Smile! You and your buyers are on Candid Camera

Services for Real Estate Pros with Marte Cliff Copywriting

You may be too young to remember that old show, but it was entertaining. The producers staged all sorts of strange situations and then filmed how people reacted. I often wondered if some people said no when asked for permission to air the film.

Today, stores and cities have cameras all over the place as a deterrent to crime. Carssurveilance camera have dash-cams that can come in handy to prove that an accident really wasn’t the driver’s fault. Cops also have dash cams and body cams. Then there are the cameras in the sky, along with the cameras in cell phones that seem to be in everyone’s hands at all times.

I live out in the woods, and yet… A Google Earth photo of my neighbor’s house showed our truck parked next to his apple tree. Had anyone been interested, they probably could have zoomed in and watched us climbing the ladders. Did some observer count how many apples we put in our buckets that day?  They could have.

In other words, at any given moment, you might be being filmed. It should, therefore, come as no surprise to learn that you’re on camera when touring a home for sale.

And yet… agents report that buyers are uneasy when they know they’re being watched. They’re inhibited as much as they are when the homeowner is there in person, following them from room to room. They don’t take the time to really look at the house and consider whether they and their belongings would be a good fit.

Naturally, if people are in a hurry to leave, it will put a damper on selling the house, so what can you do?

First, check the laws in your state to learn whether sellers are required to disclose the fact that cameras and/or audio recorders are in use.

Second, be aware that not everyone follows the law, so you and your buyers could be filmed or your words captured with or without notice.

That said… If you’re the listing agent, discuss the situation with your sellers. Let them know that the cameras do intimidate people and could lead to abbreviated showings and no offers. One agent here on Active Rain reported that after leaving a house with cameras, the discussion with her buyers was not about the house, but about how they felt about being filmed. They didn’t really notice the house.

And… there are more issues to consider. One agent here on Active Rain said “I don’t want to be the one sued if someone decides that a Fair Housing violation has occurred because the sellers were watching via cameras.” Another mentioned a lawsuit that came about because the buyers were unknowingly recorded saying that they loved the house and would pay full price. They did buy it and pay full price, then learned that their words had been recorded.

If security is your sellers’ concern, remind them that with or without cameras, they should not leave cash, credit cards, bills, prescription drugs, or small objects of value within easy reach. In fact, cash, credit cards, and prescription drugs, should be in a safe or a locked cabinet.

Do let them know that in order to avoid lawsuits, you must disclose the existence of cameras or audio recorders.

If you’re the buyer’s agent, talk with them before touring any homes. Remind them that they’re often on camera. It may be when they’re driving, when they’re walking down a city street, when they browse or make a purchase in a store, or even when they’re sunbathing in their own back yard. This is not that much different.

That said, do caution them against giving away their feelings on camera. As we all know, excess enthusiasm weakens bargaining power. Do also remind your buyers that what they say might be being recorded – whether or not it’s legal and whether or not the listing agent knows about it. Save the discussion until you’re back in the car.

Then, because your buyers may be reluctant to do so, take the lead in exploring the house. Open closet and cabinet doors for them. Turn on faucets to test the water pressure. Pull back the shower curtain to look at the condition of the bathtub. The more relaxed and thorough you are in looking things over, the more relaxed and thorough they’ll be.

What else can you do?

Give your buyers a clipboard and checklist where they can write comments for later discussion.

To be on the safe side, some brokerages are now asking buyers to sign a disclosure stating that they know they may be filmed or taped while touring homes.

On the plus side…

Knowing there are cameras in place might lead to better parenting of those children who tend to run wild at showings and open houses. If the parents know their darlings might be caught misbehaving, and they might be held liable for the damage they do, they might keep a better eye on them.

Surveillance also might discourage showings to “bogus buyers” who are just there to scope out the value of the belongings, or to search for prescription drugs.

In addition, cameras might add a layer of safety for agents. Every few years we hear of an agent being abducted and murdered after meeting a buyer at a vacant  house. Cameras might have prevented those deaths.

It appears that surveillance is here to stay, so we might as well all make the best of it.

Do you have good ideas on how to make the best of this situation? If so, please share them.

image courtesy of stuart miles @

This post first appeared at

Comments (68)

Mike Cooper, Broker VA,WV, MD
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

Marte, our state requires that it is made known up front. I have seen a few where the owners hid the cameras and the listing agent did not make it known. I try to make sure my clients see them so they don't say anything that would take away an advantage from them. 

Jun 24, 2018 05:36 AM
Marte Cliff

Mike - There's the big problem - hiding the cameras, and especially the voice recorders. I can see a lot of lawsuits stemming from that practice.


Jun 24, 2018 10:11 AM
Matthew Klinowski, PA
Downing Frye Realty - Naples, FL
Naples Golf Guy | Find Your Dream Lifestyle

I certainly understand wanting to have cameras for safety purposes.  However, it does make it difficult to show a property as the cameras usually make perspective buyers uneasy.  They tend to hurry through the house and don't say a word.  I always make them aware of the cameras if I know about them.

Jun 24, 2018 06:03 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Matthew Klinowski, PA - Yes, there are definitely two sides to the camera issue.

Jun 24, 2018 10:12 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Marte, we are seeing video cameras in almost every home above $700K, and many in the lower end.  I think some day we may see litigation, as the Sellers do not have permission recording their conversations.

Jun 24, 2018 12:28 PM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Bravo on an excellent discussion regarding security cameras. When I'm showing homes to buyers, I caution them about cameras and ask them to keep their comments to themselves until we leave the property. It DOES make the buyer uncomfortable. Last week I was with clients and we were taking a second look at a home that had the EYE in several rooms in plain view. They whispered their comments to each other, but it was awkward as they were trying to mentally place their furniture in this house, and as you know, that's an important buyer sign. They felt rushed and the cameras impeded the showing.

Supposedly in my market, recording sound is not allowed, but video cameras are. VERY interesting topic.

Jun 24, 2018 01:29 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

So the next question, Pat Starnes, Brandon, MS, is did they make an offer on that house? 

I can see where that would have been uncomfortable. Thinking about furniture placement is an obvious "buying sign" and they wouldn't want the sellers to witness it.

Wouldn't it be a different world for you if houses were like cans of soup - "this is the price, take it or leave it"?

Jun 24, 2018 01:44 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Joan Cox - I agree. I think buyers who didn't realize sellers were listening to their conversations may well bring lawsuits. Unfortunately, they may drag the agents in on those suits, so it is probably wise to use a disclaimer and insist that they read and sign it.

Jun 24, 2018 01:47 PM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Re: # 51, the verdict is still out, but I think the house with the spy cam is sliding down the list. 

Jun 24, 2018 04:12 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Pat Starnes, Brandon, MS - but probably not because of the camera?

Oh well - as long as they buy something, I'll bet you don't care which one they choose!

Jun 24, 2018 08:06 PM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate (435) 632-9374 - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

Where video and audio surveillance is becoming more the norm, it is best to discuss with clients prior to crossing the threshold of a home. Great explanation of being seen and heard covertly Marte!

Jun 25, 2018 06:15 AM
Diana L Faulkner
Romanoff Realty - Alamo Heights, TX
Alamo Heights Homes for Sale - Concierge Service

Relevant and excellent post with interesting responses.  I, personally, welcome cameras.  I wish they were in all properties.  I discuss with my buyers and let them know that they are probably being recorded, act natural, and keep personal comments to themselves until after leaving the house.  As someone noted above, I see the buyer parents are more attentative about their children's behaviour.  In discussions with my Sellers who have cameras (approximately 90%), I tell them that they will not be happy if they choose to watch the showing:  nothing productive comes from it, and they will get their feelings hurt.  The only reason to view the recording is if there is an item missiing.  I represent many Sellers who have security concerns such as restraining orders, acrimonious divorces, victims of stalking, victims of domestic violence, etc.  They have a legitimate need to know who the buyer is and an urgency about feeling protected.  The cameras go a long way to assist in this feeling of protection.  It helps me, as the listing agent, to advise buyers agents that cameras are in the property without having to disclose the reason for the cameras.

Jun 25, 2018 10:22 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Great post!  Spot on with your advice about disclosure.  I had a listing with a camera and it made me feel uncomfortable being there, knowing my every move was being recorded.  Good idea bout signing a written disclosure that a buyer may be recorded in a home.  Put it out there and let folks know in advance that cameras might be there.  

Jun 25, 2018 10:44 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Thanks Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can! - it's one more thing to discuss.

Thank you Diana L Faulkner - you present a whole additional issue. It's one I'll admit I hadn't considered. Just as the cameras may prevent potential thieves from deciding to view the house, they might prevent the others you mentioned from coming in.

Jun 25, 2018 02:35 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Jan Green - I'm sure we're not aware of the number of times in a day we're being recorded.

Jun 25, 2018 02:38 PM
Julie A. Black
KAUAI DREAMS REALTY Kauai Real Property Specialist - Kapaa, HI
CLHMS, CRS, GRI, Realtor, Broker

I remember the show, and Yes those buyers were right to sue. It is illegal to make a voice recording of another without their agreement/notification. Only video is allowed.

Jun 25, 2018 04:58 PM
Karen Feltman
Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group - Cedar Rapids, IA
Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

You never know if you are being recorded.  I counsel my buyers that we will not have discussions inside of any home.  You just never know who might be listening.  The same goes for talking in open houses.  The sellers can send friends and families to the open house to see what you say about the house.  Great post.

Jun 25, 2018 06:27 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Julie A. Black We had an elderly neighbor who came by every evening for a visit - quite often he'd get started remembering some of those episodes on Candid Camera. There were some good laughs. But it's no laughing matter to spy on someone in order to gain an upper hand in negotiations.


Jun 25, 2018 08:58 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Karen Feltman With or without a camera, friends and family can report back. I had friends whose house wasn't getting showings, so they had a relative call their agent to inquire about it. The agent almost immediately told them that another property would be more to their liking.

I guess you know who got fired.

Jun 25, 2018 09:00 PM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Marte, this is a topic that needs the kind of attention you are bringing.

In Florida, an audio recording can only legally take place when all parties have agreed.

I understand security concerns. When it come to selling a home, I think cameras and recording of buyers is more detrimental to the seller than is the benefit.

If we have buyers leaving a property quickly and not able to discuss freely with each other, the deal may not have much of a chance.

Thanks for the post.

Jun 26, 2018 07:53 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I agree John Wiley - even though I can see the benefit from the standpoint of security for the agent. Perhaps the answer would be simply to record the faces of people who come to the door. That might be enough to deter a would-be assailant. Of course, agents should always be careful - and know who that buyer is before agreeing to meet with them in an unoccupied house.

Jun 26, 2018 09:39 AM