Why was someone taking pictures of our house?
December 22, 2017 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Someone drove up to our house, took some pictures of it, and drove away.

Something sort of bizarre happened to me today. A car parked on the street outside our house. A man stopped, stayed in the car for a little bit, got out to take a picture, and drove away before I could go out to ask him what the deal was.

Possibly relevant details:
- He didn't stop at any other houses.
- We recently bought our house (in mid-September) and moved in (in mid-November).
- A house not too far down the street has a sale pending.
- I'm pretty sure he didn't notice me coming out to talk to him.
- We live in boring tract housing (though, in an expensive area). Our house isn't architecturally significant our anything.

Were we being cased? Is this some weird realtor thing? What gives? We're a little freaked out. We're going away on vacation before long, so we we're a little extra nervous.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld to Law & Government (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Might be getting cased. Can you get some friends or family to house sit for you?
posted by oceanjesse at 11:49 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

They could have been using your house for comps for an appraisal for someone else's house purchase, especially since you closed on your home recently.

They also could just be admiring your Christmas decorations.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:51 PM on December 22, 2017 [44 favorites]

Someone from my insurance company also photographed the exterior of my house when I first bought it and was getting coverage.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:54 PM on December 22, 2017 [13 favorites]

Violet Hour beat me to the punch: someone collecting comparable sales for a real estate appraisal is the most likely, non-sinister explanation.
posted by muhonnin at 11:57 PM on December 22, 2017 [18 favorites]

Seconding that someone from my insurance company photographed the exterior of my house when I bought it--right about the same time frame, too, just long enough after the purchase that it felt very suspect.
posted by mishafletch at 2:09 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've done this with houses I used to live in or family used to live in. Like, my childhood home, or the address my mother in law gave me for her home in England when I visited there. Could have been something like that.
posted by lollusc at 2:23 AM on December 23, 2017 [10 favorites]

Apps like Field Agent do send people on missions to do exactly this - drive to a particular address, snap some photos, leave, be paid a few bucks. I always imagined the photographs are being used by websites like Zillow et cetera but who knows, could be insurance companies, realtors or anybody requesting these kinds of photographs.
posted by floam at 2:36 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yep, almost certainly comps. Take a look at the appraisal that is part of your mortgage documents- it will include pictures of other similar houses in the neighborhood, taken in the same manner.
posted by rockindata at 3:31 AM on December 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

Are there any lagging exterior maintenance issues you need to take care of? I’ve seen the city code inspector photograph the house of a neighbor whose lawn hadn’t been mowed for a month or so in early summer, in preparation to cite them for the violation.
posted by jon1270 at 4:43 AM on December 23, 2017

Yep. My Dad is a real estate appraiser. He does this for comps.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:46 AM on December 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

This comes up a lot; it happened at our house too.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:14 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recently happened to be near the house a friend grew up in as a kid, and he asked me to take a photo so he could show his mother how it looks now. I drove up to the place, double checked the address, took a few photos, and drove away.
posted by roger ackroyd at 6:40 AM on December 23, 2017

Just pointing out: that is a really stupid way to case a joint, and thus it is almost certainly not that.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:24 AM on December 23, 2017 [20 favorites]

It’s comps, without a doubt.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:33 AM on December 23, 2017

Comps. I do this as part of my own job altho in my case they are foreclosed homes. But there are all kinds of legitimate reasons people do this. Sometimes it is because a home is being refinanced, etc and an agent is tasked to do what is called a BPO-an exterior BPO would only involve outside pictures.

(as an aside this is why I keep my nametag on as I am always wondering if anyone is thinking I am a really stupid burglar.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:02 AM on December 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

It is almost definitely what everyone says.

There is a very slight chance, though, that it's a rental scam where some con artist gets pictures of a property to put on Craigslist and then scams deposits out of people. That's very unlikely, though.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:15 AM on December 23, 2017

What lollusc said. I've done this too, to show my mom what the buyer of her old house did with the paint scheme. Pretty sure it's not somebody casing the house as a target, because as noted, that's a really dumb way to do that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:15 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

It was an appraiser, or someone from the Assessor's office, or someone who liked the way your house looked. I'm very uncomfortable just blurting out "someone's casing your house" with all those logic possibilities at Occam's disposal.

"We recently bought our house..." Definitely an appraiser.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:49 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

You have a new insurance policy for the house you just purchased. Many / most insurance carriers want the home inspected. Some inspectors will do it the appropriate/classy way and ring the bell, hand you their card, etc. Some do it the creepy way, like your guy. Sort of hit and run. You can call your agent or company to confirm that my theory is correct.
posted by elf27 at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2017

Most likely comps, the assessment we received when we purchased our current home included photographs of the homes the assessor used for comparison.

And, as suggested by lollusc and Kirth Gerson, it could also be that they just like your house. We had a neighbor walk into our yard and take close-up photographs of the shutters, because he liked the paint color so much he wanted to match it.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 11:38 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Someone from my insurance company also photographed the exterior of my house when I first bought it and was getting coverage.

Most likely, or the city has come to take photographs.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:46 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Probably an appraiser, but we had someone do this soon after we bought our house in order to try to sell us on installing solar panels later
posted by miyabo at 3:16 PM on December 23, 2017

It was the insurance agent.
posted by KazamaSmokers at 3:19 PM on December 23, 2017

Standard appraiser MO.

Whether it was the assessor or the insurance company, they need photos of the property for the file.

If you (ie the appraiser) go up and ring the bell and ask to take pictures, at best you will get drawn into some sort of conversation, at worst you will get drawn into a conversation with someone who wants to complain about their bill and debate the value and how you arrived at the value, etc.

Not to say that these are not valid concerns, but the appraiser has x number of files he needs to get completed per day and just doesn't have the time for that conversation, especially at every property. Easier to pull up, take the notes for the file, finish the visit with a quick photo and get the hell out of there before someone can come outside to investigate what you are doing.

I am 100% certain you were not being cased. Still, take standard precautions when traveling; use timers for your lights, stop your mail (and the paper if you get one), have a friend swing by from time to time, be friendly with a neighbor or two so they will check in with you if they see something out of the ordinary. If you don't have or want to get security cameras, at least get signs saying the property is under surveillance; those signs are a major deterrent to all but the most determined (or stupid) of criminals.
posted by vignettist at 9:02 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! Comps makes the most sense, given that a nearby house just had an offer accepted and that timing would match when our appraisal was done (relative to when the offer was accepted). We'd totally forgotten that it had included original photos. Thanks for the peace of mind!
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 12:38 PM on December 31, 2017

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