Spying on the Buyer, or
“Electronic Chaperones?”

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every vase you break*
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

–Sting; lyrics, “Every Breath You Take”

Frankly, I’m surprised that it took until late 2011 to hear about it:  a (creeped-out) colleague reporting that the home she just showed had electronic surveillance cameras watching her and her client.

And not just the stationery ones; according to the agent, the cameras (plural) actually tracked them as they moved through the house!

As I said . . . creepy

Surprise #2:  the home where this occurred wasn’t a Lake Minnetonka mansion, but a middle class home in the ‘burbs.

For all I know, other home Sellers have also equipped with their homes with interior security cameras — but at least they had the good sense to hide the cameras.

Advice to Home Sellers

My advice to other homeowners tempted to outfit their home in a similar fashion:  for the vast majority of home Buyers, the purchase decision is inherently an emotional one.

Feeling creeped-out about a home and feeling warm-and-fuzzy about it — at least to my mind — are mutually exclusive sentiments.

For Sellers worried about their valuables, here are two, good pieces of information:  1) if your home’s on the market, you shouldn’t have valuables on the premises (probably good advice even if your home isn’t on the market); and 2) I’ve never heard of anything disappearing during a Realtor showing yet.

Most Realtors now use electronic lockboxes, which precisely track — and identify — everyone who obtains access (Realtors all use unique electronic passwords). 

If something in the home vanished, and they did the last showing . . . they’d certainly have a lot of explaining to do!

Meanwhile, I stand by my advice to Buyers when I’m showing a home:  questions about the home’s features, condition, etc. are fair game.

However, leave the discussion about impressions, reactions — and especially future interest — for later.

P.S.:  Is bugging — or monitoring — your own home legal in Minnesota?

For crime prevention — no question.

For eavesdropping on prospective Buyers — I honestly don’t know.

My guess is the issue turns on whether the Seller has to disclose that they’re doing that. 

Maybe that’s why the home owner discussed above opted for conspicuous, wall-mounted cameras(?!?).

*OK, Sting’s version says “bond,” not vase.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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