If you’re going to open houses, the owners may be watching you

Three in 10 home sellers admit to using hidden cameras during open house visits. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/gorodenkoff)

Homeowners are usually anxious to know what potential buyers think of their home, and some aren’t waiting for their real estate agent to report on how the open house tours are going.

Three in 10 home sellers admit to using hidden cameras during open house visits, with the most-cited reason being understanding what homebuyers do and don’t like about their home, according to a recent survey by LendingTree.

Doing so runs the risk of blowing a sale.

“Fifty-six percent of buyers responding to our survey said they’d consider being secretly recorded a violation of their trust, and 44% said that they’d no longer buy their dream home after discovering they’d been secretly recorded. So, yes, it can really blow up in a sellers’ face,” said Jacob Channel, senior economic analyst at LendingTree.

Can a homeowner even legally do that?

“Generally speaking, if someone is on your property, you can record them. Even if you don’t have their consent or don’t disclose it,” Channel said.

It doesn’t take technological wizardry. More than half of homes already have some sort of video camera setup, the most common being doorbell cameras, security cameras and baby monitor cameras, according to LendingTree.

LendingTree also asked recent homebuyers if they suspected they were being watched or recorded. In the survey, 19% said yes, they saw the camera, and another 13% said they didn’t see a camera but suspected one was there.

Sellers who do watch or record their open house visits may not have to disclose it, but Channel suggests it is a good idea to disclose it.

“If you’re a seller and you want to sell your house, based on the number of people who would react negatively to being secretly recorded, you’re probably better off disclosing it to them even if you legally don’t have to,” he said.

Some homeowners who use hidden cameras during open houses have other reasons, including 31% who say they want to ensure their home is safe during showings, and 23% who say they want to see what their real estate agent is saying about their home.

LendingTree surveyed 2,100 recent home sellers and homebuyers online between June 24 and June 29 for its report.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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