Silence May be Golden When Showing Homes to Buyers
I had a number of showings today and the smart home technology (Ring Video doorbell, Nest Thermostat, a couple of devices that appeared to be Alexa-type devices) was immediately noticeable in one home.
It was another vivid reminder to comment to my client that we needed to be cautious about our conversations while in that house, and other homes we were to see. Maybe there was nothing to worry about...maybe there was! The buyer got it immediately.
Smart technology that allows homeowners to listen and/or record activity in their homes…including Realtors showing them…is becoming pretty commonplace, and it’s smart to keep in mind that silence may be golden between you and your buyers in any house, whether you see cameras and other potential recording equipment or not.
And even standing outside the front door and having a conversation could be an issue.
Bear in mind that equipment may be rather obvious...a tell-tale blinking red light...or not noticeable at all.
Being silent may be stretching it a bit, and an innocuous conversation about the home might be fine.
But certainly, as a buyer, talking about how much you love the property, that you are considering possibly making an offer, and similar comments that could threaten your negotiations are best left to another place and time.
Silence IS golden when and where you might be observed, or worse, overheard.
I’m no expert but I suspect all states regulate the use of audio and video recording in one way or another, including issues like one and two-party consent. No doubt the laws vary substantially, so it’s important to find out what the requirements are in your area. What might be allowed in one state might not be permitted at all, say here in California for example.
And there’s also the issue of disclosure. If your state requires it, a seller may need to visibly disclose that such equipment is in use or present, or at least that may be a recommendation. The CA listing agreement addresses this briefly, stating that buyers may not be aware they might be recorded by audio or visual devices the seller has installed (e.g., “nanny cams”) but sellers are advised – note, they are NOT required – to post a notice disclosing the presence of security devices.
It’s another challenge to be aware of, since we want, and need, to have dialogues with our buyer clients about what they like and don’t like about homes. Buyers typically have questions about properties they are touring that need answers, and comment about what they like, and don’t like (wouldn’t the sellers love to hear THAT conversation?). Of course we want to provide the best guidance we can and point out things they should be aware of.
But in our competitive market, when homes can disappear fairly quickly, buyers may, in their excitement, start talking about making an offer, and at a particular price, or might wonder out loud “how much do you think we should offer?”. As agents we want to get their feedback on the home.
That’s all well and good, but it’s not information you want to share with a seller, much as they might love to hear it!
Rather than risk sharing information that could jeopardize the buyer’s ability to negotiate, should they decide to do so, better keep in mind that silence is golden. Just because the state law may govern what a homeowner can and cannot do, and the need to disclose, does not mean they will.
It’s obviously a complex issue that will only get more complicated as laws changes, MLSs impose regulations, and court cases test the existing laws, and possible lawsuits between buyers and sellers, and potentially agents.
Here’s what NAR has to say (note it’s from 2016).
Any advice or experiences you care to share?