Identity protection real estate

identity protection
Be proactive with identity protection (infographic from nsa.gov)

Even with precautions and laws to protect your sensitive data while conducting financial transactions, there can still be a weak link in the chain that can put your personal data at risk.  You may not have heard about the latest data breach, but it involved the potential leaking of over 24 million mortgage documents. Identity Protection during the real estate process takes awareness and vigilance. However, what do you do after the transaction is over?

The data breach to which I refer was discovered and reported by Bob Diachenko, Cyber Threat Intelligence Director of Security Discovery with the assistance of Zack Whitaker of Techcrunch.  This data breach was discovered by Diachenko just by searching public search engines.  According to Diachenko’s report (securitydiscovery.com/document-management-company-leaks-data-online), the unprotected database contained about 51 GB of credit and mortgages information.  The database potentially exposed more than 24 Million files.

Essentially, the over 24 million unprotected records (24,349,524 according to Diachenko) that existed on the database were likely scanned (OCR) from original documents.  Diachenko stated, “These documents contained highly sensitive data, such as social security numbers, names, phones, addresses, credit history, and other details which are usually part of a mortgage or credit report. This information would be a gold mine for cyber criminals who would have everything they need to steal identities, file false tax returns, get loans or credit cards.” 

Diachenko and Whitaker tracked down the owner of the database and found that the exposed database belonged to a third party.  After the database was secured, however, Diachenko found a second vulnerable server that contained original documents.

How is consumer identity protection handled through through institutional real estate transactions?

According to Whitaker, the documents date as far back to 2008, possibly further.  The documents concerned “correspondence from several major financial and lending institutions” including government entities such as HUD.  Whitaker stated that not all data was “sensitive,” however the database included: names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, bank and checking account numbers.  They also found some documents that contained other “sensitive financial information,” such as bankruptcy and tax documents, including W-2 forms. 

To understand the broader implications of identity protection in a real estate transaction, read Diachenko and Whitaker’s first (techcrunch.com/2019/01/23/financial-files) and second (techcrunch.com/2019/01/24/mortgage-loan-leak-gets-worse) report. The reporting of Diachenko and Whitaker is significant because it exposes how your identity and sensitive information can be mishandled in the broader financial transactional process that occurs between entities.  Even though direct correspondence with you may be encrypted and secure, security lapses can occur during the institutional transaction process (such selling and/or transferring a mortgage)

The moral of the story is that once your information is out of your hands, you cannot assume it’s 100 percent secure.  Even blockchain technology, which has been touted as a safe means of digital data management, has weaknesses.  And as governments and financial institutions are looking to blockchain as the “answer” to data security, there are reports of “attacks” of increasing sophistication according to James Risberg (Yes, the Blockchain Can Be Hacked; coincentral.com; May 7, 2018). 

Take your identity protection seriously when buying and selling a home

Be vigilant and proactive to protect your identity and sensitive information.  Be wary of unsolicited requests for information, even if it appears to be from someone with whom you are conducting business. Always make a call to confirm the request. Consider a credit freeze to prevent fraudsters from opening credit accounts in your name.  Check your credit report regularly and dispute errors.  If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov site can help you report it and create a recovery plan.  You can learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft from the FTC (consumer.ftc.gov) and the Federal Reserve (federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov).

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/identity-protection-real-estate

Copyright© Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Buy vs rent market

buy vs rent
Buy vs Rent Housing Market (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

After last year’s active spring, the housing market’s fall home sale decline shocked many.  Although home sales were on target to outpace the previous year’s activity, the slowdown diminished the spring’s impact.  In fact, the National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor) January 22nd press release indicated a sharp decline of home sales during December.  The 6.4 percent month over month nationwide decline should not have been a surprise because of the season.  However, December’s nationwide 10.3 percent sales decline from the previous year is significant.  The Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (gcaar.com) indicated that Montgomery County single family home sales decreased 12.2 percent during December. Is this an indication of another buy vs rent market?

Back in August, I predicted and discussed the causes for the fall’s sales slowdown.  Among the issues that contributed to the slowdown include increasing mortgage rates and the continued home sale inventory shortage. However, it’s important to note that although home sales seemed to go to sleep during the early winter, home sale prices continue to increase.  It’s not the 4-5 percent price gain that home owners have become accustomed.  But the 2.9 percent nationwide price increase (2.7 percent increase in Montgomery County) during December is indicative that home ownership is still valued.

Although there are many who are saying it’s now a buyer’s market, it’s not entirely true.  The current housing environment has home buyers under pressure.  Increasing mortgage interest rates are making buying a home more expensive, and there are not many homes from which to choose.  Consequently, motivated home buyers who are eager to buy a home during the winter are pushing back against high home prices.  The reality is that home sellers will remain in the driver’s seat as long as they price their homes correctly.

There is a lot of promise for the spring, but it still depends on many factors (such as inventory).  But the push back on increasing home prices will likely continue, as home buyers are increasingly sensitive to housing costs.  “Buy vs rent” and housing affordability will once again become hot topics this spring. 

Buy vs rent is on the mind of home buyers. Although buyers are in the market to buy, there is no urgency. However, it’s clear that this market is about value.

If you’re a home buyer trying to figure out the market, consulting with a professional Realtor can help you decide if it’s the right time to buy a home.  Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy Calculator (trulia.com) is a tool that compares the cost of buying to renting a home over time in a specific area.  It can estimate the point at which home buying is better than renting.  However, depending on your budget and area, renting may be a better financial option.  Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA) and the Housing Opportunities Commission (hocmc.org) offers affordable housing programs for first time home buyers and renters.

If you’re a home seller, think back to the 2014 spring housing market when home buyers pushed back at the sharp home price gains of 2013.  It’s recommended that you don’t take home buyers for granted, buyers are just as savvy as you.  Keep in mind that buyers are thinking about “buy vs rent.” Don’t over-price your home, however expect to negotiate the price.  Make your home show its best through preparation and staging.  Stay away from cheap renovations meant to look expensive, this can actually decrease your home’s value.  If you’re selling “by owner,” consider consulting a staging professional to help prepare and stage your home.  If you’re listing your home with a Realtor, your agent should have a strategy to sell for top dollar in this market. 

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/01/25/buy-vs-rent-housing-market

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Winter home sale prep

winter home prep
Winter home prep (infographic from cdc.gov)

The winter holidays are over, so there shouldn’t be any more disruption to your winter home sale, right?  A winter home sale may not have much competition during the winter months, but the weather could potentially put a stopper on buyer visits.  And in the aftermath of this week’s snow storm, you might have second thoughts about your winter home sale.  But since you’re one of the savvy home sellers, you know that weather is fleeting and winter home buyers are serious. You know to focus on the winter home sale prep.

Selling during the winter is not much different than selling during any other time of year.  In other words, home sale prep is required.  And just as you would during the summer, you should prepare for home buyers to visit your home during a winter home sale.  Instead of the heat and thunderstorms of summer, you should prepare for the cold and snow of winter.  Your home should be warm enough to make visitors comfortable to help them envision living in your home.  Also, consider having a large mat in the entrance where visitors can wipe their shoes or remove them, so as to help keep your home clean.

Decluttering and maintaining a clutter-free home during a home sale is a challenge.  But during the winter, when we tend to retreat inside and “nest,” maintaining a home ready to view can be a test of your will.  Give yourself more time for home sale prep before a home buyer comes knocking.  Consider a daily quick onceover through the house to help maintain order.  Limiting buyer visits to specific times of day can help you feel in control, as well as designate a daily private time when you can relax.

Weather permitting, winter open houses are still appealing for home buyers.  And during the winter when there are few homes listed for sale, there are even fewer open houses making your open house a destination.  Summer or Winter, an open house is an ideal way to have many home buyers visit your home in a concentrated time period.  You should coordinate visiting times and open houses with your agent to eliminate surprises.

Regardless of how well you care for your home, maintenance issues are always a concern during a home sale.  More so during the winter.  If your HVAC system is not working efficiently, it may not be heating your home evenly and consistently.  Aging shingles can cause of ice dams, and allow water penetration into the home.  Blocked gutters and downspouts can cause safety issues by causing standing water and ice on walkways.  Poorly insulated doors and windows cause drafts and cold spots in the home. 

Prepare your home for a winter sale and address maintenance issues before the house goes on the market.  Have your HVAC system serviced and cleaned.  Have a licensed roofer check your roof for missing or damaged shingles.  Consider having a pre-listing home inspection to spot concerns. 

Recent inventory shortages and buyer demand has made winter a great time to sell your home.  However, some home buyers still believe that they can lowball a winter home sale.  And there is a good chance that you will a receive a lowball offer.  You prepare for these buyers by strategizing with your agent on negotiating tactics.  If you receive a lowball offer, don’t get offended.  Instead, take the opportunity to start a dialogue with the buyer.  If the home buyer is serious, they will negotiate in good faith. 

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/01/19/winter-home-sale-prep

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Home market value

home market value
Home Market Value (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

It’s normal for homeowners to wonder about their home market value. After all, home sales and prices have been making headlines for well over a decade.  But you certainly can’t get a home market value from a headline, nor can you assume it from a neighbor’s sale.  The reality is that your home market value could vary depending on whom and when you ask.

A timely and important review article by Michael Sanders recently published in the Appraisal Journal asks the question “what does Market Value Mean?”  (Market Value: What Does It Really Mean?; Appraisal Journal. Summer2018, 86:3, p206-218).  The article correctly points out that determining “market value” can realize different results depending on the scope and purpose of the appraisal.  You can see how this might be problematic if you’re trying to determine a home’s value when divorcing or trying to sell an estate property.  Some mortgage lenders even have different value criteria depending on the loan product and purpose.

Sanders suggests that “market value” undergoes scrutiny when valuations are difficult and appraisals are questioned (e.g., during a recession).  However, having a discussion about the meaning of “market value” now, when there is relative market stability, is probably meaningful for the industry and consumers.  Interestingly, the semantics of “market value” have changed through the years, and ultimately depends on the application.  He points out at least twelve similar but different legal definitions of “market value.”

Sanders suggests that Richard Radcliff, an appraisal pioneer of the 1960’s, was ahead of his time by advocated for most probable price valuations.  An ongoing debate in appraisal circles is whether “market value” is the highest price or probable price.  However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s when appraisal articles academically contemplated the association of “probable sale price” and “market value.”

Sanders quotes Richard Ratcliff saying, “appraisal is largely the predicting of human behavior under given market conditions.”  Sanders quips about an “ideal world”, where “appraisers would apply market value definitions using a relatively consistent and objective standard, and reflect conditions in the market as they exist, rather than how others might wish them to be.

Although the accepted dictionary definition of “market value” is the price a buyer is willing to pay for your home, market value and sale price could be different (and often is).  And according to Sanders, an appraised “market value” isn’t necessarily the price for which your home may sell.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “how much is my home really worth?”  For the answer, you may have to ask a Realtor.

Realtors use market data to prepare comparative market analyses (CMA) that can help buyers and sellers decide on a sale price.  Although a CMA is not an appraisal, it is a technical and methodical professional analysis that provides a snapshot of the market.  The CMA is typically more refined in scope than an appraisal, such that it is usually limited to a neighborhood and home criteria.  Additionally, depending on the location and availability of comparable sales, it can provide a 30, 60, and 90-day probable sale price range based on market trends.

If you’re planning a home sale, a Realtor’s CMA may be your best source of information to decide on a listing price.  Even mortgage lenders have relied on Realtor CMA’s, in the form of Broker Price Opinions, to help decide on sale prices for short sales and bank owned homes.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Buyer and seller attitudes about real estate market

Economists are officially pessimistic about the housing market.  This is the general sentiment following another month of declining home sales.  Experts are pointing to a number of factors for the slowdown, including increased interest rates and housing affordability.  But what are home buyer and seller attitudes about real estate? The National Association of Realtors’ most recent Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey hints at a busy spring!

Economic attitudes about real estate market

attitudes about real estate
Attitudes about real estate market (infographic from nar.realtor)

An October 19th NAR news release (nar.realtor) reported that September’s home sales were the weakest in several years.  The nationwide trend affected all regions.  NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun stated:

This is the lowest existing home sales level since November 2015…A decade’s high mortgage rates are preventing consumers from making quick decisions on home purchases. All the while, affordable home listings remain low, continuing to spur underperforming sales activity across the country.”

First-time-home-buyers are finding the housing market increasingly challenging.  This segment’s participation needs to be strong for a healthy home sales.  September’s low thirty-two percent first-time-home-buyer participation is attributed to rising interest rates and home prices.

But low housing inventory is also an issue.  September’s housing inventory decreased to 1.88 million existing homes available for sale (from the 1.91 available during the previous month).  NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall stated:

“Despite small month over month increases, the share of first-time buyers in the market continues to underwhelm because there are simply not enough listings in their price range.”

Economists at Fannie Mae believe that the housing market will continue to disappoint.  In an October 18th press release (fanniemae.com) Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan stated:

“Our expectations for housing have become more pessimistic. Rising interest rates and declining housing sentiment from both consumers and lenders led us to lower our home sales forecast over the duration of 2018 and through 2019. Meanwhile, affordability, especially for first-time homebuyers, remains atop the list of challenges facing the housing market.”

But what do economists really know about the future?  Let’s hear it directly from the consumer!

Home buyer and seller attitudes about real estate

NAR’s Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey tracks opinions from renters and homeowners about homeownership, economy, and the housing market.  The release of their third quarter 2018 survey indicates that sixty-three percent of respondents strongly or moderately believe that it’s a good time to buy a home.  Although optimism is somewhat diminished from the second quarter’s survey, there continues to be a positive sentiment about buying a home.  The survey’s positive sentiment continues even though a majority of respondents believed that home prices will continue to increase in the immediate six months.  Additionally, a majority of respondents believe that qualifying for a mortgage may be an obstacle to a home purchase.

The survey also concurs with other metrics indicating high consumer sentiment for the economy.  In light of the recent slide in home sales, NAR’s recent Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey reveals a near-record high of sixty percent of households believe that the economy is improving.”  Adding to the strong sentiment is the survey’s increased monthly Personal Financial Outlook Index, which indicates that respondents believe that their financial situation will be better in six months.

The survey also indicates a record high of home sellers who believe it is a good time to sell a home.  But given the seasonal decline of housing inventory, it is likely this will translate to a surge of home listings in the spring.  The added inventory combined with high consumer sentiment will boost the housing market. So sayeth the consumer.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/11/01/attitudes-real-estate-market/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.