Watch your words: Home sellers secretly record potential buyers

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Everything you say when touring an open house, from the snarky comments you make about the wallpaper to your plans to put in an offer, might be captured on secret video or audio recordings made by the home’s sellers.

The (Iowa) Gazette reports homeowners there are secretly filming or recording shoppers during open houses:

As homeowners struggle to sell in a competitive market, and as news reports circulate about criminals targeting show homes and "open houses," more homeowners are taking unconventional and innovative measures, including setting up video and audio recorders in their homes to gain insight into what is hurting their chances at selling and to protect their property.

"It’s something that we have suggested to our members might be a good idea — as long as they are being conscious about state and local laws — as a safety measure to deter criminals," said Lesley Walker, associate counsel for the National Association of Realtors.

Home video surveillance is a trend that’s likely to grow now that the major cable providers are offering security systems that let you use a computer or hand-held device to see what’s happening inside your home, including what potential buyers do when touring your home.

With all that in mind, it’s fine to criticize the carpet color during a house tour, but don’t discuss anything related to a potential offer until you’re back in your car.

I’d also take it just a bit further and argue that you want to think carefully about what you say to your own real estate agent about issues like how much you’re willing to pay for a house. Unless you’ve played poker with her, you don’t know how good your agent is at bluffing when the seller’s agent asks questions about your offer.

If you think home sellers are taping you and you like to play head games, then you could drop some manipulative comments while you’re in open houses.

Here's a good line to use:

I love this place, but that other house was so much less expensive. We could put in an offer, but if they come back above $125,000, I say we move on.

Sellers thinking about doing a little high-tech spying on buyers can check the laws of their states on a handy list from the Association for American Physicians and Surgeons that shows how many parties in a conversation have to agree before it can be recorded.

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