for children suffering from leukemia and lymphoma – he stayed on top of his training and completed the marathon five months later, raising $25,000 for charity. The key to reaching any goal, he said, is envisioning what you want and then creating it. Start by painting a picture of your life and career goals. “Your success exists in the future; you just have to figure out how to reach it,” Davis said.
- Focus on improving your skills. People can usually relate to those who have had a similar experience in their lives. If you’re having trouble communicating with a client, try using stories, metaphors, and analogies from your own life to handle objections. Your skills also improve when you surround yourself with positive, motivating people. So avoid the “negative-Nancy” in your office and hang around those people who will inspire success.
With prices attractive and interest rates still historically low, it’s not just a tagline that now is a great time to buy, especially for younger households. But NAR’s recently released 2012 Home Buyer and Home Seller Survey shows that younger households are struggling to get in at this advantageous time. Instead, we’re seeing a strengthening in the older, married, higher-income, move-up buyer market, and the reason appears very much related to the biggest housing policy challenge facing the federal government today: getting banks to return underwriting standards to the safe and reasonable standards they employed prior to the housing boom.
Jessica Lautz of NAR Research at the 2012 REALTORS Conference & Expo in Orlando last week walked the press through the latest survey findings and they were striking: a drop in the young, single female buyers who had been growing into such an important part of the market in the last several years, first-time buyers still trying to come back to historically normal levels, big gains by older, married, move-up buyers, including those who already own a second home.
What the trends suggest is the restrictive mortgage environment is making it hard for younger buyers to get into the market, leaving a good share of it to more established households, including those with two incomes.
Another interesting tidbit Lautz pulled out of the report, which is always among the most popular pieces of research NAR puts out for its members, is the disappearing FSBO. It’s a trend NAR has been seeing for a while. Sellers trying to go it alone in today’s tough market are just not faring well, and their numbers continue to dwindle.
Four hurricanes pounded Florida in August and September 2004, and Rob and Marlena Burger are still recovering eight years later. Their Orlando storefront printing and design business was destroyed, and the couple ended up living and working in an old mobile home that suffered from severe leaks, electrical issues, and mold.
The couple was losing hope of ever owning a home, until they found Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando Area. Now, the Burgers are among the 58 families moving into the Stag Horn Villas, an $8 million, energy-efficient, townhome community built by Habitat.
“At one time, we were treading water in a sea of despair,” said Burger. “But since Habitat, we’ve been floating in an ocean of gratitude.”
About 100 REALTORS® volunteered their carpentry skills at the Stag Horn Villas development Wednesday morning. This is the 12th year members of NAR have participated in a Habitat for Humanity build during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo. NAR contributed $50,000 to the Stag Horn Villas project.
“Every nail you drive, every paint brush you use, every item you carry, recognize that you’re not just helping these folks, but you’re helping this country,” Moe Veissi, 2012 president of NAR, told the REALTOR® volunteers. “Not just the economic health of America depends on home ownership, we know that the social and cultural health of this country knits its fabric together by people who live in communities that you are helping to build.”
During the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando NAR is collecting donations to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation (RRF) for Hurricane Sandy disaster assistance. Already, more than 1,500 REALTORS® have answered the call for donations. On Oct. 31, NAR President Moe Veissi e-mailed all NAR members, asking for “what you can—every amount helps.” (Update: At a member forum on Thursday, Veissi announced that NAR would match members’ donations up to $500,000.)
If you’re attending the conference, you can make a donation at the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage-sponsored Relief Foundation Wall in West Hall D Lobby of the Orange County Convention Center during the following hours:
Friday, Nov. 9: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, 11/10: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday, 11/11: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
You can also donate online.
The Foundation is working with associations in New York, New Jersey, and other affected areas to aid victims in those states with housing-related assistance. A donation to RRF is tax-deductible, and 100 percent of donations are used for relief. NAR covers the administrative costs of operating the Foundation.
Read Erica Christoffer’s post, “REALTORS® on the East Coast Help Clients Pick Up the Pieces Following Hurricane Sandy.”
Update (Nov. 7, 2012): Minnesota voters rejected the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman during the General Election Nov. 6. The measure required a simple majority, however, 51.3 percent of voters opposed the amendment and 1 percent did not answer the question on the ballot.
Tomorrow, Minnesota will be one of four states to vote on an issue related to same-sex marriage. Thirty states currently have constitutional amendments on the books defining marriage as between one man and one woman, the same definition of marriage Minnesota voters are considering. Among those speaking out against the measure is the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®.
In June, MAAR’s board of directors passed a resolution—which they announced in a public statement last Tuesday—opposing the Minnesota 2012 Definition of Marriage Amendment. It’s believed to be the first time a REALTOR® association has taken a position on a constitutional marriage amendment, according to NAR archivists. NAR does not have a position on marriage equality.
Excerpt from MAAR’s resolution:
MAAR supports fair housing access, as well as fair and equal access to all the rights, benefits and privileges granted through homeownership. While LGBT people are not prevented from buying or selling real estate in Minnesota today, nor will they be as a result of the proposed amendment, the fact remains that non-legally married couples do not have the same access to the benefits and privileges of shared homeownership as married people.
The motivation for MAAR’s opposition is the nearly 100 laws in Minnesota affecting home ownership rights for those in a relationship or union not legally recognized by the state, says Mark Allen, CEO of MAAR. “That creates an environment where inequitable situations need to be addressed,” he says.
In fact, one of the current legal challenges facing DOMA — the federal Defense of Marriage Act established in 1996 that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman — is directly rooted in housing. The case of Windsor v. United States, which could make its way to the Supreme Court, is contesting the federal estate tax against same-sex spouses. Continue reading »
The dock that Kate Koplinka grew up crabbing off of in Mastic Beach, Long Island, New York, vanished beneath the wind and flood waters of Hurricane Sandy this week. Yet Koplinka, ABR, vice president and associate broker of Coldwell Banker M&D Good Life in Moriches, New York, feels lucky. The devastation could have been worse—as it was for too many others, she says. Koplinka’s area of Suffolk County along eastern Long Island has 100-year-old trees strewn over electrical lines. Additionally, all major bridges, tunnels, and public transportation systems are closed, and school hasn’t been in session since last week.
Hurricane Sandy surged across the East Coast Monday and Tuesday, bringing with it rain and 75-90 mph wind gusts, causing devastating damage and flooding from Virginia to Massachusetts. At least 32 people have lost their lives, many are still missing, and numerous residents have lost their homes, continuing to take shelter in local schools and community centers.
An early assessment released Tuesday from economic analysis firm IHS, estimates economic loss between $30 billion and $50 billion for the region, including infrastructure damage, oil production loss, shipping and distribution delays, and various other commercial product shutdowns. On Monday, research firm CoreLogic estimated that 284,000 properties valued at $88 billion were at risk of damage or destruction from the superstorm. New York had the highest number of properties at risk with just over 81,000 valued at $35.1 billion, followed by 75,000 properties in New Jersey totaling $22.6 billion.
The REALTORS® Relief Foundation is currently accepting donations to provide housing-related assistance to victims of the disaster. The foundation is working with state associations in the affected areas to distribute the funds to those in the REALTOR® family and the community at-large. All of the money donated goes directly to help those in need; NAR covers all administrative costs associated with the 11-year-old program. Make a donation today.
“We were at an open restaurant yesterday and an older man was sitting alone, his apartment was flooded and he had nowhere else to go,” Koplinka said. The man, who lived in Rocky Point, New York, said all of the hotels were full and the shelters were allegedly turning people away. To make matters worse, 85 percent of Long Island is currently without power, she said, and the drinking water in Nassau County in western Long Island is off limits. Continue reading »