Recording Potential Buyers During Showings: What North Carolina Realtors Need to Know

In today’s technologically advanced world, homeowners have unprecedented access to recording devices. Now, some home sellers have found a new use for their home surveillance tech: to record potential buyers during showings.

As a real estate agent in North Carolina, it’s crucial to understand the legalities surrounding homeowners recording potential buyers during showings. Ensuring your clients are informed and compliant with state laws can prevent legal complications and maintain a professional and ethical standard. This blog post will guide you through the key aspects of North Carolina’s recording laws and how to advise your clients.

Understanding North Carolina’s Recording Laws

North Carolina is a “one-party consent” state under the Electronic Surveillance Act (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-286). This means that it is generally legal to record a conversation as long as one party involved in the conversation consents to the recording. While this law primarily applies to audio recordings, there are nuances and best practices to consider, especially in the context of real estate transactions.

Violations of the Electronic Surveillance Act are a class H felony, and State law allows violators to be sued for damages.

What Real Estate Agents Need to Know

Sellers have given a number of reasons for wanting to leave audio and video equipment running during showings, including protecting their property from theft or damage or just simply waiting to know what potential buyers are saying about their home. 

Make sure your clients understand the one-party consent law and its implications. Advise them on the importance of transparency and the ethical considerations of recording potential buyers. Also, it is important to partner with an experienced real estate attorney to ensure you and your client are fully compliant with state laws and ethical standards. This can prevent potential legal disputes and protect your client’s interests.

Here are some things to keep in mind if your client wants to leave recording devices running during showings. 

Audio vs. Video Recording

North Carolina State law considers video or audio equipment to include laptop computers, tape recorders, baby monitors, camcorders, and “nanny cams.”  

  • Audio Recording: Under the one-party consent rule, audio recording is legal if one party to the conversation consents. However, during showings, the potential buyer is not likely to be aware of the recording, making it ethically questionable.
  • Video Recording: Video recordings without audio are generally less complex legally. It is permissible to video record potential buyers during showings without their knowledge, so long as the video does not include audio. That said, hidden cameras can still raise significant privacy concerns, particularly in sensitive areas like bedrooms or bathrooms, so use caution with where they are placed.

Notice and Consent

Under one-party consent laws, a seller recording a conversation with a potential buyer is technically legal. However, if a seller leaves recording equipment running during a showing without informing buyers and catches a conversation between buyers or between a buyer and their agent, that is illegal because neither party consented to have their conversation recorded. 

Even though one-party consent applies to audio recordings, it is good practice to inform potential buyers and their agents that they may be recorded during showings. Transparency can help avoid legal disputes and build trust with potential buyers.

Privacy Concerns

Recording potential buyers without their knowledge can be viewed as an invasion of privacy. Buyers may discuss personal and financial details during showings, and recording these discussions without consent could lead to legal issues or deter buyers from making an offer.

Note: If you are representing a buyer, it is also important to inform them of the possibility that a showing is being recorded and advise them to avoid discussing anything sensitive inside the house.

Realtor Guidelines

Realtors often have guidelines regarding recording clients during showings. It is essential to consult these guidelines and seek legal advice to ensure compliance with all laws and ethical standards.

The North Carolina Real Estate Commission recommends not using any device during home showings as a means of trying to gain information on potential buyers or their agents.

HOA Rules

If the property is part of a homeowners association (HOA), there might be additional rules regarding surveillance and recording. Homeowners should review these rules to ensure compliance.

Partner With Starling Law Firm

At Starling Law Firm, we understand the complexities of real estate transactions and the importance of compliance with state laws. Partnering with our experienced team ensures that you and your clients are protected throughout the process. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you in navigating North Carolina’s real estate laws and provide the legal support you need for successful transactions. Together, we can ensure a smooth and legally sound real estate experience for your clients.