Just say no to a lock box

A topic which came up for discussion at this week’s office meeting was the use of lock boxes on properties which are for sale. The subject arose because I have shown three properties recently with lock boxes.


My experience – and that of my buyers – was one of great frustration. Apart from the fact that it always seems to take me 5-10 minutes to open lock boxes, here are my main gripes:

– no lights on
– no windows open for breeze
– no heating or a/c on
– nobody to answer questions about the house
– nobody to offer suggestions about configuration or options for the lay-out that others may have discussed
– no feedback from the listing agent about offers on the property.
– the showings take longer because we have to try to figure out how things work instead of having the listing agent there to help us.

Cui bono?
If you read or watch mysteries you will be familiar with this expression, which means “who benefits?”
I have done some research online and it seems to me that every comment I have read in favor of using a lock box has com from a real estate agent. Here are a sample:

– “It is best if agents can just get into a house using the key box and 10 minutes notice.”
– “Appointment only without a key box can be a big mistake.”
– “Some agents don’t want to bother with making an appointment, so that listing goes to the bottom of their showing list until it ultimately falls off.”
– “Sometimes buyers spot a home for sale while on tour with the buyer’s agent and ask to immediately see it. Without a lock box, it makes the possibility of an impromptu showing more difficult.”
– “Buyers prefer to tour homes without the seller and without the seller’s agent in proximity because their presence makes them uncomfortable.”
– “Some people might have their listing broker meet people for showings (I’m doing that on a couple of listings right now). This option isn’t ideal because it limits showings to when your listing broker is available but, if it gives you peace of mind, that has some value, too.”
– “One possibility is that the seller could give a key to their listing agent, but then the listing agent would always have to be present when another agent brought a buyer to the home. Showings would have to be scheduled tightly and that would be an inconvenience to the listing agent and the buyer’s agent.”

I have one question: what about the interests of the seller?
A listing agent, to quote Massachusetts Law:”must put the seller’s interests first and negotiate for the best price and terms for their client, the seller.”
Do you, as a homeowner, believe that an agent who puts a lock box on your home and allows other agents to enter with their clients, without your agent being present, is putting your interest first?
Do you not want to know something about the person you are allowing into your home?
Do you want to be expected to flee your home at 10 minutes’ notice because somebody driving by cannot wait to schedule a showing?

Actually, I have another: what about the interests of the buyer?
And as a buyer do you feel that the house has been presented to you in the best way to allow you to make an informed decision?

Is a lock box secure?
Google “how to open a lock box without a key”. It seems to be scarily easy.

Is it ever right to use a lockbox?
There are, of course, always exceptions, but I really can’t think of a good one in markets such as we have here in Essex County. Maybe in Phoenix during the foreclosure glut.

A promise
If you list with me I will never put a lock box on your property. Every showing will be conducted personally. That is but one of the many benefits offered when you list with Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty.

If you – or somebody you know – are considering buying or selling a home and have questions about the market and/or current home prices, feel free to contact me on 617.834.8205 or Andrew.Oliver@SothebysRealty.com.

Read Which broker should sell my home>

Andrew Oliver is a Realtor with Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty. Each Office Is Independently Owned and Operated

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