It is crazy how far technologically we have come, but at the same time how fragile our infrastructure is.  On of the largest cities in Atlanta (Fulton County) recently had a cyber “incident” which shut down the city and halted all real estate closings.  This isn’t unique to Atlanta as we had a similar incident in a county in Colorado.  What does this mean for borrowers, realtors, etc…?  What can/should you do?


What happened in Atlanta due to ransomware attack

As of this writing, it is still not public information what actually happened to cause the outage, but there is speculation that it is a large scale ransomware attack that infected computers throughout the county.  Regardless of what happened it has brought one of the largest cities in the US to a complete standstill and real estate closings to a screeching halt.

Why did a cyberattack bring all closings in Atlanta to a halt?

It is amazing how automated everything is regarding real estate from erecording to paying taxes online.  Unfortunately when something goes wrong there is no plan B.

  1. Property taxes: There is no way to confirm taxes on property have been paid, if there are any outstanding taxes due for water, sewer, sanitation, etc.. so title companies will take an exception.
  2. Title policies: Without access to records there is no way to pull a new title policy as no access to the property history, fortunately in Fulton they got this piece resolved quickly, but there is still an issue with item number one.
  3. Not able to record: With all systems down, it is typically not possible to record a mortgage/deed of trust as this is all done electronically, but fortunately in Fulton they got this piece resolved quickly, but there is still an issue with item number one.

Recent cyber incident not unique to Atlanta

There was an instance with a small county in Colorado where no closings could happen for almost 3 weeks as no title companies would insure policies in the county until they got their systems back up and running.  There was no work around as nobody could access the county records.

Impact on borrowers/lenders/realtors

The implications for real estate are huge when closings stop on a dime for any period of time

  1. Borrowers: with interest rates changing rapidly, borrowers could lose their rate locks depending on how long the incident takes to resolve
  2. Lenders: Lenders basically are unable to close any loans and they have interest rate risk as well especially as rates are moving so quickly. Even a small delay could cost a lender substantial money.
  3. Realtors: no closings mean no commission checks, everything is delayed and some closings might fall apart the longer this goes on.



It is amazing the risks in real estate with cyberattacks now at the top of the list.  As we can see in Atlanta, it is next to impossible for third parties like lenders, borrowers, sellers, or realtors to prepare for these incidents as there is no plan B for tax information or recording of mortgages.  It important to note that the increased risks form cyberattacks will ultimately increase costs as lenders have to plan for these events.  How much is still a question, but the frequency keeps increasing so ultimately there will be material impacts.

I’m sure Fulton will come back online within a few weeks (as of this writing they had already been down about 10 days), but a lot can happen in a few weeks in real estate from mortgage rate increases to deals falling apart due to delays.  Unfortunately I don’t have any great solutions other than to learn to adapt to incidents like the one that recently occurred in Atlanta and factor this into your cost structure.



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Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending.  Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in Bloomberg, Businessweek ,the Colorado Real Estate Journal, National Association of Realtors MagazineThe Real Deal real estate news, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.


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