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Real Estate Technology News for Agents

Agent Safety

Internet Safety Tips: How To Avoid Phishing

I don’t know if it’s the recession, but spammers seem to be getting more and more aggressive recently. I’ve been getting lots of spam email and – even worse – phishing email. The problem: many of those emails seem completely legitimate at first, and can be sent out from email addresses that you trust.

Agent Safety

I don’t know if it’s the recession, but spammers seem to be getting more and more aggressive recently. I’ve been getting lots of spam email and – even worse – phishing email. The problem: many of those emails seem completely legitimate at first, and can be sent out from email addresses that you trust.

Spam is the unlawful, unsolicited sending of bulk email for commercial purposes. Phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as user names, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Many phishing emails masquerade as being sent from your bank, and ask you to click on a link. Once you click on the link, you arrive at a site that looks like your bank’s site, where you are asked to enter your user name and password, but in fact this is a phishing site that will use the information you enter to gain entry into your bank account.

So how do you protect yourself from Internet based fraud? Follow these simple tips:

Never Click on Links Embedded in Emails

It used to be that you could trust email from people you know, but these days, hackers can get into your friends’ emails and use them to send out spam and phishing emails that would bypass your spam filter. Click on links within emails only if you are 100% sure they are legitimate.

Guard Your Sensitive Information

Your bank, the IRS or any other reputable institution will never embed a link in an email that leads you to a page where you’re asked to provide sensitive information such as a user name, a password, your social security number, date of birth or any other information that can be used to break into your accounts or steal your identity. The phishing sites will do their best to scare you into giving out those details (“Or your account will be deactivated.”) Ignore these threats. You can always call the bank to ask if they had sent that email.

Make Sure The Site is Secure

Legitimate financial sites use the encrypted https instead of the regular http, and will have a lock symbol on the bottom right of your browser window. Phishing sites don’t.

Learn to Recognize Spam

Spam and phishing emails are often filled with spelling and grammatical errors and generally are not as sleek and professional as real emails from legitimate institutions.

Protect Your Computer

Protect your computer with effective anti-virus and anti-spam software, and set up firewalls. ZoneAlarm is a good free firewall and AVG is a good, free anti-virus software.  Make sure your operating system and browsers are updated  regularly. Always install security patches.

Use Passwords of At Least 12 Characters

Brute-force attacks are now much more of a threat to short passwords, given the increasing computational prowess of computers. According to researchers, length is a major factor to protect against brute force approaches.

If You’re A Victim, Act Immediately

If you provided account numbers or passwords to a phisher, notify the companies with whom you have the accounts right away. Place a fraud alert on your files at the credit reporting bureaus and file a police report with your local police station. Even if you didn’t fall for the phishing scam, it’s important to report phishing to the company  that the phisher was impersonating.

Internet fraud is a real threat that can wreak havoc on your life. “Better safe than sorry” has never been more true. It’s sad that we can’t be trusting anymore, not even when we get an email from a friend, but the reality is, we just can’t. It’s better to accept this and to act accordingly than to become a victim.

How Can People Trust You As Their Agent When They’ve Never Met You?

“Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.”

Being able to build trust with clients has always been an important skill-set for agents because we normally start on the back foot due to the perception that we are only one step above used cars salespeople.

Every time an agent meets or speaks with a new client they generally have to focus a certain amount of their efforts on building rapport quickly and doing what they can to build likeability and trustworthiness to help overcome those pre-conceived ideas people have about real estate agents.

Over the internet, real estate agents don’t have the benefit of seeing non-verbal communication or hearing the tone in a voice. They also don’t have the luxury of being able to demonstrate some of their well rehearsed scripts & dialogues and put their negotiation skills to full use.

The nature of the internet has also changed the way agents show property. It’s now extremely rare to have clients in the car traveling around for hours at a time seeing the homes the agent decides to show them. Nowadays, most people simply meet the agent at one property at a scheduled time or they attend an Open For Inspection.

The whole demographic of client interaction has been changed forever.

What can you do about it?

I recently read this book ‘The Speed of Trust – The One Thing That Changes Everything’ and in it Steven M. R. Covey said:-

“Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.”

With the internet providing transparency and insights into the marketing framework of most agencies, your Character can be interpreted in the way you present your listings for sale and the script within your website, articles, etc.

Plus, when it comes to Competence, it has now become a lot easier for consumers to identify the IT savvy agencies over the pretenders. A real estate agencies competency or lack of competency online can have a resounding impact on their overall success.

People are now making decisions about you and your company over the web. That’s the transparent nature of the web.

Are lots of clients calling you in for an appraisal because they like what you’re doing over the internet? OR on the other hand are the vast majority of them not calling you and are you losing business to your competitors because the potential clients don’t think your online marketing is up to scratch?

Does your online marketing need to be looked at professionally, from a different point of view?

Let’s face it, you can be the greatest agent at scripts and dialogues or be the best negotiator in the business but if the potential client doesn’t like what they see about you over the internet then in the majority of circumstances you won’t even get the chance to present to them.

As the internet keeps evolving and expanding into new, exciting areas, for some the changes to the web will act like an accelerator for their business BUT for others it will act like ‘the brake’.

Is the internet working effectively for you or not? Do you get many people subscribing automatically to receive information from you or are you still manually entering in most of your customers into your database?

Are you getting called into enough market appraisals? Have you implemented an effective online lead generation strategy? Are you embracing the online world and using the power of Social Media to help build trust faster through online recommendations?

Finally, within the heading of this article, I posed the following question “How Can People Trust You As Their Agent When They’ve Never Met You?”

Please take some time to think about some answers to that question because if you can come up with a few answers to it, you’ll be well on your way to achieving some incredible success in your real estate career.

Please feel welcome to ask any questions or share your thoughts and ideas within the comments section below.

How to Protect Your Domain

David Airey is a well known graphic designer. In 2007, his Website was hacked and the hackers tried to get ransom money from him in exchange for giving him back control of his Website. He eventually managed to gain control of his domain without paying the hackers, but it must have been quite an ordeal!

This can happen to anyone who owns a Website. Hackers and spammers are out there and they target all kinds of sites, big and small. Your real estate site could be next! But there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are the basic steps we all need to take to protect our domains:

Pick Your Registrar Carefully

It’s best to register your domain  through a registrar that makes it very difficult to change the domain or the account information. While this could make YOUR life more difficult, it will also make it more difficult for hackers to steal your domain.

Pick a Good Password

This is important for any account, including your domain account. Password should be a random sequence of letters and numbers and should be at least 12 characters long. Never use easy to guess words or numbers such as “password” or your date of birth. Change your password frequently – at least twice a year – and don’t keep it in your email. Ideally, don’t store it on your computer either.

Avoid using a Free Email Address on Your Domain Records

Free email accounts are often easier to break into. Since domain transfers usually require email authorization, this could facilitate a domain hijack, as happened to David Airey who used Gmail on his domain account.

Lock your Domain

Most domain registrars will let you lock your domain against transfers. This means that no one can transfer the domain to another registrar, which is one of the top ways that domains get hijacked.

Renew on Time

Don’t rely on a reminder email from the registrant. Mark your calendar and renew your domain before it expires. Once expired, domains are often snatched up within seconds by speculators running automated programs. If your domain name is critical to your business, consider renewing your domain registration in five year increments to prevent the annual hassle of renewing and to prevent your domain from accidentally expiring.

As a real estate professional, your domain is part of your brand and of your professional identity. Make sure you do everything you can to protect it.

5 Safety Tips for Real Estate Agents

Agent Safety

While real estate agents generally report feeling very safe on the job, there have been several reported cases over the last few years where realtors were brutally attacked.

When you think about it, being a realtor does put you in potentially hazardous situations. From being alone in an open house, to meeting customers for the first time in front of an empty property, to driving with new clients to home showings, all of these are potentially risky situations if the “client” has malice in mind.

That’s why it’s important to be prepared – without allowing fear to compromise your ability to do your job.

Here are a few real estate agent safety tips:

1. Don’t trust new clients until you get to know them. The first meeting with a new client should take place in your office and not in remote location. You should also verify a new client’s information prior to beginning working with them.

2. If possible, it’s best to drive to locations separately. In addition, when showing a property to a new client, follow him into the house rather than leading him in.

3. Always carry a cell phone with you, and program it to dial 911 at the touch of a button. It’s also a good idea to always carry pepper spray or mace.

4. Every morning, give someone in your office an itinerary of the properties you plan to show that day and check back with the office often. Office staff should know to call you if they haven’t heard from you in a couple of hours.

5. Most importantly: trust your instincts. If a situation, or a person, seems suspicious, get out of there immediately. You can always apologize later and explain what happened, but it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.

Business Tips for Agents

Business Tips for Real Estate Professionals, Part 2

A real estate business is essentially a small business. As a small business owner, there are several things you can do to effectively build your business while keeping yourself from financial debt or from losing yourself in your business and neglecting other areas of your life. The following business tips for real estate professionals might help …

Last  week we discussed the importance of having a business plan in place, of creating a budget and of keeping life-work balance.

Here are three more business tips for realtors:

1. Find a mentor. If you’re just staring out in the real estate space, you could learn a lot – and avoid making costly mistakes – if you can find an experienced agent who would be willing to teach you and help you survive the first year.

2. Add everyone you know to your contact list, and keep in regular touch with them. Your goal is to be top of mind when it’s time for them to use a realtor. An automated email drip marketing tool can be very helpful and enable you to keep in touch with prospects and with former clients easily.

3. Explore cost effective ways to be visible in your community. You should definitely have an agent website. In addition, a great, affordable way to build a name for yourself is to use social media tools, including a blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

One of the most important things you can do to build your real estate business is to keep learning and developing as a professional. Read books and publications, attend seminars, and then share your knowledge via social media. Over the course of a few months, this is a great way to build a name for yourself and to establish yourself as a real estate expert.