How Cyber Criminals Use Real Estate Transactions

Criminals are hacking into the email accounts of real estate agents or other persons involved in a real estate transaction and using the information to dupe a party into a fraudulent wire transfer. The hackers often send an email that appears to be from an individual legitimately involved in the transaction, informing the recipient, often the buyer, that there has been a last-minute change to the wiring instructions.  Following the new instructions, the recipient will wire funds directly to the hacker’s account, which will be cleared out in a matter of minutes. The money is almost always lost forever.

The National Association of REALTORS® urges its members and state and local REALTOR® associations to be on high alert for email and online fraud. In May 2015, NAR issued an alert regarding a sophisticated email wire fraud hitting the real estate industry. Since then, the incidents of online scams targeting practitioners have continued to rise, but the advice is the same. Bottom line: Do not let your guard down! Start from the assumption that any email in your inbox could be a targeted attack from a criminal.

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What To Do With A Bad Review

What is the first thing a potential client does when looking for a new service provider? If you answered "look for reviews" you're correct. So what do you do if you have bad reviews?

  1. Avoid being defensive. It's natural to have hurt feelings or want to retaliate when someone speaks poorly of your business. Avoid this reaction. Instead, do a little research.
  2. Google your business to see if there are any additional negative reviews about your company. If you find a pattern, for example, multiple clients saying your staff is rude and unhelpful, you know where to start. If you only have one bad review, that's great news!
  3. Talk to anyone on your staff who may have interacted with the unhappy client. It's possible a misunderstanding occurred or you have an unreasonable customer on your hands. Either way, it's best to know what you're up against before you respond.
  4. Now that you understand the problem, you're ready to respond. Make sure you respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a positive manner. When responding to bad reviews start by thanking the reviewer for their time and valuable input. Apologize for their poor experience without making excuses (yes, even if their complaint is unreasonable. This shows future customers you are dedicated to keeping your customers happy). Let them know how you plan to address the problem. The response below not only addresses client concerns, but also encourages the client to take the conversation off of a public platform, and shows potential customers your dedication to customer care.

Example: "Thank you for taking the time to provide us with feedback. We are very sorry you had a bad experience with our company. We are working with our staff to ensure we are able to provide top-quality customer service in the future. We would appreciate the opportunity to make things right with you, please call our office between 8am-5pm to discuss possible solutions."


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DIY Plumbing Disasters

Many homeowners fancy themselves DIY professionals and tackle all kinds of projects around the house. While DIY mentalities can save homeowners money the opposite is often true when it comes to plumbing.

One of the most common mistakes made by DIY plumbers is digging when they see water coming from a buried pipe. Most homeowners crack the pipe almost instantaneously if they're lucky they hit an inflow pipe and are covered in clean water. If they're not so lucky they hit a sewage pipe and cover their basement and body in waste.

One DIYer decided to scrub the "rust" off the floor after an old toilet had been removed. After scrubbing proved insufficient she went at the spot with a hammer and chisel. When the job was completed a handyman came to install a new toilet and found she had removed the flange from the floor. This cleaning project brought her toilet installation cost from $200 to $600.

The most dangerous plumbing DIY stories involve hot water systems, electricity, or gas water heaters. Each of these can prove fatal to the novice homeowner or if you're lucky, a large repair bill from a plumber.


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Pesticide Laced Mosquito Nets Protect Children from Malaria

A recent study has found lacing mosquito nets with two pesticides reduces the prevalence of malaria by 44% when compared to mosquito nets laced with only one. This is especially true in areas where mosquitos have developed a resistance to first-line insecticides so the World Health Organization has recommended the use of two-chemical nets in these areas.

The pyrethroids that have been used in mosquito nets for over a decade are still present in the new nets, alongside piperonyl butoxide, which blocks the mosquitos ability to break down pyrethroids.

The search for insecticides that will kill or repel mosquitos while leaving babies and children unharmed has proved difficult. The insecticides also need to stand up to regular washing and intense sunlight. After only two years the piperonyl butoxide fades significantly. Once this chemical has faded malaria prevalence is reduced by only 33%. Still, malaria deaths have dropped 60% between 2000 and 2015, largely due to the use of pesticide lined netting.

In addition to netting, many individuals coat the inside walls of their homes with long-lasting pesticides, pregnant women and young children receive prophylactic treatment, and new rapid result malaria tests and treatments are available. In 2005 President George W. Bush's administration major a large cash commitment to fighting AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria across the globe.

Recently the distribution of free mosquito nets in Africa has come under fire, however. Many of the nets are misused by fishermen and farmers who use them for catching and drying fish or fencing their gardens respectively. On World Malaria Day, April 25, Uganda's health minister threatened to have police arrest citizens using the nets for any other purpose than fighting malaria.


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New Drone System Could Prevent Drownings

A father in Phoenix Arizona, Lee Kambar, grew tired of hearing about child drownings on the news and used these tragedies as fuel for finding a solution. Kambar designed the Morningstar drone system, consisting of two drones equipped with 360-degree-cameras. The drones are waterproof and include facial recognition software that alerts a user of pool activity. One Morningstar floats on the surface, while the other is submerged below the water. The cameras will notify its user that someone is in the pool and stream footage to their paired device.

At the first sign of danger, the Morningstar app will notify and send photographs of the situation to local emergency services. While this system cannot possibly prevent all drownings, it gives parents and emergency service providers a head-start on dealing with dangerous situations.

The Morningstar system is currently priced at $1,000 and is expected to be released in late 2018.


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Price Reduced! TREC Approved 18-Hour Package -$39

Sales Agents and Brokers must complete 18 hours of continuing education classes every 2 years. Sales agents must include 8 hours of TREC Legal Updates I & II (these are 4 hours each). The other 10 hours can be TREC approved elective courses. Brokers must also complete a 6-hour TREC Broker Responsibilities course. The remaining 4 hours may be filled with TREC approved elective courses.

18-hour Broker Package - $39

Includes:

  • 6-Hour Broker Responsibility 2017-2018
  • 8-Hour Legal Updates - Course I & Course II 2018-2019
  • 4-Hour Real Estate Contracts
  • Free Social media marketing for Real Estate Course - $39 Value

18-hour Sales Agent Package - $39

Includes:

  • 8-Hour Legal Updates - Course I & Course II 2018-2019
  • 4-Hour Real Estate Contracts
  • 3-Hour Code of Ethics
  • 3-Hour Fair Housing
  • Free Social media marketing for Real Estate Course - $39 Value
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Flo Technologies to Reimburse Homeowners for Water Damage

Flo Technologies recently announced a program, HomeProtect, that will reimburse homeowners for their insurance deductibles if they suffer water damage while using Flo products.

The CEO and co-founder of Flo Technologies, Gabriel Halimi,  says, "Water damage is the leading cause of preventable homeowners insurance claims every year, costing over $9 billion annually. We've analyzed the results from our diverse customer base and proved our initial hypothesis: The Flo System's proactive technology helps dramatically reduce the likelihood of water damage. With this data, we can now stand behind our customers in an unprecedented way."

HomeProtect will cost $5 per month and cover any damage that the Flo system should have prevented. Homeowners who purchase the plan will be eligible for the following benefits:

  • A water damage prevention guarantee: Flo will pay up to $2,500 for out-of-pocket homeowner’s insurance deductible;
  • Proactive Monitoring by Flo’s experienced support team, as well as Live Chat Support;
  • Access to Flo’s Water Concierge to answer questions about your home’s water system and help resolve water and plumbing issues (whether or not the issues involve the Flo System);
  • An extended 3-year product warranty;
  • Access to enhanced analysis and information about water usage, including usage per water fixture (currently in beta);
  • A Flo Certified Letter for Insurance that may help reduce monthly homeowners insurance costs (depending on your insurance provider); and
  • Access to the Flo Standard Plan, which comes with every Flo device purchase.
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Getting the Benefits of Daylighting from Electric Lighting

Daylighting has been gaining popularity since the end of the 20th century. Research conducted in the 1980's and 1990's found that access to daylight increases employee productivity and leads to fewer sick days overall. This research helped push the surge of designs focused on bringing daylight in and reducing dependence on synthetic light sources.

In an effort to replicate the effects of daylight, designers are now able to adjust electric lights to create specific colors and lighting temperatures. These lights are able to mimic natural daylight and work with our circadian cycles, bringing many of the same benefits found with natural lighting sources.

Arup, a firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants, and technical specialists located in Boston has installed a full circadian-light system that emulates the sun's hues from dawn to dusk. The lighting follows a color temperature curve of 3000K (warm) to 5000K (cool) and back to 3000K over the span of each workday. Arup enjoys the system so much they are in the process of installing similar systems in their Chicago, San Fransisco, and Seattle offices.

Daylighting makes a huge impact on architectural design but it is still seen as a discipline outside the industry.

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The Washington State Housing Market: Northwest Explosion in 2018

According to the new forecast, both demand and pricing are on the rise for the state of Washington. In recent market research by Veros Real Estate Solutions, WA is the state to watch in 2018, especially Seattle as supply is exceedingly low and the population continues to grow.

Usually, housing prices in the US tend to rise 3-4%, however, in Washington State, the median home value has increased 10%. The median home price in Seattle just hit a record $757,000. Prices are rising evenly across all types of housing, from starter homes to luxury estates. This is in contrast to the rest of the nation, where the cheapest homes are gaining value the fastest.

Realtors are noticing a downside to the boom with the short supply of homes. The lack of inventory has pushed starter home prices out of reach for first time home buyers. With a new tax bill in place, realtors are thinking it may slow the rolling boulder enough for the supply to catch up with demand but only time will tell.

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Maryland Architect Renewal FAQ

What are the continuing education requirements for Maryland architects?

Maryland architects must complete a minimum of 24 HSW continuing education hours every two years by the anniversary of initial licensure.

How do I renew my Maryland architect license?

You will receive a renewal notice approximately 60 days before your license expires. Before renewing you must:

  1. Complete 24-hours of continuing education
  2. Renew your license online by paying the $76 renewal fee
  3. Enter your registration number exactly as it appears on your data card.

NOTE: You will be charged a $100 late fee in addition to the $76 renewal fee if you do not renew your license on time.

Do I need to complete continuing education requirements for my AIA membership?

Yes, as an Architect member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), 18 learning unit hours are required per calendar-year for membership renewal.  Of these 18 hours, at least 12 hours must be in subjects designated as Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW).

Are AIA approved classes accepted to renew my Maryland architect license?

Yes.

I have extra Maryland architect continuing education hours, can I apply them to the next renewal cycle?

No, learning units must be completed in their respective cycle.

Where can I find classes to renew my Maryland architect license?

Architects Training Institute offers online HD video & fully narrated courses for license renewal. All classes are approved by Maryland and course packages are approved by the state and the AIA.

Who notifies Maryland of my architect continuing education?

The licensee must submit their own continuing education to the state. Architects Training Institute will provide a printable certificate of completion immediately after course completion.  You must keep your records for at least 2 years, a CPC Reporting form can be found here. Random audits are conducted after renewal application is received. Architects Training Institute will store your records for 6-years at no additional cost.

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