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Data Protection Challenges and Opportunities in Real Estate

By Jamie Richardson | September 21, 2021

The real estate industry is rapidly changing. For a long time, experts in the US would correlate the growth of properties with the availability of community amenities, population densities and proximity to the city center.

According to the McKinsey & Company, relating data to property value is increasingly difficult in 2021. There’s a huge mass of data nowadays. And unlike two decades ago, relating big data to real estate market prices is challenging for experts.

In this article, we’ll delve more into the data that matters to real estate in 2021. We’ll also highlight the challenges that come with protecting this data and the problems that lie therein.

Turning Data into a Portfolio Safely

Figuring out which data moves the needle in real estate is already challenging. Collecting this data, analyzing and converting it into a portfolio safely is even more difficult. You can always collect real estate data manually and keep it in safe offline files.

But in this era of technology, organizing your data digitally makes a lot more sense. For starters, it’s cheaper to collect data digitally. Secondly, it saves time. The only problem is creating secure algorithms that can convert raw data into meaningful information.

To solve this problem, realty organizations can hire a team of experts in data science. They need data collectors, engineers, programmers and security experts. In other words, it takes concerted efforts to gather and analyze data safely in the real estate business. 

Proper Access Control

Employees remain the biggest threat to breaching data in any organization. This applies to both small and large corporation. Take social media company Snapchat as an example. In 2016, a cyber attacker tricked a Snapchat employee to email them a list of salary information belonging to 700 employees in the company.

In many cases, employees breach data unknowingly. All the same, that’s not an excuse real estate managers can use for failure to secure data. You can teach your employees and colleague on how to avoid online safety threats.

At the basic levels, all employees should exercise common sense in handling data. That means not opening emails from unknown persons or visiting suspicious sites. More importantly, equip your workers with essential security tools like antimalware programs and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

Antivirus programs detect and neutralize unwanted computer threats like viruses, worms, ransomware, phishing mails, spyware and adware. On the flip side, VPNs secure your Internet connection.

Precisely, you get a new VPN server address to shield your real address from online snoopers. Instead, you can use an address located in a different city, state or continent. These security tools also encrypt your data through military grade techniques, making it impossible for hackers to get hold of your data.

 Identifying and Prioritizing Sensitive Data

As we mentioned earlier, data and its importance in real estate keeps changing. In 1990, the presence of a Starbuck within a quarter a mile drove property prices through the roof. In 2021, the presence of four Starbucks within a quarter a mile impacts property value negatively.

Against that backdrop, it’s challenging to identify the most valuable pieces of information in real estate. Using tools to rank and classify data can help improve your data protection efforts. Find a tool to help you assess data sensitivity.

Alternatively, define data sensitivity in your office. Create rules for data to protect the most based on its importance in furthering your company’s goals. Next, find a tool to streamline the data classification policy.

Figuring out where each piece of data belongs is crucial in securing all data in your real estate organization. Not only does this help tag and reference data quickly but it also helps you determine the level of security to use for different data subsets.

Compliance With Regulators 

Some 41% of businesses cite compliance with data regulation as the biggest challenge facing their organization. That’s because the list of regulations organizations needs to compliance with keep ballooning.

A couple of years, everyone was talking about General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In 2021, multiple states in the US and countries around the world have unique data protection laws. Although many realtors might be willing to comply with these regulations, keeping up with the challenges can be taxing. 

In many cases, businesses have to consult with data protection experts to address these challenges. So, depending on the jurisdictions a real estate targets, the cost of complying with data protection laws can be significant. 

Outsourcing Safely

To cut on data collection costs, it’s common for real estate agencies to outsource some responsibilities to independent firms. The problem: outsourcing increases vulnerabilities in data protection.

If you outsource to a company that doesn’t take data protection seriously, then you risk breaching sensitive company data. Another challenge is keeping data safe while it’s transferred among all the organizations involved.

Data can easily get leaked if being transmitted through unsafe solutions. To solve this problem, you need to have ironclad data protection and transfer solutions always. What’s more, you need to review your tools regularly.

Retaining Useful Data for Long-term Benefits

Choosing data to retain in the long run can be confusing for several reasons. First, this might be against local regulations. Secondly, it adds to the bulk of data you need to take care of in the long term.

Expert knowledge is needed to figure out the sensitive data you should pay to keep safe for years. Your choice should be determined by the benefits this data has to your organization, at least compared to the risks involved.

If you have data whose disadvantages outweigh the benefits of storing it long-term, then review your data retention rules. You may also invest in cyber liability insurance services in case you experience business data breaches.


Like many industries, the real estate sector has to battle the problem of growing digital data. There’s too much information that can impact real estate positively or negatively. Due to that, you can’t rely on manual data collection and protection tactics anymore.

Instead, the most forward-thinking businesses need to hire qualified experts and use proper tools to handle data. They need to protect this information while keeping their costs low and getting rid of unhelpful information safely.

Photo by Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash

Jamie is a 5-year freelance writer who enjoys real estate. He is currently a Realty Biz News Contributor.
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