According to a recent survey by LendingTree, 3 in 10 home sellers say they’ve used hidden cameras during a home tour or property showing.
Yes, you read that right. You might be being recorded when you are viewing properties to buy.
According to businessinsider.com, the survey polled just over 2,000 US consumers, of whom 347 were home sellers and 1,160 were home buyers.
In this high-tech day and age, recording devices are being used at an all-time high.
Not only are smart devices being used — we wrote about that back in 2018 — but the use of nanny cams, surveillance cameras, and spy cams is a common occurrence today.
Libby always counsels her clients prior to showing properties that they may be recorded during their visit to any particular home on the market.
So, here’s what you need to know to protect yourself, whether you are a home buyer or seller.
When viewing homes, whether you are with an agent or not, you should assume that you are being recorded.
You may even get the feeling of being watched while in certain houses. 🤯 (Ew!)
As a general rule, home sellers are allowed to videotape (even secretly) in their own homes.
However, recording audio without consent is illegal in all but one state in the U.S.
In California, all parties involved must give their verbal consent before having their conversations recorded.
However, California’s consent requirement applies only to confidential communications and excludes communications in any circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.
So the question is, can you expect that your conversations are confidential? Or can you expect that your conversations might be overheard or recorded?
Without going through any legal mumbo jumbo, we suggest you err on the side of caution and assume that that anything you say inside of someone else’s home is not confidential.
🔥 In other words, don’t say anything to your agent or make any comments that you wouldn’t want the homeowner to know about.
Save your comments and questions until after you have left the home and are safely out of earshot of any recording devices.
Should you record prospective home buyers and agents while touring your home?
The top reasons sellers want to record tours and open houses were finding out what buyers do or don’t like about the home so they can make changes. Also, to ensure their home is safe during showings, among several other reasons.
Again, generally, you are within your rights to record digitally or on videotape within your own home. Note that there are exceptions to this rule such as not recording in a bathroom, etc.
However, It is prohibited to secretly visually record a person while in any area where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This goes for audio recordings too.
So the question for you is, do home buyers, real estate agents, or attendees of open houses have some expectation of privacy? Well, that will depend on the individual visitor.
Consider that many homebuyers would skip a purchase after discovering the seller’s hidden camera use!
🔥 We suggest you err on the side of caution here too! Protect yourself by either not recording or verbally announcing that you are recording people in your home. Alternatively, you may put up a sign that tells visitors that they are being recorded with both video and sound.
And you absolutely must let your agent know that you intend to record visitors of showings or open houses! We can’t stress this enough!
Although you may be curious about what visitors to your home say about it, or perhaps you may plan to use that information to decide which offer you might accept on your listing, we suggest you turn off any recording devices you have during showings.
What the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Says
As with many legal issues regarding real estate, there are plenty of if’s, might be’s, and could’s. ⚖
The information provided in this report is intended for general information purposes only, and may not constitute the most up-to-date information with respect to this subject. This report is not intended to convey and does not constitute legal advice or opinions. Readers should not act based on any information provided in this report and should consult legal counsel for legal advice with respect to a particular matter.
Key Findings by LendingTree
LendingTree reports these key findings of their survey.
- 3 in 10 home sellers admit to using hidden cameras during open house visits. The most cited reason is understanding what homebuyers do and don’t like about their home (49%).
- Almost a third (32%) of homebuyers suspect that a seller was using a hidden camera for tours. Northeast homebuyers are most likely to suspect hidden camera use at 38%.
- More than 4 in 10 (44%) respondents would back out of a deal to buy their dream home if they discovered the seller secretly recorded them. However, among those buyers who would still make a home purchase even after discovering they were recorded during their tour, men are more likely than women — 63% versus 49% — to move forward.
We suggest you take all survey numbers with a grain of salt, as the 2000 people who responded to the survey is a pretty small sample of the 3.25+ million buyers and sellers in the U.S. in 2020.
But, we suspect the takeaways are still valid.
Americans take their privacy very seriously! So please take that into consideration before using any recording devices in your home.
Unfortunately, you should assume that you are being recorded when viewing homes with an agent, on tour, or at an open house.
While the legalese can be confusing, we suggest you always err on the side of caution.
Talk to your Realtor about the possibility that you are being recorded, or if you should record visitors to your home and how to handle it.
For additional information about this subject, we suggest you read our article, Home Buyers Beware! The Walls May Be Listening.