Somebody's Watching You [Surveillance]

Surveillance in real estate's on the rise. 

Ever since my first year in the real estate business, I've seen video cameras and other surveillance technology in actively marketed homes. 

Last week, we toured a property in Boulder that featured multiple cameras inside and outside the home. During the course of the weekend, my team actually brought two different sets of buyers through. It was a great house, but despite checking nearly all the boxes for these clients, neither were interested in writing an offer. Why? They couldn't say, exactly. "We just weren't feeling it," they told us.  

So, what were they feeling?  

When a buyer spots a video camera, they conclude the neighborhood has a crime issue, or there is some beef happening with the crazy neighbor, or maybe the seller themselves are paranoid. It doesn't leave a buyer feeling good about the property. It feels creepy to know you're being watched. 

"Hey Osman, there is so little inventory. As a seller, why should I care about a buyer's emotional needs?"  I hear you thinking.  

It's pretty simple. 
In sixteen years in the real estate business, I've never written an offer on a home that had visible cameras. Remember the following mantra: 

Creepy cameras = money left on the table. 
Creepy cameras = longer time on market. 
Creepy cameras = weaker contracts and more fickle buyers. 

Intelligent real estate decisions are based on deep market knowledge. House Einstein is built on this principle. Buying or selling, it's absolutely critical to understand the fundamental economics of supply and demand. Just never forget that at the end of the day, emotions are a key driver of the decision making process. The last thing you want is a potential buyer experiencing a creepy feeling while they're wandering around your listing. 

Buyers make purchase decisions largely based on feel. Afterward, they will come back with logic to rationalize a decision they've already made emotionally. It's human nature. I've seen it countless times; buyers blow self imposed budgets and look past property deficits because a home fulfilled some deeper emotional need. Even the most rational buyers do this. 

It's true. In the current market, buyers are chasing very little available inventory.  Well priced, professionally marketed homes (in certain price ranges and locations) are getting multiple offers. The rub is that the price could have gone even higher, or the contract otherwise might have been even stronger, if the seller didn't install those creepy cameras. This almost certainly overrides a strategic advantage you might gain by recording people who tour your home. 

Our Advice

Sellers: The smartest thing to do is not install surveillance cameras.  

If you choose to ignore me, just remember that the laws governing surveillance cameras vary, and you should consult with an attorney before installing visible or hidden recording devices in your home. In many states, where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, recording people requires the consent of at least one party being recorded. In this market, where a lot of money is chasing very little available inventory, you could find yourself at the receiving end of legal action.  

Buyers: whether you see cameras or not, expect to be recorded. Cameras and audio recording devices are getting smaller and more difficult to detect. They might look like teddy bears on a shelf, or a USB charger, or a smoke detector. This is why we caution our clients to curb their enthusiasm, even as we walk up to the house, and never discuss negotiation strategies while touring a home. Also, be respectful. Don't make any comments on family photos, artwork, or décor.  You never know when you're being recorded. Yes, sellers make emotional decisions, too. 

NOTE: This post is NOT legal advice, and I'm not an attorney.

Osman Parvez  is the Founder and Employing Broker of House Einstein. Originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York, he lives in Boulder with his wife and their Labrador Retriever. He has been a Realtor since 2005.

Osman is the primary author of the House Einstein blog with over 1,200 published articles about Boulder real estate. His work has also appeared in many other blogs about Boulder as well as mainstream newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and Daily Camera. For more information, click HERE.

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The ideas and strategies described in this blog are the opinion of the writer and subject to business, economic, and competitive uncertainties. House Einstein strongly recommends conducting rigorous due diligence and obtaining professional advice before buying or selling real estate.  

Please Note

This document contains forward-looking statements. You are strongly cautioned that investment results are subject to business, economic and other uncertainties. There are no guarantees associated with any forecast and the opinions stated here are subject to change at any time. Always consult your financial advisor before making an investment decision.