Ask McEnearney: When I fall in love with a house, should I discuss it with my agent while in the home?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Kim Peele and Hope Peele of The Peele Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact The Peele Group at 703-244-5852 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: When I fall in love with a house, should I discuss it with my agent while in the home?

Answer: With today’s amazing technology, it’s increasingly likely a home may have a security system or other recording device in use. Homeowners regularly use cameras and sound recording devices for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a security concern, while other times it’s just to see who’s at the front door. Some use cameras and listening devices to check on their children while the babysitter is there or to make sure their puppy is not misbehaving. Whatever the reason, when you’re buying or selling a home, home recording devices should be considered.

One of the first things we tell our buyers when starting to look at homes is to wait until you’re outside to tell us that you love the home. And we certainly don’t want discussions about value and pricing inside the home.

We don’t want to give the seller any inside information on your thought process, especially if you decide to make an offer. We certainly don’t want our buyers to lose any of the negotiation leverage we hope to bring to the table, especially in this competitive market. Have you heard the expression poker face? Don’t show your cards to the other party, either with your face or verbally, when touring a home, whether it’s a private tour with your agent or when you are attending an open house.

So, what are your rights and responsibilities as it pertains to real estate? As a seller in Virginia, the listing agreement asks a question that you must answer honestly, disclosing whether you have a recording system in your home. If you do have a recording system for audio, your agent is required to disclose this to all buyers and their agents.

We know of a situation where the sellers checked the box for “no” audio, forgot about this and decided to check in on their puppy cam, which had been set up and not looked at in a couple of years. Their home had gone under contract with multiple offers, and there were no contingencies or further negotiations that would be affected. However, on a buyer visit to measure for window treatments, they heard the realtor and buyers criticizing their decor. They were offended and told their realtor about this and said that if they were not already committed, they would never have chosen this buyer. They were reminded by the realtor that they were in the wrong for listening, and they were instructed to turn off the camera for any future visits. In Virginia, it’s illegal to record a conversation without consent.

We also know of an instance where a seller signed into their recording system to hear the comments of buyers during their open house. They overheard comments about their home being overpriced, and they were furious. Their realtor had to remind them that they should not have had a recording device in the home without disclosure and that it needed to be disabled immediately — or post warning signs so realtors and buyers were aware.

According to a recent LendingTree survey, 30% of home sellers admitted to using hidden recording devices during open house visits. The study also showed that 44% of buyers would back out of a contract if they learned that the sellers had been recording them.

As a buyer, your rights are clear. A seller must disclose the presence of sound recording devices. If it’s simply a camera, with no sound recording, they do not need to disclose, but under no circumstances can a camera be in a private section of the house, such as a bathroom.

The reality is that cameras are present more and more and sometimes sellers don’t need to disclose, even though it is courteous to do so. There are also homes where audio is being recorded, even though it should not be, without disclosure. Sometimes sellers forget to disclose. It’s better to be safe than sorry. As a buyer, you should only discuss the home once you’ve departed the property. As a seller, know your responsibilities, disclose the presence of cameras and turn off all sound recording unless you post signs.

The Peele Group works with their seller clients to make sure that they are aware of the laws and that they are in compliance. We work with our buyers to protect their privacy and put them in the best position for strong negotiations.

If you’d like to discuss your plans for buying or selling a home, we are here to help! Reach out today to Kim andHope Peele at 703-244-5852.

Kim Peele is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc., lives in Old Town and works in VA, DC & MD. She and her daughter Hope Peele are The Peele Group. Kim is a second generation Realtor and fourth generation Washingtonian and is dedicated to helping owners through the challenges of selling their home.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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