Tandy On Real Estate



Cybersecurity: Protecting your business

REALTORS beware – you are the perfect target for cybercrime
According to The National Association of REALTORS (NAR), “big-name breaches make good headlines, but smaller businesses make easy targets for online criminals. This is partly because many small-business owners believe they are “below the radar” for cybercrime and thus fail to implement safety measures to protect themselves from attack.” There are more than 12 cybercrimes per second. Per NAR, “by 2019, cybercrime will cost businesses an estimated $2 trillion annually.” This post is to help you and your clients to avoid being the next victim.

The dangers of the World Wide Web and specifically, wire fraud
This sounds like a scary headline from 2000 when businesses first started going online. But, now in 2017, the dangers are oh so real. At the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.  in May NAR General Counsel Katie Johnson identified wire fraud as a “sophisticated scam causing consumers to lose millions of dollars each year.” This according to “The Threat of Wire Fraud is Real” by Erica Christoffer and Graham Wood of REALTOR Magazine. When she asked the audience of real estate professionals if they knew of someone who had been a victim of wire fraud, 1/3 of the audience raised their hand. She then detailed the following:

“Hackers are gaining access to e-mail accounts through captured passwords, and they’ll search inboxes for messages related to real estate transactions, Johnson said. Once they find a victim who’s in the process of buying a home, they’ll send a spoof e-mail that looks like it’s from their agent, title representative, or attorney, and it will say there are “new” wiring instructions, which includes a fraudulent account. The home buyer will then unwittingly wire funds directly into the hacker’s account. Once they send it, the money is gone. Millions of dollars are lost on this.”

MortgageFraudBlog.com gives point in case to Johnson’s scam where fraudulent emails were used to conduct wire fraud and bank fraud from escrow deposits in June 2016 involving three companies and hurting 6 victims with the scam.

How to protect your business
Here are some tips to make sure you take the proper precautions online.

  1. Maintain a data security policy. See samples of policies here.
  2. Maintain a document retention and destruction policy. Identify how long to keep documents and how to destroy the information safely. Be sure to work with your legal counsel to create this.
  3. Notify affected parties of a security breach. Remember immediacy and transparency are key in your communications. In the event of a data breach reference the Federal Trade Commission’s Data Breach Response: A Guide for Business.
  4. Use tech to safeguard personally identifiable information. Implement certain technology-based protections, such as maintaining appropriate firewalls and password controls.
  5. Use strong passwords. Here is how to create a strong password.
  6. Establish procedures for wire transfers and communicate with your clients what to expect in the transaction and what communications they will receive from you. Here are some tips from Clareity Consulting on “Reducing the Risk of Real Estate Wire Fraud”.
  7. And, finally, FOLLOW YOUR POLICIES and educate your associates.

The dangers of free wi-fi
According to KnowBe4, “you should always watch what Wi-Fi hotspots you connect to, and use a VPN to help keep your sensitive information out of the hands of hackers.” If you connect to free wi-fi that is unprotected, the provider could have access to what you transmit over their network. For example, at the Republican National Convention, attendees were hacked by a fake wi-fi network. Here’s what happened per Stu Sjouwerman,

“The PR people at Avast decided to have some fun and created a series of fake Wi-Fi networks at various locations around the Republican National Congress in Cleveland. Avast’s team set up several networks, using names such as “Trump free Wifi” or “Google Starbucks,” which were designed to look as though they were set up for convention attendees. Upon connecting, trusting a random and unprotected network they found in a public setting, the users unwittingly gave Avast access to spy on their devices. Over the course of a day, Avast found over a thousand attendees that were completely negligent in their device’s security. Over 60 percent of the users who connected had their identity completely exposed, and slightly less than half of them checked their email or used messenger apps.”

This is scary business, literally. Lesson learned – Remember to always use a secure network with a username and password, and use a VPN when conducting business. Say to yourself now, “No more free wi-fi – it is NOT worth the risk.”

I hope this is helpful as you work to strengthen your cybersecurity practices. I urge you to download Protecting Your Business and Your Clients from Cyberfraud from The National Association of REALTORS to make sure you have your cybersecurity bases covered. This includes Best Business Practices, Best Email Practices, Best Transaction Practices and Best Damage Control Practices. I will cover these Best Practices in future blog posts, so stay tuned.

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Cybersecurity: Protecting your children online

As a technologist, I am fascinated by bringing our businesses online to create efficiencies and with this, our obligation to provide cybersecurity. In my first blog post on cyber security, I talked about cyber breaches. In my second blog post today on cybersecurity, I would like to talk about our jobs as parents to protect our children in a changing social world. In future posts, I will be covering how you can protect both yourself and your business. Stay tuned to Tandy on Real Estate for these.

According to Shakespeare, “the world is our oyster”, or so it seems now that pretty much anything and everything is available online – whether it is a fact, or as we hear so much of now, an “alternative fact”. What we should remember is, in our world of immediate access, we still need to protect ourselves, and most importantly, our children.

The first thing to remember when approaching cybersecurity is that anything placed online CANNOT be permanently deleted. It will always be online. The “International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium” (ISC2) states that, “anything posted or sent through the Internet is impossible to fully remove.” It is our duty as parents to communicate this to our children, and to help them to build healthy online habits that will protect them as they grow up in their social world.

Here are few tips for child safety from ISC2 and the social networks themselves:

1.       Get to know the social networks. Research these social networks, and remember to include your children in the research process.

a.       Facebook – Facebook’s Parent’s Portal on Safety@Facebook

b.       Instagram – Instagram’s Tips for Parents

c.       Twitter – Twitter Tips for Families

d.       Vine – Tech Guide for Parents on Vine

e.       SnapChat – Snapchat Safety Center

2.       Realize there are age requirements to most social networks and respect these rules- they are in place for a reason.

3.       Make parental approval of social groups or networks part of your house rules.

4.       Talk about what is an acceptable and respectable post.

5.       “Friend” or “follow” your kids so you can check in on their social media activity. You don’t have to participate, just take a look as often as possible.

6.       Data provided to a social network is stored and, most of the time, it is shared by default. Ensure your child’s profile is set to Private. Go into settings and help them adjust the default controls.

These are just a few tips for parents. The biggest part is to start the conversation with your children about social networks, their privacy and how they can participate in the online conversation safely.

Here are a few tips on getting the conversation started 

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Two Top 10 lists in one: Top 10 New Year’s resolutions and the Top 10 cities for job seekers

A new year is full of potential – the promise of what is to come. People make resolutions and promises to themselves on what they want to accomplish or how they will improve in the year to come. Curiosity has gotten me when it comes to the resolutions people make, especially as we enter into the post-New Year’s Day weeks where these promises to ourselves begin to become less of a priority.

According to Inc.com the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions are:

  1. Diet or eat healthier (71%)
  2. Exercise more (65%)
  3. Lose weight (54%)
  4. Save more and spend less (32%)
  5. Learn a new skill or hobby (26%)
  6. Quit smoking (21%)
  7. Read more (17%)
  8. Find another job (16%)
  9. Drink less alcohol (15%)
  10. Spend more time with family and friends (13%)

Not too far off from what I was thinking: be healthier, kick an old habit, save money, advance your career… I don’t think there are any huge surprises on the list. Today I want to focus on one in particular – finding another job. If your resolution happens to be in line with #8, one of advancing your career or finding a new job then, this will come as good news to you. According to NerdWallet, Austin is the best city for job seekers.

Here are the Top 10 lists of cities for job seekers:

  1. Austin, TX
  2. Denver, CO
  3. Nashville, TN
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. Durham, NC
  6. Atlanta, GA
  7. Minneapolis, MN
  8. Lincoln, NE
  9. Irving, TX
  10. Raleigh, NC

The report analyzed federal data for the 100 largest cities to see where there is the most potential coupled with affordability. Data included the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the increase in the working-age population from 2010-2015 with U.S. Census Bureau data, as well as census data for median earning and monthly rent in each city to factor in the cost of living.

Laura McMullen & Sreekar Jasthi at Nerd Wallet summarize the Top 10 list by saying job seekers should follow the young people, find fast growing hubs (like technology or healthcare), and head to the state capitals. And wherever you are, volunteer to grow your professional and friend network. They say to surround yourself by people who know and like you and want to help you. I could not agree with this more.

Two Texas cities made the list. Austin at #1 and Irving at #9.  Austinites understand this, but for those looking to change up your career or job here is a breakdown for you on why Austin and the Dallas area could help you fulfill your new year’s resolution.

Low unemployment

Unemployment in Austin was 3.2% in October 2016 and 3.6% in Irving. Texas unemployment held steady in December at 4.6% overall. And, according to Sterling’s Best Places, “the unemployment rate in Irving, Texas, is 3.60%, with job growth of 3.09%. Future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 42.59%.”

High quality jobs in technology

Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014-2024 employment projection says that technology is one of the fastest growing in terms of output. Austin is no stranger to technology, being the home of two major technology companies, Dell and IBM, with many other companies following suit, like Apple. Forbes argues that Austin is the most attractive tech hub attributing the draw to the “young, educated population, large VC presence and burgeoning restaurant and music scene”. Companies see the potential of Austin’s labor pool and are taking advantage of this to grow their tech advantages.

According to Christopher Calnan at the Austin Business Journal, “Texas ranks No. 2 in the nation for number of tech jobs, 585,614, second only to California. And, tech companies accounted for 6 percent of the Lone Star State’s private sector jobs, the report by Computing Technology Industry Association found.”

Attractive salaries

So, the jobs are here, and per CIO.com Austin salaries are 106% of the national average. Not too bad. For a detailed look at wages, here is snapshot of tech salaries by industry from the Austin American Statesman. In addition, the Salary Increase Forecast for U.S. Jobs projects a 3.3% increase in tech salaries from the 87K median salary as reported by the Economic Research Institute.

This is exciting news for our city.

Job growth in healthcare

On the healthcare side Will Anderson with the Austin Business Journal says that, “in the health care sector, the opening over the summer of the Dell Medical School is expected to accelerate the development of a business ecosystem that combines the city’s existing care centers with entrepreneurial startups and innovators in medicine.”

Irving attributes much of its growth to technology. According to the Irving Chamber of Commerce, “Irving was recently ranked number three for tech startups per capita in the United States by American Express through research conducted by SizeUp.com. In addition, the City of Irving is the first city in Texas and the second in the nation to earn the Malcom Baldrige Quality Award.”

The Irving Chamber of Commerce also notes that “five of Irving’s approximately 50 Fortune 500 companies have chosen Irving for their global headquarters: Celanese, Commercial Metals, ExxonMobil, Fluor and Kimberly-Clark. Irving is home to more of the DFW Metroplex’s largest private and public companies than any other city except Dallas, including Citi, Microsoft, Verizon, NEC Corporation, Allstate Insurance Company, Time Warner Cable, RIM (BlackBerry), Aviall, Michaels Stores, Pioneer Natural Resources, CEC Entertainment and TXU Energy.” These companies choosing Irving, TX as their home base no doubt makes it a hot bed for career opportunities for job seekers.

So, how about it, are you ready to make the move to one of our great Texas cities? The opportunity is definitely here.

And, of course, I would love to help you with Resolution #7. If you are trying to read more, please subscribe to my updates.



2017: A new year for real estate

A look back at 2016
2016 had its ups and downs that is for sure.

2017 predictions


“The ultimate guide to what 2017 has in store for real estate”, “Notorious ROB’s 7 predictions for 2017: The boy bands edition”, Year in review: 10 major real estate tech trends that shaped 2016″, “Why more MLSs and associations will merge in 2017”,  “Broker vs. bot and the winner is..”, and “Human satisfaction: can a bot fake it enough to get there” @ http://www.inman.com
















Austin’s 2017 Outlook

According to the Austin American Statesman, Austin’s economy in 2017 will still be strong, but will face some challenges. Here are a few highlights:

  • The annual rate of job creation in November dropped to a seasonally adjusted 2.1 percent, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  • Oil and gas prices are increasing, and the private sector continues its growth.
  • Consolidations and potential acquisitions will hit the semiconductor industry.
  • Venture Capitalists have slowed down. They still have the money; they are just waiting on the right valuations to make their investments.
  • Start-ups could become acquisition targets. And, out-of-state companies will continue to seek Austin for their talent pool and lower cost of living.
  • Personal tech is evolving. Moving beyond Apple and Android to augmented reality like Pokemon Go, Skills (voice activated apps) like the Amazon Echo, and chatbots, intelligent agents working through Facebook and Messenger.
  • The Austin real estate market has been a bright shining star for the housing markets across the U.S. Of late we have seen a small decline in housing, due in part to a slower job growth. See the Texas A&M Real Estate Center’s take on this.
  • Retail and restaurant openings will continue to be on the rise.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas released its Austin Economic Indicators report January 5th. According to the report job growth continues to lead in Austin over Texas and the U.S. and unemployment is still down at a low 3.0 percent. Although growth has slowed from Austin-typical fast-paced growth, we still are looking forward to a strong 2017.

The Austin American Statesman covers the full story here.


Protecting yourself against cyber breaches

Earlier this year, the Texas Land Title Association (TLTA) hosted a presentation on trends in Cyber Crime. Throughout 2016, the trends presented have continued and expanded. As Yahoo has recently experienced with the data breach of a billion customer accounts, cyber criminals continue to take advantage of every weakness.

What was stolen from the Yahoo Accounts? Usernames, email addresses, passwords, telephone numbers, birthdays (this is scary), security questions and answers (this is really scary!)

Security professionals have the following recommendations:

  1. Change your Yahoo account password.
  2. Change the password for any other online account you have that is tied to your yahoo email address.
  3. Wherever possible, change security questions and answers with other institutions you have that are common to what you have stored at Yahoo.  Those security questions are potentially compromised.
  4. Change the passwords for any other online accounts you have that use your Yahoo email address. Note: you should avoid using a password in more than one place. Password manager software like LastPass® will help you to manager your passwords.
  5. Be vigilant when receiving and trusting email from Yahoo accounts for the foreseeable future. Avoid clicking on links or assuming an email is safe, even when it seems to come from someone you know.

Title agents take note – it’s no longer “e-closing or bust” to improve the consumer experience

Industries from music to telecommunications have been completely revolutionized by innovative new advancements in technology. Consumers can now buy almost anything online – from cookies to cars. Information is available on-demand via search and our colleagues, friends and family are just an email or text away. But what about the start-to-finish homebuying process?

– By Marvin Stone, SVP Business Integration/CFPB Program Manager at Stewart

Read more at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/title-agents-take-note-its-longer-e-closing-bust-improve-marvin-stone?trk=prof-post.

Businesses continue to choose Central Texas to protect their most critical IT assets

Austin and Central Texas are located in one of the nation’s lowest risk areas for natural disasters which attracts data centers and disaster recovery sites for large companies. According to www.TexasWideOpenForBusiness.com, Texas is a leading location for data centers due to affordable real estate, low incidence of natural disasters, available skilled workforce, bandwidth availability, competitive electricity rates and tailored tax incentives. Many do not think of Austin as a data center location, but all of the conditions are right for companies to look to Austin for their facilities. Austin has not only a safe location, but they also have the technology talent pool to staff new data center sites, an affordable housing market and reasonable cost of living, along with a laid back hill country lifestyle. Continue reading

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