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Smile! Your Showing Skills Are On Candid Camera.

Video Recorded Property Showings = Priceless or Shameless?

Candid Camera

“All truth passes through three stages:

First it is ridiculed.

Second, it is violently opposed.

Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” – Schopenhauer

Your favorite retail stores do it.  Video cameras surveil and monitor shopper your behavior, interaction and experience.  Schools, hospitals, restaurants, bars, casinos, friends and corporations use it too – video.

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Imagine the quality of feedback the listing agent and their seller would receive if showing appointments were monitored by video equipment?  You could see and hear how prospective buyers react – live, unbiased and unspun.  No more begging the listing agent for fuzzy feedback, no more spin, no conflicts of interest, no BS, simple straight facts.

I know.  You might be thinking I’ve lost my mind.  At worst it’s a violation of privacy, at a minimum it’s rude and icky.  I get that.  Let me ask you this, while showing property, do you ever allow your clients to video tape or photograph the interior of the property during the showing? Is this a violation of the owners privacy?  If you do or have, you have one foot in door.  Did you ask for the seller’s permission?  Should you?  Why or why not?

Guess what?  Virtually every retailer in America has cameras rolling.  Why?  To minimize theft?  Of course.  And, do you think that savvy retailers don’t analyze their video data for more than theft.  Do you think they might monitor traffic patterns, shopper behavior, employee performance, consumer comments and more? Of course they do.

Do you think that there are sellers across the country who have installed video equipment to record agents showing, with or without the knowledge of their listing agent? I do, how about you?

Showing Agent Feedback Is Next To Worthless

I wrote about property preview/broker open house a while back. Many jumped to the conclusion that I was an idiot.  Maybe so, maybe not. Let’s move on, suspend your judgement just a few paragraphs more.  Please.

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Asking, begging and pleading for showing agents to share their impressions of their buyer’s impressions, and their professional opinions about your listings yields next to worthless insight . Whoa!  Hear me out.

I understand the seller wants it and you try to provide it.  I understand all the motivations and expectations.  I think Showing Agents Feedback is next to worthless because it’s shared third hand.  I imagine you’re familiar with the joke where a story is whispered into one persons ear, then that person whispers the story in another persons ear and on and on.  When the last person in line tells the story out-loud, it’s not anywhere near the same story. Most of the time, showing feedback is like that.

What If..

Video recording equipment is relatively inexpensive these days What if you found an affordable video surveillance vendor and offered this service to your clients or you bought and installed the equipment yourself. Bye-bye chasing, begging and pleading for showing feedback, hello happy sellers and an extreme point of difference.

Imagine your local MLS adding a checkbox on your data entry, a disclosure, you check the box – “Video Surveillance”.  Everyone knows, it’s not a secret.  Full disclosure.

If your sellers knew the video recording of showings was available to them, would they pass or say, “Hell YEAH” or “No thank you, we don’t want to know what people are saying about our house.”

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Would You Resist…

We know our every move is being recorded when we visit a retail store, would you object to being recorded when showing properties? Would your buyers refuse to view a listing if they knew they were being recorded?  If you refused to offer this service and your competitor did, as an option, do you think some sellers would choose them over you?

Does NAR, your local association or your broker have a policy addressing the video recording of showing appointments?  If they exist at NAR or with my local Borad, I couldn’t find them (I didn’t spend all day looking, but I made an attempt.).

Conclusions…

Showing agent feedback is a Jurassic tradition, it’s inaccurate and next to worthless.  Some sellers, unbeknownst to their listing agent, are already using video/audio surveillance to monitor showings. Like we use smart brand management thinking and practices for our on-line and off-line interactions, we should show properties as if we were being recorded.

Half-Hearted Homework

On-line Discussion – Can You Record Showings?

Is A Nanny Cam Legal?

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People can be sneaky – Check These Out.

Audio Recoding Laws In The US

Epilogue

I do believe that when and if you get it, most Showing Feedback is worthless.  Assuming you’re a pro, you know if your listing is priced correctly, how the property shows and what needs to be done to position your property competitively. If the buyer is interested, they’ll ask questions and submit an offer.  If you are a showing agent and your buyers are interested in the property, showing your hand too early will give the listing agent time to generate competing offers, that’s their job.

Because I wrote this article on this subject, don’t think I’m a privacy, stalker, secret video recording freak or creep.  I’m not and I don’t.

I’m not suggesting that we should all run out and rig-up, secret or unsecret surveillance systems in our listings.  I am saying that there are sellers today who are recording showings without our knowledge.  I am asking us all to consider how we would show properties if we knew we were on Candid Camera.  I am suggesting that recording property showings has pros and cons.  I am suggesting that presented correctly, an agent or brokerage might create a point of difference and attract an unserved niche of sellers.  I am suggesting that offering showing surveillance services is first mover advantage and something that most competitors would not choose to match or compete with.

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There you have it, some strange thinking.  What do you think.  Remember, don’t shoot the messenger and no name calling please.

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Photo Credit

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Written By

Ken Brand - Prudential Gary Greene, Realtors. I’ve proudly worn a Realtor tattoo for over 10,957+ days, practicing our craft in San Diego, Austin, Aspen and now, The Woodlands, TX. As a life long learner, I’ve studied, read, written, taught, observed and participated in spectacular face plant failures and giddy inducing triumphs. I invite you to read my blog posts here at Agent Genius and BrandCandid.com. On the lighter side, you can follow my folly on Twitter and Facebook. Of course, you’re always to welcome to take the shortcut and call: 832-797-1779.

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Matt Thomson

    February 22, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I actually love this idea. When I first started reading, I was getting upset and formulating all of my objections. By the time I hit the end, I thought this is certainly a tool to consider.
    You asked if I’ve ever allowed video or photos while walking buyers through…of course! But the sellers implied consent when they posted their home on the market and invited you in. All privacy bets are off. But when the buyers agreed to walk into the home, isn’t it the same for them?
    Not saying I’m going to do it right away, but love the concept.
    And fully agree the uselessness of showing feedback. “How’d your buyers like the property?” “Oh, they loved it! It was perfect, great price, everything they wanted, showed beautifully.” “Oh, so you’re making an offer?” “Ummm…nah.”

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 10:37 am

      The practice of Video Recording Real Estate Showing Appointments is radical. I know some seller’s are doing it, with our without their agents knowledge. The general idea feels like an invasion, I don’t think that will be the case down the road, 12months a year?

      Thanks for your feedback Matt.

  2. Jim Duncan

    February 22, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Privacy concerns aside (and I’m not willing to concede them quite yet to anyone other than Google apparently) ….

    This is a great idea. I was thinking of this the other day as my clients and I were going to a house laughing (bordering on ridiculing) the layout and design decisions of the sellers. It was mean, it was occasionally crass but it was honest, blunt and true.

    If the sellers had the opportunity to hear/see what was being said, and they were willing and able to make the necessary changes they would either:

    1 – pull their home off the market
    2 – spend the money to make their home more marketable.

    I’m curious about the applicable laws regarding sellers recording people on their own property….

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 10:42 am

      From the brief Google research I did, it appears that homeowners can record video in their own homes, private property rights, etc. It seems that, for some reason, the audio recording might not be cut and dried OK.

      The more I think about, in terms of the Seller, why would they NOT want to see the real deal? I understand why a buyer might not want their feeling captured, it could hurt their negotiating position.

      Thanks for the comment and the grammar toe stub, I changed the title at the last minute and didn’t think to proof it. You’ve saved me extra embarrassment and I appreciate it.

      Cheers.

  3. Benn Rosales

    February 22, 2010 at 10:57 am

    This brings up several caution flags for buyer agents and protecting client privacy issues if there is the potential that private conversations are recorded. Where we once enjoyed the space to discuss the property and potentially making an offer, or enthusiasm of a buyer towards a particular home gives the seller potential leverage over the buyer. I suppose buyers agents beware is in order or you may give away buyer positioning.

    I would suspect that if the sellers agent is asked directly if any recording devices are used within the home, the agent would have/or should disclose that information. We show homes with closed circuit recording all the time, but with sound is something different all together.

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 11:06 am

      I agree Benn, from the general research I did, it appears that Video Recording in your own home is legal, audio recording is questionable and most likely not legal without the consent of the person being recorded.

      You’ve worked with builders in the past, so have I, I’m curious why builders don’t record their showings, traffic etc.? Seems it would keep their sales folks on their toes and provide great feedback on buyer behavior/reaction.

      Also, it would smart for the MLS vendors to provide a check box – Video Surveillance – yes or no.

      Thanks.

      • Benn Rosales

        February 22, 2010 at 11:14 am

        I’ll tell ya Ken, the more I think about this the more I’m not so sure it doesn’t hamper the agent/buyer time within the home. If you consider those buyer moments, and those times I’ve sat in the living room of a potential home allowing the buyers to ‘be at home’ and discuss the furniture, paint, or how they might blow out a wall and dream of living in the home, I think this concept stifles that. I’d want the buyers outside where we could talk.

        I cannot speculate why builders would or wouldn’t, but I would disclose it to the buyer and allow them to decide if they’re comfortable- buyers are fickle and I’ve had to wait outside with clients for over 30 mins at a time waiting for the showing ahead of us to move on just so they could have it to themselves.

        • Ken Brand

          February 22, 2010 at 11:25 am

          If having the seller hover or even present at a property showing blunts the buyers desire/ability to bond with the property, video surveillance could have the same impact. But, if we look at consumer behavior everywhere else video is being recorded, once they are used to it or it’s common, then it’s ignored and things return to normal. In reality, what with on-line data/activity collection and the fact that we’re video taped virtually everywhere we go, I think the shock or distaste would quickly vanish. Sadly or not, another assimilation.

          • Benn Rosales

            February 22, 2010 at 11:32 am

            I don’t agree, as I represent the buyer, I would advise them to remain silent throughout the tour, and avoid giving any buying signals that would lead the seller to any conclusion. I’d ask them to take pictures, as would I, and we could discuss the items of relevance at a different location. Closed circuit recording without sound is one thing, sound is something entirely different.

          • Ken Brand

            February 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

            We actually agree, as the buyer’s agent I would advise the same, act casual and don’t tip your hand.

          • Benn Rosales

            February 22, 2010 at 11:49 am

            I think this just became an awareness issue, I’ve sent some emails to a few people for some ethics reaction.

      • Benn Rosales

        February 22, 2010 at 11:24 am

        btw builders (good ones) utilize secret (mystery) shoppers to check that sales agents are keeping to fair housing guidelines and that their agents aren’t giving away the farm or failing to take fair offers to the builder. I do believe that in some cases they may be recorded as I do know of one of the worlds largest REITs utilizes recordings of mystery shoppers and the employee consents to this at hiring as well as cameras on premises, not to mention all phone conversations are recorded and monitored.

        • Ken Brand

          February 22, 2010 at 11:37 am

          Yes, back in my New Homes sales days, I have been shopped and as a Sales Manager I coordinated the mystery shoppers. They do video and audio record. But we never used it capture buyer and agent reactions. Back in they day we hired a company to record how our team members performed on property calls. Wow is all I can say about the property calls, every single agent was TERRIBLE. It was depressing.

  4. Kris Wales

    February 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    People should check their state laws before doing this. Michigan is a 2 party state for recordings – both parties must be aware of the recording.

    I’m not crazy about the idea as I feel that a buyer should be able to say what they want in the presence of their own agent without fear that it will get back to the seller.

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm

      No doubt, a thoughtful, informed approach is wise. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Houstonblogger

    February 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I’ve never shown a house, nor hosted an open house without reacting to each person as if I was being video-taped or as if there was a mystery shopper in house. I do this so I always stay on my toes, don’t say something that could be considered a violation and so that I always maintain my integrity. So, I guess I don’t really care if someone is filming/recording me.

    • Houstonblogger

      February 22, 2010 at 12:19 pm

      Let me also address the fact that I always encourage my buyers to walk-through as if there was a nanny-cam. I just assume it’s being done with or without the listing agent’s knowledge anyway. Better to be safe than sorry. JMO.

      • Benn Rosales

        February 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm

        What disclosure do you have your buyer sign that you disclosed the potential of audio AND video recording?

        • Houstonblogger

          February 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm

          None. I caution them that you never know what a person is doing/thinking and I have absolutely no idea if we are being recorded, therefore, in looking out for their best interest, I advise they withhold extreme excitement regarding a property until we walk out the door. I tell them that there is no way in this world I can tell whether or not someone has taken the liberty (without our authorization) to record something. It is something that can completely be done without a selling agent’s knowledge and I’d rather be safe.

          • Ken Brand

            February 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm

            I’m with you, better safe than sorry. The same thing goes for agent/broker tours, lunches, etc. I can’t tell you how many times we wheel around the corner and there the seller is, working quietly in their study, hearing everything said. Always conduct yourself professionally, you never know who is watching.

  6. Melanie Wyne

    February 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I think there is a reality show out there that does exactly this thing–according to the website it “secretly” videotapes buyers as the they tour the home then the seller’s watch their reaction. The show must be produced in a state where wiretap laws permit such a thing.

    I think Ken’s assessment of the legality is correct–videotaping in a private home is probably going to be legal as the case law seems to indicate that you have no expectation of privacy in someone else’s private home. Audio recording is another matter and that will be determined on a state by state basis based on state wiretap laws.

    If this practice were to become widespread you can bet that privacy advocates would begin to try to enact greater protections–so far it has not be high on their priority list.

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      I the shows you’re talking about are like Taxi Cab Confessions. At the end they have the folks sign a release, etc. As you’ve stated, I haven’t check with an Attorney, but it seems audio recording is a no-no.

      Thanks for the comment Melanie

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      Evening Melanie, I did some semi-sleuthing to see if I could find anything on the subject of Videoing Showing Appointments in our RE Board’s rules and regs, didn’t find anything. I was wondering if you’d ever heard of rule anywhere where a local association had established any guidelines for disclosure or clarifications, for example, “you can record video – but no sound”, or anything like that?

      And if anyone else is reading this, are you aware of any RE brokerage or agent who offers a service like this as part of their service package?

      Cheers. And thank you.

  7. Kristal Kraft

    February 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Although I’ve never called it a Nannycam like Houstonblogger (love the term!), I still caution buyers to modify our in-home showing discussions as though we are being recorded. It’s not outside the realm for sellers to do so, so why not pretend as they are.

    Having a house discussion about negotiation strategy in the subject property is bad karma.

    These days houses CAN TALK and if they do, we don’t want to be foiled!

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      I know I’ve heard stories, some first hand by sellers, who shared they recorded property showing and didn’t tell their listing agent. Professionalism is key at every turn.

      Thanks Kristal.

  8. Steven Hong

    February 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Another question to ask: How does this apply if the audio or video isn’t being recorded, just monitored? For instance, one could put a walkie-talkie on transmit only, and be just down the street monitoring, but not recording. Same could be done for a video, wireless transmission but not recording.

    I don’t know if this scenario violates any laws, but should be considered.

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm

      Good question, “is it OK to watch” but not record?” I’m imagining a prolific listing agent having a personal real estate branded chatroulette.com/ sorta thing. Good question. Do we have any privacy lawyer specialist types reading today? If so, please chime in. Cheers.

  9. Madison homes for sale

    February 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Haven’t you seen that HGTV show where they secretly record prospective buyers’ reaction to a home before they make it over and jack up the price? A lot of times the sellers are very defensive and even outright offended at the buyers’ comments. I personally have a seller who is so tired of the same feedback she has asked me not to tell her about it anymore (thankfully we finally got an accepted offer the other day). So I’m not that sure that every seller really wants that much truthiness, especially if they have to watch hours and hours of tape to get it. Also, I would certainly have to caution my buyers not to say anything during a showing that might compromise their interests and that would make it much harder to explore different ideas if we had to do that outside the house. Also, if you stand outside talking about the house for a long time, you’ll potentially tip your buyer’s hand that way too. I know a lot of sellers who sit in their car down the straight and spy on buyers so they can get back into their home as soon as the showing is over. I also know sellers who have their neighbors watch buyers’ every move and fill them in later. Bottom line is that this is an example of taking tech too far. Sure, in an ideal world there will be times when video could come in handy for the seller (or for an agent trying to get a point across to their seller), but there are probably just as many buyers who would be put off by the prospect of being video’d and who would not even go into that house or who would spend significantly less time looking at the house and/or exploring options with regards to any objections they potentially found. And finally, there’s the question of whether an agent who is representing the seller (rather than the buyer) would be required to disclose the fact that the property is being surveilled. An interesting idea but IMHO, overkill.

    • Ken Brand

      February 22, 2010 at 6:11 pm

      Good points. Overkill is a possibility. I think sometimes the litmus test of an idea is the polarization of view points. If some hate it (I’m not saying you do or don’t) and some love it, then there is a market for it. If the reaction, is “what ever”, “who cares”, then it’s most likely a dud or boring. That’s not to say this is a great idea or a horrible idea, it’s something to think about and at the very least, a reminder to show properties professionally. Cheers and thanks for your comment.

  10. Madison homes for sale

    February 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    @Ken: Good point. Maybe recording could be centrally-controlled for those buyers who object to being video taped? Sure beats getting sued (e.g. the ~1,000 parents who are suing their kids’ school because they were lent laptops with built-in cameras but weren’t told they could be switched on remotely!).

  11. mooersrealty

    March 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    The camera never lies, never blinks.

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