The Walls Have Ears: Smart Homes and Showings
Prior to opening a home with a lockbox, most realtors ring the doorbell to alert anyone in the home that may be unaware of the showing. As you can imagine, this strategy generally avoids a potentially awkward surprise, especially if the owner has just returned and hasn’t received the showing notification.
Recently, I have noticed more and more smart doorbells, equipped with cameras and microphones. This enables sellers to see who’s at their door and hear what they are saying, even if they are miles away. Inside, there are also web cams. This type of cameras can be used for many helpful purposes, including checking in on a pet or child and for overall security benefits. It is worth noting that some of these devices are visible, while others can be hidden.
Though the legality of watching unknowing home buyers through a web cam has not been fully determined, it’s happening more and more. NerdWallet reports that 15% of US home sellers have used a surveillance camera to monitor showings. With the proliferation of inexpensive cameras, by 2022, 50 million homes are projected to have a Wi-Fi camera.
What can buyers do during showings to protect their privacy and their position?
1. Don’t gush about a home – Being too positive can hurt your negotiating position. Save the excitement and the conversations for your REALTOR’s car, perhaps as you head to the next property.
2. Don’t be overly critical either – While it’s important to raise objections with your realtor, so she or he can help you find a fix if one exists, be sure not to be overtly critical. If you offend the seller, this has the potential for negatively affecting negotiations later.
3. Don’t share any confidential information with your Realtor during the showing - Discussions about purchase price, terms, your budget, personal situations, etc. should be saved for your REALTOR’s office, car or other setting where your privacy can be assured.
Some advice for sellers: If you’re monitoring potential buyers with cameras or microphones, be sure to disclose by using signage to indicate the use of surveillance. While buyers may be less comfortable in your home knowing that their behavior is being observed, it gives them proper warning. If they find out later that they were being watched and their privacy potentially violated, it might have legal implications if a conflict arises.
Simply put, pretend that the seller is in the next room, listening to your conversation. If you follow this advice, you will better protect your private information and your future negotiations.