Seller Videotape & Electronic Monitoring of Buyers and Realtors. Is this legal?

Video taping and photographing properties has long been used by buyers to gather and retain information about the many homes they visit. Sellers provide photos and video tours of their homes to appeal to would-be buyers. Now, a new use of recording technology is making its way into the real estate conversation: Seller recording and monitoring of buyers and their realtors on their premises. Not unlike public places, sellers are placing recording and monitoring devices in their homes to watch, listen in, and record the activities of buyers and their agents while they tour the seller’s property.

Unlike public places, the seller is not always placing the electronic device in plain sight and not disclosing to visitors that they’re “being watched”. Is this legal? According to Cori Lamont, Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, “…nowhere in Wisconsin law is information that strictly prohibits the use of surveillance devices in this context.”

Sellers contemplating surveillance, especially if they intend to not disclose, would be wise to seek legal counsel first. Real estate licensees who know secret monitoring is being done would be prudent to discuss the situation with their Broker. While the law may not strictly prohibit the electronic monitoring, I would not want to test my immunity in court at my own expense. Technology is becoming common place but acceptance of being monitored without warning is not.