Is Amazon Embarking on Home Insurance?

By Susanne Dwyer

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4c

July 16 is Prime Day, and this year’s deals feature double discounts on Alexa-enabled smart home devices, including Echo, Fire TV and Fire tablets, Amazon reports. As the marketplace giant gets more and more involved in the lives of homeowners, could consumers start to see offshoots into other home-related services?

Amazon-run home insurance could be the company’s next endeavor, according to The Information, a technology website. Although Amazon has not yet provided concrete evidence for insurance plans, it would make sense due to the company’s most recent partnerships. From plans to create a line of robots to be used as homeowners’ personal assistants, to the latest collaboration with Lennar showrooms to promote its line of smart home products, Amazon is already deeply entrenched in the lives of homeowners.

The alleged reason for this possible next phase in Amazon’s services? The company’s various tech products could help monitor for dangers such as burglaries and fires, resulting in more affordable premiums, reports The Information. Amazon has already made moves into the healthcare industry to build out its medical supply business, so an insurance division isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

If Amazon did form its own insurance division, what would it look like? In order to beat out the competition, there may have to be a sizable price difference in premiums and an added catch for consumer convenience. A traditional financial model may not be feasible for a company that needs to juggle its Prime audience base, along with several other technological innovations, to stay relevant.

However, this could be more of a partnership than a foray into its own segment of home insurance. Since regulations vary by state, it would be difficult for Amazon to establish a national presence under its own umbrella without investing an abundance of time and money to maintain a legally intricate service. Another concern? Amazon would need to have the necessary funds available to create a pool of reserves for any upfront claims payments.

In order to cut costs, Amazon may be able to sell consumer information it gathers from its smart home devices—in December alone, the installed base of Amazon Echo devices in the U.S. amounted to 31 million units, according to Statista. This way, the company would be able to barter data in order to profit from already-established insurance institutions and further negotiate consumer discounts, similar to the way insurance companies currently provide credits to homeowners who have security systems installed at their properties.

According to Statista, the global smart home market will reach an estimated value of over $53 billion in the U.S. by 2022. Will future homes be run by Amazon? It’s starting to look that way.

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 Is Amazon Embarking on Home Insurance? appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Houston-area garden events

By By Kathy Huber TUESDAYS-SUNDAYS
The Mercer Society Gift and Plant Shoppe: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays at 400 Main, Old Town Spring; 281-651-5475, themercersociety.org/ways-to-give/donate. Sales proceeds benefit flood-damaged Mercer Botanic Gardens.
t: Patty Allen, 281-441-8646
SATURDAY, JULY 7
Cactus and Succulent Class: with Jim Maas and Pat Cordray. 10 a.m. at Maas Nursery, 5511 Todville Road, Seabrook; 281-474-2488, maasnursery.com. $40.
Butterfly Gardening: 10 a.m. at Buchanan’s Native Plants, 611 E. 11th; 713-861-5702, register at buchanansplants.com. Free.
Insiders’ Tour at Peckerwood Garden: 10 a.m. at Peckerwood Garden, 20559 FM 359, Hempstead; 979-826-3232; register at peckerwoodgarden.org.

From: Gardening

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Blockchain Lending: Reduced Fraud or Increased Risk?

By Susanne Dwyer

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4c

Traditional lenders are transforming, adopting cutting-edge technology to stand apart from competitors and introduce an added level of security to financing. From AI-run algorithms to smart contracts, obtaining a mortgage could soon be a vastly different process than buyers experienced just 10 years ago. Industry disruptors, however, are looking to shift from the traditional model completely, threatening to take over the role typically performed by bank intermediaries, which buyers are accustomed to.

One new business claims it is the first company to apply blockchain to mortgages. Block66 is a blockchain-based marketplace for lenders, from which they can access vetted buyers looking to finance their mortgage. Co-founded in 2017 by CEO Joe Markham, CPO James Tuckett and COO Kamil Mieczakowski, the platform is set to launch in early 2019. The most significant benefit the company is advertising? Reduced risk for mortgage fraud.

“We created Block66 to offer new opportunities for borrowers and end the time-consuming and paper-driven processes in the mortgage industry,” said Joe Markham, founder and CEO of Block66, in a statement. “Our platform will make it easier for everyone to find what they need so mortgages can be approved and funded faster. By storing the history of each transaction on the blockchain, we will provide a valuable audit trail for lenders, which will help mitigate mortgage fraud.”

Additionally, Block66 states the addition of blockchain to a real estate transaction will reduce costs for buyers, as they will not have to be vetted via banks; instead, applicants’ information will be made public to any lenders using the platform. Block66’s loans, which will become asset-backed tokens, will reportedly play a role in leveling the lending playing field, allowing all types of investors (not only big banks) to participate, and giving way to increased applications for buyers who would not be considered worthwhile by larger banks.

“The idea behind mortgage tokenization is to bring in smaller lenders,” said Markham. “They are often reluctant to tie themselves to longer repayment plans but are more willing to lend capital to customers who aren’t always favored by traditional banking institutions, even though they are creditworthy.”

The risk? While bank intermediaries are often more costly—resulting from the manpower needed to not only vet candidates for creditworthiness, but to ensure financials are in order and paperwork is completely submitted—they often add another layer of security to the transaction that the new technology cannot be trusted to replicate at this time. Often, these banks become reliable vendors for real estate agents who have partnered with them, providing buyers with vetted mortgage lenders who not only get clients to the closing table, but also prioritize customer service and become community resources.

There are other challenges, as well. Smart contracts are not yet recognized by courts on a global level, an obstacle for Block66 when transacting across borders. Additionally, while applicant and property information is publicly displayed on the blockchain, the technology is still new, adding uncertainty into the equation for smaller banks who do not typically risk lending long-term loans. Applicants may still find ways to bypass this technology-based security and fraudulently represent the assets or financial history necessary to buy.

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 Blockchain Lending: Reduced Fraud or Increased Risk? appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

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

By Susanne Dwyer

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4c

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.

From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Why You Really Don’t Have Enough Time

By Susanne Dwyer

Murphy_Terri_2018_60x60

You may have decided to get into real estate so you could be your own boss, set up your own working hours and make a lot of money.

So, how’s that working for you?

The challenge with entrepreneurship is being laser-focused on dollar-productive activities. When you first get into the business, you need to learn the skills, implement systems, install new programs, deploy various platforms, study scripts, market and process transactions. That’s a full-time job, and you haven’t even begun to work with buyers and sellers.

But here’s where most agents fail: They get too busy working in the business and fail to work on their business.

By nature, our business is radically unpredictable. Buyers decide to buy, and sellers decide to sell on their own timetable—and we want to be there at that magic moment—but the intensity of showing buyers, servicing sellers and maintaining prospecting can be daunting unless you develop a plan to keep all the plates spinning and the income funnel full.

The plan is simple—but getting an agent to do it is the hard part.

No matter what’s happening, only you have the power to block your day. This begins with blocking out dollar-productive activities by using a My Perfect Week Planner.*

The system visually helps you lay out a perfect week so that you’re able to establish a rhythm of daily habits that result in regular, consistent income. Think of blocking your time using a traffic light as an example:

  • Red is for non-negotiable time. These hours are reserved for your personal “big rocks” like sleep, family time, etc.
  • Yellow is used to time-block a daily prospecting hour. I can imagine you rolling your eyes right about now, but prospecting is the key to getting paid regularly. Pretend that this is sacred time, even if it’s 15-30-minute increments five days a week, and stick to it. Whether you’re prospect-phobic or simply believe prospecting is limited to cold calls, think conversation, not solicitation. Rotate through your sphere of influence with scheduled calls to update contact information and to share a save-the-date for your future client appreciation party. These approaches are easy and friendly.
  • Green is the easiest time to block on your weekly calendar. These are appointments that are related to earning or receiving money, and are usually the most fun. Block in green the hours you’ve earmarked for closings, listing appointments or working with buyers.

The goal is to increase the green in your weekly calendar. You wouldn’t want to miss a closing, so why not block out a small increment of time to talk to more people in order to make more sales so you have more green in your week?

Sit down at the beginning of each week to plan. Real estate has plenty of opportunity for busy work that will rob you of energy and income, so take control of your week before the chaos hits so that you can do those activities that serve and pay you first. It’s also a good idea to get a good coach to help you learn new habits to plan for success, and hire out the administrative work so that you can focus on being the CEO, building your business every day, one day at a time.

*For a complimentary copy of My Perfect/Productive Week Scheduler, visit http://bit.ly/2raO1Dj

Terri Murphy is a communication engagement specialist, author, speaker and coach. She is the author/co-author of five books, and founder of MurphyOnRealEstate.com. Contact her at TerriMurphy.com or Terri@TerriMurphy.com.

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

The post Why You Really Don’t Have Enough Time appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Housing Starts Spike to 11-Year High, Permits Stumble

By Susanne Dwyer

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.

From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

A Handy Guide to Starting a Home Remodel

By Susanne Dwyer

Remodeling_14143_B

(Family Features)—Apprehension and inexperience keep many homeowners from pursuing renovation projects that would make their homes more functional, enjoyable and comfortable. Getting your hands dirty on the front end—with some planning and preparation – is the best blueprint for a successful home remodeling project.

To help you start your remodel on the right track, consider these tips from Gary White with JCPenney Home Services.

Start with a plan
Although it may sound obvious, the first step really is to decide what you hope to accomplish with your renovation. At the least, begin to outline rough ideas to discuss with an expert. Reaching out to contractors before you’ve determined a basic idea for your project can waste time and money. Spend time listing the features you must have, as well as some nice-to-haves if budget allows. Also think about overall functionality, design and layout. If you get overwhelmed or need ideas, don’t hesitate to turn to online showrooms or magazines for inspiration.

Set a budget
If the sky is the limit, skip ahead, but if you’re like most homeowners, money matters. Have a clear idea of what you can afford to invest in your renovation before you get started, and if necessary, research the financing options available to you. Look for financing that provides deferred interest or low monthly payments to help manage the project cost. Setting a clear budget can help keep your contractors accountable, and it goes a long way toward ensuring you can enjoy your finished project without regret.

Draw up the plans
To help set your plan in motion, there are numerous online tools you can utilize to simplify each step of the process including design, budgeting and more. If you’re planning a home remodel, it can be helpful to find a comprehensive resource that offers a one-stop-shop for bathroom remodeling, countertops, custom window treatments, flooring, heating and cooling, water heaters and whole-home water treatment.

Involve a professional
Unless you have the time and skills, you’ll want a licensed and insured contractor to lead the project when you’re ready to get your renovation in motion. It can be wise to solicit multiple bids, not only to ensure you get the best value, but also to find someone whose work, style and experience is most in line with the needs of your project. After all, this person will be a big part of your life during a fairly stressful time period. Always check references and verify the contractor’s standing with local associations.

Get ready for work
Remember that you’ll need to create a work environment that is safe for your contractors and protects your valuable possessions. Establish a clear path to the project space for easy access and removal of debris. Furniture, appliances, room furnishings, valuables and breakable items should be removed from both the path to the work site and the work site itself. If your renovation project will involve an essential room, such as the kitchen or a bathroom, make alternate arrangements such as creating a makeshift kitchen with the bare necessities in another part of the house

Countertops 101
Kitchens and bathrooms are among the most common renovation projects, and countertops are often a focal point of these redesigns. However, choosing the right countertop can be overwhelming. Here are two of the most popular choices:

Granite countertops have long been the mainstay of a beautiful kitchen or bathroom. Granite is a natural stone, quarried from large stone deposits around the world. It can have many different variations of patterns and colors, giving each slab a unique appearance that is visually rich and dynamic.

In addition to its distinctive beauty and classic elegance, granite is also extremely durable. Granite is highly resistant to heat and scratches and, with proper sealing, offers good water and stain resistance and is easy to clean.

Granite typically needs to be sealed, both prior to installation and at least once per year. If properly maintained, a granite countertop will last for as long as you own your home, making it a potential long-term investment.

Quartz is another popular choice for countertops due to its durability, stain resistance and ease of maintenance.

It’s an engineered product made mostly from up to 93 percent quartz, a non-porous natural stone, combined with a small amount of binder and color. Small particles of glass or reflective metal flakes can also be added to some quartz designs to achieve a more unique look. The result is an attractive slab that can be made in a wide variety of tones and colors, and can be finished to duplicate high gloss polished stone.

Quartz is one of the most durable countertop materials and one of the easiest to maintain. It is highly resistant to heat, water and stains, including stains from coffee, wine, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar and more. Unlike granite, quartz does not need to be sealed, making it easier to maintain over time.

Source: JCPenneyhomeservices.com

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

The post A Handy Guide to Starting a Home Remodel appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Bring Calm to the Chaos in Your Business

By Susanne Dwyer

As the selling season continues to pick up, many agents find themselves busy and struggling to fit everything into their days. Although they’re grateful for the business, they worry that other important people and tasks are falling through the cracks. As a result, they may work long days in an effort to squeeze it all in and boost productivity, only to find themselves tired, frustrated and less productive. Here are some best practices for bringing calm to the chaos in your business…

  1. Prioritize
    When you have your priorities in place, you know where to spend your time. What are your priorities? On the business side, it could be to expand your database 25 percent or to surpass last year’s sales figures.

On the personal side, your priorities may be your children’s sports games or plays, a weekly lunch date with your spouse, a weekly morning meeting with a community group, or volunteering with a favorite organization. Your priorities are the things you don’t want to miss, no matter what. Pencil these in to your schedule before anything else.

  1. Organize
    Once your priorities are set, you can then organize everything else. Breaking the process into these four segments will allow you to regularly review your schedule so that you’re focusing on the things that are most important to you instead of becoming bogged down by less important tasks. This will help you become more productive, serve your clients better and honor your priorities.
  • Your year: Throughout the year, take out your calendar and pencil in your priorities—a family vacation, a long weekend, your children’s activities, industry workshops, client parties and other important days. Although nothing needs to be set in stone, including these things in your calendar will help you plan the rest of your year and ensure they don’t get overlooked.
  • Your month: Each month, review the priorities you’ve already accounted for on your annual calendar and add in other important activities that have come up since, such as workshops and seminars, holidays perfect for getting social with clients, etc.
  • Your week: At the beginning of the week, review what you have scheduled and include any important meetings, client lunches, etc.
  • Your day: In addition to making time for lead generation and your personal and business priorities, fill in the rest of your day accordingly. If you find yourself putting out a lot of fires, make time at the end of the day to handle all the unexpected challenges that arose during the day.
  1. Systemize
    A system will help you commit to both your priorities and your newly organized schedule. It provides a framework to follow so that you never have to wonder what you need to do each day to optimize your business. Over time, you’ll build the successful habits that are sure to cause your business to thrive. Remember to rely on a good CRM to help ensure you stick to the system and track your progress toward your goals.

Along the way, a is a valuable person to have in your corner as you try to calm the chaos. A good coach will provide an objective perspective on your business each step of the way; from helping you define your priorities to helping you organize your week. Additionally, they can help you pinpoint the aspects of your system that may prove the most beneficial to your business and help you achieve your goals within your desired timeframe. In short, a coach will help you reach your potential, optimize your productivity and build a thriving, successful business.

For more information, visit buffiniandcompany.com.

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

The post Bring Calm to the Chaos in Your Business appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893