For Sale – The Privacy of Home Buyers in the USA and Canada

Most home shoppers who see a “For Sale” sign in the front yard of a home they are considering to purchase are not aware that more than just the house is being sold.  In some cases, their own privacy and personal information is on the market the moment that they begin the buying process — whether they end up buying the home or not.

Buyers considering the purchase of a new home will often hire a home inspector to examine the home for them and report its condition.  If you are considering the purchase of a new home and are looking to hire a home inspector, consider the inspector’s commitment to your privacy in addition to his other qualifications.

There are home inspectors who will offer lower fees to their clients as an incentive to hire them — and then sell private information about the home buyer (or the home) to third parties willing to pay them for this information, to make up for the lower fee.  Usually, the home buyer is unaware that the home inspector is gaining from the sale of his private information.  Nor is the home buyer aware as to whom or how many third parties their private information is being provided to.

If your home inspector is offering a variety of “free” add-on services in addition to his report of the condition of your home, chances are good that you’re private information (and information about your home) is being provided to an unnamed third-party.

Contractors who sell and install home alarm systems, for example, consider home inspectors to be a valuable resource for new customer leads and will reward them with cash and other incentives to provide them with the names, phone numbers, and addresses of new home buyers.   Sometimes the home inspector will sell their clients’ private information directly to a contractor but may also sell the information to “lead brokers” who, in turn, sell the information to a variety of contractors and service providers.

Rarely are home buyers informed by their home inspector that he is profiting from the sale of their private information or to whom the information is being sold.  At least one lead broker forbids home inspectors who provide him with private data about their clients from revealing anything concerning the inspector’s contract with the lead broker to the homeowner, which includes his “compensation” arrangements.

Many clients of home inspectors, some who are on state-sponsored “Do Not Call” lists, are unaware how the telemarketers calling them came to get their name while some are even more surprised to find door-to-door solicitors knowing to ask for them by name shortly after moving into their new home.

Not all home inspectors engage in this practice and consumers should ask an inspector they consider hiring as to whether or not he or she engages in the sale of private information about his or her clients.  Added services that require personal information or client registration such as “free” short-term warranties or “free” product recall research are important red flags that should be explored.

If you choose to hire a home inspector who will be providing your information to any third-party for any reason, it is wise to have the inspector provide you with the third party’s name, address, telephone number and other identifying factors to ensure that you can contact them should you find yourself receiving harassing or unwanted solicitations as a possible result — and to trace any other parties to whom that party may have provided your information to, when necessary.

In this age of private information gathering by government agencies and computer hackers, consumers should be proactive in protecting their private information from being bought, sold and re-sold among various parties that are unknown to them.  The purchase of a new home is no exception.

Copyright James H. Bushart 2013

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