Video and Audio Surveillance and REALTORS what you shoudl know

Video Surveillance Is Everywhere

Home surveillance technology is no longer only for the wealthy. The average cost of a basic home audio and video device is little more than $100. Cameras are standard in many smart home devices, and constant connectivity–known as the IoT: Internet of Things–is increasingly becoming the norm. Alexa and Google Home listen in, along with our mobile phones, and new IoT capabilities for everyday-use home items hit the market almost daily.


Surveillance in businesses and public spaces isn’t new, nor is it new for home exteriors like driveways and yards, but the use within homes and the privacy expectations we have in other people’s homes has changed rapidly in recent years. Less than six years ago, smart homes and the IoT weren’t really things. Now we have cameras in everything from doorbells to refrigerators, and we sleep next to the recording devices that we carry around in our pockets and purses all day.


An April 2018 survey by NerdWallet found that 70% of sellers said they would use surveillance technology. Figures last year estimated about 11 million or roughly 13% of homes had audio and video technology installed. That number is expected to increase almost fourfold by 2020 (next year!) with as many as 50 million homes having some form of audio or video recording devices in use.


Today it is best to assume every home has security cameras or smart home features that include audio and video capabilities. From inconspicuous nanny cams and baby monitors to visible Nest dials, sellers watch (and might be listening). This technology is ushering in a new era of how real estate is bought and sold.


Because video recording laws are lax, and the cost of equipment is relatively low, the prevalence is increasing exponentially. Whether you’re walking down a city street or walking through a showing, it’s safe to assume that your every move is being recorded.


What Agents Need to Know

The increased commonality of surveillance technology adds a new layer of complexity to both the agent and consumer experience of buying and selling real estate. As brokers and agents, we must be aware of the legalities to best guide our clients, and the laws are not the same for audio and video.


In most states, it is legal to video record people without their consent. Audio recording, with or without video, is not legal in all states, but it is in most. Thirty-eight states states allow audio to be recorded without individual consent, so long as at least one person in the group being recorded has knowledge of the recording taking place. This includes the person that’s doing the recording.


In all other states (excluding Vermont, where there are no surveillance laws), all parties must give consent for audio recording to be considered legally obtained. Illinois is one of the 11 “all parties’ consent” states. Wisconsin and Indiana are not, so be sure to advise your clients correctly based on location. See the laws in all states here.


Ask your sellers what kind of equipment they have installed and its audio and video capabilities. Explain the laws if necessary but advise clients to speak with an attorney for legal advice. When in doubt, disclose.


When working with buyers, it’s best to share with them in writing or email that they are going to be recorded. This is not a required step (dependent upon your brokerage), and our MLS sheets do contain a recording notice, but this simple extra step ensures your protection.


Also, expect to be recorded at open houses on your own listings, while meeting appraisers, and at buyer inspections as well.

What You Need to Tell Your Sellers and Buyers

In general, people will do what is best for them when they can, especially when it comes to money matters. When sellers are able to see and hear feedback from open houses and showings, they’re given an upper hand in negotiations. While it is perfectly legal for your seller clients to utilize home surveillance, they must follow state law.


To legally employ audio recording in Illinois, sellers must display a sign or somehow alert people visiting the home that they are being recorded. Disclosure on the MLS is a good start, but if audio recording is being utilized, then your clients need to provide an explicit warning (not so with video). It’s also good counsel to share with clients how buyers feel about recording. Some are indifferent, while others find it, frankly, creepy. Share with both sides so that your clients can make an informed decision about what level of surveillance makes the most sense for them.


Buyers that once walked through homes sharing real-time feedback and chatting about home features must now keep their comments and emotions to themselves. It’s best practice to take notes and keep mouths closed until stepping outside and a safe distance away from the property before discussing it. Buyers must also restrain from physical excitement and be aware of their body language. A lot can be said without words, so buyers must be poker-face ready.


To ensure a great buying and selling experience for all involved parties, follow these two simple rules:


  1. For legal advice, call an attorney.
  2. Assume you are being recorded.