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Drone laws are changing – here’s a brief overview of what every real estate agent must know

Drone laws are changing, so before you pony up for a drone purchase, you should know the rules of the “road” so you don’t get into trouble.

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If you’ve been following recent developments in the drone movement, you’re probably aware of just how awesome the currently available models are. High-definition recording, extended battery life, autonomous movement, unprecedented range, and Go-Pro compatibility are only a few of the appealing aspects of your average competing specimen.

As cool (and useful) as this technology is, however, it’s important to be aware of the rules and regulations regarding UAV use — rules and regulations that, for the first time since modern-day drones’ inception, are drastically changing.

Personal drone use is rapidly becoming commonplace, as some models are approaching an insanely low price of $300. Projected figures show that, by 2019, as many as 8,000 civilian drones may be up and running.

The “below 400 ft” rule is no longer golden

As it sits, current laws reflect the lack of need for regulation until now: as long as you keep your drone below 400 feet, stay away from airports and other obvious security risks, and generally mind your own business, you were good to go, but things are changing.

Due to recent infractions, the most notable of which involve near-collisions with police helicopters or flying too close to the White House, the FAA has proposed some new guidelines that, purportedly, should come into play between now and 2017.

Although said guidelines are largely based in common sense, it won’t hurt to have everyone on the same page.

Better check your drone’s weigh

Starting soon, all UAVs will have to weigh in at less than 55 pounds to comply with FAA standards. An unencumbered Lily drone weighs a little under three pounds, and since other popular models follow suit for the most part, this shouldn’t be an issue.

More importantly, the FAA will also mandate that the drone must stay in your line of sight at all times; furthermore, barring corrective lenses, you won’t be able to utilize cameras, optics, or any fancy gadgets to meet this requirement.

There will be an actual speed limit

A maximum airspeed of 100 miles per hour will be required as well, though the maximum altitude will see an increase to 500 feet.

Operating over people not involved in your usage, other aircraft—manned or unmanned—or restricted sites will be strictly prohibited. This is a huge step for general privacy, but may strongly limit your recreational use.

A right-of-way for other aircraft will be implemented; again, even though this may not become an official rule until 2017, if you’d like to avoid a felony, please use common sense when choosing a flight location.

You can only operate during the day

Finally, the FAA will require you to operate only during daytime, with a minimum of three miles’ visibility.

As an operator, you will have some federally mandated responsibilities as well. Flying a drone while in an unstable mental state (i.e., tired, inebriated, medicated), flying two or more drones at once, and running “careless or reckless operations” will land you in serious legal trouble.

States and feds are working out the laws

In 2014 alone, nine U.S. states passed drone legislature, while 43 states have proposed over 150 bills regarding drone use. It’s easy to see how one might be confused with all the variants of laws floating around; this FAA ruling should clear up most of that disorientation.

There are too many specific state regulations to list here, but this graphic should give you a basic idea of what to look for in your home town. Some notable examples include a ban on weaponizing your drone, which came as a huge shock (Connecticut, Wisconsin), using a drone to aid in hunting (Colorado), taking a picture in a way that invades one’s reasonable privacy (California), and general surveillance of non-consenting individuals or their property (Texas, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, Montana).

The need to be aware of drone legislature is magnified tenfold when applied to the real estate field. As an agent, you may use technology to better scout, photograph, and present properties to clients; though these tactics are no doubt more efficient (and conducive to better quality) than traditional real estate methods, make sure you have explicit, written permission from the owners of the property, as well as neighbors, businesses, and any other property in close proximity to the one you choose to film. Federal law regarding drones is fairly straightforward, but your state may have additional, convoluted laws to complement the FAA ruling.

This is just another case of covering your bases, folks. Drone usage is a delicate topic these days, and the slightest infraction could land you in some serious trouble, so before you throw a Lily in the air to take a beautiful panoramic shot of a suburban property, please check your state’s laws and make sure you have a concrete record of operation specifics (time, pictures, etc.) as well as written consent. If you follow these guidelines, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Bonus: additional reading

Real estate drone videography is falling far short of this glorious example – The Real Daily

6 kick ass drone tools every real estate pro should know – The Real Daily

Realtors prepping for FAA’s green light on flying drones – The Real Daily

ERIDA: There’s a new drone in town and it’s pretty damn cool – The American Genius

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Real Estate Technology

Avoid real estate scams with these virtual investigators

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) As real estate scams increase, services such as Fireball Approves are joining the fight by offering an array of background check services.

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Man seated at kitchen table with laptop and checking phone, searching to avoid real estate scams.

Daily business across every industry has continued to find a home online, as more consumers are using websites, apps, and other digital services to complete any number of tasks. Real estate is not immune to this, with trends year over year showing users flocking to digital tools to assist with every step of the process. Whether it’s looking for a new home, rental property, apartment, or anything else, it’s clear that this industry is embracing the internet to power transactions.

Unfortunately, this also means that there is a growing number of real estate scams being carried out as well, which can include fake listings for properties, landlords, realtors, and associated services. Apartmentlist.com states that as many as 5.2 million U.S. renters are affected annually, and that 43.1% of people encounter a listing they believe to be fraudulent during their search.  Forbes reports that the FBI estimates as much as $150 million is lost per year in relation to real estate, with wire fraud being a major factor.

Sadly, this appears to be tied hand in hand with the current pandemic, as it has forced more online interactions in a time where face-to-face help may not always be possible or available.

Some services have already appeared that aim to help consumers combat and avoid such schemes, such as Scamlord.ai, which is operated by Onerent and was featured on Product Hunt. Using machine learning, it has analyzed thousands of fake listings in order to observe and find patterns. From this data, it can help guide users away from anything that might be part of real estate scams.

Another service is Fireball Approves, which utilizes background checks to help customers find information over a number of possible inquiries. From their website, Investicheck covers a wide variety of options that are broken down into people and real estate categories (with more to come). The former covers things such as a background sweep, asset confirmation, social media perusal, and even locating someone who might be missing.

The real estate side of things promises ways for renters to look into the validity of listings in order to protect themselves. This includes confirming that the lister is who they say they are (owner or landlord) and checking for past criminal or court actions. Fireball Approves can do this for short and long term properties, and even covers vacation options.

Likewise, additional offers include student housing checks (proper zoning and management validation), obtaining photos of the exterior and interior of a property, and researching legal matters such as liens, the deed, and anything related to possible foreclosure.

In a sense, Fireball Approves is another necessary safeguard against a new and emerging type of crime. A blog post on the site details ways such actions are performed, including international AirBNB impersonations, local scammers breaking into properties and listing them as available, or bypassing lockboxes and then inviting customers to sign a fake lease. Even as this new type of fraud has appeared in the form of real estate scams, Fireball Approves has worked diligently to remain informed on their tactics, responding to new scams and combating the issue with experience.

Simply put, you can never be too sure what may be a real or fake listing. Just as you might take necessary precautions to confirm identities, it will always be in your best interest to be as safe and thorough as possible. Fireball Approves and Scamlord.ai are part of the growing number of tools at your disposal. With losses potentially in the thousands, it may be worth the small investment for the peace of mind it affords.

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Real Estate Technology

Speed up your online productivity with this Chrome extension

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) Say hello to faster work times with Sidekick, a Chromium-based browser made specifically for people who work on the web.

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Sidekick, the Chrome extension that boosts productivity while working on the web.

Working remotely isn’t all that bad, but it could be easier. With all our work being done straight from our computers today, our one, two, or even three monitors can start to feel overcrowded quickly. Those open tabs, windows, and apps are everywhere! As a result, we’re left with little to no organization. To make things worse, memory consumption slows down our computers thus putting the brakes on our work productivity level.

A lot of us are experiencing these same problems. Over the last few months, we have seen web tools that make things better. And now, there’s a new tool that works with Chrome extensions and promises it will be FASTER, too!

Sidekick is a Chromium-based browser made specifically for people who work on the web. It is designed to be the “ultimate online work experience” by combining everything your productivity needs in one interface.

With Sidekick, you “work in apps instead of tabs”. You can pin your apps in the Sidekick sidebar so you can access them instantly. Each app has its own search field, and you can configure notification alerts for each one. As an added bonus, you can have multiple logins. With a simple click, you can switch between your accounts without having to login and logout constantly.

Also, you can “search all your work instantly”. The tool has a built-in search bar with a single shortcut. You can search across apps, tabs, workspaces, contacts, and documents all at the same time. Hooray!

To remove clutter, Sidekick automatically saves open tabs into “sessions”. In the side panel, you can open and create a new session to organize your work.

According to the company’s website, their business model isn’t ad-based so they “can afford a no compromise approach to the privacy.” Instead, “Sidekick blocks virtually every data-grabbing ad and tracker” with its built-in adblocker.

Sidekick also makes it easy to work together. Sidekick Teams lets you “stay on top of every project through your browser.” Workspaces can be created to set up a project with its own session, app Sidebar, and tabs. Additionally, if you need to get a hold of a team member you can see who’s available so you can video chat with them.

The tool makes onboarding a lot simpler. You can set up apps, bookmarks, and credentials for new employees before they open the browser for the first time.

Furthermore, the tool safeguard’s everyone’s data. It can “remotely configure the security of every device connected to your data cloud, even in BYOD situations.” And, Sidekick’s password manager lets you share passwords securely without having to reveal what it is. And, we can all agree this is pretty important.

The company’s website states that Sidekick is the “fastest work environment ever made.” By centralizing everything you could need to do your work, it could create a boost to your productivity on the web. If you’d like to give it a try, you can check them out here.

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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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DuckDuckGo search engine

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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