Can I Spy On My Homebuyers With Hidden Cameras?

By
Real Estate Agent with EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates 9506757

Today's technology has made in-home security cheap and easy to set up surveillance cameras, hidden cameras and nanny cams in a home.  And when it comes time to sell your home you may already have security cameras set up all over your home.

So now your thinking..... maybe I can tap into my cameras in my home at work on my cell phone and see and hear what homebuyers are saying and doing in my home!!  Maybe you'll gain a negotiating edge that will get you thousands more for your home!!

The Use Of Video Cameras During Home Showings

This begs the question, should you flip that switch and turn on the video cams and microphones so you can spy on your homebuyers?

Before you do realize that what you are doing may be illegal and you may be committing a felony.

Generally, the use of video alone is acceptable in areas except where one would normally expect privacy, like a bathroom.  And this holds true on whether your buyers are aware they are being watched or not.

Audio is where things can get sticky.  First, there are federal laws concerning the use of equipment to intercept or record audio then you have to layer state laws on top of it. 

Many laws regarding "wiretapping" talk about interception and recording.  Interception is merely tapping into a private conversation by means of a device.  This means you could be in violation of laws by merely listening in and not even recording your buyers private conversations.

If you have consent and at least one party is informed that you are listening in then it may be ok to do so.   In 11 states it is required that all parties consent to be recorded or listened to.

Best Practices For Monitoring Buyers In Your Home

Before you decide to tap into your home video surveillance system or use a hidden camera or spy camera during visits from potential home buyers there are several things to consider.

  • It can be illegal, depending on how you go about it.  I would recommend consulting with an attorney first so you don't get yourself in trouble.
  • Disclose the use of audio and video during showings.  Make agents and buyers aware they are being monitored and recorded.
  • Post prominently that the property is under video and audio surveillance.
  • To make it legal, consent is usually required.  Consider having anyone visiting your home sign a consent form.  This will alleviate any issues arising from the use of home surveillance during a buyer's visit.

Is it Necessary To Spy On Your Buyers?

Before deciding to tap into your showings, whether fully disclosed or not, double-check your motives.  Are the reasons legitimate or are you just being controlling or nosey or are you truly trying to protect your home? 

First off, don't leave anything of significant value in your home.  That gets rid of security issues, to begin with.

Second, homebuyers find it creepy and sinister!!

If it is disclosed they are being recorded or viewed it is still very unsettling and uncomfortable. 

When you are selling a home it is important your homebuyers mentally take ownership of a home.  They envision seeing their lives in your home and it fits their lifestyle and they feel safe.  The longer they linger in your home the more interested they generally are.

But if you decide to record your homebuyers they think about what if they are doing or saying something wrong, look for the cameras and wonder why you feel the need to watch them remotely or record them.  They don't feel welcome and they rush through the showing not really viewing the home.

And more often than not when we get back to the car they say that was creepy. 

That is not leaving a great impression.

Summary On Using Hidden Cameras During Viewings

If you decide to remotely watch and listen or record your home buyers during showings make sure you are doing it legally.  Consult an attorney and get permission from the potential buyers and buyer's agents.

A recent survey by Lending Tree says that 1 out of 3 home sellers has used hidden cameras to monitor home buyers during showings.   If audio is used consent this could lead to trouble

My experience so far is buyers hate knowing they are being remotely monitored and listened to.  It leaves a dark cloud over the entire showing.  Make sure you have a legitimate motive for doing it otherwise it could hinder the sale of your home.

Can I Spy On My Homebuyers With Hidden Cameras?  is provided by Kevin Vitali a Haverhill MA REALTOR covering Essex and Northern Middlesex counties in Massachusetts.  Thinking of buying or selling call Kevin at 978-360-0422

Comments (18)

Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Kevin - Can I is one question.  Should I is another.  

Aug 26, 2021 07:49 AM
Dan Hopper
Dan Hopper - Gold Way RE - Westminster, CO
Denver Broker / Real Estate Advocate

... this is a very important message to get out to the real estate industry.  More and more homeowners are acquiring some type of security with camera to capture thosee stealing goods off the porch.  Yet, to use for home showings, YES caution in how and disclosure is very important.

Aug 26, 2021 07:59 AM
Kevin Vitali

Dan Hopper consent is a big factor.  Recording or monitoring secretly is a big no-no and is a felony if your caught.

Aug 26, 2021 08:02 AM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

Michael Jacobs a very good point.  There are clearly doing so secretly which is definitely a huge problem and liability.  But more and more I am running into it where it is disclosed and signs are on the property.  It does not sit well with the buyers and they rush through the showing and spend more time wondering why the seller feels the need to monitor them than look at the home. 

Can you... yes if done properly.  Should you.... probably not it does not benefit the seller in anyway. 

Aug 26, 2021 08:01 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I think most of us know the etiquette here but it can be tricky how easily people can be spying on other folks

Aug 26, 2021 08:07 AM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

I agree that agents probably know the etiquette Laura Cerrano based on their state laws.  But how can an agent know if the seller never discloses?

Aug 26, 2021 08:09 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Hi Kevin... our mls requires that we disclose to prospective buyers if they are being videoed and/or recorded. I've long told my buyers to be very circumspect about what they say inside a house as you never know who's watching and listening.

Aug 26, 2021 02:17 PM
Kevin Vitali

Our state listing agreements have included it as part of the forms, but it still relies on sellers being straight forward. 

Aug 26, 2021 05:40 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Kevin- it's a question that all agents have and as others have said, the seller and their agent need to know their local laws. And they have to make the judgment of perhaps turning off some prospective buyers who don't want to be on camera or will rush through a showing because of it. And if sellers have cameras, do they remove them when selling?

Aug 27, 2021 10:10 AM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Aug 28, 2021 06:48 PM
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

You laid it out well.  My view is if you want a win win transaction then don't surveil.  Some people including me would leave the house and cross it off my list.

Aug 29, 2021 04:42 AM
Kevin Vitali

Thanks for your perspective Grant Schneider 

Aug 30, 2021 04:36 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Yep, it might be allowable with disclosure, but knowing one is video and audio recorded can result in fewer buyers who even want to look.

Aug 29, 2021 07:33 AM
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

This is an important topic and very good information to share.

Have an outstanding week.

Aug 29, 2021 09:09 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Kevin:

Good summary of the issues to be concerned about regarding audio and video recording, and the potential risks to the seller. I think buyers want to feel comfortable when touring a home and not worry about being spied on.

I always warn buyers about the possibility that audio and video recording may be taking place.

Jeff

Aug 29, 2021 12:01 PM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

Michael Jacobs summarized it well with Can I? and Should I?

Aug 30, 2021 04:38 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

I have spotted cameras while touring vacant houses and when I do I let my buyers know to not say a word

Aug 30, 2021 05:44 AM
Kevin Vitali

Unfortunately, Ed Silva video may be alright but audio is a no-no without consent.

Sep 02, 2021 07:21 AM
Wendy Rulnick
Rulnick Realty, Inc. - Destin, FL
"It's Wendy... It's Sold!"

Kevin Vitali Excellent article! I remember going to an "open house" with the seller's agent present. A camera followed my movements walking around. Every time I moved, it moved, pointing at me. It felt like a sci-fi movie and I thought it was definitely creepy! The agent called the seller and told her to turn it off :)!!

Aug 30, 2021 05:52 AM
Kevin Vitali

Wendy Rulnick I have to say that when it is disclosed and signs are plastered all over the place it is a bit unsettling.  My buyers hate it and feel uncomfortable.


Before sellers turn those cameras and mics on they should realize that when a buyer and their buyers agent view a home the seller is best served if the agent and the buyers discuss the features of the home and how it works for the buyer.


With sellers potentially listening in, the buyers are focused on being watched and listened to than the actual house.


I have been selling real estate for 20 years and have had hundeds of listings pre-hidden cams and not one theft!!


 

Sep 02, 2021 07:26 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

In this era of video recordings everywhere, this is a huge and important topic. 

Aug 30, 2021 05:26 PM
Kevin Vitali

Dr. Paula McDonald  its one thing if it is disclosed and you are aware but as the Lending tree survey shows, many sellers are choosing to do so secretly.

Sep 02, 2021 07:28 AM
Dorte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Kevin,

Maryland is a two-consent state, so just posting a sign that says "you may be recorded" will not cut the mustard, if someone starts suing you. Also, do you really want to go through all that footage? Has a bit of a creep factor there ....

Aug 30, 2021 08:20 PM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

Massachusetts is a two-party consent state as well.  And as with everything interpretation of the law is difficult.  One may think recording is the problem, but just using an electronic device to transmit audio can get you in trouble.  I think if a seller is compelled to record or monitor it is probably best to have a consent form to record.

Like I said earlier we survived without, not sure what the benefit is for a seller.  If it is security there are other ways of dealing with that.

Sep 02, 2021 07:31 AM