How to wipe out student debt…

Crowdfunding, volunteering, trivia — and other unexpected ways to wipe out your student debt

  • More employers are looking into offering student debt assistance.
  • Yes, volunteering can bring you debt relief.

As student debt grows, so do the plans to squelch it.

Some of the ideas are pretty creative: New Jersey, for example, is considering establishing a lottery for borrowers burdened by student debt. Other ways of getting money to eliminate your education debt don’t rely on luck, but rather require rolling up your sleeves or knowing historical facts.

Keep in mind, however, that these endeavors aren’t free aid. The funds are taxable, even money from an organization in return for volunteer work.

“All money you receive for volunteering or win on a trivia app or lottery is considered income by the IRS,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a student loan expert.

Here are some of the ways to get other people to pay off your debt.

1) At your job

Currently, just 4 percent of employers offer student debt assistance. But that’s changing as more employers come to realize education debt is a problem for many of their workers, said Katie Berliner, account executive at YouDecide, a benefits firm.

“In order to attract and retain talent, employers are looking at offering contributions to people’s student loans,” Berliner said.

Companies that have offered their employees help with their student loans include Aetna, Penguin Random House, Nvidia and Staples.

Fidelity announced recently that 25 employers — including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, New York Air Brake and Millennium Trust — plan to implement its student debt employer contribution program, with 9,000 employees expected to enroll by the end of June. (Fidelity also offers a student debt benefit for its own employees.)

“Do a quick Google search and find the employers who are out there doing this,” Berliner said.

Most likely the company you’re interviewing with won’t offer the benefit, but that shouldn’t stop you from asking about it, Berliner said.

“In the course of the interview, there comes a point where the interviewer says, ‘Do you have any questions?'” Berliner said. “It would not be out of line to say: ‘I want to get your perspective on whether you think this a valuable benefit.'”

2) By volunteering

Some organizations will help you pay off your student loans if you offer to do volunteer work.

Check out sponsorchange.org, where you can search to help in fields like disaster relief or politics, and will receive payments to put toward your education debt in return.

Starting in June, borrowers can enroll with Shared Harvest Fund. Users create a profile and list the social causes they’re interested in, such as gender equality or homelessness. You’ll work on projects for nonprofits and businesses and receive a monthly stipend of $250 to $1,000.

Although the work will start off in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, “eventually, people can live in Arkansas and do work for a nonprofit in Los Angeles,” said NanaEfua B.A.M, founder of Shared Harvest Fund.

3) Apps/online

Some people are turning to charity for help with their student loans, by detailing their story on a crowdfunding website like GoFundMe or YouCaring. One debtor, Andrew Daniel Rocha, managed to raise more than $5,600.

Keep in mind, Kantrowitz said, “these campaigns don’t seem to be successful unless the story is really compelling.”

Givling is an app that lets student loan borrowers play trivia, with the winning team each week earning roughly $5,000 per person. “Some people are not the best trivia players, but they’re motivated to get help with their student loans,” said Seth Beard, Givling’s chief marketing officer.

The app ChangeEd will put your spare change toward your student loan payments. For example, if you buy a coffee for $1.75, 25 cents will go toward your debt.

You can register your student loan account with Gift of College, an education registry, and then share your profile with friends and family, who can contribute funds directly to your debt. Nadine Perry, director of marketing at Gift of College, said: “Wouldn’t you rather get Aunt Emma to kick in toward your student loans than give you another ugly sweater for Christmas?”

THE REAL ESTATE BEAT

Got Questions – The Caton Team is here to help. We are but a call or click away!

The Caton Team is comprised of Susan and Sabrina Caton – a mother/daughter in law team.  We are full time, local Realtors with over 35 years of combined Real Estate experience.  How can The Caton Team help you?

I read this article at: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/15/crowdfunding-volunteering-trivia–and-other-unexpected-ways-to-wipe-out-your-student-debt.html

Remember to follow our Blog for the local real estate beat, a pulse on the San Francisco Peninsula at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

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What I’ve Learned From Visiting 100-Plus Open Houses in a Year

I’ve been house hunting for over a year (and counting) and visited over a hundred open houses in that time. Let me be clear: I’m not some overly picky real estate window shopper, because I have made offers, and been outbid. In New York City, where I’m looking, that’s just par for the course.

Still, though, my experiences have turned me into an open house aficionado of sorts. I know what makes buyers swoon (myself and others), as well as what repels buyers the moment they set foot inside.

So if you’re a home seller who hopes to bowl over buyers rather than send them running, I’m here to help. Let me tell you about a few things I’ve learned that could kill your chances of selling your home.

Personal quirks on display

Steak sauce, mustard, and hot sauce. These condiments were not in the kitchen (as one would expect) but on a dresser in a bedroom of an open house I attended in Queens. Right then and there, I knew I had to get out of the house. Who knows what was going on there, but it was just too weird for me to stick around and ponder the possibilities.

“First impressions matter,” says Gary Malin, president of the New York brokerage firm Citi Habitats. “Remember, you want the prospective buyer’s attention to be on the home, not your personal life.”

Remove all personal items, including family photos, unusual collectibles, memorabilia, and misplaced condiments.

Hovering home sellers (or their kids)

At an open house in Brooklyn, there was also a surprise in the bedroom: I walked in to find cute kids under the covers half-asleep. Granted, these kids weren’t there alone; their parents were lingering, too. But adult supervision or not, all these family members nearby made me want to flee, because I felt like I was intruding on their personal space.

“Home sellers often make the mistake of leaving their place too late and returning too soon,” says Aaron Hendon, an agent for Christine & Company with Keller Williams in Seattle.

A well-advertised open house will attract people early, and there will definitely be people arriving just as the agent is locking up. So plan on getting everyone up and out of bed an hour before the open house starts.

Dark, dusty rooms

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo I checked out in the suburban county of Westchester was spacious, but very dark. The windows were covered not only by lace curtains, but also by valances and vertical blinds. It felt less like a home and more like the inside of a crypt. I tried to open the curtains to get a sense of what the room would look like with Vitamin D. But there were too many window coverings to remove, and I could manage to let in only one ray of sun. Then I gave up and got out.

“The aim is to get as much natural light as possible and then turn on every lamp,” says Ashley Baillio of the Keyes Company in Florida.

She also recommends dusting blinds. If you don’t, the light will catch the dust and make the whole house appear dirty.

Cluttered closets and drawers

Open houses are all about strangers opening and closing things—closet doors, kitchen cabinets and drawers. I recall one apartment I instantly loved and was ready to make an offer on—until I opened the kitchen pantry. There were products in there with packaging I recognized from my childhood … at my grandmother’s house. It was only then that I realized the house actually needed a ton of work and had not been updated at all since the 1980s.

Bottom line: Every detail of your house resonates with buyers. Yet Linda Bettencourt of Sotheby’s International Realty in San Francisco often gets pushback on this topic.

“Clients will say, ‘People don’t care what my closet looks like!'” says Bettencourt.

But buyers do care, and all the details they glean help them form an opinion of your property

“Rather than remembering the beautiful skylight, they remember the medicine cabinet with a leaking bottle of Jean Naté body wash from 1983,” she adds.

Lack of snacks (As a Realtor this part made me laugh (just so you know – I provide snacks  – Sabrina)

There’s something about a platter of baked goods that makes people like me go wild. Think cookies and small bottles of water. (You may want to skip baking the cookies yourself, which can make savvy buyers think you are trying to conceal funky odors.)

“Refreshments are a nice touch,” says Baillio. After all, going to an open house takes effort—sometimes I went to several a day. When an open house offered a little snack to greet visitors, I would be in a better frame of mind when testing the water pressure in the shower. Having no snacks is not necessarily a deal killer; but in general, I’ve noticed that the better open houses tend to have something to nosh on, perhaps because they were managed by people who paid attention to details.

Cloth booties

At the last open house I went to a few weeks ago, the agent had visitors put on cloth booties to protect the floor. This is fairly standard procedure, but this house had steep, narrow stairs. Two potential buyers slipped on the staircase within 20 minutes. I pictured myself buying the house, only to fall to my death as I went downstairs for coffee. So as much as I liked the home, I didn’t make an offer that day. My husband made me tour the home again, sans booties. And after discovering the stairs were safe if you didn’t wear slippery booties, I fell in love and made an offer.

In this case, at least, I learned a lesson: First impressions can be deceptive. So if no one’s swooning over your open house immediately, don’t obsess about what you’ve done wrong. Sooner or later, the right buyer will come along.

By Margaret Heidenry

Got Questions – The Caton Team is here to help. We are but a call or click away!

The Caton Team is comprised of Susan and Sabrina Caton – a mother/daughter in law team.  We are full time, local Realtors with over 35 years of combined Real Estate experience.  How can The Caton Team help you?

I read this article at: https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/year-100-open-houses-why-i-havent-bought/

Remember to follow our Blog for the local real estate beat, a pulse on the San Francisco Peninsula at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office: 650-365-9200

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  http://thecatonteam.com/mobileapp

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Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabrinawendtcaton

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susancatonrealtor

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Effective. Efficient. Responsive.  What Can The Caton Team Do For You?

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE# 70000218/ Office BRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts and the information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. 

Should Buyers Crowdfund Their Way Into Homeownership?

In recent years, crowdfunding has become a popular way to pay for a remarkably wide range of ventures. Want to back a sliced-ketchup product, a self-serve cocktail machine, or maybe a charity race? Just pull out your smartphone. But more recently the technology has been moving a bit closer to home—right up, in fact, to your doorstep. Crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular way for aspiring home buyers to tap into their networks to come up with down payments.

A new wave of crowdfunding platforms, like Kickstarter for real estate, could be a game changer for younger, tech-savvy generations of home buyers saddled with student loan debt. It’s an idea that is gaining traction, with sites such as HomeFundMe and Feather the Nest, which helps folks raise money for down payments and repairs, and online registries such as HoneyFund, which includes the option of gifting a down payment contribution.

“The No. 1 challenge that we hear from millennials in terms of their ability to buy a home is the down payment,” says Jonathan Lawless, vice president of customer solutions for Fannie Mae. “Crowdsourcing is an interesting new way that a person can generate a down payment, one made possible by technology. … We think there is a great future for it.”

Users who are typically pre-qualified for a mortgage can create personal pages on these platforms, on which they can talk about their journey toward homeownership, illustrated with photos and maybe video. These pages can be shared with family and friends.

“[Many] people find they can afford [mortgage] payments, but not the down payment to own a home,” says Christopher George, CEO of CMG Financial, a San Ramon, CA–based mortgage banking firm that launched HomeFundMe late last year.

George, a father of four millennial sons, came up with the idea for HomeFundMe in 2016 after seeing the financial struggles of his kids’ generation. The crowdfunding platform is the only one of the bunch designed solely for down payments and is the first to be backed by mortgage industry giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“We’re talking to millennials saying their social network is their net worth,” George says. “Why not allow your sphere of influence [to] help as well?”

What you need to know about a crowdfunded down payment

Using gifted funds for a down payment can be tricky—mortgage lenders typically require a letter from the giver, specifying that the money is a gift, not a loan, and there are no strings attached. But using an online fundraising platform can allow buyers to bypass some of that red tape.

Using HomeFundMe, anyone can give up to $7,500 to a campaign without documentation. HomeFundMe also doesn’t charge fees to use the platform, or take a cut of what’s raised. The company will even give buyers $2 for every $1 they raise, up to $1,000, or up to 1% of the purchase price if they undergo home buyer counseling beforehand. Buyers who earn less than their area’s median income can earn up to $2,500, or 1% of the home price.

So what’s the catch? Crowdfunders must get their mortgage through HomeFundMe’s parent company, CMG Financial. They have to close on a home within a year of accepting their first gift. And if they don’t use the money to buy a home, funds marked “conditional on the recipient purchasing a home” are returned to the donor. The crowdfunder can keep the rest.

Other crowdfunding platforms have slightly different business models.

The online gift registry Feather the Nest has helped about half of its 3,000 “nesters” raise down payments since it launched in 2014, according to company officials.

Fees include a 5% transaction fee that goes to Feather the Nest, and a fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents that goes to its payment processing system, Stripe.

At HoneyFund, another online registry, about 6% of the 100,000 mostly millennial couples who use the site each year ask for down payments, according to company officials. There are no fees to use the platform, but users are charged 2.8% processing fees plus 30 cents per gift when the money is moved into their PayPal or WePay accounts.

“A lot of couples are not only saving for their home down payments but also home improvements,” HoneyFund CEO Sara Margulis says.

The dangers of crowdfunding your down payment

However, there are risks to buyers relying on crowdfunding to come up with money for a home.

“If somebody is not able to save for their own down payment, it might be because they are stretched financially. But it [also] might be that they are bad at saving,” says Fannie Mae’s Lawless. “The ability to generate savings is a critical aspect of being a responsible homeowner.”

Remember, it was homeowners who couldn’t really afford their homes that led to the financial crisis just over a decade ago. So helping more people who haven’t mastered the art of saving, or who may be so financially stretched that they can’t afford to save, is worrisome.

It’s “a very risky proposition,” says Rick Sharga, executive vice president at Carrington Mortgage Holdings, a real estate company in Aliso Viejo, CA. These kinds of buyers may be “one unexpected car payment, one roof repair, one water heater replacement away from missing a mortgage payment and possibly going into a downward cycle they can’t recover from.”

By Young Ha

Got Questions – The Caton Team is here to help. We are but a call or click away!

The Caton Team is comprised of Susan and Sabrina Caton – a mother/daughter in law team.  We are full time, local Realtors with over 35 years of combined Real Estate experience.  How can The Caton Team help you?

I read this article at: https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/online-platforms-to-help-millennials-crowdfund-payments/

Remember to follow our Blog for the local real estate beat, a pulse on the San Francisco Peninsula at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office: 650-365-9200

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  http://thecatonteam.com/mobileapp

HomeSnaphttp://www.homesnap.com/Sabrina-Caton

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PINTREST: https://www.pinterest.com/thecatonteam/

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YELP us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or YELP me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabrinawendtcaton

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susancatonrealtor

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Effective. Efficient. Responsive.  What Can The Caton Team Do For You?

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE# 70000218/ Office BRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts and the information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. 

Off Market Opportunity in Redwood City

The Caton Team Presents 

Poplar Ave  – West Side Redwood City –

2 Beds | 1 Renovated Bath 

860 Sqft Updated Home | 2500 Sqft Lot | 1 Car Attached Garage

Poplar Avenue is a lovely tree lined street situated in west side Redwood City, close to shopping, restaurants and parks.  Welcome Home to Opportunity – this 860 sqft home has been tastefully updated home with a cute kitchen, featuring a gas oven range, granite countertops, an elegant living room dining room combo with recessed lighting, fire place, and hard wood floors throughout.  Plantation shutters for privacy and light, these two bedrooms share an updated bath with cement tiles, shower over tub surrounded by subway tile, newer fixtures and windows.  The backyard is ready for summer.   This home is ready to call your own.  We request, if possible, 30-60 days rent back.

Offered at $1,050,000

Comparable Redwood City Sales: 

443 Upton – 2 Bed / 1 Bath at 790 sqft home 2750 sqft lot | Sold for $1,227,400 on 6.1.18 

ML81703512

211 Alexander  2 Bed / 1 Bath at 720 sqft 2550 sqft lot | Sold for $1,200,000 on 4.11.18 

ML81695847

Contact The Caton Team

Sabrina

650-799-4333

Susan

650-796-0654

Email

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3201 Jefferson Ave. Redwood City CA 94062

5 Ways You’re Destroying Your Lawn

A beautiful, well-manicured lawn is a source of great pride for many homeowners. Maintaining a healthy lawn takes work and hours of TLC, including regular watering, cutting, and laying down fertilizer. A lawn that’s cared for shows that you take pride in your home’s appearance. And all that curb appeal can really pay off when it comes time to sell your house.

However, your lawn can also become a source of gut-wrenching angst. Reason: Many well-meaning and proactive homeowners make mistakes in lawn care that produce dreadful and depressing results. A little too much love can be, well, too much.

If your lawn has been looking particularly sickly, you might be to blame. Reflect on your lawn care regimen and ask yourself: Have you made any of the mistakes below? The answer to solving your lawn troubles may be realizing you’ve been ruining it all along.

1. Improper watering

Water management is the No. 1 mistake made by homeowners with established lawns, according to Clint Waltz, professor and turfgrass extension specialist in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia. So just how much water does your lawn need per week?

“Watering just an inch of water a week is good if you have good rainfall,” Waltz says. If you’re in an area that doesn’t receive as much rain, then you’ll need to lend a helping hand with more frequent waterings.

To check how much water your lawn gets each week, leave several cups out and measure the water level at the end of seven days.

An irrigation system can help your lawn get the water it needs and maintain a consistent watering schedule. Some sprinkler systems even have rain or moisture sensors to detect water levels and turn the system on and off.

2. Planting only one type (or the wrong kind) of grass

Variety is not only the spice of life—it’s also a necessary ingredient for a healthy lawn, according to Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Association of Landscape Professionals in Fairfax, VA.

“When planting grass seed, choose a variety of seeds so your lawn is more likely to weather poor conditions like heat and drought,” she advises.

You also need to determine the best grass for your environment.

“Species selection is critical, and you have to understand which species fits in each site,” Waltz says. For example, he says, Bermuda grass doesn’t handle shady environments well. Also, if you live in the southern region with hot summers and mild winters, consider such warm-season turf types as St. Augustine grass, zoysia grass, and centipede grass.

However, if you live in the northern region and experience bitter cold winters, tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass are better bets.

Some people live in regions with weather at both extremes. For those areas, Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, zoysia grass, and Bermuda grass are good choices. Waltz recommends checking with your local county extension agent or university specialist to find out which grasses grow best in your area.

3. Not taking soil health seriously

A healthy lawn starts below the surface, in the soil.

“If your soil is compacted or missing necessary nutrients, grass will not thrive, no matter how hard you try,” Henriksen says. She recommends aerating your lawn every one or two years, depending on your soil type. Aerating is the process of putting small holes in the lawn so water, air, and nutrients can reach the soil.

“A soil test should be conducted at least every three years to determine what nutrients are needed so the proper fertilizer can be used,” says Henriksen. Once you determine the correct type of fertilizer, she says, it needs to be applied correctly.

“Correctly means at the right time of year, in proper amounts, and with the correct applicator,” she says. “And you should consult manufacturer recommendations for guidance.”

4. Mowing the lawn at the wrong time

Contrary to what you might see on lawnmower commercials, most homeowners don’t get excited about mowing their lawn. But when the time comes, it’s important to mow your lawn under the right conditions.

“Generally, grass should be trimmed to 2½ to 3 inches, depending on the grass type, and no more than a third of the grass blade should be removed at one time,” says Henriksen. So if it’s at or below that height, hold off on cutting. Grass that’s too short stresses the grass blades and makes them more susceptible to disease, she says.

Mowing wet grass is another mistake many homeowners make. The moisture will weigh the grass blades down and make it difficult to get a clean, straight cut. The wet clippings will also clump up and make your lawn look uneven.

Also, failing to keep the mower blades sharp causes the cuts to be ragged, and this increases the chances that the grass will develop diseases and attract pests.

You should also refrain from mowing your lawn in the same direction every time; otherwise, you’ll end up creating grooves in the grass. (Grooves are not groovy.)

5. Not knowing environmental stressors

Environmental stressors are conditions that affect the ability of grass to thrive.

“These stressors include excessive amounts of precipitation, drought, temperature extremes, construction, and foot traffic,” Henriksen says, “and each can take its toll on the health of your lawn.”

For example, if you overwater your grass, the excessive moisture creates the perfect conditions for weeds, leaf mold, and leaf spots.

“Lawns that are overfertilized are also susceptible to weeds, while lawns that have heavy foot traffic can experience compacted soil, which is problematic for their health,” she explains. Too much foot traffic will prevent water from reaching the roots, and when that happens, you’ll be left with a brown lawn.

By Terri Williams

Got Questions – The Caton Team is here to help. We are but a call or click away!

The Caton Team is comprised of Susan and Sabrina Caton – a mother/daughter in law team.  We are full time, local Realtors with over 35 years of combined Real Estate experience.  How can The Caton Team help you?

I read this article at: https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/ruining-your-lawn/

Remember to follow our Blog for the local real estate beat, a pulse on the San Francisco Peninsula at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office: 650-365-9200

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  http://thecatonteam.com/mobileapp

HomeSnaphttp://www.homesnap.com/Sabrina-Caton

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit our INSTAGRAM page:  http://instagram.com/thecatonteam

PINTREST: https://www.pinterest.com/thecatonteam/

Visit us on FACEBOOK:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

YELP us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or YELP me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabrinawendtcaton

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susancatonrealtor

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Effective. Efficient. Responsive.  What Can The Caton Team Do For You?

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE# 70000218/ Office BRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts and the information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. 

How Safe Are Your Passwords?

When Yahoo! reported that someone hacked one billion of its accounts, it was a stunning revelation. Then it disclosed last fall that the names, dates of birth, email addresses, passwords and security questions and answers were compromised on all three billion of its accounts. For many, this news was devastating.

That’s because the vast majority of us use the same password or too close a variation of the same password for everything we access. Research also tells us that the average strength of our passwords is low. Also, most of us rarely change our passwords. In a 2017 survey, Keeper Security found over 80 percent of us reuse the same password, and nearly a third of us (29 percent) share a password with two or more people.

Keeping your passwords safe

Today, it seems hardly a month goes by that we don’t hear about a major data breach involving a well-known brand. Microsoft-owned LinkedIn had 117 million emails and passwords hacked. eBay had all of its 145 million usernames, emails, passwords, and dates of birth compromised.

Even firms in the business of keeping information safe and secure are on the list of the most prominent data breaches ever. Equifax, the major credit data firm, had millions of customer passwords and emails stolen. RSA Security had a theft that compromised its SecureID two-factor authentication tokens. They are considered the gold standard of security.

Dozens of major company online account records have been hacked. That means the likelihood your email and password from one of those accounts have been sold is very high. How do you keep your password safe?

We talked to our experts at Tech Helpline. Tech Helpline is the real estate industry’s #1 tech support service, available to nearly half the Realtors in North America. That’s more than 500,000 Realtors in the U.S. and Canada. Tech Helpline’s staff of professional tech analysts have about 300 years of combined IT experience. Most importantly, they work with real estate agents every day.

Here are some best practice recommendations when it comes to keeping your passwords safe.

Make sure you haven’t been compromised

Have your email and favorite password already been compromised? With so many data breaches, how do you know if your information might be for sale on the dark web?

Fortunately, there is a safe and trustworthy website that will tell you if your email or password is somewhere online – and the source that exposed it. The site is called “have i been pwned?” You can read about why Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director, created it, as well as find the links to check your email and password, here: https://haveibeenpwned.com.

It might scare you, but you might not even have to go to the Dark Web to learn if your password and email address has been compromised. A Google Search just might reveal a list of passwords and emails hackers use with “brute force” software to break into accounts. You just might find your password on that text file.

How strong is your password?

There are several online tools that you can use to pre-test the strength of your password. The stronger your password, the safer your password. Check out How Secure Is My Password or Password Meter.

Tech Helpline analysts suggest that you can use a variation of a password safely for different accounts, as long as you keep in mind a few best practices:

  • Use 12-14 characters
  • Include caps, numbers and special characters (if allowed)
  • These first two requirements are part of the algorithm password testers tend to use
  • Make it unique, but very easy to remember for you

Remember, one of the most common ways that hackers can break into accounts is by guessing common passwords. The more difficult your passwords are, the higher the likelihood that a hacker will simply look for easier targets.

Also, some firms, including banks, are offering a new option called a “passphrase.” Instead of a single word and characters, it is a sequence of words or other text that acts as a password. They can be much harder for hackers to crack, and easier for you to remember, such as “Wh@t is th3 PassWord?”

Beware of stored passwords in your browser

Most of us store passwords in our favorite browser because it’s a huge time saver. The bigger benefit: we don’t have to remember which password we used! After all, when we see our passwords populate, they appear hidden – as asterisks. So, they are safe, right?

Well, not entirely. Two things you need to realize. First, most browsers will allow you to see every single password stored. In Chrome, for example, if you have your computer’s single admin password, it will reveal your password for every one of your stored accounts. Second, there are software programs that will export all of your passwords from almost any browser.

For example, WebBrowserPassView is a free password recovery tool for Windows that reveals the passwords stored in web browsers, including Internet Explorer (Version 4.0 – 11.0), Mozilla Firefox (all versions), Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. The publishers note, “This tool can be used to recover your lost/forgotten password of any Website, including popular Web sites (sic), like Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and Gmail, as long as your Web Browser stores the password.”

This is another reason why your computer must be password protected.

Using a password program

The best practice may not always be the cheapest one, but it is, the experts say, the safest one. Use a password software program such as Dashlane, LastPass or Keeper.

For typically less than $30 a year, these programs do the heavy lifting of password security management for you. That’s a tiny price to pay if you think what it could cost you if a hacker got into your bank or PayPal account. These programs help you use a different, incredibly strong password for every site and account you have. You only have one password to remember, and that’s to enable the password manager.

There are some free options, with more limited features, as well those that PC Magazine lists here.

Write them down

The experts remind you to write all of your passwords down. You then need to put them in a safe or safety deposit box. This is vital, because if something were ever to happen to you, your significant other, or heirs, they will need access to your accounts. They will also need access to your smartphone, your computer and any other device that requires a password.

Take these five simple steps say our friends at Tech Helpline, and you will have what you can do to keep your passwords safe.

For additional insight from the Tech Helpline experts, check out these articles:

Tricia Stamper is Director of Technology at Florida Realtors.® Florida Realtors owns both Tech Helpline and Form Simplicity.

Got Questions – The Caton Team is here to help. We are but a call or click away!

The Caton Team is comprised of Susan and Sabrina Caton – a mother/daughter in law team.  We are full time, local Realtors with over 35 years of combined Real Estate experience.  How can The Caton Team help you?

I read this article at: https://retechnology.com/index.php?option=com_retechcontent&view=content&layout=articles&item_id=21623&Itemid=150

Remember to follow our Blog for the local real estate beat, a pulse on the San Francisco Peninsula at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office: 650-365-9200

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  http://thecatonteam.com/mobileapp

HomeSnaphttp://www.homesnap.com/Sabrina-Caton

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit our INSTAGRAM page:  http://instagram.com/thecatonteam

PINTREST: https://www.pinterest.com/thecatonteam/

Visit us on FACEBOOK:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

YELP us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or YELP me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabrinawendtcaton

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susancatonrealtor

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Effective. Efficient. Responsive.  What Can The Caton Team Do For You?

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE# 70000218/ Office BRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts and the information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. 

The Caton Team and Landed – Teacher Down Payment Assistance Program

For those of you in the know – you may have heard of the Landed Grant for local teachers.  It is an amazing down payment assistance program to keep our teachers here – with us.

In July of 2017 we heard about the program and we reached out to Landed directly – eager to work with local teachers and keep their talent in our local schools.

Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of working with a couple of Landed teachers and I am so proud to say – The Caton Team got them into HOMES! 

The Real Estate Market in the Bay Area has been booming with no signs of stopping.  When we sat down with our Landed clients we made sure we knew their time line and they knew how the market works.  It didn’t take them long to see how quickly homes were selling and truly how competitive it is.  

Sometimes in order to succeed you’ve got to go against the crowds and in order for us to get homes – not condos for our teachers we did have to go against the grain.  But with their trust and determination – together we were able to find them a lovely home – and make an offer without any competition.

It was an amazing moment for us.  Our client realized the speed of the market and adjusted their course.  They had their eyes on a home that didn’t sell right away and we had a chance to be the only offer, to offer below list price and have time for contingencies – terms we rarely see anymore.  The seller and their agent were wonderful to work with – and together we mades their dreams come true.

You don’t need to be a teacher to put us to work.  The Caton Team are full time Realtors, with over 35 years of combined, local real estate experience.  We work hard for each of our clients to turn their dreams into realty.  How can The Caton Team help you?

Got Questions – The Caton Team is here to help. We are but a call or click away!

The Caton Team is comprised of Susan and Sabrina Caton – a mother/daughter in law team.  We are full time, local Realtors with over 35 years of combined Real Estate experience.  How can The Caton Team help you?

To learn more about Landed visit:  https://www.landed.com

Remember to follow our Blog for the local real estate beat, a pulse on the San Francisco Peninsula at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office: 650-365-9200

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  http://thecatonteam.com/mobileapp

HomeSnaphttp://www.homesnap.com/Sabrina-Caton

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit our INSTAGRAM page:  http://instagram.com/thecatonteam

PINTREST: https://www.pinterest.com/thecatonteam/

Visit us on FACEBOOK:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

YELP us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or YELP me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/sabrinawendtcaton

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susancatonrealtor

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

 

Please note –

Landed is not exclusively for traditional, classroom teachers.

Landed believes that education doesn’t happen just in the classroom; it also happens in the hallways, in the cafeteria, in the gym, in the guidance counselor’s office, in the bandroom… Schools are like a village: there are many different people playing many different roles and it takes each and every one of them to build a healthy environment for our students.

Landed’s mission is to uphold those who uphold us, and that means upholding each and every person pulling their weight to educate America’s future. All staff members who have worked for a minimum of two years at least part-time in a partner public or partner charter school are eligible to use Landed’s down payment support. This includes classroom teachers, coaches, interventionists, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, nurses, administrators, social workers, occupational therapists, department chairs, security guards, physical therapists, janitors, principals, and the many more valuable professionals working tirelessly to make a difference in students’ lives everyday.

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Effective. Efficient. Responsive.  What Can The Caton Team Do For You?

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE# 70000218/ Office BRE #01499008

The Caton Team does not receive compensation for any posts and the information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.