Monday, January 22, 2018


You see them everywhere,these days.
Security cameras.  

Thanks to Nest, Ring, Netgear and others, home security monitoring devices are now affordable, accessible and mainstreamed.  

Every week, I walk into homes with cameras on the front porch, cameras over the front entry and cameras (sometimes hidden) in kitchens, bedrooms and home offices.  

Cameras with microphones.

"Just as a precaution, watch what you say", I am now telling my clients on a regular basis.  "Let's discuss the pros and cons after we look at it."

In the age of digital monitoring, privacy is a thing of the past. 

I have spoken and written many times before about how our market is evolving into a suburb of California, and I base those thoughts on having grown up in Southern California and having worked in that market from 1994 - 2005.  

Home prices then were twice (or more) what they were in Denver, affluence was everywhere and technology (and paranoia) were on the cutting edge.  I routinely saw first-generation home security systems in Orange County homes back in 2003, 2004, and 2005, as doctors, attorneys and those in law enforcement routinely wired their homes with security cameras and monitoring systems.

Just as I am doing now, I used to caution my clients against speaking too loudly when touring homes, lest their comments be picked up by the seller.

The truth is, people's comments when looking at homes can be ruthless.

Whether it's insulting the decor, slamming the lack of cleanliness or questioning whether or not work was done with permits... buyers (and agents) can say things that sellers can take very personally... things that will cause your offer to get tossed in the trash if you are not careful.

So the less that is said, the better.

The digital revolution is happening so quickly in home security that privacy laws really haven't kept up.  In California, it is illegal to record another person without their consent, yet the courts have wavered on the subject of whether comments recorded while touring another's home require active consent.

In Colorado, I know of no laws governing this, and so I advise my clients to simply "watch what you say".

Last summer, I was touring a home in DTC which featured empty bedrooms, minimal furnishings and nothing but men's clothes (about half full) in the closet.  

My client asked if I thought the sellers were divorcing, and whether such a vulnerability might lead the seller to consider a lowball offer.  I emailed the agent to ask about the sellers' motivations.  

"My client is not interested in being lowballed," he said in a phone conversation the next morning.  "He's pretty upset that you even brought it up."

I asked how he knew what we had been discussing, and he said every word had been recorded.  At that we lost all interest in the property, and frankly, I'll never look at another one of this agent's listings again.  

Last week, I was shocked into reality again as I was showing a home on a snowy morning.

"Please remove your shoes", said the seller through a speaker mounted in a kitchen security camera as we entered the home.  We were literally being watched (and heard) as we walked through the front door.  We felt completely violated.  Total buzzkill.  

I have now trained my eyes to look over doors, next to windows or in cluttered home offices for cameras that may be mik'd up.  Nest even has a security camera that looks exactly like a home thermostat.  

As is happening throughout our society in the digital age, privacy is increasingly a thing of the past.  It's time for the legislature to address this issue, because right now, it's becoming a real problem.