The more wired we become, the more dependent we become upon using those tech tools and the more vulnerable we become to those tech tools using us without our even knowing it.
No, ignorance is not bliss. Think Facebook. This outfit has been using its tech on us for its own purpose of selling advertising to enhance its bottom line.
The real estate industry is not impervious to such tech use or misuse, depending upon one’s point of view. Think Alexa and security cameras as our real estate examples. Home sellers easily can and do watch and eavesdrop (some would call this “spying”) on buyers and buyers’ agents as they walk through (some would call this “shopping”) a house they may potentially want to buy. Then those same sellers could use the information they “saw” and “heard” on cameras and mics as leverage in price negotiations.
Here’s how the process works regarding this miniscule, silent home surveillance equipment. Motion sensors notify sellers that potential buyers are in the house via their smartphones. The seller or seller’s agent then easily activates the cameras and mics by smartphone without the buyer or buyer’s agent being any the wiser.
A housing analyst for NerdWallet, Holden Lewis, said, “In a competitive housing market, anything is fair game.” In a survey conducted by Harris Polling for NerdWallet, Harris Polling learned that 15% of all sellers used (or admitted to using) surveillance cameras to monitor potential homebuyers. 67% of sellers say they would have used surveillance cameras and recording devices if only they had thought of doing so.
Brad Russell, a research director for Parks Associates, a consumer tech research firm, tells us that 9.4M or 7.4% of all US homes are equipped with Wi-Fi enabled cameras and mics. Another 11M homes are equipped with more limited surveillance set-ups that are trained on doorsteps, places outside of the home or embedded in light fixtures. Aha…up to 13% of all homes in the US have at least one Wi-Fi camera and mic.
Gea Elika, a broker in New York City, estimates that 1/3 of the condominium listings within her dealings (most of her properties cost several million dollars) are equipped with surveillance cameras, mics and monitors.
Jen Engel, an agent with Keller Williams in Atlanta, believes that buyers should always assume they’re being recorded. “In my opinion, if you’re not comfortable with (home surveillance), that’s your problem, not mine. It’s (the seller’s) home and they can do it if they want to.”
By 2022, Russell projects, as do other consumer tech experts that 50M homes will have at least on Wi-Fi camera and mic. But why wait until 2022 to purchase this equipment…right now an average surveillance camera and mic run approximately $125.
Is this kind of surveillance…also known as spying…legal? According to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), surveillance laws vary by state. Some states require a signed consent form from all parties for the use of any kind of surveillance equipment; other states may require consent forms for either eavesdropping of video recording. NAR recommends that listing brokers representing sellers “ought to” tell buyer’s agents that surveillance equipment is being used in the house and/or that the listing broker include a notice in the home listing that surveillance equipment is being used in the house.
I’m with Jen Engel in Atlanta on this. Just assume that any house you and your clients shop is wired, watching and listening. Keep your voices down and your facial cues to a minimum.