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COVID-19 remote work is no reason to spy on employees

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) COVID-19 related remote work is bringing with it some remote surveillance…and it can be a lot. With the new blend of work and home, privacy is paramount.

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Think that remote work means you’re off the hook when it comes to being monitored on your productivity? Unfortunately, the technology that makes working from home possible also provides supervisors with the means to keep an eye on your efficiency.

In other words, surveillance doesn’t stop just because you aren’t in office anymore.

Take, for example, a software called Sneek, which promises “human contact for remote teams.” It’s a group conference call that is always on by default and can take photographs of users upwards of once every minute. Yikes. Now, Sneek representatives insist that the software wasn’t intended for “spying,” but that’s no guarantee for how some employers will utilize it.

Even if Sneek isn’t explicitly designed for monitoring employees, though, there are plenty of applications that have been created for that purpose. TeamViewer, for example, gives employers a real-time glimpse into what’s happening on employees’ monitors, and it’s just one of many applications designed to provide real-time updates on potential productivity – or lack thereof.

Of course, this sort of questionable violation of privacy is insane by any standards, but the whole thing is made more ridiculous by this entirely unprecedented pandemic situation. Not only are we all dealing with the stress of an overarching pandemic, but there’s been a lot of major adjustments to how life works now. With both schools and work pivoting to remote access, families are being cooped up together. On the flip side, others who relied on the office as a way to connect to the world are now completely isolated as quarantine continues for many parts of the United States.

The point is, now, more than ever before, is a time to cut employees some slack. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of complaints about the rise of coercive surveillance, but the more pressing matter at hand is that things are not normal. Our routines have been upended, collective stresses have increased, and there’s no definite end in sight. The last thing anyone needs is to worry about getting in trouble for something like not promptly replying to a random check-up email.

Employees are humans, not machines, and we’re all going through a hard time right now. A bit of kindness can go a long way.

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

Lennar is building an entire community of 3D printed homes in Austin

(TECHNOLOGY) With material and labor shortages impacting new construction, Lennar is developing a new strategy to keep up with demand: 3D printed homes.

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3d printed homes by Lennar

With material and labor shortages impacting new home construction, companies are having to develop new strategies to keep up with demand. Lennar, one of the largest homebuilders in the nation, is turning to 3D printing technology as a way to build homes faster than conventional methods. One Austin community is slated to break ground on 100 3D printed homes in 2022. Lennar partnered with ICON to bring this community to the Texas city.

3D printed homes – theory or practice?

Last year, The Washington Post called 3-D homes “futuristic” and “homes of the future.” 3D printed homes are supposed to be less expensive to build and energy-efficient, but the real push for 3D printed homes is the time frame for building.  3D Homes can go up much quicker than traditional homes while following code and building structures that can withstand the weather conditions of the area. Still, it’s a new technology. Currently, only homes up to 3,000 square feet can be built through 3D printing.

3d printed homes by Lennar

Concerns about 3D printed homes

According to Fictiv, a Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem, 3D printing has grown from $4.4 billion in 2013 to an industry bringing in a projected $21 billion in 2021. 3D printing is changing many industries, from jewelry to healthcare. 3D printed homes hold a lot of potential, but there are skeptics in the construction industry. The technology is in its early days. Currently, only walls are being printed. Foundations still need to be built. Currently, roofs are not being printed. Some experts believe that it may take 30 to 40 years to see a disruption in the construction industry.

Lennar is not the first company to build 3D homes. New Story, a San Francisco non-profit, partnered with ICON to build 50 3D printers in Tabasco, Mexico. A German-based company, Peri, partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build a 3D-printed home in Tempe, Arizona. Apis Cor built a home in Russia in just 24 hours using 3D technology.

We’ll have to watch and see how 3D printing changes construction.

3d printed homes by Lennar

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Real Estate Technology

1 in 3 houses are already smart homes – do you know your obligations when marketing one?

Realtors may market a home as smart homes, so do you know what qualifies and what disclosures are required?

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Did you know that a third of all homes in America currently meet the requirement to be called a “smart home,” and that is expected to rise to 54% in less than 24 months? What are you doing to properly market your listings accordingly? How are you studying the trend to make sure people that need accessibility features of smart homes are accommodated?

This was the very topic at hand at a lively panel at the 2021 REALTORS® Conference & Expo led by Craig Grant, CEO of The Real Estate Technology Institute & RETI.us and Brandon Doyle, a Maple Grove, Minnesota Realtor and host of “Home Tech Decisions” on YouTube. The overarching theme of the discussion was the benefits of smart homes to the real estate business.

Grant notes that it doesn’t take large investments to make a house a smart home. “Just having a few devices in specific categories, such as certain lighting, security cameras, or appliances, qualifies a home to be a smart home,” he notes.

To call a home “smart,” it must have a reliable internet connection and smart items in at least three categories, and may then be marketed as such.

“These homes were once only for the ultra rich, but we’ve gone from only super-wealthy people like Bill Gates having these products to every home now having at least one or two smart items,” said Doyle, who jokes that companies like Amazon basically give away these devices as a “gateway drug” to other connected devices.

The two presented data revealing that 26% of Baby Boomers currently have smart home technologies in their homes, 49% of Generation Xers, and 77% of Millennials.

This data implies that rapid increase you should expect in the market, as consumers increasingly own smart home features, but will also expect them as part of a listing.

The panelists note that it is not just novelty that consumers seek, but ease of use and accessibility, thus the popularity of products like lighting systems, carbon monoxide detectors, and digital thermostats.

“Smart home technology can now be used by seniors and those with disabilities to assist them in day-to-day activities,” noted Grant. He adds that real estate professionals play a role in being able to educate senior buyers and their families of how smart homes can aide their lives. He illustrates with the examples of smart home devices that detect falls, voice-activated features like curtains, and aides that help the visually impaired and hearing impaired.

The panelists acknowledged the risks associated with smart homes (like the vulnerability of not changing passswords from the default or when moving away, and the listening features of smart devices), but ultimately conclude that settings can often disable these features, and that the rewards outweigh the risk.

They also asserted that Realtors have an obligation to know all rules and requirements regarding selling a smart home, such as explaining what devices are included in the close of a property, and disclosing any hazards, as well as adhering to all privacy laws.

Although not woven into the panel, the National Association of Realtors (host of the annual conference) does offer an inexpensive, 12 credit hour certification course, “Smart Home Certification” which could be the shorcut to understanding your obligations when selling or marketing a smart home.

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Real Estate Technology

AI can now spot fake landlords and rental scams

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) False rental listings have risen so Scamlord.ai is helping renters by offering education and guidance on how to avoid becoming a target of rental fraud.

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scamlord.ai scammer

Even with a global pandemic going on, some US renters still need to find a new place to live. The world keeps spinning and people are having to find ways to adapt. Unfortunately, as more people are turning to fully online resources to find their next property, it can be harder for some to tell fact from fiction. That is where Scamlord.ai steps in.

Online scammers are in full effect creating fake landlords and rental listings to lure people into fraudulent deals. Scamlord.ai is a new, AI-driven tool that helps people stay away from potential rental fraud.

Scamlord.ai was created by Onerent, a small-residential rental manager on the West Coast. This new tool is designed to help renters avoid losing money and personal information to rental scams. According to the Scamlord.ai website, the tool was created by gathering thousands of fraudulent rental listings over the past several years and feeding them into a machine learning model. When renters input listing information, the AI uses that to track patterns in the contact information which allows it to tell if the listing is actually a scam.

Rental fraud has become a huge problem in the U.S. market with over 5 million U.S. renters reporting losing money to rental scams. Scamlord.ai creators hope that their tool can help more renters avoid this type of heartbreak.

We want to educate renters of the dangers of rental scams and save the money, risk, and fear of rental fraud. Any details we verify as scam will help us build a database of scammers,” said Rico Mok, co-founder of Onerent.

Scamlord.ai has a simple interface. All users need to do is input the listing phone number, email address, owner name, URL, and property address of a potential rental property and the AI will be able to tell if this is a legitimate listing.

The website also includes some helpful information for renters on how to spot a potential rental scam and what to do if they come across a fraudulent listing. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Rental listings being priced at a huge discount compared to similar homes in the area
  • Communicating with strange and sporadic emails
  • Requesting money upfront via wire transfer or prepaid debit card

Scamlord.ai is helping renters navigate a frequently changing world by offering education and guidance on how to avoid becoming a target of rental fraud.

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