Preparing your home for sale in the Comox Valley goes beyond decluttering and depersonalizing and doing a deep clean and staging; it’s also about getting your home ready for the online world. The internet is a great tool but once your home hits the open market all Comox Valley real estate listing and you can become a target for people like telemarketers, cyberscammers, and worse. So what do you do? Here are some tips:
Protect and Anonymize your personal data.
Ever wonder how that telemarketer gets your contact information? Bots crawl the web on a regular basis. Some are good (like googlebot) and some are not good.The bad ones will scrape information off of websites and then sell it to anyone who will pay for it. You and your home have become a commodity to be bought and sold for use online and off. From utility companies to public data records scattered about the internet, everyone and their mother has access to it so air-gap your personal data and your home home.
Create an email address for your home (ex: email@example.com) with one of the many services available; the Brett Cairns Real Estate Team loves Google mail. File this email addy (address for those who are not millenials) with your utility companies, city/region tax assessors, even Amazon.ca. This comes in handy for not only stealth, but security as well (more on that later). Use GoogleVoice to create a dedicated phone number for your home as well, and repeat the filing procedures mentioned above using the GVoice number in lieu of your own there. Download the GoogleVoice app and sync it to your cell phone number. The app allows you to monitor incoming calls, blast people to voicemail where it’s transcribed and block numbers at will, all while masking your number to the world, which comes in handy for the coming onslaught of telemarketers once your home goes on the market.
When should you do this? Ideally, you should’ve done this the day you bought your home years ago, but there’s no better time to start a really good habit like this than right now. Anonymizing data is painful – akin to changing your credit card number on all the auto-pay systems you use – but well worth the time. Especially when you see where your data is being misused during and after the transaction. Anonymize now as it takes months for databases and lists to update.
Take ownership of your home’s online presence.
You’ve been Googling and researching the value of your home for a while, but have you taken ownership of your home while doing it? Talk to your real estate agent about what information gets placed online. If you are trying to sell your home yourself take ownership of what you provide online to the public.
Use your home’s new email and phone number when filling out your home’s profile on websites to avoid opening the door to telemarketers and incessant phone calls from other people who may try to scam you. Remember that home evaluation tools on large websites are often a way to get you to provide information that can be used by the website to have people contact you.
Don’t go crazy with your pictures though; scammers download and use them on other websites to fool unsuspecting buyers and renters. While it is tempting to add video tours and virtual tours of your homes to thousands of online websites do you really want the world to know everything that is inside your home. Yes buyers might want to know but so might crimminals.
If you think that you have been the target of a cyber incident go to the Public Safety Canada website and report a Cyber Security Incident to them. If you try to sell your home on your own using any of the myriad of tools found online, make sure you delete the information you created. Inaccurate information creates doubt in a would-be buyer down the road and can hamper your negotiation strength.
Create a Google Alert (ex: 12345 main st Comox) for your home so that you’re notified when your home shows up online on websites Google indexes and peruse sites like Craigslist for misuses of your home’s address and/or pictures there. Our team has seen listings, pictures and addresses of our client’s homes misused on these sites by scammers and others.
When should you do this? Taking possession of and monitoring your home’s online presence is like monitoring your credit rating. Do it before things go south on you and you have scammers or something far worse to deal with.
Learn to mistrust email.
This is really important. Do not click on anything in an email from an address or source that you do not know. Even then confirm with the sender that they sent it to you if you have any doubts. Viruses and other nasty things can get transferred to your computer and make your online life miserable. We get how trustworthy email can be and checking it and clicking on what’s within has become secondary to breathing for many, but when it comes to your home sale nothing should be more secure than your email itself. Emails can and are hacked each and every day. Know who is sending you the email before you act on anything in it. Have any doubts call the person and talk to them about the content of the email.
Be Wary of Social Media
Remember that being plugged into your social media, your online grocery and retail stores you use and your phone and apps you use, your email address is the key to your digital life. Ever click on a Facebook “what kind of puppy are you?” poll or a seemingly innocuous web link that went nowhere? Chances are your email got hacked with those hackers waiting for keywords within a real estate transaction email conversation to pique their interest in your email where they wait for a contract – complete with everything they need to spoof a wiring instruction email, for example – to come to completion. So become hyper-aware of what you click on, especially the closer you get to finalizing any type of financial transaction, real estate or not.
Air-Gap to Protect
Creating a gap between your home and your personal data (mentioned above) is the first step in cyber security. As a rule we instruct clients that we will followup via phone call on any monetary move and keep our clients ahead of the curve on emerging trends in this space from thought leaders like our friends at Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre.
The internet can help market your home but it has become the host for many nefarious things such as botnets, distributed denial of service attacks, hacking, malware, pharming (not what farmers do), phishing (not what fishermen do), ransomware, spam, spoofing, spyware, trojan horses, viruses, wifi eavesdropping, and worms (not the kind used for catching fish).
Preparing your home for sale is more than sticking a sign in the ground and throwing your house on the web. Knowing what’s online, what pitfalls there are in the space and most importantly know how to deal with the issues found there is a huge job that not many are prepared to undertake. The Brett Cairns Real Estate team hopes you found these tips helpful! Give us a shout if you need any help selling your home.