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5 Ways to Protect Your Personal Data During Real Estate Transactions

When you're searching for the home of your dreams, you're probably focusing on factors such as spacious kitchens, spa-like bathrooms and neighborhood crime statistics. If you're selling your house, you're likely thinking about home staging techniques and ambiance.

However, there's another important but often-overlooked issue to take into consideration when you're in either or both of these situations: that the real estate agent you've enlisted for help is trustworthy and reliable.

In today's day and age, it's imperative that the real estate agent you're relying on throughout the process is professional, legitimate and capable of protecting your identity from start to finish.

Here are some important tips to take into consideration during your hunt for a new home—and for a reliable agent to guide you.

1. Check Out the Credentials and Work Habits of Your Real Estate Agent

You're putting a whole lot of trust into a real estate that you choose to work with when selling and/or buying a home. Be sure this individual is legitimate and certified. Seek referrals from those you trust, and ask prospective agents to share their credentials with you.

In addition, be sure that the agent is taking close care of your personal information. You should always ask how your personal information is stored, whether there are security measures in place and if important documents are shredded when they are no longer needed.

Don't settle for the first agent you meet, either. Make sure there's a professional relationship and that the agent fully understands your desires when it comes to both home features and personal data protection.

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2. Know When to Talk About Your Credit Score

It's a smart move to check your credit even before beginning your home search to be sure nothing seems suspicious. What's worse than losing out on a dream home to a higher bidder? Losing out on it due to an identity thief that's compromised your ability to secure a loan.

When it comes to the info that real estate agents ask for, know that agents should only request personal info such as Social Security numbers after a professional relationship has been established and a transaction is under way.

When a SSN is given, it should be done in person and only when absolutely necessary, such as during a credit check.

3. Be Sure Your Real Estate Agent Explains Everything You're Asked to Sign

There are numerous amounts of paperwork involved in real estate transactions, so be sure your agent explains what each document means. Don't be afraid to ask for more clarification whenever anything seems confusing.

4. Be Mindful of All That's Visible When Showing Your Home

If your home is on the market, it's also important that no personal data is easily visible to others walking through your home when you're not there. Be sure desks are tidied, all documents are kept in a secure and hidden place and that your computer screen is not left on, for example.

5. Enlist the Help of a Trustworthy Mortgage Company

Just as it's important that you find a real estate agent you trust, it's equally important that your mortgage professional keeps your personal data secure as well.

You should inquire about how the mortgage company stores your personal data, whether their computers are password-protected and if data is encrypted. Also check about how the info is exposed when it's no longer needed.

In addition, much like your real estate agent—be sure that every form you sign is explained to you. You can get clarification on the closing process by educating yourself ahead of time on all the forms that will be needed, but your real estate agent and lender should also be able to guide you when needed.

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