The Surveillance Seller: The Latest Concern for Real Estate Buyers and Agents
Imagine that you are looking for a new home with your spouse and children, and while at a showing, the agent gets a strange call. It’s her listing agent who informs her that the sellers are watching all of you on a camera, and they want to make sure your children are careful around the china cabinet…
What? This happens? It most certainly does, and it’s definitely freaky. Plus, it raises some legal and ethical questions, too. This has become more of an issue than ever before with real estate, and agents are really dealing with something they have never had to worry about before.
In general, there are laws out there about recording people without their knowledge, but these laws vary by state, and what is covered in one place might not be covered in another. On top of that, most real estate agents aren’t aware of what is legal and what is not. Some states, for example, only require that one person knows that the surveillance is happening, but in other states, both parties must be aware. Other states require that a notice is posted if recording is happening.
The majority of agents believe that they have an obligation to tell their clients if they know that there is recording equipment in a home, but at the same time, they might not know either. This can also, of course, cause some legal issues during a negotiation, as potential buyers might be discussing strategy during the showing, while a seller could be listening in, giving them the upper hand. Some agents have even told their clients that they shouldn’t talk about what they are thinking about a house until they are outside and away from any potential recording equipment.
On the other hand, some sellers believe that they have an absolute right to record in their own homes, and they very well may have that right. Again, in general, things are quite cloudy here, and they are only set to get cloudier as time goes on.
At this point, it’s not even just traditional surveillance cameras that homeowners are using. They also are using smart-home technology to keep an eye on their homes including video game consoles, smart door bells, and even devices like Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices. Of course, there are also a number of privacy concern associated with these things, too. As these devices get cheaper than ever before, more and more homeowners are jumping on the surveillance bandwagon. So, if you are a in the market to buy or sell a home, make sure you talk to your realtor about this, especially if you are a seller who has these devices in the home.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.