Twitter Officially Doubles Its Character Count

Tweets can now use up to 280 characters.

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Cities Where Home Prices Rise Fastest

Home prices in a few areas have skyrocketed by up to 95 percent over the past five years.

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Is Housing Demand Turning Back to Homeownership?

A rising homeownership rate could threaten the multifamily sector.

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It’s Time to Winter-Proof Your Home

As temperatures dip, remind homeowners of the importance of weatherizing their home for colder days ahead.

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Trust Stamp Is Now a Free Safety Tool for REALTORS®

NAR members get the perk from the association’s investment in the product, which is designed to reduce the risks involved when meeting…

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Use Plants to Showcase a Healthier Home

ORB_SSS

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

You can clean the air with plants. And in an age when “healthy home” is what so many buyers are saying they crave, you may find this a cheaper alternative to improving the air quality in a home by just being smarter about the plants you choose to stage with.

The Center for REALTOR(R) Technology has been studying how plants can improve indoor air quality, and has written a book on the topic, “A Pocket Guide to Cleaner Air.” The book focuses on which plants can improve air quality in commercial settings. Their findings can also apply to residential spaces too.

At the 2017 REALTOR(R) Conference & Expo this past weekend, CRT showcased an orb of clean-air plants on the show floor. We thought it looked like a chic space for an outdoor oasis of fresh air. But as the healthier-home trend catches on more, maybe we’ll even see this idea move indoors—like an indoor tropical paradise home office orb. After all, the cleaner air is supposed to make you more productive.

CRT’s clean-air orb display during the 2017 REALTOR(R) Conference & Expo

The average American spends about 90 percent of their time indoors. Yet, indoor air quality is about five to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality.

Certain plants, however, can actually improve the air quality of a space and even make people more productive and healthier, research shows. For example, dracaena warneckii is known for cleaning benzene and formaldehyde from the air—chemicals that are often linked to some furnishings. The “Money Plant,” or also known as Devil’s Ivy, is known as one of the hardiest house plants to kill and also will rid these potentially harmful chemicals from the air. The Chinese evergreen is another plant that is known to clean indoor air, and as a bonus for when selling a home, it’s known to bring good luck to those who grow it.

Infuse more clean-air plants into your next listing. Maybe buyers will notice there’s something different in the air.

A sample taken from CRT’s book “A Pocket Guide to Cleaner Air”

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Consumer Trust at Risk Amid Equifax Breach and CFPB Arbitration Rule Repeal

The real estate world lies within a network of sensitive contact information, financial records, identifying paperwork and the team of experts that keeps these things secure. So, what happens when this information isn’t properly safeguarded? Or when companies use information to take advantage of consumers? Between financial corporation scandals, like the cyber attacks on Equifax, and the recent repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) arbitration rule, consumers are having trouble trusting financial institutions with their personal information.

Equifax
In September, Equifax—one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies— announced a massive cyber breach that may have affected 143 million people in the U.S. The company is being criticized for its security practices, especially since this is the third major cybersecurity threat on Equifax since 2015.

It took Equifax nearly four months to identify the intrusion after hackers stole personal information through a simple website vulnerability. Along with 209,000 credit card numbers, hackers got their hands on Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, names, birthdates and addresses. It is one of the largest hacks on record.

Equifax hired cybersecurity firm Mandiant to perform an in-depth investigation of the cyber attack to find out how many consumers are at risk. Results are in and estimated totals for impacted individuals has risen by 2.5 million to a total of 145.5 million at risk. Even the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority is investigating the incident, as nearly 700,000 U.K consumers were also affected.

“I want to apologize again to all impacted consumers,” said Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., CEO of Equifax, following the Mandiant results.”As this important phase of our work is now completed, we continue to take numerous steps to review and enhance our cybersecurity practices. We also continue to work closely with our internal team and outside advisors to implement and accelerate long-term security improvements.”

Impact on Real Estate
Credit plays a major role in lending and the real estate industry. The cyber attack could not only weaken consumer confidence, but may add some challenges if the hacked information is used fraudulently.

Compromised personal information can be used in a variety of damaging ways. Borrowers may have to deal with stalled or rejected loans if hackers purchase expensive items using the stolen credit card numbers. Additionally, new accounts could be opened up in borrowers’ names using their Social Security numbers. Not only are loans at risk, but hackers also have the potential to demolish credit scores via identity theft—an infinitely harder problem to fix.

Equifax’s cyber attack may also lead to a spike in illegal mortgage and refinance applications. According to National Mortgage News, the mortgage industry widely uses The Work Number for employment verification during the underwriting process. The service is also the designated third-party provider of income and employment data for Fannie Mae’s Day 1 Certainty™ program. The cyber security breach leaked the information collected by the Work Number, leaving financial institutions unsure of whether the source has been corrupted.

Overall, loan processors may delay closings to ensure that employment data has not been affected by the breach. Fannie Mae is keeping an eye on its dealings with Equifax, as well.

CFPB Arbitration Rule
The repeal of the CFPB arbitration rule comes at a time when consumers are searching for ways to protect themselves against dishonest business practices. The rule was created over the span of five years and was set to go into effect in 2019. It would have allowed millions of U.S. consumers to pool resources in class-action lawsuits against financial corporations.

The rule was widely approved by Democrats, but Senate Republicans overturned it, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie. According to supporters, the ruling would have protected consumers, and, at the same time, held financial institutions responsible for upholding ethical business practices.

“[This] vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” said Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, in a statement. “As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain free to break the law without fear of legal blowback from their customers.”

Those opposed believed the rule would have a negative impact on lawsuit payouts for consumers.

“This is good news for the American consumer,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in a statement.” A ban on arbitration clauses would very likely have resulted in lower reward payments for wronged customers and higher credit costs for everybody. There’s little evidence to suggest that class-action lawsuits actually stop the behavior they seek to punish, and there’s plenty of evidence to show they give the lion’s share of money to the lawyers who file them.”

As a result of the repeal, financial corporations will be able to continue using arbitration clauses in their fine print as a way to protect themselves against the courts. Since consumers will not be able to use class action lawsuits as a catalyst for changing a company’s business practices, they will have to familiarize themselves on what to look for so they don’t fall victim to malpractice.

How Consumers Can Protect Themselves
Unfortunately, data breaches and business practices are not just tied to credit reporting agencies. Everyone remembers the Target hack, various large banks like Bank of America have had their share of financial scandals and global accounting firm Deloitte recently announced that it fell victim to a cyber attack, as well.

While these companies are working toward regaining the trust of their consumers, the damage has been done. These business mistakes happen often, especially with companies that are intertwined with the real estate industry. According to a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Deutsche Bank, the real estate industry features one of the lowest percentages of authentication testing. Don’t wait for the next data breach to protect yourself. Here’s what you can do to ensure you don’t fall victim to flawed business practices or cyber attacks:

Check in with Equifax. Find out, if you haven’t already, if you were exposed during the Equifax data breach.

Keep an eye on your credit. Watch out for any sudden changes in your score. If you really want to make sure you’re not at risk, sign up for a credit monitoring service.

Freeze your accounts. If you are vulnerable, go online or call the three major consumer credit reporting agencies to put a freeze on your account. This will keep hackers from checking your credit score or using your personal information. Once you are certain the risk has been taken care of, you may unfreeze your account.

Equifax: 800-349-9960
Experian: 888‑397‑3742
TransUnion: 888-909-8872.

Read the fine print. Don’t sign up for any services, even if they advocate privacy and security, without reading the terms first. Make sure your information isn’t being released to third-party vendors.

Before you apply for a loan, ask for a breakdown of all fees. Get everything in writing so you have evidence of malpractice or fee discrepancies should a conflict arise during the lending process.

Ask how your information is being protected. Any time you need to submit sensitive information that can leave you vulnerable if in the wrong hands, inquire about the company’s cyber security practices. Due diligence before forming a business relationship with any type of financial institution and being a savvy consumer is your best defense against flawed business practices.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Consumer Trust at Risk Amid Equifax Breach and CFPB Arbitration Rule Repeal appeared first on RISMedia.

Continue Reading →

Consumer Trust at Risk Amid Equifax Breach and CFPB Arbitration Rule Repeal

The real estate world lies within a network of sensitive contact information, financial records, identifying paperwork and the team of experts that keeps these things secure. So, what happens when this information isn’t properly safeguarded? Or when companies use information to take advantage of consumers? Between financial corporation scandals, like the cyber attacks on Equifax, and the recent repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) arbitration rule, consumers are having trouble trusting financial institutions with their personal information.

Equifax
In September, Equifax—one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies— announced a massive cyber breach that may have affected 143 million people in the U.S. The company is being criticized for its security practices, especially since this is the third major cybersecurity threat on Equifax since 2015.

It took Equifax nearly four months to identify the intrusion after hackers stole personal information through a simple website vulnerability. Along with 209,000 credit card numbers, hackers got their hands on Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, names, birthdates and addresses. It is one of the largest hacks on record.

Equifax hired cybersecurity firm Mandiant to perform an in-depth investigation of the cyber attack to find out how many consumers are at risk. Results are in and estimated totals for impacted individuals has risen by 2.5 million to a total of 145.5 million at risk. Even the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority is investigating the incident, as nearly 700,000 U.K consumers were also affected.

“I want to apologize again to all impacted consumers,” said Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., CEO of Equifax, following the Mandiant results.”As this important phase of our work is now completed, we continue to take numerous steps to review and enhance our cybersecurity practices. We also continue to work closely with our internal team and outside advisors to implement and accelerate long-term security improvements.”

Impact on Real Estate
Credit plays a major role in lending and the real estate industry. The cyber attack could not only weaken consumer confidence, but may add some challenges if the hacked information is used fraudulently.

Compromised personal information can be used in a variety of damaging ways. Borrowers may have to deal with stalled or rejected loans if hackers purchase expensive items using the stolen credit card numbers. Additionally, new accounts could be opened up in borrowers’ names using their Social Security numbers. Not only are loans at risk, but hackers also have the potential to demolish credit scores via identity theft—an infinitely harder problem to fix.

Equifax’s cyber attack may also lead to a spike in illegal mortgage and refinance applications. According to National Mortgage News, the mortgage industry widely uses The Work Number for employment verification during the underwriting process. The service is also the designated third-party provider of income and employment data for Fannie Mae’s Day 1 Certainty™ program. The cyber security breach leaked the information collected by the Work Number, leaving financial institutions unsure of whether the source has been corrupted.

Overall, loan processors may delay closings to ensure that employment data has not been affected by the breach. Fannie Mae is keeping an eye on its dealings with Equifax, as well.

CFPB Arbitration Rule
The repeal of the CFPB arbitration rule comes at a time when consumers are searching for ways to protect themselves against dishonest business practices. The rule was created over the span of five years and was set to go into effect in 2019. It would have allowed millions of U.S. consumers to pool resources in class-action lawsuits against financial corporations.

The rule was widely approved by Democrats, but Senate Republicans overturned it, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie. According to supporters, the ruling would have protected consumers, and, at the same time, held financial institutions responsible for upholding ethical business practices.

“[This] vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” said Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, in a statement. “As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain free to break the law without fear of legal blowback from their customers.”

Those opposed believed the rule would have a negative impact on lawsuit payouts for consumers.

“This is good news for the American consumer,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in a statement.” A ban on arbitration clauses would very likely have resulted in lower reward payments for wronged customers and higher credit costs for everybody. There’s little evidence to suggest that class-action lawsuits actually stop the behavior they seek to punish, and there’s plenty of evidence to show they give the lion’s share of money to the lawyers who file them.”

As a result of the repeal, financial corporations will be able to continue using arbitration clauses in their fine print as a way to protect themselves against the courts. Since consumers will not be able to use class action lawsuits as a catalyst for changing a company’s business practices, they will have to familiarize themselves on what to look for so they don’t fall victim to malpractice.

How Consumers Can Protect Themselves
Unfortunately, data breaches and business practices are not just tied to credit reporting agencies. Everyone remembers the Target hack, various large banks like Bank of America have had their share of financial scandals and global accounting firm Deloitte recently announced that it fell victim to a cyber attack, as well.

While these companies are working toward regaining the trust of their consumers, the damage has been done. These business mistakes happen often, especially with companies that are intertwined with the real estate industry. According to a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Deutsche Bank, the real estate industry features one of the lowest percentages of authentication testing. Don’t wait for the next data breach to protect yourself. Here’s what you can do to ensure you don’t fall victim to flawed business practices or cyber attacks:

Check in with Equifax. Find out, if you haven’t already, if you were exposed during the Equifax data breach.

Keep an eye on your credit. Watch out for any sudden changes in your score. If you really want to make sure you’re not at risk, sign up for a credit monitoring service.

Freeze your accounts. If you are vulnerable, go online or call the three major consumer credit reporting agencies to put a freeze on your account. This will keep hackers from checking your credit score or using your personal information. Once you are certain the risk has been taken care of, you may unfreeze your account.

Equifax: 800-349-9960
Experian: 888‑397‑3742
TransUnion: 888-909-8872.

Read the fine print. Don’t sign up for any services, even if they advocate privacy and security, without reading the terms first. Make sure your information isn’t being released to third-party vendors.

Before you apply for a loan, ask for a breakdown of all fees. Get everything in writing so you have evidence of malpractice or fee discrepancies should a conflict arise during the lending process.

Ask how your information is being protected. Any time you need to submit sensitive information that can leave you vulnerable if in the wrong hands, inquire about the company’s cyber security practices. Due diligence before forming a business relationship with any type of financial institution and being a savvy consumer is your best defense against flawed business practices.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Consumer Trust at Risk Amid Equifax Breach and CFPB Arbitration Rule Repeal appeared first on RISMedia.

Continue Reading →

Consumer Trust at Risk Amid Equifax Breach and CFPB Arbitration Rule Repeal

The real estate world lies within a network of sensitive contact information, financial records, identifying paperwork and the team of experts that keeps these things secure. So, what happens when this information isn’t properly safeguarded? Or when companies use information to take advantage of consumers? Between financial corporation scandals, like the cyber attacks on Equifax, and the recent repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) arbitration rule, consumers are having trouble trusting financial institutions with their personal information.

Equifax
In September, Equifax—one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies— announced a massive cyber breach that may have affected 143 million people in the U.S. The company is being criticized for its security practices, especially since this is the third major cybersecurity threat on Equifax since 2015.

It took Equifax nearly four months to identify the intrusion after hackers stole personal information through a simple website vulnerability. Along with 209,000 credit card numbers, hackers got their hands on Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, names, birthdates and addresses. It is one of the largest hacks on record.

Equifax hired cybersecurity firm Mandiant to perform an in-depth investigation of the cyber attack to find out how many consumers are at risk. Results are in and estimated totals for impacted individuals has risen by 2.5 million to a total of 145.5 million at risk. Even the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority is investigating the incident, as nearly 700,000 U.K consumers were also affected.

“I want to apologize again to all impacted consumers,” said Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., CEO of Equifax, following the Mandiant results.”As this important phase of our work is now completed, we continue to take numerous steps to review and enhance our cybersecurity practices. We also continue to work closely with our internal team and outside advisors to implement and accelerate long-term security improvements.”

Impact on Real Estate
Credit plays a major role in lending and the real estate industry. The cyber attack could not only weaken consumer confidence, but may add some challenges if the hacked information is used fraudulently.

Compromised personal information can be used in a variety of damaging ways. Borrowers may have to deal with stalled or rejected loans if hackers purchase expensive items using the stolen credit card numbers. Additionally, new accounts could be opened up in borrowers’ names using their Social Security numbers. Not only are loans at risk, but hackers also have the potential to demolish credit scores via identity theft—an infinitely harder problem to fix.

Equifax’s cyber attack may also lead to a spike in illegal mortgage and refinance applications. According to National Mortgage News, the mortgage industry widely uses The Work Number for employment verification during the underwriting process. The service is also the designated third-party provider of income and employment data for Fannie Mae’s Day 1 Certainty™ program. The cyber security breach leaked the information collected by the Work Number, leaving financial institutions unsure of whether the source has been corrupted.

Overall, loan processors may delay closings to ensure that employment data has not been affected by the breach. Fannie Mae is keeping an eye on its dealings with Equifax, as well.

CFPB Arbitration Rule
The repeal of the CFPB arbitration rule comes at a time when consumers are searching for ways to protect themselves against dishonest business practices. The rule was created over the span of five years and was set to go into effect in 2019. It would have allowed millions of U.S. consumers to pool resources in class-action lawsuits against financial corporations.

The rule was widely approved by Democrats, but Senate Republicans overturned it, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie. According to supporters, the ruling would have protected consumers, and, at the same time, held financial institutions responsible for upholding ethical business practices.

“[This] vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” said Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, in a statement. “As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain free to break the law without fear of legal blowback from their customers.”

Those opposed believed the rule would have a negative impact on lawsuit payouts for consumers.

“This is good news for the American consumer,” said Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in a statement.” A ban on arbitration clauses would very likely have resulted in lower reward payments for wronged customers and higher credit costs for everybody. There’s little evidence to suggest that class-action lawsuits actually stop the behavior they seek to punish, and there’s plenty of evidence to show they give the lion’s share of money to the lawyers who file them.”

As a result of the repeal, financial corporations will be able to continue using arbitration clauses in their fine print as a way to protect themselves against the courts. Since consumers will not be able to use class action lawsuits as a catalyst for changing a company’s business practices, they will have to familiarize themselves on what to look for so they don’t fall victim to malpractice.

How Consumers Can Protect Themselves
Unfortunately, data breaches and business practices are not just tied to credit reporting agencies. Everyone remembers the Target hack, various large banks like Bank of America have had their share of financial scandals and global accounting firm Deloitte recently announced that it fell victim to a cyber attack, as well.

While these companies are working toward regaining the trust of their consumers, the damage has been done. These business mistakes happen often, especially with companies that are intertwined with the real estate industry. According to a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Deutsche Bank, the real estate industry features one of the lowest percentages of authentication testing. Don’t wait for the next data breach to protect yourself. Here’s what you can do to ensure you don’t fall victim to flawed business practices or cyber attacks:

Check in with Equifax. Find out, if you haven’t already, if you were exposed during the Equifax data breach.

Keep an eye on your credit. Watch out for any sudden changes in your score. If you really want to make sure you’re not at risk, sign up for a credit monitoring service.

Freeze your accounts. If you are vulnerable, go online or call the three major consumer credit reporting agencies to put a freeze on your account. This will keep hackers from checking your credit score or using your personal information. Once you are certain the risk has been taken care of, you may unfreeze your account.

Equifax: 800-349-9960
Experian: 888‑397‑3742
TransUnion: 888-909-8872.

Read the fine print. Don’t sign up for any services, even if they advocate privacy and security, without reading the terms first. Make sure your information isn’t being released to third-party vendors.

Before you apply for a loan, ask for a breakdown of all fees. Get everything in writing so you have evidence of malpractice or fee discrepancies should a conflict arise during the lending process.

Ask how your information is being protected. Any time you need to submit sensitive information that can leave you vulnerable if in the wrong hands, inquire about the company’s cyber security practices. Due diligence before forming a business relationship with any type of financial institution and being a savvy consumer is your best defense against flawed business practices.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Consumer Trust at Risk Amid Equifax Breach and CFPB Arbitration Rule Repeal appeared first on RISMedia.

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Hot Home Trend: The Statement Shower

Thumbnail for 257286

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

The shower in the master bathroom is getting a lot more attention. In fact, it’s one of the main splurges among renovating homeowners, according to the 2017 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study. These “statement showers,” as Houzz dubs them in its report, include high-tech features, like rainfall showerheads, dual showers, curbless showers, and body sprays.

Upgrading the master shower was the most popular renovation project, according to the survey of more than 1,200 U.S. homeowners who were in the midst or just completed a bathroom reno project. For more than half of renovators, their main aim was to increase their shower’s size. Also, survey respondents showed a rise in demand for high-tech features, such as mood lighting or digital controls, in master bathrooms.

Over a quarter of homeowners – 27 percent – have opted to remove the bathtub in their master bathroom renovations, according to the survey. The removal of the bathtub has allowed more room for a larger shower.

“This year’s Bathroom Trends Study sheds light on two key trends in master bathrooms, showers as a focal point and the growing role of high-tech features in bathroom products,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. “Additionally, it is clear that today’s master bathroom renovations are marked by timeless and durable elements, from natural stone finishes to curbless shower entries, a benefit of having older generations in the driver’s seat. Still, the early wave of millennial homeowners reveals their preferences for homes of the future, from larger master bathrooms to clean lines and white and gray color pallets.”

The Houzz study found that the national average for a major remodel of a large master bathroom (considered over 100 square feet) is $21,000.

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