The Surveillance Seller: The Latest Concern for RE Buyers and Agents

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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.


Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Sally K. & David L. Hanson 05/07/2019 05:46 AM
  2. Hannah Williams 05/14/2019 11:19 AM
ActiveRain Community
real estate fraud
camera surveillance
real estate agent crime
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Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

In these days of soooo much technology...watchful eyes can sneak up on you !

May 07, 2019 05:44 AM #1
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager

Hi Robert,
I was just telling someone the other day, I assume I am being watched and/or listened to whenever I am outside my own home.  I don't have an Alexa (and never will) so I'm pretty confident I'm not being recorded at home. 

May 07, 2019 08:57 AM #2
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Robert there are certainly things to talk about but security is a fact of life. 

May 07, 2019 09:36 AM #3
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

We have been told to disclose to prospective buyers and their agents if there are recording devices in the home. Not sure everyone does disclose and we've had some lawsuits in the state already.

May 07, 2019 11:14 AM #4
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Robert- it's so important for agents to know what their state laws are regarding this issue. And, these days I just assume that someone is listening or watching. 

May 07, 2019 05:58 PM #5
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

It is important to realize many homes may have recording devices, and we have to act appropriately.

But it's a pain when you're with buyers and they can't be open about what they are thinking.

May 11, 2019 03:12 AM #6
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

This is becoming increasingly important - and yes, we just assume we are being recorded when we tour homes. Why not err on the side of caution? 

May 11, 2019 07:17 AM #7
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

May 11, 2019 07:12 PM #8
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

It's definitely a growing issue and concern and no doubt there will be more legal activity around this.  I just assume this is happening when touring homes and let my buyers know that as well.


May 12, 2019 03:19 PM #9
Janice Zaltman Realtor, LEED AP
United Realty Group - Boca Raton, FL

Hi Robert:

Have heard this is becoming common and definately should be disclosed. Hope there are no cameras in the bathroom. :)

May 12, 2019 07:47 PM #10
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I don’t know very much about the surveillance market, but I certainly would like to learn a little bit. Thanks for posting, Robert!

May 13, 2019 08:44 AM #11
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Jeff Dowler, CRS It definitely is an emerging market that I want to be a part of as far as knowing about it in general. It’s a bit of an education for me.

May 13, 2019 08:45 AM #12
Steffy Hristova
HomeSmart Elite Group Tempe AZ Tel: 480-966-9353 - Tempe, AZ
Tempe AZ Realtor - Your Home Close to Your Work!

It feels strange to know that someone may be watching you while you are viewing the home you would like to buy. The Buyers will be wise not to discuss their offers and their strategy while in the home.

The general advice used to be that Sellers leave the home and the Buyers could view it undisturbed, now things are changing.


May 13, 2019 06:14 PM #13
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Another eye opening topic - keep your eyes open for the cameras in the room.

May 13, 2019 11:43 PM #14
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

I provide a notebook and pen to my buyers and instruct them to refrain from comments and emotions when inspecting properties and write down questions, issues or concerns and we'll discuss them after exiting the property. 

Because security and surveillance equipment have become more affordable, many homeowners are using these devices to secure their possessions. 

May 14, 2019 02:41 AM #15
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I've been in both positions. As seller we had cameras and as buyer we saw cameras at open houses and showings. When we didn't see any, we assumed there could be. I think, as homeowners, you should have the right and buyers should act and speak accordingly.

May 14, 2019 05:13 AM #16
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

I instruct buyers that when we go in the house do not make statements of what you like or do not like. I give them a sheet for each home they can make notes on so they don't forget and we discuss it later.

There are sellers who do not know the laws about recording others, or they don't care. Agents have to be made aware and take proper steps to protect.

Thanks for making us aware.

May 14, 2019 10:41 AM #17
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

It is sad that society has become this way but there are reasons for and against. Always play caution to the wind. See no evil. Speak no evil. Do no evil and don't worry if you have said or done nothing wrong. 

May 16, 2019 06:24 PM #18
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