Buyers curb your enthusiasm and be aware, some walls have ears!

Real Estate Agent with Thompson Company, REALTORS® MD594797

Towards the end of a transaction not too long ago, my buyers and I met with the seller of the property for the final walk-through. It was a bit unusual to meet with Mr. Seller prior to settlement, but not completely unheard of, plus he had offered to tell the buyers all about the house. Since this house came with a lot of extras, and technology, and a pool, and outdoor lighting and.. my buyers gladly took him up on his offer. 

Mr. Seller provided a ton of helpful information to my clients, how to operate this, how to control that, who to call for maintenance, landscaping, cleaning ... but then he made one remark that he probably had no intention of making: I had to laugh when I watched you all trying to figure that one out. 

Wait. WHAT? You watched us? You listened in? You spied on us? But that's illegal! 

Needless to say, we were stunned. And mad. And uncomfortable. 

Mr. Seller quickly realized what had just slipped out of his mouth. Sensing our discomfort and probably noticing the shock on our faces, he added that this was the only thing he overheard us discussing. 

The thing is ... please note, this does not constitute legal advice whatsoever, I am not a lawyer. If you need legal counsel, please consult an attorney and don't rely on my little anecdotal blog post ... while it is legal to record surveillance video in your home, it is against the law to record audio without the knowledge and consent of the people being recorded* (*in the State of Maryland). Period

Mr. Seller should have disconnected and disabled audio recording in his home prior to putting it on the market. He should also have made a disclosure to all prospective buyers entering his property that there's active video surveillance (when in doubt, always disclose .. this is such a gray area). 

I do not believe for a minute that Mr. Seller only listened in during that one little incident. Can I prove it? No. Do I have the time and energy to pursue this? Also no. And my buyers weren't up to a lengthy battle either. 

However, other buyers may feel so violated (rightly so) that they would/will take action.

Dear Sellers, as tempting as it may be, don't listen in while prospective buyers tour your property and/or follow a home inspector along. I understand the need for a security system. I really do. But when your house is on the market and while it's under contract, it's best to disclose any video surveillance and to disable audio. Please don't spy. 

Dear Buyers, please be aware. REALTORS® do advice their seller clients about the MD law concerning audio recordings - it is a paragraph in our listing agreements - but we have no control over what sellers do with that notice/warning. Try to curb your enthusiasm while touring homes. Expect the walls to have ears. Wait to have a discussion until you and your agent have left the property. 

It's not easy, I understand. Especially when you have found the one. But it's your best bet to protect your best interest and to not compromise your negotiation power. 

Audio recording while listing your home for sale.

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Thompson Company, REALTORS

16910 Oak Hill Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20905
o: (301) 384-9177 c: (240)593-2860

Andrea is a REALTOR® based in Silver Spring, MD, who has enjoyed assisting buyers and sellers in Montgomery and Howard County, MD (and beyond) for 16+ years now. She always answers the phone with a smile, enjoys running, hiking, and traveling, speaks German, reads a lot, blogs a little, and drinks too much coffee. 


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 Andrea Bedard, Thompson Company, REALTORS: from Just Listed to Just SOLD


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is it okay to record buyers entering my home in maryland
can i record buyers touring my home in md
video surveillance while selling a house
when walls have ears
buyer beware seller may be watching you

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Richard Bazinet /MBA, CRS, ABR
West USA Realty - Scottsdale, AZ
Phoenix Scottsdale. Sellers, Buyers & Relocations

Very interesting, and a current topic. We talked about it, and yet we have not really done anything about it yet in Arizona. However, I do warn my buyer-clients.

Jul 12, 2019 04:46 PM #6
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224


                                            Thank you, Andrea. 

Jul 13, 2019 07:00 PM #7
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Andrea - your experience is a good reminder to buyers regardless of any advanced"warning" of surveillance of any type.  "Loose lips sink ships".  Gladly, this transaction resulted in a closed sale but imagine if certain things were different...

Jul 14, 2019 04:36 AM #8
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team

that puts "buyer beware" on a whole new level....and it applies to agents too....just be mindful, no matter what your state law reads.... not everyone complies....

Jul 14, 2019 05:08 AM #9
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Congrats on being featured by Kathy this week!  Great post!

Jul 14, 2019 06:56 AM #10
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

We are always careful to discuss the pros and cons of a property with our buyers, once we leave the premises. They know the drill ahead of time. 

Jul 14, 2019 07:09 AM #11
Alan Brown
Coldwell Banker Montrose Colorado - Montrose, CO
29 Years of Real Estate Experience .

Cameras and listening in is definitely on the rise, brings a whole meaning to the old saying "Buyer beware" 

Jul 14, 2019 11:37 AM #12
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I agree with Alan, This gives a whole modern meaning to the phrase "Buyer beware." Privacy is more and more a thing of the past.

Jul 14, 2019 11:54 AM #13
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

That's so interesting that your contract spells it out, even if it's probably routinely overlooked.

Jul 14, 2019 12:50 PM #14
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Hi Andrea Bedard -  The laws vary state by state but at minimum disclose it.

Jul 14, 2019 03:24 PM #15
Rob D. Shepherd
Windermere/lane county - Florence, OR
Principal Broker GRI, SRES

I tell Buyers always assume we are being watched.

Jul 14, 2019 07:11 PM #16
Andrea Bedard
Thompson Company, REALTORS® - Silver Spring, MD
M.A.; REALTOR® Silver Spring, MD and beyond

If they do that, then I hope they disclose it Brian England ! I can count on one hand how many times I've seen a disclosure made by a seller that security cameras are in use. It is super uncomfortable when you feel like you are being watched.. not really a selling feature in my opinion. 

That's all we can do Richard Bazinet /MBA, CRS, ABR , warn our buyer clients. I tell mine to treat it like an Open House visit.. we wouldn't be discussing likes/dislikes in front of the other agent either. It's an interesting topic for sure! 

Thank you Kathy Streib!

 I am so glad, it ended well Michael Jacobs ! It could have turned out differently. This was a first for me, being told that we had been watched from afar during a home inspection .. and probably every other visit to the house as well. Not a good feeling! 

It's a whole new level Barbara Todaro, I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about it. 

Jul 14, 2019 07:20 PM #17
Andrea Bedard
Thompson Company, REALTORS® - Silver Spring, MD
M.A.; REALTOR® Silver Spring, MD and beyond

Thank you Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®.

Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD, this was during a home inspection.  I do advise my buyers, too, to wait until after our home tour to share their thoughts and comments with me, to act like we are at an open house. But we are not robots, there's always some interaction, communication.. that's what makes it all so special! I dread the thought of silent walk-throughs because we are all so afraid of who may be watching us. 

I agree Alan & Marte .. a whole new meaning. 

It's a newer addition to the listing agreement Jill Sackler, and I'm glad they added it!

I agree Grant Schneider - use of security cameras should be disclosed to anyone touring a home.  

Jul 14, 2019 07:21 PM #18
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

So glad to see this featured by Kathy Streib 

I remember years ago being 'scolded' by my seller for a remark made by a buyer in his home. Yes, he had a sound system that he could listen in when he was outside walking the dog.

Glad that we have this verbiage in our listing contract...they now know!

Jul 14, 2019 07:28 PM #19
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

I showed a house recently, and afterwards, the agent asked me something that made me wonder whether someone had been listening in. We just never know who is listening - your advice is right on. Sellers need to disclose or turn it off, and buyers need to be aware.

Jul 15, 2019 03:47 AM #20
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Andrea you make an excellent point about Audio Recordings and this is just one aspect. Give you an example we were doing an Inspection and the Inspector was giving his out briefing and he mentioned issues with the Roof... as he did that his Iphone started speaking: DO you Need a Roofer... anyway we had a good laugh but sent us a message at the same time, Endre

Jul 15, 2019 07:10 PM #21
Theresa Akin

When I show property, I mention to my buyers there may be surveillance cameras and possibly with audio we may not see or pick up on.  A couple buyers had fun with it and a couple choose to text questions. The buyers who "had fun with it". were very critical of the sellers taste with angles of mirrors and sellers taste in decor and maintenance of the property. So If the sellers don't want to hear any negativity, it may be best they turn the audio off at least. I still advise my buyers also when showing vacant properties, especially if a televison or any other electronic has been left with shelving (entertainment centers). 

Jul 16, 2019 07:42 AM #22
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Such a creepy feeling.  I'm always watching for the listening devices but just don't know if they are present, hidden, audio activated, whatever.  I advise my buyers not to say much when walking through.

Jul 17, 2019 01:08 PM #23
Andrea Bedard
Thompson Company, REALTORS® - Silver Spring, MD
M.A.; REALTOR® Silver Spring, MD and beyond

That little paragraph was truly a good addition to our listing agreements, Margaret

I've wondered a few times Kat Palmiotti. I genuinely dislike having to point and text with my clients vs. being able to just freely talk.. but when in doubt, it's better to err on the side of caution.

That is a whole different level of creepy Endre Barath, Jr.! Everything appears to have ears nowadays .. it makes me wonder what showing/selling houses will be like in another 10, 20 years. We probably can't begin to imagine (it won't all be an online process though.. I don't believe that for a minute). 

I find it sad that we do have to resort to texting Theresa Akin, I would prefer being able to talk freely while touring homes, during the inspections etc. but you just never know.. even though audio recording without the others' knowledge and consent is illegal in MD. 

So very creepy Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR! We had a suspicion when we first toured the house, but I still didn't expect the seller to admit to it. 

Jul 17, 2019 06:21 PM #24
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

With all the Smart Home tech, it is more difficult all the time to know who is watching and listening.

Always advice the buyer. Agents should also advise the Seller of the legal problems they could face.

Thanks for sharing this post.

Jul 20, 2019 07:11 AM #25
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