Technology has come a long way and when it comes to home surveillance. It is easy to install a very comprehensive video and audio recording system using security cams or hidden cameras that are both equipped with microphones.
When it comes time to sell your home, you may already have some sort of surveillance on the interior or exterior of your home, whether it is made up if surveillance cameras in plain sight, hidden cameras, spy cameras or nanny cams.
With today’s technology, it can be so easy and inexpensive to be notified of a visitor in your home and be able to tap into hidden video cameras and microphones to spy on your home buyers and see what they are saying about your home.
Are you tempted to record your potential home buyers as they view your home? Are you thinking of using those spy cams to protect yourself from theft or to gain a negotiating edge?
Learn what you need to know about turning on those hidden cameras during a home showing.
Can I Secretly Record Home Buyers In My Home?
The answer is complicated and is very state dependent. Surveillance video and audio laws vary drastically from state to state. Audio and video recording are treated very differently from a legal standpoint, and a home seller should take note before recording home visits.
Video cameras are prevalent everywhere. Stores, street corners, work etc…. Generally, it is alright to record anyone in public view and also to record in your own home.
In most states, taking a video of someone using a hidden camera whether they are made aware or not is usually not breaking the law. The people being captured on a video camera do not generally need to give consent. This includes home buyers at a showing of your home. Note, this applies to video only, audio adds another layer of complexity.
The one caveat is it is illegal to take video footage of a person in an area where they would expect privacy, like a bathroom, locker room, bedroom etc…
Audio is far more complicated than video and you need to be aware that there are wiretap laws to contend with. And, most hidden cams now have an audio feature as well. Just tap into your homes internet and you can watch a buyer live go through your home or have it uploaded to the cloud to watch later. Many states require at least one party involved to be aware that audio is being recorded.
12 states require all parties to be made aware their conversations are being recorded, including, Michigan. California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Washington.
In general, you cannot secretly record conversations your potential home buyers and their agents have in your home. Recording audio of homebuyers in your home without permission violates federal and state wiretapping laws and can be a felony that can carry serious penalties to the home seller if caught.
Know The Law Before Spying Your Buyers
Before recording video and audio of buyers, during home showings research, laws regarding video and audio recording in your state or better yet consult with an attorney.
It may not seem like a big deal to you to check in on your homebuyers with the hidden cameras throughout your home on your phone or computer at work, but it can be a very serious crime.
Why Would Sellers Want To Snoop On Home Buyers With Hidden Cameras?
There are two obvious reasons why a home seller would want to use the in-home spy cams that allow them to record or tap into what home buyers are saying or doing in their home.
The first is security. You can monitor open house visitors and homebuyers during showings to see if they are there for reasons other than checking out your home to potentially buy it. You now have a record on video if anything shows up missing.
The second reason is to give you a negotiating leg up by listening to their conversations during a buyer showing. If the buyers tell their agent, they love the home and they have to have it, that certainly can give you a leg up in negotiations.
By monitoring what is said with hidden microphones, you take the guesswork out of what the buyers think of your home.
The Downsides Of Spying On Homebuyers
Spying on your homebuyers with video and audio recording comes with two downsides.
The first downside is if it is not done correctly you could be breaking the law. It adds a layer of risk to selling a house that you may not want to take on.
The second reason you may want to turn off the video and audio recording devices is it is just downright creepy.
Here Is The Rub
A homebuyer who knows they are being recorded feels uncomfortable in your home and do not feel welcome.
Often they rush through the showing without really paying attention to the home. They are more concerned about saying or doing something wrong, trying to find the cameras and figuring out why you feel the need to record their every word and movement.
When you sell your home, you want the buyers to feel welcome. During the showing you want the buyer to take ownership of the home in their mind. When buyers linger thinking of the possibilities of your home has for their family, it is a good thing.
As much as you feel you may be gaining an advantage, you could be disadvantaging yourself more than you may realize by using your in-home security cams to spy on home buyers.
Lending Tree conducted a survey saying that 44% of homebuyers would back out of purchasing a home if they discovered they were secretly recorded.
Bear that in mind before you decide to record your home buyers. Is it worth it?
Check Your Motives
Why do you want to spy on your homebuyers? Are you just being nosy, trying to give yourself an advantage or do you have legitimate security concerns?
If you are being nosy, let’s face it that’s a bit unsettling. You probably wouldn’t like it either.
Security concerns may be a valid reason to use surveillance equipment during showings, but you can probably get by with video and don’t need the audio.
Just ask yourself if you need to tune into your home buyer’s showings?
Disclosure For Home Sellers Using Hidden Cameras
If you decide you have to use your hidden cameras when homebuyers are in your house, do not do it without your listing agent knowing. Even if your cameras are out and the open where you think are obvious to see, makes sure you disclose. Listing agents have been dealing with this for years and most likely are aware of the best practices of recording audio and video in the home during the sale of real estate.
My take is, regardless if you legally need to or not, be fully transparent about the use of video and audio recording equipment being used in the home when a home buyer is present. Consider the following:
- Disclose in the MLS listing sheet that video and/or audio surveillance will be used on your property.
- Consider the buyer and the agent representing the buyer signing a disclosure that states they are being recorded, especially if audio is being used. Most states require the consent of at least one party being recorded.
- Post multiple signs prominently around your home, letting buyers know they are being recorded while on the property.
Full disclosure will help lessen the sting of realizing they are being recorded, as well as help cover you with any consent laws your state may have.
Do not engage in any audio recording without disclosure!! Federal law prohibits any recording of conversations without the consent of at least one person involved in the conversation. And some states require all parties to give consent.
What Do Homebuyers Need to Know About Spy-Cams In A Home?
Earlier I referenced a survey by Lending Tree. They also surveyed home sellers using surveillance systems. 33% of sellers surveyed said they secretly used spy cams during their home buyers showings!!
While legally a home seller should probably disclose you are being recorded, there is a good chance you are secretly being recorded.
Hidden cameras for a home can be purchased for less than $25 a piece and many can now record audio. Most of these hidden cameras make it so easy to set up by using wireless technology. The spy cams can take the form of almost anything, a led lightbulb a smoke alarm, a USB block, etc… and can easily go undetected.
Treat every showing as if your every action and word is being secretly recorded.
To Spy Or Not To Spy With Hidden or Surveillance Cameras
As a real estate veteran of 20 years, I think it is an all-around bad idea to use your hidden cameras either secretly or knowingly to spy on your home buyers. It freaks out buyers and they don’t look at your home the way they should. It could also have serious ramifications for you legally if done improperly.
If you decide you need to know what home buyers are doing in your home through the use of spy cams, nanny cams, in-home surveillance systems, etc… first consult with an attorney to make sure you are with in the law and secondly disclose that you are using recording devices to your buyers.
Homebuyers, assume you are always being recorded and act accordingly.
Finally, in no way is this post to be construed as legal advice. Any questions about using hidden cameras, security systems and audio recordings should be answered by an attorney.
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