Posts in Blog (page 41)

What You Need to Know About Heartbleed

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about Heartbleed in the last week. On April 7th, information about the OpenSSL vulnerability CVE-2014-0160, a.k.a. “Heartbleed”, became publicly available. I’m going to explain now what Heartbleed is, and what you need to know about Heartbleed as a real estate professional and a general user of the Internet.

The Heartbleed vulnerability affects OpenSSL, the encryption technology that powers and protects some 60% of the Internet. Even if that makes no sense to you, and you have never given it a single thought, I can promise you that you interact with OpenSSL on a daily basis, if you use the Internet. If you have two minutes and want a quick and very easy-to-understand lesson on OpenSSL and Heartbleed, watch this Mashable video: What is the Heartbleed Encryption Bug?

While we at Properties Online are confident none of our services and tools have been compromised or maliciously accessed due to Heartbleed, as we do not use OpenSSL, we find this an excellent lesson in Internet safety and a good reminder that passwords should be updated often.

The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users,” says heartbleed.com.

While your Properties Online user accounts remain unaffected by Heartbleed, you are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly through many of the other websites and web services you use on a regular basis. OpenSSL is the most popular open source cryptographic library and TLS (transport layer security) implementation used to encrypt traffic on the Internet. “Many online services use TLS to both to identify themselves to you and to protect your privacy and transactions. You might have networked appliances with logins secured by this buggy implementation of the TLS. Furthermore you might have client side software on your computer that could expose the data from your computer if you connect to compromised services.”

Not sure where to start? Check out Mashable’s HeartBleed Hit List for the passwords you need to change RIGHT NOW. You can also visit CNET for a list of sites that have been patched against Heartbleed.

So, just a quick recap and reminder: Your Properties Online accounts and passwords are SAFE. They were not compromised by Heartbleed. But changing and resetting our online passwords is a time-consuming task we all put off a little too long. We urge you to take this web crisis for the helpful reminder it is and do some password housekeeping.

–All the best from the team at Properties Online

Our Secrets: Tips You'd Love to Share with Sellers

5 Good Reasons to Use a Real Estate Agent

Unless you are a realtor or retired agent, it’s not a smart idea and may cost you in real dollars. Here are 5 good reasons to use a real estate agent.

As the real estate industry continues to move online, and as buyers and sellers have increasingly easy access to real estate data and information, more and more buyers and sellers may decide to go it alone, without the help of a real estate professional. But unless you are a realtor or a retired agent, it’s not generally a smart idea and may cost the home seller in real dollars. Here are 5 good reasons to use a real estate agent. Drumroll, please …

Split the check. Really, the major reason people choose to buy and sell homes without a professional comes down to money. They want to save on commission. But what if buyer AND seller are playing this game? The sale price of a home takes an agent’s commission into account. Comps on houses in your area are made on houses that overwhelmingly are sold by agent. But if they buyer is also going agent-free, they’ll likely offer down, because they know the agent’s fee isn’t necessary. Buyer and seller can’t collect the unpaid commission. Someone’s going to lose.

Don’t you already have a full time job? Selling or buying property can be extremely time intensive. There is a lot of research to begin, home viewing, deal making, negotiating, etc. Whether you work outside the home or not, unlike a professional realtor, I can bet you aren’t working the real estate circuit 40+ hours a week. A qualified agent has access to properties and agents you don’t, can track down and vet houses that meet your specifications, schedule appointments and play phone tag on your behalf. Selling without an agent is even more time consuming and a lot less fun. You have to solicit all the calls from potential buyers, someone weed out the looky-loos, answer questions, show viewers through your home, prep and stage, and more. What happens if the home doesn’t sell in a timely fashion? It starts to get a bad rep. Not worth it.

Did you captain the debate team in high school? Negotiating is tricky business. Sellers often have a lot of personal attachment and can’t see things outside of that bias. Buyers may not feel confident about speaking up when they see a potential issue. Or they may feel overly confident and do damage when they simply want to criticize what they see as hideous decorating techniques. Agents can represent your interests, leaving the parties with emotional involvement right out of the thick of things. Deals have gone dead over insults, real or imagined. Let your agent play the bad cop, if necessary. Let them schmooze, too.

It’s a trust thing. Your agent, if working under a conventional, full-service commission agreement, is bound by law to work in your best interests. Now that doesn’t mean all agents are created equal and all are equally trustworthy. But it does mean that you have recourse if something goes wrong. Your agent is responsible to his broker or professional association and to the state in which he is licensed. What’s more, your agent probably got your business based on referral. And he or she will count on you to do the same. This is further incentive, beyond the legal obligation, to put your needs first when it comes to buying or selling a home. On the other hand, if you buy from a FSBO and you’re without an agent, you have two people working for their own interests, with much less holding them to honesty and accountability. Hiring a lawyer later is much more expensive than securing a real estate agent at the start.

Sign on the dotted line. Speaking of lawyers, you may need one if you choose not to use an agent or broker. Contracts are vital, and they aren’t always easy to understand. What if you fail to make financing one of the conditions of the sale, for instance, and then find you aren’t approved for the mortgage? The seller could sue you, could keep your deposit, and could derail your home buying dream. Using an agent ensures you have someone on your side well versed in real estate contracts who can look out for any red flags or potential pit falls and make sure you have everything you need secured and in writing from the get-go.

Real estate isn’t a simple business. Do yourself a favor and rely on a professional. Happy house hunting and selling!

Agents, please feel free to send this on to your clients or share it on your own blogs and social media (with proper credit). And let me know any other reasons you suggest home buyers and sellers use a real estate professional!