As hidden cameras and microphones become both more powerful and more affordable at roughly the same time, they’re playing a more critical role in our lives on a daily basis — whether you realize that to be true or not. But the implications of the surveillance age that we’re now living in extends far deeper than a lot of people realize. Case in point: A larger number of home sellers than ever are regularly using Wi-Fi enabled cameras, microphones and other types of devices to spy on house hunters who are interested in a new place to live! It may sound far-fetched, but it’s absolutely true. It’s also a trend that brings with it a number of fascinating implications for the future.

Hidden Camera

Be Careful as You Hunt for Your Next Home

According to a story that recently ran in USA Today, an increasing number of home sellers are regularly using hidden cameras, hidden microphones and other types of recording devices to spy on potential buyers as they tour their potential purchases. But unlike most cases with surveillance equipment involved, these cameras aren’t being used to catch people in compromising positions. Instead, they’re being used for something decidedly more sinister… leverage.

Essentially, home sellers will allow someone to tour their prospective home, then use everything they see or hear as leverage in future price negotiations! So if you tell your spouse that you can afford the current asking price but are insistent on trying to talk the seller down anyway, be warned — they just might be aware of your game and may be willing to use that information to their advantage!

Reports indicate that this trend has picked up steam over the last few years in particular, as Wi-Fi-enabled cameras and microphones have become a more prominent part of our lives. Yes, it’s true that a lot of people use these for totally legitimate purposes — namely, home security — but their usefulness seems to extend into the realm of negotiations as well.

In a lot of cases, the seller doesn’t even have to be around to record your entire conversation during a tour. If you haven’t purchased a home in the last few years, you may be unaware that “unguided tours” happen on a regular basis. The home itself might have a lock box on the outside, for example, containing the key to get inside. Once you’ve arranged a date and time with the seller, you can essentially pop by whenever you’d like and take a tour on your own to really get a feel for the place you may one day be living in.

However, with the right equipment, motion sensors will automatically let those sellers know once you’ve entered the home by either text or email. Those sellers can then see and hear everything you do, either by playing back the footage recorded after the fact or by streaming that footage to their computer or mobile device over the present Internet connection.

According to a recent poll conducted by NerdWallet, a full 15% of people who have sold a home in the past say that they’ve used these types of surveillance techniques to help make a sale. But this goes one step further, too —while a lot of people say they wouldn’t go out of their way to purchase cameras specifically for this purpose, 67% said they would absolutely be willing to spy on their potential buyers if the cameras were already installed in a home.

To put that into perspective, there are currently about 9.4 million homes in the United States that have Wi-Fi enabled cameras or microphones already inside them. By as soon as 2022, that number is expected to climb to about 50 million.

Part of this has to do with the current competitive nature of the housing market. It’s a buyer’s market and sellers don’t have a lot of leverage, so many people are turning toward any advantage they can create for themselves.

As a rule of thumb, you should always pretend like the seller is home whenever you tour a house. Better yet, pretend they’re standing right next to you the entire time. Assume that they can see and hear everything you’re doing and saying because, as this particular trend shows, that very well may be true.