So this happened. I had a client find a property from a list I send him online every day. He was so smitten by the property that he drove up from Dallas that weekend to take a look. He has good taste. It’s roughly a 2700 square foot contemporary property in an exclusive community just to the north of Tulsa. It has everything you might want: 1/2 acre lot, private bath in every bedroom, hardwood floors throughout the house, open concept with elevated ceilings and plenty of windows across the back of the house overlooking the salt water infinity pool in the back yard. It even includes an in-ground storm shelter in the third bay of the three car garage. That’s important here in tornado alley. All this could be his for under $500,000.00 (prices are very reasonable here in Tulsa)!
As we were walking through the house commenting on the many upgrades we wandered into the study. There on the wall was an Education Certificate confirming the owner’s graduation from a government school specializing in intelligence gathering. This guy was a US spy! Think NSA, CIA, FBI; not saying which. He could be reading this.
When I initially arrived at the address my client was already there. He had seen the owner drive away while he was waiting for me to arrive. After we left the house and as we were leaving the subdivision my client later told me we passed the owner who was returning home at the same time. He thought it was a coincidence. I believe it was not. He most likely knew when we were finished with our tour because his house probably alerted him when we left.
To be honest, this isn’t all that uncommon any more. One of my other clients who had installed a very sophisticated security system after a break-in put their house up for sale. When buyers would visit, the owner could tell me when they arrived and how long they stayed because they had to disarm and re-arm the security system when they came and went. The owner was alerted every time by an app on her smart phone.
In another instance I went to a house to preview it for a buyer. I couldn’t tell whether it was occupied or vacant so I rang the door bell just in case. No one answered the door but I could hear dogs barking inside so I didn’t enter. Later I verified the house was vacant so I went back a second time. Inside I found a sophisticated system with cameras and remote sound capability. The dogs weren’t real. But it was enough to keep me out.
There are Realtor stories about unaware agents who would hold open houses and during the slow times would rummage through the owner’s drawers. Caught on camera, they would ultimately lose the listing and possibly their license.
What this means for you if you’re in the market to buy a home is that you should always consider the possibility that you are under surveillance whenever you’re in someone else’s house. Under normal circumstances this really shouldn’t be a very big deal. You’re there to look at the house, not the stuff inside. As long as you display the correct amount of respect for others’ property you will not have any issues.
However, you might want to reserve voicing your remarks about the property until after you’ve left. You don’t know who might be listening. If you absolutely love the house and must have it no matter what, if you say all this while you’re in the house the seller might be more inclined to hold out on you to see how badly you want it.
In Oklahoma it is not illegal to use video surveillance cameras to monitor movement inside your house. It is illegal, however, to also embed audio with the video without announcing that full surveillance is watching and listening to you while you’re there. But then, you are in someone else’s house, after all. If the sign is missing, how would you ever know anyway?
This shouldn’t really change the way you walk through the process of checking out possible new homes for your family. After all, the seller deserves to have his property left the same way you found it, cameras or not. Just do your dreaming about the possibilities in the driveway. You deserve your privacy, too.
If you are currently in the market to buy or sell a home in Tulsa or the surrounding areas, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I have twelve years experience in this market and I can make the process as easy as possible for you. I look forward to meeting you soon!