Hello, this is Jennell Alexander from Love living DC, bringing you this week’s real estate tip. When you’re out searching for a new home and you find the perfect one, it might be tempting to celebrate right there and talk about your plans for the house with your family and your Realtor®. That can be a BIG mistake that costs you thousands of dollars!
A Growing Problem
Home security equipment is more popular than ever. These devices include cameras, doorbells, and nursery monitors. There have been reports of home sellers intentionally or even accidentally recording home buyer’s conversations. If the seller knows how much you love their house, they could use that as leverage against you in contract negotiations. Here’s an example of a recent comment from a home seller on the internet forum Reddit:
The last house we sold had Ring (doorbell). Most people leave the front door open when showing so we could hear all of the conversations and the pros and cons. We had a total of 5 offers and were able to drive up the price. I knew who each of my buyers were and how much they were willing to pay. It was amusing and worked quite favorably for us.
Is Recording Home Buyers Legal?
Each year, the National Association of Realtors performs a state-by-state surveillance survey to keep Realtors®. appraised of the changing laws. The 2018 survey found that every state except Vermont had some sort of statuary provision governing the recording of oral conversations. Here are the requirements for the jurisdictions in the DC Metro area:
District of Columbia
A person may record oral conversations where either the person is a party to the conversation or at least one of the participants has consented to the recording. A person may have monitoring devices in their own home for the purpose of security.
It is lawful to record a communication where the person recording is a party to the communication and all of the parties to the communication give consent. A person may not use a camera on private property to record or observe those inside, without consent by the persons residing therein. Though, a person may place a camera on private property if there is no intent to conduct deliberate surreptitious observation of an individual inside the private residence. It is lawful for a person to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication where the person is a party to the communication and where all of the parties to the communication have given prior consent to the interception unless the communication is intercepted for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act.
A person may record oral conversations where either the person is a party to the conversation or at least one of the participants has consented to the recording. A person may not photograph or record a fully or partially nude nonconsenting person, in a place where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. A person may intercept a wire, electronic or oral communication, where such person is a party to the communication or one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception.
So, it appears that all three local states provide reasonable protection for home buyers who are touring a home for sale. But what if the buyer never finds out about the recording? I have read about cases where the seller even didn’t tell their own agent about the recording. Then they subsequently used that information to gain in their negotiation.
As always, should consult legal counsel for advice with respect to these laws in your state.
Now that we understand the scope of the problem, what are the potential solutions? Home shoppers can’t exactly take a vow of silence while they’re out touring homes. It’s important for all decision makers in the home buying process to communicate with each other and with their real estate agent about the pros and cons of each home that they visit.
I make my clients aware of the potential presence of these devices BEFORE we enter any home. I also advise them to wait until we’re outside of the home, away from the door, before discussing pricing strategies.
Even though it is illegal in the states of DC and Maryland to do any kind of audio recording, it still happens. While many Realtors® representing home sellers have begun disclosing the presence of security devices in the homes they put on the market, it is better to be safe than sorry. Assume you’re being recorded in the houses you view and discuss the merits of the property elsewhere!
As always, please use me for all your real estate needs. I’m here to help. My information is below.
Love Living DC is Washington’s #1 real estate team for dependable neighborhood expertise. Our experience and local knowledge eases the stress of buying or selling a house. We help busy families like yours find their dream home.
Call or text Jennell Alexander today at (202) 717-2276 or visit LoveLivingDC.com.