Home buyer, beware! The seller may be watching. And listening.
A growing number of home sellers are using security cameras and microphones to spy on potential buyers as they tour their houses or condos. They then may use what they hear or see as leverage in price negotiations.
The trend has been fueled by the spread over the past five years of inexpensive Wi-Fi enabled cameras and mics that homeowners can buy and set up themselves for home security. Motion sensors notify them by text or email that a visitor is in their house, and they can then observe a prospective buyer on a computer, laptop or smartphone through the Internet. Alternatively, they can view a recording later.
“Recording devices are cheaper and more readily available,” says Leslie Walker, deputy general counsel of the National Association of Realtors.
Last October, a retired civil service worker bought a three-bedroom house in Richmond Hill, Ga., for about $250,000, says Andi DeFelice, who represented the buyer as a broker at Exclusive Buyer’s Realty. After the retiree moved in, his next-door neighbor told him the seller “’knew he had a buyer the minute you walked through,’” DeFelice recounted
Pretend the seller is home
He was right. When DeFelice and her client toured the home, they both gushed that it was perfect for his need for an isolated workshop to tinker with computers and TVs. The property came with a detached small building with a kitchen, bathroom, living area and two-car garage.
DeFelice believes the intelligence the seller had didn’t affect the bargaining. The retiree paid $15,000 less than the asking price. But “it’s not a comfortable feeling to know that you’re being recorded,” says DeFelice, whose agency represents buyers only and who heads the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents. “I was annoyed because my client was annoyed.”
Now, she says, she routinely tells potential buyers to curb their enthusiasm while they’re in the house. “Before we walk in the door, I say, ‘Pretend the seller is home’ or ‘Pretend somebody is listening.’ Because you never know.
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