If you’re looking to buy a house in New Jersey be forewarned – the people selling the house may have you under secret surveillance.

As the price of video security systems like nanny cams continues to drop and the units get smaller and smaller, an increasing number of home sellers are using the devices to record the conversations of prospective buyers in order to get information that may be useful to them in the event an offer for the home is made and negotiations follow.

According to realtor Rob Dekanski, of Re/Max 1st Advantage, this has been going on for a couple of years.

“I had a listing where the owner was giving me a hard time during negotiations, indicating he was staying firm on his price because he knows the buyer loved the house,” said Dekanski. “When I asked him how do you know that, he said I was watching them on the nanny cam. And since then we’ve heard of it happening time and time again.”

He said this has become such an issue that “if we know that the property is being surveilled we do have to disclose it, the problem we have sometimes is that every homeowner isn’t forthcoming with that.”

He said a growing number of homeowners do have these systems, “so we do ask, and if they do say yes then, of course, we do disclose that they (the buyers) may be under surveillance when walking the property inside and out.”

Dekanski says under New Jersey law, if someone is going to have a surveillance system operating while prospective buyers are in their home they do have to disclose and it’s illegal to record somebody on your property without them knowing.

“You absolutely have to disclose to us as agents and to the buyers and anybody walking the property that there’s a possibility they may be under surveillance.”

He notes some individuals still may keep this information a secret so when someone on his team is showing a home, “I make sure I do instruct them when they first get going with us to tell the buyer to not speak their mind as far as motivation and pricing.”

“We don’t want to necessarily discuss our motivation, how much we like the home. We don’t want to show our cards, we want to negotiate as best we can.”

Dekanski says real estate agents aren’t thrilled about the uptick in surveillance recording devices being used because it can be deceptive — but also misleading.

“The reality is a conversation somebody has in your home, from the time they have that conversation to the time they maybe actually make an offer on the property, a lot can change.”

He also said if a homeowner seems to be holding information back and it appears there are issues that aren’t being disclosed, like the use of surveillance equipment, “we may pass on taking them on as a client because we don’t want their deception to now be represented by us.”

He stressed, however, that this is still rare.

“Most people are very honest and if they’re sincere about getting their home sold they will tell us what we need to know about the home.”

Greg Gianforcaro, a Phillipsburg criminal defense attorney, said if a prospective buyer learns there has been secret surveillance they would have grounds to get out of a signed agreement to buy the home if they wanted to because “in every contract there is a covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

“One side is not negotiating in an open manner if they’re listening in, and so the information that’s in a negotiation will be affected. It’s definitely a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing," Gianforcaro said.

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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