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ClosingLock has protected $14B of real estate transactions – is your title company on board yet?

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Security is utmost for you and your data, so it’s even more important for your clients. ClosingLock protects you both with their security features.

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As digital transactions become the norm, keeping you and your clients secure is becoming a necessity. Poor security leaves a lot at risk, including the personal information of you or your client, as well as potentially even bank information. We’ve talked about the need for security before, but the quick version is this: there are a lot of ways things can go wrong.

Sure, no business wants to be hacked, but when you’ve got home payments on the line, you’re easily at risk of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars with one mistake. And, as you might expect, when people are scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, they are not happy.

They’re also more likely to sue. Go figure.

It started with title companies, but these days, brokers and agents are also at risk for being sued if their clients get scammed. Really, a security breach can put everybody involved in a bad position.

“Unfortunately, many in the industry continue to email out their wiring instructions. These are the emails that are then spoofed, causing clients to lose their life savings, and companies to go out of business,” explains Andy White, CEO and co-founder of ClosingLock.

The company ClosingLock wants to change this.

ClosingLock, formerly known as BuyerDocs, works to keep the digital aspects of real estate on lock down. Not only does ClosingLock provide much needed security boosts, like secure document transfers and three factor verification, it is also working to streamline the process entirely by consolidating everything on one platform. Plus, ClosingLock works to ensure everything is easy to use – after all, a security program that is confusing might keep things safe, but it’s also bound to make life harder for everyone involved.

According to ClosingLock, their products have been used across the United States, as well as in 42 international countries. The results have been pretty great: they’ve protected over $14 billion in real estate wire transfers alone.

“Each transaction that ClosingLock protects is one step closer to eliminating wire fraud from the industry,” says White.

If you aren’t doing something to ensure your clients and business are secure, you’re taking a major gamble with every big transaction. Consider investing, or urging your title company, to invest in a security program like ClosingLock to ensure everything continues running smoothly.

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

Real Estate Technology

Value privacy? DuckDuckGo is the answer to breaking up with Google

(TECHNOLOGY) DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn’t listen to home recordings, sell you stuff, or track your every movement. They just provide search results.

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A recent Wired editorial caught our eye, urging folks to consider using DuckDuckGo instead of Google. As someone who does use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine, it made me smile.

In the modern world of telecommunications, the only real currency is trust. When you buy an iPhone or an Android, you’re not really buying a set of features. You’re buying assurance that the cell phone company you’ve chosen isn’t going to screw you over too badly. You have a device in your pocket that tracks you, everywhere you go.

Even when you have location services off, your smartphone knows where you are through a combination of the Wi-Fi networks nearby and your phone’s motion sensor. Here’s an article from nearly a decade ago talking about how this process is 90% accurate. How much better do you reckon it’s gotten since then?

The thing is, Apple and Google both kinda suck at the privacy thing. Here’s an article about Siri recordings being made when Siri isn’t meant to be turned on, and the quality assurance contractors who then have to listen to people having sex. (Apple is ending the contractor program, after a public outcry.) Here’s an article about a big ol’ leak of Google Home recordings, many of which were made without the user activating Google Home. Here’s an article about Amazon leaking 1,700 audio recordings from someone’s Alexa to a complete stranger!

So your phone companies don’t really protect you that well. Apps take advantage of this too. If you still have the FB app, you should probably delete it! Here’s a story about a psychiatrist realizing that Facebook was suggesting that her patients add each other!

So privacy matters, and Google sucks at it. Google is also a HUGE business. It’s an enormous company that wields so much influence on ours lives that there is an entire industry now called “search engine optimization” dedicated to unraveling its whims.

And what whims! One major update a few weeks ago caused a 30-40% drop in traffic for some websites. These updates are pretty opaque, and a whole constellation of websites has arisen to help the search engine optimization workers (or SEOs, for short) untangle what those updates mean, and why their traffic has suddenly gone down.

And at this point, Google only kinda wants to serve you results. Mostly they wanna serve you ads, and highly-optimized shopping results. One of the big problems facing SEO workers right now is that you can bust your ass to get a company to the front page of results, and it may not matter if you don’t crack the top 3. Because people do most of their Internetting on their phones now, and ads take up most of the screen space when someone Googles.

So Google isn’t great at privacy AND their priorities are skewed. But this is an article about DuckDuckGo, right? And we’ve barely covered it! So let’s talk about that a little.

DuckDuckGo doesn’t save your searches. It forgets everything you search. And you know what? That feels incredible. There are drawbacks. When I type the letter L into DuckDuckGo, it doesn’t immediately suggest “Leonard Bernstein shirtless” like Google does. But the ten seconds it takes to type that out is worth the knowledge that my data isn’t being stored by my search engine.

And yes, Google pours a ton of money and attention into their algorithms, and they’ve got a years-long head start on DuckDuckGo. But usually, DuckDuckGo still manages to get me exactly what I want. Sometimes, it’s even better at giving me what I want. Because it’s not serving me ads, or trying to second-guess me. It just…gives me the thing I asked for.

There are still some instances that send me to Google. If I’m looking for a specific image or gif, for instance. Or if I’m looking for a certain news story. And there are certain niche searches where Google’s experience is necessary. But for the vast majority of what I need, DuckDuckGo is there, serving up only what I want and protecting my privacy while it does. And it feels GREAT.

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Real Estate Technology

20 of the best free professional tools for your business

(TECHNOLOGY) Running a small business is a ton of work and you need all the help you can get. Here are 20 free tools that help make it a little easier.

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When running your business, big or small, you’re only as good as what’s in your arsenal. This applies to your ability to be creative and think on your feet, as well as to having tangible tools at your disposal.

Below, we’ve outlined 20 of the top free tools that are designed to help grow your business – let us know in the comments what you love or what you’d add!

  1. Google Analytics – this is a definite need. With the world continuing to grow more and more digital, it’s necessary to know how your business is operating in the online realm. Google Analytics provides data about your small business, including traffic to your site and clicks on links. It gives you an idea of who is visiting and when, allows you to track your goals, and generate audience reports. Google also offers virtual classes that teach you how to master the platform.
  2. Hotjar – want to understand exactly how visitors are using your site without getting lost in the shuffle of numbers and data? Hotjar is where it’s at. You can see a user’s behavior and their exact process of perusing the site. There are also tools like feedback polls that allow your audience to interact with you when using your site.
  3. Canva – this is one of the best visual tools to create graphics for your company, both to print for physical display and to use on social media. The platform is easy-to-use and allows for a myriad of sizing options, backgrounds, and stock images.
  4. ProProfs Help Desk – this is a ticketing system that allows your visitors to contact customer service and start a thread of communication; all while keeping everything ticketed and organized. This also allows for shared inboxes, ticket resolution via chat, and ticket reduction up to 80 percent with knowledge base.
  5. JungleScout – this is your best friend when it comes to learning to sell on Amazon. Regardless of where you are in your seller journey, this tool will help you maximize your skillset.
  6. Kickstarter – crowd sourcing for your business without giving away the equity. This lets you recruit micro-investors and donors for your new business venture.
  7. MailChimp – This is an all-in-one tool that is necessary for all small business users. According to their website, “Bring your audience data, marketing channels, and insights together so you can reach your goals faster. With Mailchimp, you can promote your business across email, social, landing pages, shoppable landing pages, postcards, and more — all from a single platform.”
  8. Shopify – this platform has helped over one million businesses around the world and is continuing to help small businesses thrive. Shopify allows users to create and design an ecommerce website that is backed by helpful tools that help discover new customers, drive sales, and manage your business’s day-to-day operations.
  9. Buffer – provides simple social media tools that receive authentic engagement. Tell the story of your brand while growing your audience. The platform includes publishing, analytics, and engagement.
  10. Qualaroo – this is a customer and user feedback software that states its value as ten times higher than email surveys. It comes with what you need for useful feedback, including AI-powered analytics and reports.
  11. Zapier – a platform to connect your apps and automate workflow. Zapier moves information automatically between your web applications, allowing for more focus on the most important work.
  12. Doodle – a scheduling platform that allows meetings to be booked faster and smarter. No more need for an hour of back-and-forth emailing in order to nail down a meeting time.
  13. Docracy – a home for contracts and other legal documents, created by the community that uses them. The idea is to make these common documents easily available for everyone.
  14. Slack – the ideal way to communicate with your team and keep everyone on the same page at all times. This is a central communication hub where you and your team will stay in the loop, ask questions, and share updates.
  15. GoDaddy Website Builder – this is an extremely user-friendly tool that allows you to build websites that looks as though you paid someone hundreds to build it for you. There’s many options for customization, and they have the tools that help your site look great on both desktop and mobile.
  16. ToDoIst – For many, it’s impossible to stay organized without use of a to do list. With this tool, you (and your team!) can stay organized with the most important tasks and priorities.
  17. Grammarly – When writing copy for your business’s brand, it is important to have as many eyes read through it as possible for any errors. Grammarly is a tool where you can plug your copy in and it will automatically find and highlight any grammar errors or typos. You can never be too careful!
  18. AdobeSign – Formerly known as EchoSign, this tool allows for paperless signatures that help make signing contracts and agreements as easy as the swipe of a finger.
  19. Sumo – a platform filled with tools to help you grow your website. It’s a free email capturing tool that takes only seconds for sign up.
  20. Pixabay – We don’t always have the time or the money to take photos to go along with our website copy and social media posts. Pixabay helps alleviate that need with free stock images that will help your message pop.

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Real Estate Technology

Google Nest: A sneak peek of the new and improved version

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) The secretive Google Nest speaker has been leaked. It looks fantastic and sleek–but will it sound better?

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Google Nest

There’s no denying that Google Nest has done a lot to make the modern smart home accessible and easy to set up, but the common consensus remains that the system doesn’t quite meet the audio demands of many users. Thanks to leaked photos of a new Google speaker, it seems that those demands are to be addressed.

The photos originated from a regulatory establishment in Japan, and while there isn’t anything to see in the way of press from Google as of now, it’s clear that the device is the upcoming Nest speaker associated with Google’s smart home line.

Google Nest–an amalgam of the aptly named Nest and Google Home–is a series of smart devices poised to turn any house into a fully functioning smart home. While the Google Home setup includes a hub that includes built-in speakers to report various metrics and information depending on your preferences, the actual sound fidelity was, reportedly, somewhat lacking.

And, even though the Nest Mini improved upon Google Home’s audio flaws, it still left something to be desired–a space that, ideally, the Nest speaker will fill.

9 to 5 Google also points out that the sound disparity between different iterations of the Nest Mini shows vast improvement in terms of audio output and overall quality, so it seems appropriate to assume that the Nest speaker–with larger dimensions and more advanced architecture than the the most recent Nest Mini–will vastly outshine Google’s audio solutions thus far.

As for the speaker itself, Google seems to have grown away from both the conical Google Home device and the Google Home hub in favor of an oval, cloth-covered speaker that seems reminiscent of the Nest Mini’s overall presentation. There are a couple of design updates, too–the mute button is now a switch, and there’s a lot more rubber on this rendition of the speaker.

Users will be able to use a standard wall outlet to power the speaker, a design choice that may raise some questions since it detracts from the otherwise sleek presentation.

Google has yet to list the speaker on its website, but it’s worth noting that the Google Home, formerly listed alongside the Nest Mini, is no longer available. If you have a smart home endowed with Google products and you’re looking to upgrade, keep an eye out for the Nest speaker in the coming months.

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