Tech Tip Tuesday: February 25, 2014

Apple’s Serious Security Issue: Update Your iPhone or iPad Immediately

The security hole in Apple's mobile and desktop operating systems had to do with validating the security certificates that are sent back and forth when you’re establishing a secure connection.
 
The security hole in Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems had to do with validating the security certificates that are sent back and forth when you’re establishing a secure connection.This week, Apple rushed out a patch for its iOS 7 and iOS 6 operating systems to fix a serious security issue. Before I explain further, let me just say this: If you’ve gotten the prompt to update and you haven’t, do it now. If you’re still running older versions of iOS on your iPhone, iPod, or iPad, update now.

Done? O.K., good.

While you’re at it, go download either Chrome or Firefox for your Mac, and stop using Safari immediately until you see a security update for OS X Mavericks, as well.

In a nutshell, Apple has a security hole in both its mobile and desktop operating systems that could let a malicious hacker jump in on what you think is a secure Web transaction if you’re on a public Wi-Fi network like those at a coffee shop, airport or some other location.

The vulnerability affects SSL/TLS, or Secure Socket Layer and Transport Layer Security. These are the two technologies that supposedly encrypt the conversation between your browser and the server you’re trying to access when you visit a website. They’re represented by an “https” rather than “http” in your browser’s URL bar, and they’re supposed to mean you’ve got a secure browsing session in effect.

In fact, thanks to this bug, it’s very possible you don’t. The problem lies in validating the security certificates that are sent back and forth when you’re establishing a secure connection. Thanks to this flaw, your browser can’t verify the authenticity of an encryption certificate, meaning someone could easily be pretending to be your bank’s website, your doctor’s office site or a credit card application form.

There are excellent posts here and here about the severity, technicalities and potential of the vulnerability.

The update to iOS fixes the problem, but as of now, it’s still an issue on OS X Mavericks (although it may not exist in earlier versions of the operating system) for Macintosh computers. There’s a workaround on your Mac, though — use an alternative browser and avoid public Wi-Fi hotspots until there is a fix. That method won’t work on an iPhone, iPad or iPod, because alternatives like Chrome for iOS use the same security background as Safari.

Yes, by the way, people are deeply suspicious of both the timing of when this bug appeared and how it got there, in light of recent revelations about spying activity by the National Security Agency. I’ve also spoken to one engineer who said the errant line of code that caused the security hole could easily have been a copy/paste error that would have been extremely hard to detect.

In today’s environment, I tend to assume the worst, but the important thing now is to download the patch, watch for the Mavericks fix, and as usual, trust no one.

By: Molly Wood, New York Times


Home-buyer Confidence Surges

housingup   

More Americans surveyed now believe it would be easy for them to get a mortgage, according to Fannie Mae’s January 2014 national survey of consumer attitudes in housing.

Attitudes among consumers about how easily they could get a mortgage climbed 2 percentage points to an all-time survey high of 52%, while those who think it would be difficult dropped 3 points to 45%.

This means consumers perceive that mortgage credit is more accessible.

“A majority of consumers now believe that it is getting easier to get a mortgage. For the first time in the National Housing Survey’s three-and-a-half-year history, the share of respondents who said it is easy to get a mortgage surpassed the 50% mark, exceeding those who said it would be difficult by 7 percentage points,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae.

Despite the more moderate expectation for home price gains within the next 12 months, the view that mortgage credit is more available may allow for continued but measured improvement in the housing recovery, Fannie says.

Heedless of abysmal jobs data in December and weak jobs data in January, consumer attitudes toward the economy also improved, though those with a positive view are still in the distinct minority.

The majority believe the economy is on the wrong track – at 54%. Those who believe the economy is on the right climbed 8 percentage points to 39%.

The share who expect their personal financial situation to improve in the next year increased to 44%, continuing an upward trend since November 2013.

“The gradual upward trend in this indicator during the last few months bodes well for the housing recovery and may be contributing to this month’s increase in consumers’ intention to buy rather than rent their next home,” Duncan said. “The dip in overall home price expectations, though notable, is consistent with our view of moderating home price gains this year from a robust pace last year, while positive trends in perceptions about the economy and personal finances over the next year support our view of stronger growth in the broader economy.”

Notable findings from the survey

  • The average 12-month home price change expectation decreased from last month, to 2%
  • The share of people who say home prices will stay the same in the next 12 months increased 7 percentage points to 45%, while the share who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months fell by 6 percentage points to 43%
  • The share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months decreased by 2 percentage points, to 55%
  • Those who say it is a good time to buy a house decreased from last month, down 2 percentage points to 65%
  • Those who say it is a good time to sell a house increased 5 percentage points from last month to 38%
  •  The share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased 8 percentage points from last month, to 39%
  • The percentage of respondents who expect their personal financial situation to get better in the next 12 months increased over last month to 44%    

 

By: HousingWire

 


Tech Tip Tuesday: February 18, 2014

 Online Marketing: 5 Tips to Help You in 2014

The beginning of a new year always brings with it new marketing plans, budgets and a revitalized excitement about the opportunities that await any business. If you are in charge of marketing at your company, the potential could actually be overwhelming. Luckily, we have some suggestions to help you grow your brand and online following in 2014. Here are 5 online marketing resolutions to adopt today:

1.     Amp Up Your Content Marketing

Look for 2014 to be another year for companies to amp up their marketing. The take-away of this statement is that marketers need the time and tools to produce unique content to tell a story that personifies the company. For all the small companies who have to earn their way to consumers’ news feeds, it is essential for content to have a captivating sound. Large corporations have the resources to hit a steady rhythm by always churning out content multiple times a day. That said, it is not important to keep up with the Jones’ on that metric alone because only 9% of B2B and 7% of B2C companies think their content strategy is “very effective.” Amping up the uniqueness of content will ensure a steady growth in social media following.

2.     Make Mobile a Priority

Optimizing content for mobile use is more important than ever before. Looking at the steady trend of mobile devises by 2017 87% of all connected devices will be smartphones and tablets. The first thing to hammer out is a responsive websites design so that the web page is optimized to be viewed on every device. Next in line is a clean and simple user interface to help keep people on your page. Mobile users expect to find answers quickly and easily because they are always on the go. If you make the navigation to their answer easy, they will come back.

3.     Spread Your Social Media Wings

Experimenting with social media will be critical in 2014 now that the two social giants, Twitter and Facebook, are “pay to play” and a post will only stay on news feeds for a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Take time to experiment with other networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumbler.  All of these sites are growing at warp speed and you have the ability to connect with followers through creative, personable campaigns. Google Plus is another network that is slated to improve their standings in the social media world this year. Finding the appropriate niche on Google Plus can be hard, but the benefits of higher search engine results will always help.

4.     Say It With Images

The Power of images and videos is astonishing for online marketers. In fact, the web is shifting all attention to a visual landscape. For example, images on Facebook get more likes, comments and shares than any other form of communication. In addition, Google has changed its search results to promote images above text-based results. In fact, the love consumers have for visual eye-candy is likely why you clicked to view this infographic.

5.     Keep It Simple

If there is one thing that will hold peoples’ attention this year, it’s a simple message. Do not over complicate the content. Companies that simplified the purchasing decision (meaning took out industry jargon) were 86% more likely to convert customers.

5-Online_Marketing_Resolutions_for_2014

By: Marketing Tech Blog


FSBO: Why You Should Hire a Realtor Instead

Do Not FSBO 

Some homeowners consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). We think there are several reasons this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.

Here are five of our reasons:

1. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With

Here is a list of some of the peoplewith whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to FSBO.

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value
  • Your bank in the case of a short sale

2. Exposure to Prospective Purchasers

Recent studies have shown that 92% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 28% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?

3.  Results Come from the Internet

Where do buyers find the home they actually purchased?

  • 43% on the internet
  • 9% from a yard sign
  • 1% from newspapers

The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.

4. FSBOing has Become More and More Difficult

The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 9% over the last 20+ years.

5. You Net More Money when Using an Agent

Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $184,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $230,000.   This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $46,000 more for your home as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.

Bottom Line

Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer. 

 

By: The crew at KCM blog


Tech Tip Tuesday: February 11, 2014

7 New Tech Tools That You Should Know About 

 

One of the most common questions for moderators of technology panels at real estate conferences is this: “What is your favorite new technology tool?” At Inman Connect this year, you couldn’t turn a corner without hearing someone talking about the latest and greatest items they were implementing in their business. So we brought back a few clips of what we heard from the plugged-in crowd in New York.

Onvedeo

This tool promises to help you produce listing videos “in minutes.” Basically, the company sends out filmmakers to shoot high-quality video of neighborhoods across the country, using the material to create productions that showcase your listing. Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate CEO Sherry Chris liked it so much, she decided to partner with the small start-up. “We could do video for free if we wanted,” she says, “but it’s not going to have the same result as far as making agents more productive and brokers more profitable.”
The first video is free. Agent pricing: $9.95 per video or $49.95 per month. Broker pricing: $149 per month and up.

Nuoffer

This app’s creators say they’re hoping to make “the offer-writing process mobile and fun.” Nuoffer enables agents to write an offer on the go in mere minutes, they say, and provides the flexibility to present the offer in a larger number of ways. The app includes secure digital signatures, cover-letter creators, and branded accounts. “It’s witchcraft! It’s amazing,” says Andrea Lightfoot, an agent with Texas-based Bamboo Realty. “You can write an offer in, like, five minutes.”
The first month is free. After that, you can either pay $15 per month or $150 per year.

Google Voice

OK, so you’ve probably heard of this Google company, and its phone call and messaging service isn’t exactly new. But if you hate listening to voicemail, you should check it out. You can use your current mobile number or take a phone number that Google assigns you, and have all your calls routed through that one number, making all your phones ring (or none, if that’s how you want it). Google transcribes the voicemails and sends them to you by e-mail or text. (It’s not always perfect, but it’s sometimes shocking how close it can get.) “I haven’t listened to a voicemail in three years,” says Michael Gold, who runs meet-up creator Empirical.ly.
Free.

Doorsteps

We’ve written about this buyer-education platform (recently acquired by Move Inc.) before, but we heard so many people talking about it at Inman that we just had to mention it again. This site aims to turn your potential clients into informed buyers by offering them free, step-by-step educational tools about the home purchasing process. It allows real estate professionals to shepherd potential customers who aren’t quite ready for the finish line. “My apps vary from client to client, but Doorsteps is a tool that I absolutely love,” says Alyssa Hellman, a sales manager and agent with Long and Foster Real Estate in the D.C. metro area. “It allows clients to understand the process.”
Free for consumers; agents pay $25 per month for unlimited use.

Layar

When technical difficulties foul up your presentation, but people are still talking about using your product afterwards, you know you’re doing something right. When Layar co-founder Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald had to whip out a video to show how his augmented reality program worked, he still got plenty of oohs and aahs from the tech-savvy crowd. “We are revolutionizing print marketing,” he says. “Your audience is used to seeing video… [so you’ll] get more money back from your investments.” The company adds property walkthroughs and videos to print marketing pieces for a mere $60 per piece, without charging you per usage. They also offer drag-and-drop features, meaning you can upload your PDFs and create interactive print pieces all on your own. It may seem a little awkward to hold up your iPhone camera to watch a video on a piece of paper, but it won’t seem so funny when everyone’s wearing Google Glass.
$60 per page, but you can try it out for free.

Jelly

Launched by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone just this month, this new app promises to combine your photos with your social networks to help you get advice and answer questions. Some are calling it a visual version of Quora; others are calling it just another attempt for Twitter to take over the world of social networking. It’s much too early to say, but people were certainly saying it’s something to keep an eye on. “It’s the latest shiny object to download,” says real estate consultant Katie Lance. “It’ll be interesting to see how… this will impact 2014.”
Free.

BombBomb

Again, something we’ve covered before. But what we kept hearing, up until now at least, was about how this video messaging service can be used to reach customers. We absolutely loved hearing how Susana Murphy, founder and CEO of Alante Real Estate in Plymouth, Mass., uses it to create distinction in a land of multiple competing offers. The company sends video “letters to sellers… from our clients to the seller, explaining why they deserve the home.” Nice move.
$25-$99 per month, depending on how many contacts you have. 

 

By: Meg White at Realtor Mag