Are Your Online Photos Giving Too Much Away?

Move over viruses. There’s a new e-threat in town. Known as a geotag, this bit of information is routinely embedded in photos and videos taken with GPS-equipped smartphones and digital cameras. Why the concern? Because a geotag reveals the exact longitude and latitude of the photo location. This means that if you take a picture at your home and share it via Internet or cell phone, you’re potentially telling everyone and anyone where you hang your hat. Now add to this photo a quaint message such as “see you all when we return from our three week expedition in the Himalayas,” and you’ve just handed a gold-engraved invitation to any would-be burglars engaged in online eavesdropping.

Both security experts and privacy advocates are spreading the word about the geotag risk. As they point out, the biggest problem is that geotag information isn’t visible to casual viewers. So a large slice of John Q. Public doesn’t even know what dangers lurk within many of their photos.

The geotag risk is becoming so pronounced that a group of academic researchers and independent Web security analysts have embarked on their own awareness-raising crusade. Called the ‘white hat hackers’, this dedicated group has been publishing studies and giving presentations at a variety of tech gatherings.  Their findings reveal widespread geotagged photos and videos on a sites such as Twitter, YouTube, and Craigslist. Not only do the pictures give away the location of homes, they also put the spotlight on children playing at home, pricy automobiles, computers, and flat-screen TV’s. Obviously, most people wouldn’t want this private information falling into the wrong hands.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

If you’re one of the thousands of people using a GPS-enabled smartphone, there are two ways to eliminate the geotag risk: Stop sharing your photos OR Disable the phone’s geotag function. Now before breathing that big sigh of relief, you should know that performing the latter isn’t as easy as it sounds. Switching off the geotag feature involves going through an ‘invisible’ menu that only the most tech savvy seem to know about. Once you discover the top secret location, be prepared. You’ll be required to be push your way through layer after layer of menus before finally hitting the jackpot – the Location setting. Then it’s just a matter of selecting ‘off’ or ‘don’t allow’. But once again, there’s a catch. Sometimes taking this step can disable ALL GPS functions.

Beware the Unknown Threat

Many times friends and visiting family members will feel the urge the snap a few photos in and around your home. While these pics make for great memories, they also pose the same potential risk that your personal photographs do. So make sure your shutterbug visitors are aware of the geotag issue, and that they take steps to address it. The last thing all of you want is a house picked clean by somebody with too much information.

If you’d like to learn more about geotags or other online issues, I’ll be delighted to help. And, of course, if you’d like to know more about getting that Laguna Beach home you’ve always wanted, I’m always available. As one of the area’s premier Coastal Property Experts, I can answer all of your questions and help you discover the numerous opportunities the Laguna Beach Real Estate market has to offer.

Feel free to contact me at 949.922.8490 or hillary@thecoastalpropertyexperts.com.

Time To Trade Up

Leverage Your Orange County Real Estate Profits

One of my neighbors just happens to be a fellow Laguna Beach real estate agent. Back in 2005, when the market hit its peak, this savvy realtor snapped up a fixer-upper just as it fell out of escrow. Total Price -- $1.4 million. Every acquaintance of the agent, including myself, dubbed this the deal of the century! 

Moving full steam ahead, the realtor began remodeling his diamond in the rough. Out went space-hogging walls. In came gorgeous hardwood floors. Skylights were added to the bathrooms, which were expanded to accommodate four. Exquisite hand-picked granite, discovered after an intensive three-week hunt, was beautifully set into place. After ten weeks of deep makeovers, the restoration was complete. The once-shabby eyesore was now a gleaming treasure of incomparable beauty. Understandably, the realtor fell in love with the jewel.  

After receiving notice of occupancy from the city, the beaming realtor told his dad about the new object of his affection. “Sell it,” advised papa. The smitten agent, however, was now married to what no longer was a house but a ‘home’. So he took up residence in the little castle, which was bundled with a mortgage of $7,300 per month (including property taxes). No matter. He’d cover every penny with ease. This was 2006, and the real estate business was booming. 

Had the agent listened to papa, he could have sold his gem for a cool $1.9 million, taking in an easy profit of $100,000. Instead, the realtor waited until things started turning sour. The first writing on the wall appeared in 2007, when the Orange County real estate market clearly was getting ugly. By the time 2008 rolled in, the marketplace had sunk into a deep, dank pit. As with most realtors, my neighbor’s livelihood took a beating. The once-manageable $7,300 mortgage suddenly became a snarling monster. He had to unload his dream home -- fast. The house was now a diminishing asset, which the agent knew would be worth $100,000 less in six months. And in six months after that, the home’s value would plummet by the same amount. And so forth on a distressingly downward spiral. 

In 2008, my neighbor unloaded the precious home for $1.6 million, slammed by a total loss of over $425,000. Down the drain went every penny he invested in the remodeling project. Still, he was more than grateful for the price he did squeeze out of the sale in such a stormy market. As the agent predicted, the home’s value slipped even further south in very short order. By the time the market bottomed in ‘011, the house could fetch somewhere between $1.2-$1.3 million. 

But, of course, we have now waltzed into 2013 -- well past the brutal bottom of ‘011. And the market has roared back resoundingly. That owner who snapped up my neighbor’s home at $1.6 already has made a robust $100,000 -- that same property currently is worth $1.7 million. And, mark my words, it will be worth $1.8 million in another 365 days. 

If at any time during the downturn of ‘08-‘011 you bought a Laguna Beach home, a Dana Point home, or a Laguna Niguel home, you can sell it for a handsome profit right now.  The closer to the low point of ‘011 the purchase, the greater your profit margin. 

So why not transform those profits into your dreams? Right now you can leverage those healthy gains to move closer to the water, acquire more living space, or make that long-awaited move from Laguna Niguel to Laguna Beach. But be warned. Real estate prices are on the rise, with no end in sight. Waiting even a few months to grab your opportunity may well put your desired Laguna Beach home, Dana Point home, or Laguna Niguel home way out of reach. 

Would you like to learn more about your opportunities in the Orange County real estate market? Contact the caring professionals at The Coastal Property Experts today to schedule your complimentary consultation. We promise you’ll get what you want in the Laguna Beach real estate and Orange County real estate market…much sooner than you think. 

 

The Coastal Property Experts

Transforming Integrity Into Results