If you are a buyer touring a home, be careful of what you say and do; the seller (or the listing agent) may be watching, listening or recording. That’s right, the nanny cam, security camera or other audio and video devices may be active in a home during a showing, watching and listening to what you are saying about the house. Spying on prospective homebuyers is a real thing. Because of its covert nature, along with the legal and ethical implications, it’s not talked about much in our business.
Obviously, direct impressions of the property obtained through buyer surveillance, would be extremely valuable to the seller. Imagine the negotiating advantage a seller has having heard you tell your agent how much you “love this home,” “this is the one” or “I’m willing to pay full price.” Sellers having this information would, of course, undermine your agent’s negotiating strategy. Buyer surveillance is also a great way for sellers and their agents to get direct, honest and accurate market feedback about the property.
The legality and ethics of buyer surveillance are gray areas. Laws vary from state-to-state and hinge on questions of expectations of privacy and consent of the parties being surveilled. As a practical matter, however, it’s unlikely you would know or be able to prove that a seller eavesdropped on your “private” conversations.
Surveillance of homebuyers is just too easy and too tempting for sellers and their agents. The best policy is to assume you are being watched, listened to and recorded while you are in a home and to not discuss anything that you wouldn’t want the seller to hear. Take notes and discuss the property in the car on the way to the next home on the tour.