Security cameras spying on homebuyers

Posted at 8:10 PM, Jul 20, 2017

On a hot muggy day in Houston we sat down with the Allbrittons in their home they just purchased and are closing on.  They were excited, they're both artists and love the art studio that the previous owners had made in the backyard.  

Shane Allbritton says, "it just felt right, it just felt like home."

They loved the amount of space they were getting and they need it with their little son Grayson running around.

They looked at between eight to nine homes before they fell in love with the one they bought.  One home during the search was described by Peter Allbritton as "creepy."

Lisa Brown was their realtor, she is actually responsible for bringing this story to our attention. She warned them they needed to be particularly careful in one of the homes they were looking at because it had security cameras in the home.

Peter says, "you feel like you're being watched." Shane agrees, "you are."

Peter was worried about being able to talk openly and shares how awkward it was.

Lisa Brown doesn't mince words.

"They're watching and listening to you."

Lisa had realtors in her broker's office that were actually spied on.  She struggles with the difficulty that puts on buyers and feels it's unfair.

"How much they want to buy the house for and how they want to choose to create their offer for the seller, if the seller is watching them, they lose their ability to be able to negotiate because they've been spied on.”

In one particular case, a seller sent her office video of a buyer walking around the house. His intent was to get a correction for something the realtor had misspoken about. Sellers are listening.

We spoke with the National Association of Realtors' Finley Maxson who says this is becoming more of an issue. We looked at what the law says and in most states it is illegal to eavesdrop on someone when they are in the privacy of their home if you are not one of the people taking part in the conversation. But most laws are antiquated and lack proper modernization regarding real estate.

Finley clarifies, "so audio surveillance generally requires the consent of one or both parties. While video surveillance has a fact test, which is based on the reasonable expectation of privacy of the individual being filmed."

He believes that the realtors should warn buyers when they know cameras are present, however, the National Realtors Association doesn’t require it.

Lisa Brown believes the states should make laws to regulate this.

"Until we get specific laws or disclosures to say hey this is how this works all we can do is just warn our buyers that are walking in the houses this is what they have to look out for."

Shane and Peter were so turned off by the cameras they never gave the house with the cameras a second thought.

"Honestly when we left the house I forgot all about it because we didn't discuss anything about the house when we were in it and that's usually how you…unless you're making those conversations while in the house, there's not a lot you're going to remember other than 'that was uncomfortable,'" says Peter.

Shane agrees, "it was quite a distraction."

Lisa Brown advises if you need to have a conversation don't do it in the house, take them outside away from the home. With about 1 in 5 homes having some form of surveillance, odds are you'll encounter one if you're home shopping.