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Realtors: Is Someone Watching You During A Showing?

As a real estate agent, you’ve likely conducted many private showings for your clients.  But were they really as “private” as they seemed?

Well, not in the case of one local agent who recently fell victim to peering eyes.

The incident occurred after concluding a showing on another agent’s listing. The showing agent was locking the door and returning the key to the lockbox when she received a phone call from the listing agent asking, “so what did your clients think?”

Stunned, the showing agent asked,  “how did you know we had finished the showing?”  The listing agent explained that the home was equipped with a security system that included audio and video real-time streaming and recording, meaning that the listing agent had observed the entire showing, room-by-room, and was apparently able to hear every comment the prospective purchasers and the showing agent made about the home.

Thankfully, the showing agent and her clients did not discuss anything too confidential, but it begs the question, what if they had?

The Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act makes it a felony of the third degree (with some very limited exceptions) to intentionally intercept or procure, or endeavor to intercept or procure, any electronic or oral communication without the communicators consent.  In the situation above, what if the showing agent and her clients had made a comment that “although I’d be willing to pay the asking price, let’s start with an offer below that amount.”  Would this have been a violation of the Wiretapping Act?

Regardless of the possibly unlawful conduct, it would have placed the seller in a much better negotiating position than the buyer.

So how can a situation like this be avoided?

Listing agents should ask clients whether the home has a security or surveillance system, and whether that system is capable of recording audio, video, or both.  If the system can record audio, the agent should advise the client to disable the audio recording prior to any showings.  It may also be advisable to have your clients consult with legal counsel to determine whether the use of the home security system could be unlawful.  Lastly, consider adding a comment under “Agent’s Remarks” on the MLS Listing that the property is under 24/7 video and/or audio surveillance.

In reality, the possible violation of the law must be weighed against the security benefits that an in-home camera system can offer, especially when a seller is inviting strangers into their home when they’re not present.

Buyers and their agents should be cautious of making any private comments while in a property.  Better yet, operate under the assumption that all showings are being recorded, and only make private comments outside of the home.

So do you still have the feeling you’re being watched during the showing?  Most likely, you probably are.

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