Homebuyers beware: ‘Nanny cam’ could be listening during a showing

Homebuyers beware: ‘Nanny cam’ could be listening during a showing

Elliot Njus | enjus@oregonian.comBy Elliot Njus | enjus@oregonian.com
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on September 13, 2014 at 10:16 AM, updated September 13, 2014 at 3:21 PM

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Once upon a time, would-be homebuyers could duck into another room while touring a house to have a discreet, private conversation. Not anymore, a Washington Association of Realtors lawyer says.

In a video posted by the trade group, legal hotline attorney Annie Fitzsimmons warns “lots and lots” of home sellers own “nanny cams,” the hidden cameras tucked into an everyday object to surreptitiously watch the person who’s watching the kids.

And according to Fitzsimmons, those cameras could just as easily be turned on unsuspecting homebuyers, potentially tipping their hand if they want to make an offer.

bz.bearProbably recording every word you say.

“They hear a buyer talk about how much they love they house, they’d be willing to pay full price if they have to, etc., etc.,” Fitzsimmons says in the video. “It gives a serious edge to the seller in that negotiation.”

It’s not clear where Fitzsimmons got the idea this is happening on any sort of wide scale. The Washington Association of Realtors didn’t return a phone message on Friday.

But since this video is making the rounds among real estate agents and the internet at large, if no one was doing it before, they probably will now.

As Fitzsimmons points out, recording a conversation is illegal in Washington state without written permission from the parties being recorded.

But even in states where recording without consent is illegal, she says, “It’s unlikely you or the buyer are ever going to know” the buyers was being recorded.

In Oregon, all participants in conversation have to be “specifically informed” that they are being recorded. But, Ohio State University assistant law professor Margot Kaminski pointed out to The Oregonian, the Oregon law contains an exemption for a resident recording or eavesdropping on a conversation inside their own home.

So regardless, Fitzsimmons warns that homebuyers should avoid making specific remarks about potentially sensitive negotiation points until after they’ve left the house.

“You need to assume that when your buyer is walking through a seller’s home that there is a nanny cam and it’s recording every audio conversation that occurs,” she said, adding that even in states where the recording is illegal,

— Elliot Njus

This story has been edited to reflect the following correction: Margot Kaminski is an assistant law professor at Ohio State University. An earlier version of this story misstated her affiliation.

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