Smile! You’re on nanny camera

Always be on your best behavior -- it could cost a sale or a career

Many Realtors believe that maintaining privacy is no big deal. Who cares if a security camera captures your picture or if Google can read your transaction documents that you stored in Google Docs? After all, you have absolutely nothing to hide.

If you believe that you have nothing to hide, would you be willing to turn over your mobile device password so the opposing attorney who is suing you could comb through all your digital communications?

Although most agents will never experience a lawsuit, there is real reason to be concerned about how you conduct yourself. There’s an old definition of integrity as being, “What someone does when no one is looking.” This is more important now than ever — and here’s why:

An increasing number of homeowners have installed security cameras both inside and outside their property. No big deal, right?

Think again. You’re holding an open house. It’s a slow afternoon; the cold medication you took causes you to fall asleep, and you wake up two hours later, all caught on your sellers’ nanny cam.

Here’s a different scenario. Another agent meets you to preview your listing for their relocation client. The other agent says, “You never take overpriced listings. What happened here?”

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You explain: “The sellers were a referral from a past client who was a real pain to work with. I should have known that anyone that person referred to me would be totally unrealistic, too. I really should just give them the listing back.”

The May 2015 Issue of Texas Realtor Magazine had another excellent example: “What Your Buyers Say at a Listing Could Be Held Against Them.”

You’re showing the property, and your buyers love it so much that they say, “We’re willing to pay more than asking price.”

The sellers are viewing the showing from their nanny cam. When you bring in your offer, the sellers counter back at over asking price, already knowing your buyers are willing to pay more.

Or consider this situation: Your open house visitors are interested in a property, and they ask how much the seller will take. You reply by saying, “This property is overpriced by at least $30,000. I have a brand-new listing around the corner that’s the same floor plan, recently updated, and it’s $25,000 less. Would you like to see it? I can lock up for a few minutes and show it to you.”

That comment could not only cost you the listing — it could also be the basis for a potential lawsuit or even the loss of your license.

By the way, if you think it’s acceptable to say that your listing is overpriced by thousands of dollars, here’s a case from California that should change your mind. A mega-producing agent was quoted in a major newspaper saying that her sellers had overpriced their property by $1.7 million. Her company reportedly paid $2 million to settle the lawsuit for her “unauthorized price reduction.”

Four best practices for a nanny-cam society

Like it or not, agents are under greater scrutiny than ever. Due to the ubiquity of mobile devices, including the explosion in the nanny-cam market, you have to assume that you’re “on screen” virtually any place you go. To avoid having your own personal nanny-cam moment, follow these four best practices:

1. Mum’s the word

Whether you’re holding an open house, conducting a buyer showing or negotiating an offer in someone’s home, assume that there is a nanny cam somewhere recording what is happening. No matter how bad the property is or how badly it’s overpriced, keep your opinions to yourself. This is not only good business, it’s the best way to avoid losing the deal.

Also, be sure to advise all of your buyers that many homes have nanny cams.

Consequently, while they view the property, advise them to keep their comments to themselves. You can discuss the property once you get back to the car.

2. Be careful how you answer inquiries about the price

When a buyer or another agent asks you, “How much will the seller take for the property?” there’s only one right answer. “The only way to know for sure is to write an offer.”

You can’t say that the seller will take a full-price offer because so many properties today sell for over the asking price.

3. “I don’t know” is your friend

A primary reason agents get sued is due to disclosures they make (or fail to make) about a property. For example, if the buyer asks, “Where’s the property line?” never rely on what the seller told you or where you think it might be. Instead, respond by saying, “I don’t know. You will need a survey to determine the exact location of the property line.”

The same holds true for questions about the roof or any other property feature. Avoid diagnosing, and advise the clients, “If you want to know the exact condition of the roof, hire a roofing specialist to give you an accurate assessment of its current condition.”

4. If you can’t say anything nice …

When your buyer writes an offer at 40 percent under asking price, it’s tempting to call him or her a “low-baller” or a “bottom-feeder.” The challenge is that using this language creates a barrier to doing the deal.

When you have to present a very low offer, avoid justifying the offer or calling your buyers names. Instead, say, “My clients have decided to make an offer that is substantially under the asking price. About half the time, we can actually put these transactions together. Let’s see if this is one of those times.”

So, the next time you’re tempted to say something you probably shouldn’t say or do something that could cause issues later, just remember — smile — you might be on nanny camera.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

Email Bernice Ross.