Home Buyers are Being Recorded by Hidden Video Cameras

You are being watched. At least that’s what every home buyer should assume as they walk through homes that are on the market. With the explosion of video recording devices like Ring door bells and spot lights, nanny-cams are old news. Assume that everything that you say and do is being recorded. And that of course brings up concerns.

“…a neighbor mentioned that the sellers knew we were in love with the home and going to buy it once they heard us talking about how perfect the basement was for my parents…”

We’re affiliated with Campbell and Brannon, Attorneys at Law and they provide stellar service for our clients as well as being a great resource for the ever changing legal landscape surrounding real estate. Privacy issues are a hot topic right now and the explosion of video recording devices opens up many questions. Campbell and Brannon hit the high points regarding video cameras and homes for sale…

The Law on Video Devices in Homes

In Georgia, it is unlawful for any person to observe, photograph or record the activities if another which occur in any private place and out of public view. But…homeowners may for security purposes and crime prevention/detection, use any device to observe and record the activities of persons who are on their property where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.
So that is a wide enough berth to fly a few 747s through. We know people have doggie cams, nanny cams, hubby cams, teenager cams, this cam and that cam. It’s all in the name of security and crime prevention – best of luck demonstrating otherwise. In short, just assume that the home owner can do what they want at their home with regard to video surveillance. Further, assume that you are being watched and listened to.

Best Practices

Campbell and Brannon make it clear that this is a gray area of the law. They suggest that if sellers are concerned about privacy laws, there are two good options. A sign posted that there are surveillance cameras in use would make their presence clear to all concerned. The other option is to make them plainly visible. This allows buyers to know that what they say and do might be recorded and observed.

For buyers, it should be rather obvious that conversations should be limited in areas subject to surveillance. Don’t talk about anything specific, don’t pop open the fridge, use the bathroom or do anything that shouldn’t be done. Always assume that you are being watched and listened to.

Surveillance and the Real World

We’ve listed homes with surveillance cameras and shown homes with them. Our sellers have captured a lot of interesting comments; the candor is often good for sellers. We’ve also captured useful information that was used later on during negotiation. Consider how a buyer’s negotiating position can be weakened if a seller hears them say how the house “is to die for” or “we want this house” or “this is it”. Consider was used rhetorically; when we know a seller is hooked, we will control the deal.

Sellers should never talk to the buyers or their agent; buyers should keep conversations very limited while in a home. In the end, buying a home is a major business transaction and any advantage that can be gained by either side is going to be used.

Knowing that, we always counsel buyers ahead of time to keep the chatter inside or out to a minimum. A generic “that’s nice” or “look at this” is fine; save the “I love it” or “it’s perfect” for later on.

This may sound a bit extreme but selling or buying a home is a significant business transaction; any edge that can be used to gain the upper hand will likely be. A few years ago we posted a strong caution to sellers; don’t be home, don’t chat with the buyer’s agent and don’t engage the buyers in conversation beyond “hello”. It remains an exceptionally popular post – Your Kid is Obnoxious and Your Dog isn’t Cute.  Just as what the seller might inadvertently say (esp when chatted up by a skilled agent) can hurt them, buyers need to be similarly cautious. Video and surveillance in public areas has been around for a decade or more, welcome to it being common in homes.

Questions? Maybe we should talk.

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