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Real Estate Technology

Austin startup to offer blockchain tech to mortgage industry #VERYCOOL

(TECHNOLOGY) An Austin startup is heading the initiative to move mortgage industry to move towards blockchain technology.

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The 1s and 0s of life

For a guy who has on two occasions written in favor of the robot apocalypse, I can be pretty twitchy about security in tech. I surf behind a VPN (because the NSA is super interested in my herbal tea blends) encrypt important files for storage, all that good paranoid stuff.

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But of course, the real nightmare when it comes to tech security isn’t on the consumer end. We’re not worried about robots swiping unused RAM or reading our browser history (well, I’m not; I don’t know what you’ve being doing lately, you deviant) nearly so much as the new reality that everything from money to mortgage papers is digital, and 1s and 0s don’t much care who’s futzing with them.

Big bad middleman

A fine state of play on the issue can be found here, but the TL;DR is that to date a money-based economy has required an intermediary between buyer and seller, someone whose only job is to manage the money itself. That middleman’s big job is verifying the value of what’s being exchanged, resolving the “double spending problem” of spending the same unit of value more than once.

Fun fact: that’s literally why there are coins.

Originally the heads on the “heads” side weren’t just rulers showing off, they were stamps from the royal treasury that confirmed the proper amount of precious metal was in that particular lump. The authenticity problem is literally as old as money, and now we’ve gone and thrown away the stamp.
Thanks to the authenticity problem, historically it’s been impossible to perform a straight peer-to-peer exchange of value with money: note that yours has deceased politicians on it. In theory, digital exchange makes that unnecessary. Cryptographic technology can guarantee authenticity better than a green picture of a dead guy, and exchange can occur between people directly.

Bitcoin’s backend

That’s bitcoin, for example. But bitcoin is just the application of the idea. The idea behind bitcoin and a bunch of other clever digital things is blockchain.

Blockchains are “distributed ledgers.” All transactions made by members in a set time period are put in an encrypted “block,” then the blocks are distributed to the network and the first member to validate the encrypted transaction gets a bonus. As soon as that’s done, the block is timestamped, locked, and added to the chain. Every member’s ledger is identical because the records are generated automatically, and instead of going through a bank or credit card company, users have direct access to all their information at any time.

Best of all, with current technology blockchain is effectively hack-proof.

Once a block is stamped it never changes again, permanently linked to every other block, every block is safe behind the kind of crypto that – no hyperbole – a hacking tool can’t finish the necessary math because the Sun will blow up first, and you have to hack every block to get to any of them. It’s a big deal.

And it’s come home in a big way.

Killin’ it

Austin startup Factom just blew away their latest funding round. Factom is about “blockchain as a service,” implementing blockchain for transaction security and information storage in vital industries.
Their new hotness is Harmony, a service aimed at the mortgage industry that will integrate blockchain into existing tech to guarantee security for sensitive housing data. World-class VCs like Tim Draper and corporate stalwarts like Overstock and Stewart Title have already bought in.

Game changer

Nobody was ever sure if bitcoin was a monster, a punchline or the Big New Thing, and it suffered for it. But the blockchain tech created for it is legitimately important, a straight-up new way of doing business, and courtesy of Factom, it sounds like Austin will kick off the revolution.

#Blockchain

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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

Crowdseekr is a search engine for real estate crowdfunding opportunities

(REAL ESTATE) If you’re looking for investors, or you’re an investor looking for a real estate opportunity, Crowdseekr is the perfect resource to post or find what you are looking for.

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CrowdSeekr has been around for less than a year and is developing a powerful tool for discovering real estate crowdfunding investment opportunities from multiple platforms.

Crowdfunding seems like a natural fit for the real estate market. According to investopedia.com, “crowdfunding makes use of the easy accessibility of vast networks of friends, family and colleagues through social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get the word out about a new business and attract investors.”

In that regard, crowdfunding has the potential to increase entrepreneurship by expanding the pool of investors from whom funds can be raised beyond the traditional circle of owners, relatives and venture capitalists.

But the playing field is filling up fast. Industry experts point out that in the US alone, there are currently over 150 real estate related crowdfunding sites. It is estimated that by 2020 this will be a 220 billion dollar industry.

That said, CrowdSeekr (headquartered in Oklahoma) is banking on developing a powerful tool for discovering real estate crowdfunding investment opportunities from multiple platforms. Investors will be able to use CrowdSeekr’s advanced search tools to identify real estate crowdfunding projects that meet their investment criteria.

According to a recent investopedia article, CrowdSeekr creates a powerful marketing channel for real estate crowdfunding platforms by reaching more investors than they could have otherwise acquired by themselves. CrowdSeekr follows suit, and allows investors to conduct customized searches across multiple crowdfunding platforms. Investors will benefit from a site that offers many deals in one place and robust search options.

One thing that industry experts are wary of is the undercapitalization of many crowdfunding startups. In fact, to get started with crowdfunding in real estate, say many real estate professionals, the trick is going with a firm that’s going to be around for a while.

In other words, work with a crowdfunding company that will survive. That means well-capitalized. What scares many industry professionals is the number of crowdfunding companies out there that are headed up by two students who just graduated from college, and who aren’t capitalized themselves.

Crowdseekr doesn’t seem to have that problem. According to crowdfunder.com, Tim Strange, the co-Founder of CrowdSeekr.com is a thirty-year veteran of commercial real estate brokerage, investments and sponsorship having closed over $1 billion in transactions. Strange is also the president of the largest Rotary club in the world. Strange has sold and leased more than 7 million square feet in transactions valued at almost $1 Billion.

If time is money, as the old saying goes, then the ensuing New Year will tell if Crowdseekr has the right stuff to make it in today’s crowdfunding market.

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Real Estate Technology

Smart home features your clients will be asking about now and in the future

The smart home is no longer a theory, it is becoming mainstream, so you should know the different options in case clients ask, “does this house have X, or do Y?”

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SMART HOME

It started with smartphones. Now watches, cars, and, yes Realtors, even houses can be wired for smart technology. The following is a bird’s eye view of all of the features you’re either being asked about currently, or will be asked about in the future.

Locks, lights, appliances

Devices with smart technology allow home owners to control several household appliances and amenities, from locks to lights to window blinds, all through a single device. Smart devices are convenient and also help make homes more efficient, saving home owners money on utilities.

For example, smart thermostats can often be controlled remotely, and the smartest actual memorize your habits and routines to automatically adjust the house’s temperature for your comfort. If you find yourself turning on the AC each night before hitting the sheets, a smart thermostat will quickly learn to do it for you. Many thermostats come with motion sensors, so the thermostat adjusts depending on whether or not you are home.

Power, security, sprinklers

Home owners can also manage power use by using smart power strips, lighting, timers and monitors, and appliances that can be controlled remotely. Smart power systems provide feedback about power use, showing how to optimize efficiency.

Smart devices are available to run home security systems, including alarm systems and cameras that live stream to your smartphone, so you can keep an eye on the house while you are away.
You can even install a smart garden irrigation system that responds to weather conditions and waters your garden even when you aren’t home, saving you time and money.

Combining functions

Many smart devices combine functions, controlling your thermostat, your appliances, and your security system all at once. Complex smart home systems often run through a central hub that uses the wireless spectrum to network each appliance with your handheld device. Homey comes recommended as a particularly cute and useful hub that responds to voice commands.

The smart home device market is embryonic, but growing quickly. Your more tech-savvy clientele may want to know if the properties you are showing already have, or could become equipped with the smart home devices.

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Real Estate Technology

Cam’s 360 degree view in real time could change home tours forever

(TECH) Virtual tours just got awesome. Luna, a 360 degree camera in beta, is the size of a golf ball, waterproof and streams its video feed live.

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luna 360 cam

Homebuyers know that no matter how many videos they watch, or photos they click through, nothing can replace the experience of walking through a potential home. Although photos and videos will never fully replace the experience of being somewhere in person, Luna, a new 360-degree camera, promises to bring users one step closer to the real life experience by providing them with panoramic photos and videos.

With its unique dual-fisheye-lens design, Luna is a great marketing tool for real estate professionals that want to give customers a 360° virtual home tour. The spherical camera is about the size of a golf ball, just six centimeters in diameter and a little over 180 grams. Users just click the top of Luna one time to take a panoramic 360° photograph, two times to take a video, or hold down the button to shut off the camera completely.

The camera uses intelligent auto-stitching software, so images are automatically created in the panoramic view and users need not bother with the hassle of other stitching programs.

There are few places that can’t be captured by Luna’s unique camera, especially with it’s host of accessories that make it possible to fly Luna on a drone or attach it to a fishing rod. With its waterproof enclosure, agents can use Luna to show customers the bottom tiling of a swim pool, or create a video of the property grounds despite the drizzling rain. And, with Luna attached to a flying drone, why not take a closer look at the roofing?

Luna’s convenient size and easy-use features make it possible for agents to take and operate the camera almost anywhere. And with a whole host of accessories, the exploration opportunities are virtually endless.

From a marketing perspective, perhaps Luna’s best quality is its ability to stream 360° content live over the Internet. Consumers can watch on their phone or device as their agent gives them a live preview, or they can take independent control over the camera and decide where to look. This feature allows customers to explore interactively with a unique 360° view, as if walking through the house on their own.

Although Luna is still currently in beta, it promises to be a great device for real estate agents looking to bring their remote consumers one step closer to a real walk through experience. The unique 360° photos and video can be used to create interest in their properties online, and hopefully convince potential homebuyers to take a live-streaming virtual tour.

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