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This Week in Washington: Privacy and the “Power i”



privacyBelieve it or not, something other than healthcare and jobs was on the minds of policymakers in Washington this week. For tech wonks, the week was largely about privacy. Events on both coasts demonstrate that privacy policy is moving in all directions and that there are many cooks in this kitchen. While Congressional lawmakers seem intent on regulating privacy based on the musty concepts of notice, choice, opt-in and opt-out, the FTC appears to be setting its sights on where the debate is moving –think… cloud, social media and wireless—with industry groups weighing in too.
First up was Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) who announced this week that a draft of his long anticipated privacy legislation would be released “soon.” Based on Rep. Boucher’s past comments, we can expect that the legislation will mandate additional disclosures for online privacy notices and create new opt-in/opt-out regimes. It is anticipated that this legislation will apply both to offline as well as online data collection and use–a matter that will broaden the impact of the bill, especially for the real estate industry.
At a workshop in Berkeley, CA later this week, the FTC examined how social media, mobile networking and cloud computing are impacting consumer privacy. Director of Consumer Protection, David Vladeck kicked off the event with comments focused on how consumers have little understanding of data collection practices whether they are offline or online. The FTC intends to do something about that. New rules from the agency are expected this summer.
Social Media Joins the Privacy Fray
A particularly animated (I don’t get to use that adjective very often) moment during the regulatory workshop happened during a panel discussion on privacy and social media when ACLU lawyer Chris Conley confronted his former colleague and current Facebook attorney Tim Sparapani. Conley presented Sparapani with petition signed by 50,000 Facebook users complaining that the company’s privacy settings create an “app gap”. The complaint is that third-party applications—like “What’s Your Mental Disorder” gets not only your information (age, gender, relationship status) but all your friends’ info who use Facebook’s default privacy settings.

The Power “i” and Behavioral Advertising
The practice of behavioral advertising is always a favorite topic of privacy discussions. This is the marketing practice whereby advertisers choose which ads to display based on the websites an individual has visited. Congress and the FTC are wrestling with how to educate and protect consumers without unreasonably restricting the advertising industry. The advertising industry itself has offered up the “Power i” a white ” i” icon surrounded by a blue background. The icon will be added to most online ads by this summer to give consumers information about why they are seeing a particular ad. When a consumer clicks on the icon they will be taken to a page explaining how the advertiser uses their web surfing history and demographic information to serve them ads. The icon is set to hit ads at about the same time that the FTC is ready to release proposed regulations.

So what say you AG community? Do consumers need more privacy protection? A different kind of privacy protection regime? What about the “Power i”? Will it help? Is more needed?

Melanie is the Senior Technology Policy Representative at the National Association of Realtors. That means she lobbies Congress and Federal Agencies on technology policy issues of importance to the real estate industry. In her pre-NAR life Melanie has been a practicing attorney and a software start-up executive. Like any native Californian, Melanie loves good wine and bountiful farmers markets.

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Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?



Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.



aging housing inventory

aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

Click here to continue reading this story…

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.



zillow move

zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub,, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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