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The Walls Have Ears

(That’s an obscure WWII reference, in case you were wondering…)

In these days of tech-enabled smart homes, it’s becoming increasingly common for homeowners to have “smart” doorbells, nanny-cams, and other surveillance technology. It’s handy for knowing if your packages have been delivered, etc. None of this is a problem, unless you’re in the market to sell your home, or buy one.

If you’re selling your home and have any surveillance equipment, these can create a liability for you, particularly if these devices record or transmit audio. Ideally you would remove the various cameras and microphones, but that may not always be possible or practical. However, as with many things related to selling your home, full and forthright disclosure, in this case of the presence of electronic monitoring, can go a long way towards mitigating your risk. One way to do that is to have clear signage at the property entrance announcing to prospective buyers and agents that surveillance equipment is in use. It should also be mentioned in the written seller disclosures that are provided to prospective buyers during the transaction process.

When I’m working with buyers, I begin by telling them to assume that there are cameras and recording devices in and around the home. Why? First of all, because these days, there often are, and it’s rarely disclosed. More importantly, unless it’s something we would say to the sellers in their presence, it isn’t something to be discussed on their property at all. Even a seemingly innocuous comment may cause offense and sour the seller on us before we’ve even presented our offer. Discussing anything to do with money could weaken our negotiating position. And the caution shouldn’t end at the front door. I’ve been to showings where the sellers are lurking, watching to see who is coming and going. Generally, I will walk down the block with my clients before we discuss anything of importance.

So, whether you’re selling your home, or looking to buy one, be sure you understand the issues around smart doorbells, cameras etc., and be careful.