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The future is now: Invest in real estate using cryptocurrency

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) Real estate is going on trend and through REAL, investors can now use cryptocurrency to invest in real estate.

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Real Estate Asset Ledger

The cleverly acronymed Real Estate Asset Ledger (REAL) is important, because it’s one of the first instances ever of a seamless platform for investing cryptocurrency in real estate. Blockchain solutions have been nibbling around the edges of the real estate market for a while. That’s still a big deal. We’ve reported on it.

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But involvement has been limited. We’ve noted limited applications of blockchain tech to specific real estate issues like listing databases or mortgage payments. There’s been no large-scale attempt to buy into the real estate market as a whole.

REAL solution

Meet REAL. REAL is interested in the big show: making it possible to invest in and even purchase real estate with cryptocurrency. That’s new.

In fact, it’s new two ways. Not only is it, y’know, using a completely new form of money, it’s doing it in a way that’s still drawing open-mouth stares from Realtors and commentators alike when it’s being done with normal dead-tree/president money. That would be low-equity investment.

TL;DR on low-equity investment, or to use REAL’s term, “real estate crowdfunding,” goes like this. Instead of a single party owning a given piece of real estate and selling it to another via a structured series of payments secured with collateral (or “mortgage”; you may have heard of it) a group of investors, not necessarily connected, buy shares in real estate like any other investment and profit from any rise in value.

REAL is a real estate crowdfunding platform.

It lists properties interested in being crowdfunded, accepts investments in REAL Tokens, its in-house cryptocurrency, and pays out in Ether, a more widely used cryptocurrency, to be spent on cars and sandwiches and things.

So the REAL offer is twofold: cryptocurrency and crowdfunding. Rad. Who cares?

Pro cryptocurrency

REAL’s argument for cryptocurrency is pretty much the same as NAR’s, as explained here: real estate requires investment, and cryptocurrency is a giant pile of value no other investment space has seriously leveraged yet.

Investors with limited options get a huge chance to profit, real estate gets committed investors – win-win.

Their argument for crowdfunding, however, goes a step beyond. I have previously waxed lyrical on the benefits of distributed risk. That’s always been the problem with mortgages as a financial tool: failure sucks, hard, for everyone. Having multiple investors rather than a single mortgage means a bunch of people benefit when things go well, and one person isn’t left holding the bag when things don’t. That provides means to forego conventional foreclosure, since all investors, occupants included, have a vested interest in the property getting more valuable and don’t lose everything if things go south.

That’s good news both for the P&L sheet and the soul. Due respect to our Dickens villain readership, most real estate professionals don’t actually like making people homeless.

REAL identifies a plus that didn’t occur to me, because, for once in my digital life, I wasn’t thinking in terms of blockchain. Crypto plus crowdfunding equals international.

Being peer to peer, cryptocurrency values are determined between people directly.

They don’t care about borders. There’s no difference between an American REAL Token and a Chinese one. Real estate crowdfunding alone was worth $3.5 billion last year. Forbes estimates the global crowdfunding industry as a whole at $300 billion by 2025. That’s a lotta tokens.

What’s to come

Whether REAL’s model is the best way to take advantage of that is an open question. What isn’t is that both crowdfunding and cryptocurrency will be a part of the real estate market in the coming years. Plan accordingly.

#REALinvestment

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Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Real Estate Technology

OmniFocus – a sophisticated task manager for busy pros

(TECH NEWS) In the world of GTD apps (that’s “Getting Things Done”), OmniFocus stands on top of the mountain.

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In a perfect world I’d have my own personal secretary or maybe an assistant. Someone to help keep me organized. OK, scratch that. I don’t really want “help”. I want someone who will absolutely keep me organized. Like every-minute-of-every-day type of organized. That way, I can devote all my time and energy on the right-side-of-the-brain activities that demand all of my creativity.

Unfortunately, the world is not perfect, so a secretary is out of the question. But I can have the next best thing: the OmniFocus personal manager app.

In the world of GTD apps (that’s Getting Things Done), OmniFocus stands on top of the mountain.

In fact, according to The SweetSetup, “…OmniFocus has been a powerful tool from the beginning. But in recent years, the maturation of the product has resulted in a much improved user interface and a refinement that makes it possible for anyone to use the tool.”

In order to stay organized, I was constantly writing things down and making lists. Despite my best efforts, if I didn’t look at the list constantly, I ran the risk of forgetting. Consider the OmniFocus as the best to do list you could possibly have, but with the ability to remind you of appointments and tasks so you don’t forget. And best of all, it’s always there with you when you need it.

Reality check time: OmniFocus is only as good as you make it. The more information you feed it, the better it will serve you. OmniFocus will only know what you tell it. So you need to take the time, each night or at the end of the week (whatever time works for you) and upload your data. That means appointments, special dates, and tasks. OmniFocus allows you to prioritize your work flow so the things that need to get done get accomplished, but it can only help you if you help it.

OmniFocus provides you with lots of tools designed to make your life easier. You can adapt the tools you need and ignore the stuff you don’t.

What works for me may not work for you, and that’s the way it should be. Let’s focus, no pun intended, on just one facet: you can place your tasks in specific project folders and within each project folder lie internal due dates.

As your day progresses the times/dates will pop up. You’ll never forget another date or project as long as you live. To personalize this even more, you can color-code tasks and synch the data to all your devices.

Staying organized shouldn’t mean re-inventing the wheel. But the OmniGroup did that anyway, in order to help you get your life back on track.

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Real Estate Technology

Hackers target associations – how to protect your brokerage, yourself

(TECHNOLOGY) Hackers are increasingly targeting associations, and while they set their own policies to protect themselves, here’s how to do the same for you and your company.

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It all seemed so routine. For officials of both the Henderson (TX) and Boulder Valley(CO) public school districts, the email that they received from an existing construction vendor asking them to update their automated payments to new bank information was nothing seemingly out of the ordinary.

Only when vendors began to inquire about the status of payments that the districts had sent did the districts come to realize that the routine change had made themselves the victims of a scam known as a BEC, or a Business Email Compromise.

In each case, the losses ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars before being discovered. Henderson ISD lost approximately $610,000 to the hackers and Boulder Valley Public Schools lost approximately $870,000. The fiscal hit was accompanied by reviews of and changes to their operating procedures to ensure that such a loss wouldn’t happen again in the future.

While the districts tied their losses to public transparency, with information about the vendors and the scope of work that each was involved with available on their websites, government officials said that such schemes are typically quite sophisticated and ongoing long before any request for money, in order to establish a level of trust with their victims.

Secret Service Agent Bill Mack, speaking to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, noted that “[w]e’ve seen an uptick in the number of cases…Contact is often made long before the request for money. Criminals will use a compromised network to gather information about the target. Then, appearing to be a legitimate representative of the vendor, they will often request a simple change in account numbers.

With FBI estimates as to the annual cost of cybercrime reaching over $2 billion dollars annually, and those losses only partially recovered through either the efforts of law enforcement or insurance, it’s important to recognize the fact that as scammers and hackers expand beyond the tired trope of the 419/Nigerian Prince, they’re now targeting new avenues, such as governmental entities and private associations (perhaps even your local real estate board/association).

While professional associations have been the targets of hackers since at least 2010, according to Ed Schipul, they’re coming under increasing levels of attack.

As a professional member of an organization, we depend on their advice, counsel, and information about upcoming trends and events. We rely on the communication that we receive from them to be timely, accurate, and most importantly, not be harmful to us, professionally or personally.

Assuming that the associations themselves are taking steps to protect their cybersecurity, how do we, as members protect ourselves from hackers?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has tips on staying safe from hackers in an ever-connected world:

• Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly online and asks for your personal information.
• Only open emails that look like they are from people or organizations you know, and even then, be cautious if they look questionable.
• Be especially wary of emails or websites that have typos or other obvious mistakes.
• Verify the validity of a suspicious-looking email or a pop-up box before providing personal information.
• Don’t immediately open email attachments or click on links in unsolicited or suspicious-looking emails.
• Install good anti-virus software that periodically runs to search for and remove malware.
• Be diligent about using spam (junk mail) filters provided by your email provider.
• Don’t visit untrusted websites and don’t believe everything you read.
• Criminals might create fake websites and pop-ups with enticing messages intended to draw you in and download malware.

In the case of officials at the districts, one measure that was implemented in each is worth remembering in a click-and-send era; they promised to have their respective staffs pick up the phone and call the vendor when any type of banking information was requested, to verify the request before providing information.

When dealing with our associations, if we receive an email or other outreach that seems out of character for them, it’s a good reminder to call and ask them if they’d intended to send it out before we take electronic action.

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Real Estate Technology

Is that home security system illegally recording?

(TECH NEWS) Just because it’s your home, doesn’t mean much. Home security systems are subject to recording laws of nations and states – are you in compliance?

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I sleep a lot better at night knowing that my house is outfitted with a video security system. To be sure, it has never been easier to set up your own home security system. However, as Lifehacker recently pointed out, “if your cameras can record audio, depending on your state, you run afoul of wiretapping laws if you don’t have consent from people who visit your home.”

Product review site The Wirecutter posits that “setting up cameras to keep an eye on your home is perfectly fine. Recording, on the other hand, can introduce some legal complications. Especially if you’re recording audio in a state that requires dual consent.”

In fact, underscores Lifehacker, “Video and audio recordings have different legal guidelines and there are worlds of nuance to navigate.” For example, in the name of personal security, you are entitled to watch a live feed of your front door, but if you put a camera in your basement and recorded your guests (beats me what they would be doing down in the basement) you’d up in legal trouble – even if it’s technically on your property.

Remember, laws vary from state to state, so you’ll have to check your local laws for specifics, but it’s worth doing before you set up your security system.

Speaking of which, Brickhouse Security suggests thinking about what the reason is behind the installation of a video security system:

“For some homeowners, the main reason to install a hidden camera is to be able to identify a burglar in the event of a home break-in. For others, there is a security issue, restraining order or another circumstance that makes them feel unsafe in their own home.”

Another issue that BHS points out is the legality of installing covert cameras within the home, “While the specific laws pertaining to this issue can vary from state to state, it is widely accepted that filming within the home is completely legal. However, there are exceptions to this statement, and they include recording in places where people can reasonably expect to have privacy as well as recording audio, which is not such a clear-cut issue.”

Click here to read more about hidden camera laws.

Best rule of thumb say many security experts: When deciding whether a hidden camera is the right choice for you, be sure to give thought to the location, whether the room gives people a reasonable expectation of privacy, whether there is any audio recording involved and what the overall objective of the camera is.

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