With the proliferation of inexpensive home security systems, wi-fi doorbells and nanny cams in the last decade, it should be no surprise that sellers are recording buyers and agents during real estate showings. High-end security camera technology is no longer the exclusive domain of luxury homeowners.
A few years ago, a seller client of mine disclosed to me that she would go next door to her neighbor’s house during the real estate showings on her home. The pair could hear the buyer and agent commenting from the neighbor’s kitchen table. She eavesdropped through her hand-held baby monitor that was still transmitting from inside the home. “I heard them talking about an offer,” my client said. “I think that we are going to get an offer in the morning.” She was right.
This summer, I attended a couples’ dinner in Medlock Place. One of the pairs across the table was monitoring their real estate showing live through a home security app on the wife’s smartphone. There was no audio, but the couple became visibly upset when they could see the buyer prospect’s toddler jumping on their new sofa ten miles away in Desert Ridge. These weren’t my clients, but the event really prompted me to start processing what this new technology means for the real estate industry.
We all have the right to monitor what happens within the four walls our own homes. So there is certainly no foul play here. However, we are now at a crossroads of technology and perceived privacy. Remote home surveillance was not on my radar when I began selling homes in 1998. It is now.
In a more recent example, I was on the other side. I was the agent who was conducting the showing. My buyer clients marveled at the architecture and low price of a particular home in Surprise. We discussed our opening bid in dollar terms inside the home. I turned around and realized that I was standing 5 feet from a security camera tucked neatly among electronics on a bookshelf. The camera glowed with a tiny LED light. Welcome to Hollywood. How much did that one moment shave off our negotiation prowess? Who knows. Maybe $10,000 or more.
The takeaway is this: wait to discuss points of negotiation and impassioned enthusiasm until you have left the property with your Realtor.
Remember that during real estate showings, you are only a guest in someone else’s home until you sign at closing. Treat real estate showing appointments as if the seller is right there in the home with you. Electronically speaking, they might already be.
You could watch entire villages and see what everyone was doing. I watched NSA tracking people’s Internet activities as they typed. I became aware of just how invasive U.S. surveillance capabilities had become. I realized the true breadth of this system. And almost nobody knew it was happening. – Edward Snowden, former CIA computer contractor who leaked information in 2013 on a vast network of NSA domestic spying programs