Alexa, It Always Feels Like Somebody’s Watching (and listening to?) Me 👀👂🤪
Remember the family that had Alexa accidentally send a recording of a conversation to a random contact? Remember that show “Person of Interest” that showed how people could be so easily traced through the use of “public” surveillance cameras? What do these two things have in common with real estate? Well, it may be more than you think. There’s a little known thing that’s happening in homes these days that can affect the buying and selling process that a lot of people probably don’t know about. That is, with the increased use of security devices like Simplisafe and Ring doorbells, and “convenience” technology devices like Alexa, Echo, Goggle Home, potential home-buyers can be seen and heard by sellers at showings, inspections, etc. In my experience, this isn’t common knowledge to the general house-viewing public, and even some realtors aren’t aware of what these things look like or how they’re activated.
Don’t get me wrong, having visual and listening devices in a house isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. Home-sellers take a risk every time their house is shown by letting people they don’t know walk through their home, so they have every right to record things seen and heard during a showing. I have actually had clients that caught a teenager stealing a bottle of liquor from their house, and other clients that witnessed some relatively innocent but still inappropriate behavior between an agent and buyer in their home (it was in the kitchen at least, lol!), so there are definite benefits.
On the other hand, listening to or watching buyers as they talk about and walk through a house can not only be a bit voyeuristic, but can also give a seller a bit of an advantage in a negotiation. For example, let’s say the buyers are just in love with the house – they walk through it exclaiming constantly at how wonderful this and that are…does that give a seller an advantage when an offer comes in? I think it does. And when it comes to inspections, a simple comment from a buyer about there not being anything from the inspection to make him/her walk away from the sale of the house puts the seller at an advantage for sure!
So, I always advise buyers to keep their comments to a minimum during showings at the beginning of the home-buying process. When I notice a listening and/or visual device during a showing, I often just make a joke of it by waving at the Ring doorbell or saying “hi, sellers!” to make the thought of potentially being watched or listened to less uncomfortable. For sellers who have these devices, they can of course monitor their home in any way they see fit. Disclosing that ability is the key to making sure that buyers and their agents are aware of the possiblity of “surveillance”. In fact, our MLS system has added places in the house information input section so that agents can see, and make their buyers aware of, that possibility.
Have you ever said or done anything on video that you realized later had been recorded? Have you had a candid camera moment? I’d love to hear about it! If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you!