North Carolina Real Estate in 2020: Zillow, eClosings, and Wire Fraud

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The real estate industry is changing. As technology continues to become an integral part of everything we do, especially buying and selling homes, it’s going to play an ever increasing role in our real estate industry. From Zillow becoming a one-stop shop for real estate endeavors to the rise of real estate wire fraud, it’s important to stay on top of our changing industry.

Whether you’re a real estate agent, attorney, or another transaction agent, here’s what you need to know about the state of the North Carolina real estate industry in 2020.

The Rise of Zillow

We’ve covered this in depth, but Zillow’s infiltration of the real estate market is one of the greatest industry trends we’ve ever seen. If you’ve ever looked for a home online, you’ve probably used Zillow. It used to be the go-to website for home searching.

Today, it’s so much more. In addition to using Zillow to find homes for sale in your area—and access information about their location, construction details, pictures, and more—you can also use the site to sell your home.

Zillow’s Instant Offer program allows homeowners to quickly sell their home for cash. Zillow buys the home, performs some upgrades, and then sells it for a profit. We can only expect this trend to occur more frequently in 2020. In addition, Zillow recently acquired the brokerage Mortgage Lenders of America, which means it’s now adding “mortgage lender” to its repertoire.

Oh, and they’re also thinking about offering title insurance. But that’s still in the works.

Electronic Mortgage Closings

2019 was a big year for electronic closings, and 2020 shows no signs of slowing down! Electronic mortgage closings have a lot of benefits for the North Carolina homebuyer. Known as eClosings, electronic closings allow homebuyers to access more in-depth information about their lease online—making it easier for them to understand the process in its entirety.

eClosings also have significant benefits to real estate agents, attorneys, and title insurance agents. It simplifies the closing process and makes it easier to stay in compliance. For traditional closings, agents and attorneys were responsible for compiling all required documents and manually scanning them to be sent as emails to the necessary parties. With eClosings, everything is already online.

The Need for Extra Security Online

According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost an estimated 1.48 billion in wire fraud in 2018. Wire fraud is just one of many online “scams” that target home buyers and sellers across the country. Oftentimes, new buyers are scammed out of their entire down payment—but you can avoid wire fraud by staying alert.

Here are some tips for preventing wire fraud and maintaining online security during your real estate transaction:

  • Never wire money online to anyone—even if they claim to be your real estate agent
  • Never click on a phone number or email address within an email
  • Use two-factor authentication on your email account

Stay Up to Date on Title Insurance Best Practices with Tryon Title

As technology advances, it’s going to have an even greater impact on the real estate industry and how buyers obtain title insurance. That’s why it’s so important to partner with a title insurance agency with years of experience serving your community.

Here at Tryon Title, we have experience serving all of North Carolina’s 100 counties. When it comes to protecting your investment, rely on our team of title insurance professionals for a successful transaction.

Have a question about title insurance or the real estate industry in general? Please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Everything You Need to Know About Avoiding Wire Fraud During a Real Estate Transaction

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If you work in any part of the real estate industry, you’ve likely been warned about a dangerous practice known as wire fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost an estimated 1.48 billion in wire fraud in 2018.

Wire fraud is becoming more and more common as those committing it come up with new victims to target. At one point, the only people experiencing wire fraud worked in big real estate companies or at investment firms. Now, however, everyone involved in the transaction might be a target—from the title insurance agent to the real estate agent, as well as the buyers and sellers they’re representing.

But, there’s no need to worry. All you have to do is stay alert when it comes to who you’re talking with, whether it’s over the phone or via email, and follow these tips.

How Does Wire Fraud Happen?

Hackers target everyone involved in a real estate transaction in an attempt to trick people into giving away their money—typically their down payment or closing costs.

When approaching a real estate transaction, fraudsters will gather information such as the involved title insurance agency, buyer’s agent, seller’s agent, buyer, and seller. They’ll find all of their contact information, including phone and email, in order to seem more convincing to the person they’re targeting.

Here’s an example: Sally is in the middle of closing on a home. One afternoon, she receives an urgent email from her escrow officer. The email says that Sally must wire her closing costs over to the title insurance agency immediately—or else she may delay her closing day even more.

Sally checks over the email, and it appears as though everyone’s contact information is correct. She doesn’t want her closing day delayed any more, so she quickly wires over the payment. After all, the email contained all the information related to her transaction, including the closing date, her agent’s email and phone, the seller’s agent’s information, as well as other sensitive information.

Unfortunately, Sally just lost an estimated 3% to 5% of the overall cost of her new home in wire fraud. Once she transferred the money over, the fraudster quickly transferred to an overseas account—making it much harder to trace and recover.

Protect Your Transaction from Wire Fraud

Sally is far from the only person affected by wire fraud. Fraudsters know that the best person to target in a transaction is the buyer—especially if it’s their first time buying a home.

While title insurance agencies and real estate professionals have a more thorough understanding of wire fraud, it’s important for them to educate their clients on staying safe and avoiding fraud.

What to Tell Your Clients

There are a number of preventative measures you can take to avoid wire fraud and protect your clients. As a real estate agent, title insurance agent, escrow officer, or lawyer, you need to give your clients some basic guidelines to follow during the course of their transaction. These include:

  • Gather the official phone number and email address of everyone involved in your transaction and ONLY contact them directly through these channels.
  • Never click on a phone number or email address within an email
  • Use two-factor authentication on your email account
  • Wire instructions will only ever come from your title insurance agent—not your buyers agent. Emails can be misleading, so double check that the wire request is legitimate by contacting your agent directly by phone. You may also be able to pay by cashiers check, depending on your agency.
  • Be wary of any email that says RUSH or EMERGENCY. No legitimate wire transfer will ever be labeled as such.

Rely on a Professional Title Insurance Agency During Your Transaction

When purchasing a home, it’s important to work with an agency you can trust. If you’re in need of a thorough title insurance policy for your new home purchase, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Tryon Title.