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Are homeowners spying on potential buyers? It's a growing trend in real estate

Buyers should watch out -- it's not clear that recording is illegal.

PHOENIX — If you are in the market for a home and will be touring a few in the future, beware: The seller could be watching you.

In the age of booming technology, a lot of homes are smart homes, rigged with recording and audio devices. Oftentimes, they are hidden from plain site.

“It’s absolutely a hot topic right now with the advent of smaller security systems that sellers can use. It’s definitely something buyers need to be aware of," said Patrick Lewis, president-elect of the Arizona Association of Realtors and associate broker for Realty Executives.

The advantage of recording a buyer is obvious.

“The seller could capture the buyer's potential interest. Buyers might talk about the price or their price thresholds or plans for negotiations," said Lesley Muchow, vice president of te National Association of Realtors.

Is this legal in Arizona?

“The law is a little gray in that area. The law specifically states that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Where the gray area comes in is: Do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in someone else’s home?" said Lewis.

Arizona law states this about audio recording:

ARS 13-3005: A person may record oral conversations where either the person is a party to the conversation or at least one of the participants has consented to the recording.

Video is a little different.

ARS 13-3019: Surveillance is allowed for security purposes as long as notice is posted and the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Child monitoring devices are allowed when installed in a person’s own residence.

How can you protect yourself as a buyer?

“The buyer should ask the agent if there’s any surveillance in the home," said Muchow.

“Even when you are approaching a home, keep your comments to yourself. As a buyer you want to act like the seller is with you when you are looking at the home," said Lewis.

On the seller’s side, it’s best to disclose information regarding surveillance in your home.

“We actually have verbiage that we give to our agents so they can add a disclosure into the MLS to make other realtors and buyers aware of that situation," said Lewis.

Basically, it comes down to this.

“Buyers should always assume that they are being surveilled while walking through a home," said Muchow.

A recent survey conducted by Harris Poll for NerdWallet showed that 15 percent of Americans who have ever sold a home said they’ve use surveillance cameras to monitor potential home buyers. And 67 percent say they would use such cameras if they were selling a home that already had them.

Just remember, with technology, no matter where you are, someone can always be watching you.

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