Going on a Home Tour? Someone Might Be Watching and Listening
A tour is that part of the home-buying process that lets you take a closer look at the house you want to buy. It’s also when you need to ask specific questions about the property and gather enough information to use on the negotiating table. This will make it easier for you to close a deal with the buyer.
Be warned, though. You’re probably not alone in gathering information. Someone else might be recording your conversations without you knowing.
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A disturbing trend has recently been brought up among sellers. This involves them using special cameras and voice recorders to eavesdrop on unsuspecting buyers and their agents. You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal about that?” Not only is it illegal in most states where two-party consent is needed but it’s also a breach of etiquette that grants sellers an unfair advantage at the negotiating table.
Sellers would wire their homes with various recording devices that allow them to listen to conversations and use this intelligence to come up with terms in a bid to fast-track the transaction and come up with better pricing arrangements. If this isn’t enough to disturb home buyers, a USA Today report covering the issue points out that a majority of home sellers would use the surveillance cameras in their properties to snoop on buyers.
Against the law
In recent years, recording devices have become cheaper and sophisticated. Sellers could connect their phones to surveillance systems via an app they can access anywhere. This allows sellers to monitor a home tour without being physically present.
It may seem too much of an inconsequential thing and some buyers might not take issue with sellers playing “stake-out,” but it’s still important for buyers to be aware of their rights when going on a home tour. To the minds of sellers, however, they also reserve the right to install CCTV cameras and other recording devices within the properties they’re selling. Then again, it’s not a question of whether property owners can or cannot install surveillance systems. It’s more of asking for consent as prescribed by local statutes on surveillance.
Some states such as Texas have wiretapping laws in place requiring only consent from one party. An article on the Texas Association of Realtors website puts plainly:
“Texas law does not allow audio recording or audio monitoring of conversations that you are not a part of. If the seller is not present and participating in the showing, he cannot record it. Even though the conversation happens inside a seller’s home, he is prohibited from recording any conversations that he is not a part of.”
Keeping it safe
It’s important to know that home sellers are required on contract with a broker to disclose any and all recording devices installed within and around the property for sale. Although it would be awkward on the part of the seller, it is actually considered a best practice to put signs that notify buyers and their brokers about the presence of surveillance tools.
Buyers will have to be extra vigilant and work with a broker that’s reliable and would work hard to secure their best interests.