A new trend is emerging among homeowners in which they secretly turn the lens of their video camera system towards people that are visiting the property in the hopes of buying it. Naturally the shady practice has garnered a huge uproar within the house hunter community, since no one likes to feel like a lab rat. However, monitoring strangers who set foot inside your home isn’t without its merits, otherwise sellers wouldn’t want to give it a try. But is it moral or even legal to eavesdrop on someone you wish to conduct business with? And what can the house hunters do in order to protect their privacy?
Peeking Into the Cards of Your Buyers
Before tackling the legal ramifications, it’s important to understand why people are spying on their own potential buyers. In brief, it’s like taking a peak at your opponent’s cards during a poker match; by switching on your surveillance system you’ll get the guests’ genuine reaction while they tour the place with the realtor. Knowing just how interested they are in the house also provides the upper hand during any negotiations. And considering how affordable wireless IP cameras have become, placing recorders in key rooms will surely give you the chance to lower their price after a well-struck deal. There are also homeowners who claim that they only resort to this tactic of elusive monitoring because they need honest feedback about the aspects they should improve on, although the truth of this argument is questionable.
Is This Even Legal?
Don’t get too riled up though, monitoring home buyers in secret isn’t the norm but the exception… at least for now. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll for NerdWallet, only 15% of owners have ever used their home security system for such surveillance purposes. At the same time, around 67% admitted that they either plan to do so or at least considered the idea, which could mean a potential risk to the buyer’s privacy in the future.
The legality of spying on house hunters is hard to judge because surveillance laws differ in each state. In general terms, using devices capable of recording audio or video without the target’s consent is illegal as long it happens in an area where a reasonable assumption of privacy is possible. However, whether or not you can expect privacy in someone else’s property – since at the time of a visit you don’t own it – is debatable, which is why the whole issue is a grey area.
The morally acceptable act would be for the homeowner to put up a sign or inform the guests about the live recording of the cameras. Doing so, however, would defeat the whole purpose of the eavesdropping. As for the house hunters, all that we can recommend is to curb their reaction and ensure a poker face throughout the tour of the property.
And What About the Burglars?
Actually, there is a third reason why someone would use an IP camera to check those snooping around in the building, and it’s for genuine security purposes. You’ll never know whether the alleged buyers are burglars in disguise, surveying the layout for a future break-in. Even worse, some unscrupulous individuals might even pocket a few valuables when no one is looking. Having a live surveillance system recording their face not only provides evidence after a theft, but also discourages any criminals from proceeding with their plan.
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