Welcome!
  •       Welcome to the Heidi in Houston’s web-blog. I am so excited to share some of my life experiences in the “space city” through this blog. Life can be hectic, but I will make every attempt to take time out of my busy schedule to share great photos and information of the places I visit, people I meet and organizations I connect with in our wonderful city. I will try to be unbiased, although, this will be a very difficult task to accomplish because Houston is a city that I absolutely love. It just seems very easy to […]

    About Heidi

          Welcome to the Heidi in Houston’s web-blog. I am so excited to share some of my life experiences in the “space city” through this blog. Life can be hectic, but I will make every attempt to take time out of my busy schedule to share great photos and information of the places I visit, people I meet and organizations I connect with in our wonderful city. I will try to be unbiased, although, this will be a very difficult task to accomplish because Houston is a city that I absolutely love. It just seems very easy to […]

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JUST LISTED: Meticulously Maintained home for sale in Lakes of Parkway!

_DSC8191-3

MLS# 48492631 

Home is also available as a lease (MLS#74170870)

 

To Schedule a showing please call 281-558-4114

 

Sincerely,

 

Exclusively listed by Dietrich Properties, Keeping it Personal(c)
A Lakes of Parkway Neighbor – Specializing in Lakes of Property and the Energy Corridor.

 

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Is Amazon Embarking on Home Insurance?

July 16 is Prime Day, and this year’s deals feature double discounts on Alexa-enabled smart home devices, including Echo, Fire TV and Fire tablets, Amazon reports. As the marketplace giant gets more and more involved in the lives of homeowners, could consumers start to see offshoots into other home-related services?

Amazon-run home insurance could be the company’s next endeavor, according to The Information, a technology website. Although Amazon has not yet provided concrete evidence for insurance plans, it would make sense due to the company’s most recent partnerships. From plans to create a line of robots to be used as homeowners’ personal assistants, to the latest collaboration with Lennar showrooms to promote its line of smart home products, Amazon is already deeply entrenched in the lives of homeowners.

The alleged reason for this possible next phase in Amazon’s services? The company’s various tech products could help monitor for dangers such as burglaries and fires, resulting in more affordable premiums, reports The Information. Amazon has already made moves into the healthcare industry to build out its medical supply business, so an insurance division isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

If Amazon did form its own insurance division, what would it look like? In order to beat out the competition, there may have to be a sizable price difference in premiums and an added catch for consumer convenience. A traditional financial model may not be feasible for a company that needs to juggle its Prime audience base, along with several other technological innovations, to stay relevant.

However, this could be more of a partnership than a foray into its own segment of home insurance. Since regulations vary by state, it would be difficult for Amazon to establish a national presence under its own umbrella without investing an abundance of time and money to maintain a legally intricate service. Another concern? Amazon would need to have the necessary funds available to create a pool of reserves for any upfront claims payments.

In order to cut costs, Amazon may be able to sell consumer information it gathers from its smart home devices—in December alone, the installed base of Amazon Echo devices in the U.S. amounted to 31 million units, according to Statista. This way, the company would be able to barter data in order to profit from already-established insurance institutions and further negotiate consumer discounts, similar to the way insurance companies currently provide credits to homeowners who have security systems installed at their properties.

According to Statista, the global smart home market will reach an estimated value of over $53 billion in the U.S. by 2022. Will future homes be run by Amazon? It’s starting to look that way.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Staged to Sell: A Country Estate in Gaithersburg, Md.

Home stager: Libby Paulson with Preferred Staging

The home: Paulson staged this remodeled, single-family country estate in Gaithersburg, Md., which featured cathedral ceilings, a two-story stone fireplace, gourmet kitchen, formal living and dining room, two staircases, and a walkout basement with full kitchen and bath. The home is listed at $709,500.

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Paulson’s tips:

1. Greenery is a Must:Greenery is considered natures neutral. It provides a space harmony, freshness and energy. Greenery can be incorporated into a staging as an accent color or as a way to soften and welcome someone into a room. Some great examples are fiddle fig plants or ferns of all types as well as large leaves arranged in a vase.

2. Pillows are required: If you are looking for an easy, affordable way to make your home ready to sell try adding some throw pillows. Using some trendy pillows you can transform any space. They also help large furniture stand out and complement and highlight the home’s structural features. So choose pillows that complement the home’s aesthetic and style, and don’t be afraid of adding color as long as it adds style. A quick tip is use solid color pillows if furniture has a busy print or patterned pillows when working with solid color furniture. For an upscale look use pillows with subtle texture such as linen or tweed.

3. Bookshelves are not just for books:The first thing to remember is you don’t need to fill each self. When staging bookshelves try to add items to make the eyes look across, around and down. Limit the amount of books and use pairs of items.

Have a home you recently staged that you’d like to show off here at Styled Staged & Sold? Submit your staging photos for consideration, along with three to five of your best spruce-up tips. Contact Melissa Dittmann Tracey at mtracey@realtors.org.

Via: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/StyledStagedSold/~3/_g90aGDAZdA/

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Blockchain Lending: Reduced Fraud or Increased Risk?

Traditional lenders are transforming, adopting cutting-edge technology to stand apart from competitors and introduce an added level of security to financing. From AI-run algorithms to smart contracts, obtaining a mortgage could soon be a vastly different process than buyers experienced just 10 years ago. Industry disruptors, however, are looking to shift from the traditional model completely, threatening to take over the role typically performed by bank intermediaries, which buyers are accustomed to.

One new business claims it is the first company to apply blockchain to mortgages. Block66 is a blockchain-based marketplace for lenders, from which they can access vetted buyers looking to finance their mortgage. Co-founded in 2017 by CEO Joe Markham, CPO James Tuckett and COO Kamil Mieczakowski, the platform is set to launch in early 2019. The most significant benefit the company is advertising? Reduced risk for mortgage fraud.

“We created Block66 to offer new opportunities for borrowers and end the time-consuming and paper-driven processes in the mortgage industry,” said Joe Markham, founder and CEO of Block66, in a statement. “Our platform will make it easier for everyone to find what they need so mortgages can be approved and funded faster. By storing the history of each transaction on the blockchain, we will provide a valuable audit trail for lenders, which will help mitigate mortgage fraud.”

Additionally, Block66 states the addition of blockchain to a real estate transaction will reduce costs for buyers, as they will not have to be vetted via banks; instead, applicants’ information will be made public to any lenders using the platform. Block66’s loans, which will become asset-backed tokens, will reportedly play a role in leveling the lending playing field, allowing all types of investors (not only big banks) to participate, and giving way to increased applications for buyers who would not be considered worthwhile by larger banks.

“The idea behind mortgage tokenization is to bring in smaller lenders,” said Markham. “They are often reluctant to tie themselves to longer repayment plans but are more willing to lend capital to customers who aren’t always favored by traditional banking institutions, even though they are creditworthy.”

The risk? While bank intermediaries are often more costly—resulting from the manpower needed to not only vet candidates for creditworthiness, but to ensure financials are in order and paperwork is completely submitted—they often add another layer of security to the transaction that the new technology cannot be trusted to replicate at this time. Often, these banks become reliable vendors for real estate agents who have partnered with them, providing buyers with vetted mortgage lenders who not only get clients to the closing table, but also prioritize customer service and become community resources.

There are other challenges, as well. Smart contracts are not yet recognized by courts on a global level, an obstacle for Block66 when transacting across borders. Additionally, while applicant and property information is publicly displayed on the blockchain, the technology is still new, adding uncertainty into the equation for smaller banks who do not typically risk lending long-term loans. Applicants may still find ways to bypass this technology-based security and fraudulently represent the assets or financial history necessary to buy.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Smart Homes: The Way of the Future or a Risk to Homeowners?

Glitches of early iterations aside, AI-based technology has come a long way, and has an increasingly active presence in the lives of homeowners who are looking for convenience and savings in a pushed-for-time era. From adaptive thermostats that automatically gauge energy usage and alter temperatures for optimal savings, to smart home speakers that use sophisticated artificial intelligence to provide services and information in real-time, a smart homeowner can now cross off a variety of menial tasks from their daily to-do list without doing more than speaking a phrase out loud or clicking a button on their mobile device.

What is the true cost of this convenience? Some gadget adopters are reporting invasion of privacy, security risks, and more. For those who have not yet invested in smart home technology, these factors are largely holding them back; in fact, it is the second-biggest reason for hesitation for 17 percent of non-users, behind price (42 percent), according to a recently released report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), “Smart Home, Seamless Life: Unlocking a Culture of Convenience.” In addition, 56 percent of surveyed individuals stated they would choose encryption to protect their data when creating their own smart home.

What are these misuses of technology that could lead to privacy or security risks? These are a few of the reported instances thus far:

  1. Gadgets May Be Susceptible to Hacking
    Last August, Wired published a story about a British security researcher for MWR Labs, Mark Barnes, who was able to install malware on an Amazon Echo device, turning it into a surveillance device that silently streamed audio to his own server. While newer models cannot be jailbroken this way, Amazon has not released any software to fix the issue with older units.

For the typical owner, this may not seem like a significant violation; however, this could lead to another type of home theft in which fraudsters break into homes looking to steal identifying information via smart home gadgets, leaving little to no evidence of their break-in behind. While Barnes installed code for the specific purpose of audio streaming, he clarified that the installation of malware could serve other uses, such as stealing access to a homeowner’s Amazon account, installing ransomware or attacking parts of the network.

  1. Smart Technology Could Lead to Location-Based Tracking
    Earlier this month, security investigator Brian Krebs reported on a privacy vulnerability for both Google Home and Chromecast—found by Craig Young, a researcher with security firm Tripwire—that leaks accurate location information about its users.

According to Young, attackers can use these Google devices to send a link (which could be anything from a tweet to an advertisement) to the connected user; if the link is clicked and the page left opened for about a minute, the attacker is able to obtain a location.

“The difference between this and a basic IP geolocation is the level of precision,” Young said in the article. “For example, if I geo-locate my IP address right now, I get a location that is roughly two miles from my current location at work. For my home internet connection, the IP geo-location is only accurate to about three miles. With my attack demo, however, I’ve been consistently getting locations within about 10 meters [32 feet] of the device.”

Google initially told Young they would not be fixing the problem; however, after going to the press about the issue, Young reports that Google will be releasing an update in mid-July to address the privacy leak for both devices.

  1. Glitches Could Lead to Invasion of Privacy
    According to local news stations in Portland, Ore., a resident (reportedly named Danielle) received a disturbing phone call from one of her husband’s employers telling her to shut off her smart home devices. After using Amazon devices throughout her home to control temperature, lighting and security, Danielle was made aware that a private conversation was accidentally recorded by Amazon’s artificial intelligence system, Alexa, and was sent to a number on the family’s contact list.

Amazon has since reported that the Echo speaker picked up words in Danielle’s background conversations that it interpreted as “wake words” for recording and sending audio to a contact; however, an article published by website The Information last July states that Amazon was considering obtaining recorded conversations and sending transcripts to developers so they can build more responsive software, making it unclear if these devices automatically record audio without waiting for “wake words.”

These Vulnerabilities Could Impact Real Estate
Smart homes are increasing across the country. According to Statista, a statistics website, the estimated value of the North American smart home market will be $27 billion by 2021.

Of course, the vulnerabilities that have cropped up for some users could have an impact on the selling process. For example, some sellers have already begun using their security systems as a way to listen in on prospective buyers or watch them as they visit the listed home, regardless of whether local laws prohibit these recording practices.

Additionally, if homeowners have devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, but do not have security cameras, how can they be sure that visiting buyers are not accessing sensitive information through these speakers? While agents always play a role in adding a measure of security by being present during showings, fraudulent activity that is internet-based only, such as obtaining online data through links, will be difficult to identify.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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