The Chicago Association of REALTORS®, the “Voice for Real Estate” in Chicago since 1883, represents over 17,000 members from all real estate specialties including commercial sales, development, property management, appraisal, auctions and residential sales.
Last week we welcomed Nobu Hata, Director of Member Engagement in the Legal Affairs & Member Experience Department for the National Association of REALTORS®, to speak at our fall Member Outreach Event. Nobu shared details on what REALTORS® should know about internet-enabled devices, how to boost your reputation and solidify your clients’ trust with data security, and how to ensure your clients’ safety online.
Designate a “Flag Day”
Hata recommends that you create a Google alert for the addresses of all of your listings, to share with your clients, which would send a message if the address popped up in a news story. He also recommends setting aside time to search and “flag” fraudulent content.
Some websites, such as Craigslist, aren’t indexed by Google, meaning those sites wouldn’t appear if you searched the address of your listing. In the event an anonymous user is misrepresenting your listing, such as passing it off as theirs, you can flag the posting for the site’s moderators to dispose of.
Hata said as a broker, he would devote a few hours every Thursday night as “Flag Day” to check his listings for scams on those sites.
Get Smart on Smart Tech
As internet-enabled devices become increasingly popular amenities among buyers, navigating tech as a REALTOR® becomes more complicated. Prospective buyers and REALTORS® might be recorded by the home’s Alexa, Google Home or Nest camera systems, which may be unnerving. Illinois is a one-party consent state, meaning both parties are not required to agree to be recorded. As far as the legal liability for REALTORS®, Hata said concerned REALTORS® can place a sign at a listing saying “You May Be Recorded” for some peace of mind.
Another smart device issue to protect your clients from: ensuring the previous owner is signed out of their internet-enabled devices. Hata said a recent Chicago resident had issues with their air conditioning coming on in January, while the home’s previous owner couldn’t figure out why the A/C wasn’t working in their new Florida dwelling.
Use this smart device checklist at your next listing to ensure your client can start fresh — and be completely in control— with the tech-enabled products in their new home.
Close the Knowledge Gap
Your clients should understand how to protect themselves from being scammed before the transaction ever takes place. Hata said REALTORS® can show value by using their personal websites as a way to educate clients.
The benefits of closing this “knowledge gap” between the REALTOR® and client are two-fold: having conversations about data earlier in the transaction can put clients at ease, and REALTORS® who are marketing their commitment to client data security can benefit from potential future clients.
Establishing a clear data and email policy with clients at your very first meeting is a valuable safeguard against common scams.
Consider Ditching Dropbox
Dropbox is convenient — but it isn’t the most secure place for REALTORS® to store information. Hata said he’s used Dropbox to keep photos or marketing material but doesn’t use the cloud-based storage site for anything he isn’t “willing to lose.”
One of the best ways to prevent your clients from online scams is to keep as much of the transaction off the web as possible.”We’re an offline business — stop being so dependent on technology,” he said.
Alternatives to consider are Box.net, using an encrypted hard drive or using transaction management software such as DocuSign.
Be Mindful When Storing Data
Hata asked the crowd if they’ve dealt with short sale package, which can include months of bank records and personal identification information. He said looking at one client’s short sale package as a broker, he realized it included “everything needed to steal someone’s identity.” REALTORS® are required to retain some records relating to a transaction for up to five years in Illinois. Hata said to limit your exposure by getting rid of all documents you’re not required to keep. Follow your managing broker’s policy on data retention or reach out to us at CAR if you have any questions.