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How to Avoid Tipping Your Hand During a Showing

It’s no secret that Wi-Fi enabled cameras and mics are inexpensive and easy to set up. And while the home security aspect is the big seller, home sellers regularly and consistently use them to be a “fly on the wall” while their property is being sold. Almost every listing agent has been in the position of fielding comments from sellers about what prospective home buyers have said during showings. 

The Secret to a Successful Viewing

The best approach is to behave as though the seller is home walking around with you while you tour. Anything you wouldn’t say in front of the seller should be left to discuss after you’ve walked the property and left. That includes both negative and positive statements. If you hate one of their favorite upgrades in a home and are vocal about that, it could easily sour any potential offer from you. Positive comments are usually welcome, but keep them to a minimum. Take photos or jot down notes so you’re prepared to bring up specific points with your agent after you leave, but do what you can to stay mostly mum while you’re still in the home.

Does that seem like overkill? Turns out, according to one LendingTree survey, 3 in 10 home sellers admit to using cameras specifically to gather intelligence from potential buyers during showings. And while some of them say it’s to ensure no theft occurs while people walk through their homes, others admit it’s a tactical move to gain the upper hand during negotiations.

Another survey conducted for NerdWallet found that 67% would use cameras if they were selling a home, precisely for the same reason.

Legality

Surveillance laws vary from one state to the next, so sellers should get direct advice from their agents before setting up the cameras. It is perfectly legal in Nevada to monitor someone, but video monitoring can be prohibited in places where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Still, those zones probably don’t extend to other people’s homes. In some states, recording audio is legal only when at least one person being recorded has given consent—often written at that. In a showing situation, that means audio recording is probably only legal if the seller is accompanying the buyer. Lots of legal gray areas, so again, consult an agent you trust first.

In my Experience…

I am constantly reminding my buyers to treat the home they are viewing with respect and not to discuss anything about it even on the sidewalk out front, as some of the doorbell cameras have very sensitive microphones. Even a few doors down, other neighbors have been known to share what they hear with their unrecorded neighbors who are selling.  

Takeaway

Keep in mind that just about anything is fair game in a competitive housing market, and that probably includes cameras. As a buyer, keep quiet during a showing to avoid tipping your hand. Just assume the seller is listening to everything you discuss with your agent in or near their property and wait until you’re back in the car or on the phone to debrief. 

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