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Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners?

RisMedia Consumer Advice - June 23, 2018 - 12:01am

Glitches of early iterations aside, AI-based technology has come a long way, and has an increasingly active presence in the lives of homeowners who are looking for convenience and savings in a pushed-for-time era. From adaptive thermostats that automatically gauge energy usage and alter temperatures for optimal savings, to smart home speakers that use sophisticated artificial intelligence to provide services and information in real-time, a smart homeowner can now cross off a variety of menial tasks from their daily to-do list without doing more than speaking a phrase out loud or clicking a button on their mobile device.

What is the true cost of this convenience? Some gadget adopters are reporting invasion of privacy, security risks, and more. For those who have not yet invested in smart home technology, these factors are largely holding them back; in fact, it is the second-biggest reason for hesitation for 17 percent of non-users, behind price (42 percent), according to a recently released report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), “Smart Home, Seamless Life: Unlocking a Culture of Convenience.” In addition, 56 percent of surveyed individuals stated they would choose encryption to protect their data when creating their own smart home.

What are these misuses of technology that could lead to privacy or security risks? These are a few of the reported instances thus far:

  1. Gadgets May Be Susceptible to Hacking
    Last August, Wired published a story about a British security researcher for MWR Labs, Mark Barnes, who was able to install malware on an Amazon Echo device, turning it into a surveillance device that silently streamed audio to his own server. While newer models cannot be jailbroken this way, Amazon has not released any software to fix the issue with older units.

For the typical owner, this may not seem like a significant violation; however, this could lead to another type of home theft in which fraudsters break into homes looking to steal identifying information via smart home gadgets, leaving little to no evidence of their break-in behind. While Barnes installed code for the specific purpose of audio streaming, he clarified that the installation of malware could serve other uses, such as stealing access to a homeowner’s Amazon account, installing ransomware or attacking parts of the network.

  1. Smart Technology Could Lead to Location-Based Tracking
    Earlier this month, security investigator Brian Krebs reported on a privacy vulnerability for both Google Home and Chromecast—found by Craig Young, a researcher with security firm Tripwire—that leaks accurate location information about its users.

According to Young, attackers can use these Google devices to send a link (which could be anything from a tweet to an advertisement) to the connected user; if the link is clicked and the page left opened for about a minute, the attacker is able to obtain a location.

“The difference between this and a basic IP geolocation is the level of precision,” Young said in the article. “For example, if I geo-locate my IP address right now, I get a location that is roughly two miles from my current location at work. For my home internet connection, the IP geo-location is only accurate to about three miles. With my attack demo, however, I’ve been consistently getting locations within about 10 meters [32 feet] of the device.”

Google initially told Young they would not be fixing the problem; however, after going to the press about the issue, Young reports that Google will be releasing an update in mid-July to address the privacy leak for both devices.

  1. Glitches Could Lead to Invasion of Privacy
    According to local news stations in Portland, Ore., a resident (reportedly named Danielle) received a disturbing phone call from one of her husband’s employers telling her to shut off her smart home devices. After using Amazon devices throughout her home to control temperature, lighting and security, Danielle was made aware that a private conversation was accidentally recorded by Amazon’s artificial intelligence system, Alexa, and was sent to a number on the family’s contact list.

Amazon has since reported that the Echo speaker picked up words in Danielle’s background conversations that it interpreted as “wake words” for recording and sending audio to a contact; however, an article published by website The Information last July states that Amazon was considering obtaining recorded conversations and sending transcripts to developers so they can build more responsive software, making it unclear if these devices automatically record audio without waiting for “wake words.”

These Vulnerabilities Could Impact Real Estate
Smart homes are increasing across the country. According to Statista, a statistics website, the estimated value of the North American smart home market will be $27 billion by 2021.

Of course, the vulnerabilities that have cropped up for some users could have an impact on the selling process. For example, some sellers have already begun using their security systems as a way to listen in on prospective buyers or watch them as they visit the listed home, regardless of whether local laws prohibit these recording practices.

Additionally, if homeowners have devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, but do not have security cameras, how can they be sure that visiting buyers are not accessing sensitive information through these speakers? While agents always play a role in adding a measure of security by being present during showings, fraudulent activity that is internet-based only, such as obtaining online data through links, will be difficult to identify.

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 Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners? appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News

Online Sales Tax Rules Could Be Commercial Windfall

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 22, 2018 - 1:00am

The Supreme Court has ruled that states can force internet retailers to collect sales tax, ending their advantage over brick-and-mortar stores and possibly encouraging more commercial transactions.

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Survey: Top States for Homeowners in 2018

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 22, 2018 - 1:00am

What makes a state great for homeowners?

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Long & Foster Carves Retirement Path for Associates

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 22, 2018 - 1:00am

The East Coast franchise is helping retiring agents sell their book of business to up-and-coming colleagues.

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Home Prices Outpace Wage Growth in 64% of Markets

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 22, 2018 - 1:00am

National affordability is at the lowest level since the third quarter of 2008, according to a new report.

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Mortgage Rates Drop Again This Week

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 22, 2018 - 1:00am

The lower rates marked the third rate decrease in the past four weeks.

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Trump Administration Proposes Privatizing Fannie, Freddie

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 22, 2018 - 1:00am

The current administration has proposed ending the long conservatorship of the two mortgage financing giants, part of a sweeping government reorganization proposal unveiled Thursday.

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HUD Under Fire for Response to Lead Paint Removal

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 21, 2018 - 1:00am

Federal officials found that the agency lacks adequate oversight in the reporting and remediation of issues in its public housing and voucher programs.

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Neighborhood Activism Influences Inventory Woes

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 21, 2018 - 1:00am

Homebuilders struggle to launch developments as zoning boards and residents fight against new construction.

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Report: Housing Costs Leave Third of Households Strapped

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 21, 2018 - 1:00am

The number of American households considered to be “cost-burdened” has grown by nearly 14 million over the last 30 years.

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Are Millennials Finally Flying the Coop?

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 21, 2018 - 1:00am

More young people may be ready to leave home and start their own household, according to a new report.

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Upbeat Sellers Show Readiness to Make a Move

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 21, 2018 - 1:00am

“Hopefully ... strong seller optimism will lead to an increase in inventory later on in the year,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

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Appraisers, Homeowners Agree More Than Ever on Values

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 21, 2018 - 1:00am

Owners are increasingly understanding the true market value of their properties, a new survey shows.

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Loan Demand Ticks Up as Borrowers Look to Lock in Rates

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 20, 2018 - 1:00am

Mortgage rates have been up and down in recent weeks, so when borrowers saw some stability, they jumped at a chance to lock in a rate.

Categories: Real Estate News

Most Renters Wish They Lived Elsewhere, Survey Says

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 20, 2018 - 1:00am

Many renters recently surveyed say they aren’t happy with the location where they live, but high costs are preventing them from making a move.

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New-Home Construction Surges to Highest Level in Decade

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 20, 2018 - 1:00am

More new homes entered the pipeline in May than in any other month since the end of the Great Recession. But the gains are uneven across the country, and permit activity indicates they may be short-lived.

Categories: Real Estate News

2.5M Homes to Be Threatened by Tidal Flooding by the Year 2100

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 20, 2018 - 1:00am

Rising sea levels and climate change are putting a significant number of homes at risk of tidal flooding, even in the absence of major storms, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Categories: Real Estate News

Home Prices Hit a Record High

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 20, 2018 - 1:00am

Home buyers can expect to pay more for a home this summer. The median existing-home price for all housing types reached an all-time high in May at $264,800, according to the latest housing report released by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Categories: Real Estate News

7 Ways to Make Your Website, Emails More Accessible

NAR Daily Real Estate News - June 20, 2018 - 1:00am

Learn how inclusive design will improve your marketing and communications to all your customers.

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Housing Starts Spike to 11-Year High, Permits Stumble

RisMedia Consumer Advice - June 19, 2018 - 4:54pm

Following a dip last month, housing starts rebounded in May, up 5 percent to 1.35 million from the revised April estimate of 1.286 million, according to recent data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Commerce Department. Meanwhile, single-family housing starts jumped up 3.9 percent since April to 936,000, the second-highest reading since the Great Recession, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Multifamily starts (five units or more) dropped slightly to 404,000.

Permit approvals fell 4.6 percent since April to 1.3 million; however, they are still 8 percent above the May 2017 rate, according to the data. Approvals for single-family builds were down 2.2 percent to 844,000 permits, and multifamily approvals came in at 421,000.

“Ongoing job creation, positive demographics and tight existing home inventory should spur more single-family production in the months ahead,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz, in a statement. “However, the softening of single-family permits is consistent with our reports showing that builders are concerned over mounting construction costs, including the highly elevated prices of softwood lumber.”

As for completions, rates bumped up 1.9 percent from April to 1.291 million, with single-family completion rates rising dramatically—11 percent from April numbers to 890,000. Multifamily completions came in at 389,000, down 14.1 percent from April rates.

“We should see builders continue to increase production to meet growing consumer demand even as they grapple with stubborn supply-side constraints, particularly rising lumber costs,” said NAHB Chairman Randy Noel.

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

The post Housing Starts Spike to 11-Year High, Permits Stumble appeared first on RISMedia.

Categories: Real Estate News