A Kelowna real estate group hit by hackers is dealing with the fallout of some confidential information being siphoned and leaked onto the internet.
RE/MAX Kelowna has confirmed that in early February, its servers were breached by a malicious group, during a software update.
Although the real estate group found out about the breach and shut it down within “minutes,” RE/MAX Kelowna owner Jerry Redman did confirm some data was stolen.
However, he said less than one per cent of the data on the server was taken – none of which was from clients.
“There is no client data on that server … anybody who has information on that server has been informed of it, as they are all my employees, or work for us,” said Redman.
At the time, the group believed no data had been leaked, until they were notified in the days following.
On Feb. 4, the information was published online by a well-known ransomware group, viewable by anyone with the link. The group has been known in the past to steal data, and hold it for ransom, threatening to leak it online unless payment is received.
Redman said RE/MAX Kelowna was not held at ransom because the breach was stopped.
However, some documents managed to leak online. A link shows a folder containing 10,612 documents of varying importance; from quarterly statements, to buyer/seller records, as well as internal bank account information.
According to the website, thousands have viewed the link to date. As of Feb. 10, the link to the online folder remains live.
Redman’s team is now focused on investigating the matter with the support of a cyber-security company, and hope to know more within the coming weeks. He said security is of the utmost importance.
Emsisoft anti-malware threat researcher Brett Callow, who helped to expose the breach, said businesses can significantly reduce risks to their business by adhering to security best practices.
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Toronto woman says she was sexually harassed by real estate agent while looking for an apartment – CTV Toronto
A Toronto woman is sharing her story after she says she was sexually harassed by a real estate agent while looking for a rental apartment in the city.
Originally from Belleville, Ont., Alyssa Graham made the move to downtown Toronto in 2014 and has been living there ever since.
Graham said she started searching for a new place in mid-January, with plans to move in on Feb. 1.
“This certain property that I wanted was listed on Zolo.ca. So I just reached out to them and asked them if it was still available,” Graham told CTV News Toronto.
From there, Graham said she was paired up with a real estate agent who was “very confident” he could find her a place by her desired move-in date.
And while her first pick for a rental property fell through, Graham said she agreed to work with the agent on a go-forward basis.
That’s when things started to get weird, she said.
Graham said she noticed that some of the texts and phone conversations with the agent were “rather flirty.”
“I answered the phone and I said ‘hello’ and he said ‘you sound so sexy when you answer the phone.’”
Nonetheless, Graham said she agreed to meet the agent for a showing at another unit as she was desperate for housing, chalking up his unorthodox approach to being part of his “spiel.”
“This was our first time meeting. He kept calling it a date, he kept asking when we were going to make out, he offered to pay $500 a month in rent for me.”
“When we were leaving the unit, he shut all the lights off and the door was locked. We’re in a pitch-black apartment, I can’t even see my hand in front of me. I’m trying to find a door to get out, but I can’t see anything.”
When the real estate agent eventually did turn the lights back on, Graham said she was eager to remove herself from the situation, but that he continued his advances.
Graham explained that following the showing, the agent was insistent on driving her home and that he would “not take no for an answer.”
She said she apprehensively accepted the offer and was dropped off at a nearby hotel, where she had been staying while in between apartments.
“He dropped me off and was like ‘so can I get a kiss?’” she said. Graham quickly refused and then made her way into the hotel.
The agent then called her asking if he should come up to her room and offered to “get a place for the night” if she was interested, Graham alleges.
After a number of unanswered texts and phone calls from the agent later — where Graham says he claimed that he couldn’t help being attracted to his client — Graham said she decided to report the incident to his employer, Zolo.
“I told them everything that happened, that I don’t think he submitted any offers for me, that he wasted a month of time, cost me money, scared me, made me incredibly uncomfortable, etc.” Graham said.
Graham admits that she was originally nervous to submit the complaint as it would likely result in his termination and that the agent was aware of where she was living.
She said she was assured by the company that she “should be fine” because Zolo has “screenings for things like that.”
“We would have caught that,” she said she was told.
In a statement issued to CTV News Toronto on Thursday , Zolo president Mustafa Abbasi said the company acted quickly to address the issue.
“In January 2021, Zolo received a complaint from a customer regarding their interaction with an agent. We acted swiftly and in accordance with our zero-tolerance policy, terminating the agent effective immediately, within 24 hours of receiving the complaint,” the statement reads.
But Graham said that weeks later, the agent reached back out to her asking for her to retract her complaint so that he could be reinstated.
She refused, but agreed to speak with his boss in exchange for compensation for the money paid to cover her hotel expenses.
“We signed a contract for this, which was also sent to his boss, and I spoke with his boss, and they reinstated him.”
Graham said the agent agreed to pay her $1,500 to cover those expenses, of which he has paid $150.
“I’ve contacted him about the payments countless times, which I don’t like doing as this man made me feel very uncomfortable in the past, he’s now claiming he’s not paying me and has blocked my emails and texts,” she said.
However, in a follow up statement to CTV News Toronto, Abbasi claimed that the agent was not reinstated following his termination adding that he is “no longer affiliated with Zolo in any way.”
With relief, Graham said she was finally able to find an apartment with a female real estate agent and is set to move out of the hotel on March 1. But she says that the “nightmare” experience has left its mark.
“With COVID-19, it’s been hard for everyone, but I’ve had some pretty rough days and he [the real estate agent] knows about those too and he was still giving me the runaround and I guess, just saw me as a piece of ass.”
“I thought I was talking to someone who was genuinely trying to help me, and it turned out not to be the case whatsoever.”
This Week’s Top Stories: BoC Says Canada Needs Real Estate Growth, While New Zealand Says Put People First – Better Dwelling
Time for your cheat sheet on this week’s most important stories.
Canadian Real Estate
Canada’s central bank didn’t just dismiss concerns about the hot real estate market, but welcomed them. Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem dismissed the need for cooling measures during a media Q&A . Macklem said, “I think right now the economy is weak… I think we need the support.”
The governor repeated, “we need the growth we can get [from real estate].” In other words, Canada’s economy has become so dependent on real estate, it has no choice but to embrace the issue.
Bonds are normally boring, but a big swing makes this an exception – especially for real estate. The Bank of Canada’s 5-year benchmark bond influences 5-year fixed mortgage rates. The yield of that bond reached 0.94% on Thursday, increasing a whole 20 bps from a day before. Yields are now up 59.15% from a week before, and double a month before. They’re also about 3x from last year’s lows in August.
How does that influence mortgage rates? The 5-year fixed mortgage competes for the same capital. If the 5-year benchmark rises, mortgage rates are likely to rise as well. Rising bond rates also tend to reflect increased inflation risk. This could send other types of mortgage rates higher as well. Just in time to provide a cooling measure for the spring market.
The pandemic is slowing Canada’s population growth, but builders are still on time with deliveries. Builders delivered an unprecedented 18.41 homes per person the population grew by in Q4 2020. This is up from a record quarter of 2.26 homes per person in the previous quarters.
Over the past year, there was a new home completed for 95% of the population growth. Considering homes on average are occupied by 2.9 people on average, it’s a lot of supply. Pressure on home prices to rise should be released, but it’s not. It’s actually accelerating. That would be because once prices are no longer based on fundamentals, they no longer respond to them.
Canada’s consumer price index (CPI) is much higher when mortgage interest is excluded. CPI increased 0.58% in January, up 1.02% from a year before. When excluding mortgage interest, it rises 0.72% for the month, and is 1.30% higher. CPI has been extremely volatile during the pandemic, and this is just another example. If you didn’t refinance your home in the past year, your cost of living is 30% higher than the government thinks it is.
Canadian home equity lines of credit (HELOC) balances saw minor growth. The outstanding balance reached $2.59 billion in December, up 1.58% from a year before. The monthly drop was the biggest for the segment since 1992, and annual growth was the slowest since 2015. Great for households to minimize credit growth during a period of uncertainty. Bad for the economy, since it’s become so heavily dependent on credit growth to operate.
Canadian mortgage debt is growing at the fastest pace in over a decade. The balance of mortgage credit reached $1.66 trillion in December, up 7.67% from a year before. This marks the 22nd consecutive month of annual growth accelerating. This is also the highest rate of growth since 2010, over a decade ago. To put that number in context, mortgage debt over the past 12 months grew by over 6% of GDP.
A few days before our above column on soaring yields, we noticed yields were positioning to climb. The 5-year GOC benchmark bond yield reached 0.59% on February 18, 2021 – an increase of 17 bps from a month before. This was enough to watch the bump. A couple days after this article was written, yields bumped 20 bps higher in a single day. Some mortgage lenders have already announced higher 5-year fixed rates. The rest are likely to follow over the next few days.
Data from Canada’s national statistics agency shows commercial real estate isn’t uniformly impacted. Commercial retail rents have fallen 3.96% in Q4 2020, bringing them 6.14% lower than a year before. Office rents climbed 0.49% in the same quarter, and are now up 1.29% from a year before though. Retail rents are at a multi-year low, while office rents just printed an all-time high. An unusual dynamic, considering office rents are bucking the work-from-home trend, while retail is feeling the full brunt.
Canada’s largest bank widened the spread of their best and worst case scenario. RBC’s best case for real estate is the benchmark price rising 8% over the next 12 months. This is an increase of 2 points compared to the previous quarterly forecast. The downside remained the same though, with a worst case of 29.6% in this scenario. A positive revision across the board would have been a good thing. However, the worst case staying the same means a wider range of outcomes. This means more uncertainty is being considered.
Toronto Real Estate
Greater Toronto new home sales are ripping higher, but the city is being left behind. There are 2,171 new home sales in January, up 4.43% from the same year before. The modest increase was despite a 40% drop in new home sales for Toronto. The suburb of Durham more than picked up the slack, with sales in the region rising 301% from last year, and 876% from a year before. The flight from the city has spread to new homes.
Global Real Estate
New Zealand’s government will require the central bank to consider affordability in policy. The government stated housing is a “critical component of a sustainable and inclusive economy, and promotes the maintenance of a sound and efficient financial system.”
To ensure they can accomplish this, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand has requested new tools. One of those tools is the ability to utilize debt-to-income ratio limits. Both the government and central bank didn’t mince words, openly stating these measures are to target investors. The government is expected to announce further measures in the coming weeks.
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