May 12, 2022

Location, Location, Location: Data Protection in the Real Estate Industry

The decision of where and when to buy a home is one of the biggest decisions someone can make. To make the best decision possible, consumers look to real estate agents and mortgage firms to guide them through the experience and provide advice along the way. If potential buyers develop feelings of distrust, they can easily consult another firm. In addition to helping clients secure that dream home, a real estate organization’s data protection practices can also impact its reputation and consumer decisions.

Some may consider real estate organizations and associated mortgage firms as unlikely targets for data breaches. However, they often have access to personal information from their customers, such as emails, addresses, and phone numbers. Moreover, mortgage firms have access to sensitive financial information, such as bank account numbers, pay stubs, and social security numbers. Without the correct security measures in place, real estate and mortgage organizations can put their customers at risk of identity theft and fraud.

Professionals in the real estate industry recognize how vital data protection is to their business. In fact, Shred-it’s 2021 Data Protection Report found that three in five leaders in the real estate industry surveyed believe that information security is very important to their company and 42% state that a data breach would have a major impact on their reputation.

Despite these convictions, data breaches continue to be a significant and growing issue for real estate organizations. According to the 2021 Data Protection Report, seven in ten real estate industry companies surveyed have experienced a data breach at some point. In addition, 58% of real estate sector companies surveyed have experienced a data breach in the past year, second highest after the insurance industry.

Most organizations in the real estate sector understand that building a culture of data security is essential to reducing their chances of a data breach. As outlined in the 2021 Data Protection Report, companies in the real estate industry are more likely than companies in the insurance and professional services industries to have information security policies in place. These policies help employees understand how to best protect their customers’ sensitive data. Additionally, one in three of the real estate industry companies that were surveyed have regular infrastructure auditing to help them understand where they need to improve their security measures and policies.

Because real estate and mortgage organizations are a target for data breaches, they need to consider how to respond to a data breach should one occur. As shown in the 2021 Data Protection Report, less than a third of real estate companies surveyed have an incident response plan in place and, as a result, nearly half of real estate organizations that experienced a data breach took a few weeks to resolve it. Real estate organizations should be prepared to identify and contain data breaches as well as timely communicate breaches to internal and external stakeholders.

Investing in data protection helps give real estate and mortgage professionals, and their customers, peace-of-mind, so they can focus on finding that dream property. To learn more about data security in the real estate industry, download our Data Protection Report infographic and visit our real estate page. 

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