Lessons From a Cyber-Attack

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Real Estate

It is our habit to visit the Fresno Multiple Listing Service (MLS) every morning. We want to keep abreast of what has happened in our real estate market in the past 24 hours: new listings, homes that have come back on the market, price reductions, homes that have gone into contract (pending), and homes sold. On Wednesday, August 9th, we were in for an unpleasant surprise: the Fresno MLS was down. We soon discovered that the technology vendor (Rapattoni) that hosts our MLS and the same service for other real estate associations around the country had suffered a cyber-attack. The MLS syndicates to the large online search engines as well, so most consumers were in the dark. For almost two weeks, Rapattoni worked to restore services. In the meantime: appraisers could not complete appraisals, because they lacked access to information about comparable sales; realtors could not view new listings or listing photos to share with their clients; and buyers had no online access to those listings to search for homes.


Local Realtors and the Fresno Association of Realtors (FAR) rallied to overcome these obstacles. FAR sent Google spreadsheets via email, with hourly updates of new listings, open houses, price reductions, and status changes to Realtors. Realtors met via Zoom and in person to share their listing information and show photos of their homes. Many of us were happy to see such camaraderie and resilience in the face of this technological challenge. Thankfully, Rapattoni and the Fresno Association of Realtors solved the problem on August 22nd. Our MLS is back up and running, although not all features are working properly yet. We are reminded that all organizations in today’s technological landscape need to have effective safeguards against cyber-attack, including regularly backing up vulnerable systems and data. What is the lesson for real estate clients and professionals?


Technology is great. Until it isn’t. Increasingly, consumers search for information about homes and real estate online. The amount of data at our fingertips is staggering. This has created great convenience for clients and Realtors. This recent experience reminds us that no technology is flawless. It is tempting to believe in “agent-empowered technology,” in which technology takes the front seat and real estate professionals are relegated to a secondary position. But technology can only do so much, which is why I am a believer in “technology-empowered agents,” where agents are foremost and use technology to help clients. 


There is no substitute for a good relationship with a trustworthy Realtor. Online algorithms lack the nuanced understanding of a particular market, are unable to judge a home’s value accurately without seeing that home and comparing it to others, and cannot answer the very human questions at the heart of real estate transactions. At Haydock Real Estate, we take a thoughtful approach to our fiduciary responsibility to our clients. And when technology fails or falters, we keep working, finding creative ways to help our sellers and our buyers achieve their real estate goals.