Photos in Gated Communities Can be Tricky
Let’s talk about assignments in private neighborhoods, gated communities, or secure communities. Rich folks buy, sell, and refinance their homes, too, so they need appraisals. You have an assignment in a security community. There is security at the entrances, you must be on security’s authorized visitor list to get in, and your permission to enter this private community extends solely to visit your subject. So, here is the question: while inside this gated, secure community, do you also drive around and take photos of the comps?
Now, even though you are reading this, I can see you looking at me quizzically while you say, “Dustin, hello! Of course I do! I don’t want to make a second trip to this place. That’s a waste of time and money! You teach us not to waste time and money!”
Stop looking at me quizzically and ask yourself this question: “Does my permission to enter this private, secure community include the permission to wander about in my car taking pictures of private homes?” Think about this. You are in a private community. The roads and rights-of-way in it are not public thoroughfares. Your permission to enter was limited specifically to visit one house – the subject. Technically, to do anything other than go to the subject, visit and photograph the subject, and then leave the community, is trespassing. Some states, especially in Idaho, do not look kindly on the invasion of another person’s land.
So, what to do? Maybe you could persuade the homeowner to come with you as you photo the comps. But then, we want to avoid any relationship with the owner, since the owner is likely not the client (at least in a refinance situation). You could ask the broker to accompany you on the photo op. Once the broker stops laughing, s/he will say no (they are far too self-important for such mundane tasks). You could tell security that, after visiting your subject, you are going to wander about the neighborhood secretly taking photos of other houses in the community. This will likely get you an opportunity to chat with a local deputy sheriff (likely not a fruitful endeavor).
So, what do you do? The likely solution is to take photos of the subject. Then, in the report explain the situation and include MLS photos (which, anyway, are probably better photos that you’d take). If the client gets all up-in-your-face about this, then you’ll have the sweet opportunity to fire an obnoxious client.
In any event, I want to know what you think about this. Explain to me what you’d do in this situation, as well as why you’d do it.
For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode 291: