Thinking of selling? Is the security of your listing worth 50 bucks to your agent?

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with CBSHOME Real Estate

LockboxIs protecting the security of my clients worth the extra expense of an electronic lockbox? In my book, of course it is but there are still many agents in town that almost exclusively utilize the push button or combo lockboxes.

Think about this scenario: when an agent calls to make an appointment and the house has a combination lockbox, where do you think the agent will write down the code? They write it on the agent printout of the house of course. How hard do you think it would be for an unscrupulous ‘buyer' to peer over the shoulder of the agent to see what the code is? Not too difficult. I once saw an MLS property printout tossed into a gas station garbage can WITH the code scribbled right on top.

One of the push-button styles has 10 buttons on it, 1-9 and 0. An odd fact about that particular lockbox is that it doesn't matter which order you punch in your numbers, it's a simple depressed button mechanism that releases the lock. If your code is 4231; the box could be opened with 1234, 1243, etc.

It reminds me of a funny story. Several years ago, I had an appointment to see a house and was not notified that it had a coded box on it. Here we are on the porch, it was cold out, after office hours, and the agent didn't answer her phone. I left a message for ‘Minnie' that I needed the code to get into her listing.

She didn't call back right away so I decided to try to figure out the code myself. (Now I try guessing these codes as a warped ‘hobby') I tried the address of the house, that didn't work. I looked at her companies sign and the last four digits of the phone number were 9512. I tried that and the box opened. I remember thinking to myself that was a pretty big security risk but we went on in (the house was vacant).

She did return my call as we were standing in the living room and I told her thanks anyway, we were already in the house, I got the code on my second guess. There was a long silence on the other end of the line until finally she timidly asked "How did you know I was born in 1952?" I laughed and told her it was a somewhat superhero-like ability I tapped into once in awhile when agents didn't answer their phones. She then said something like: "You scare me" and hung up! I still laugh to this day about what she must have thought.

Oh, also, if you use the '3 letter alpha' particular lockboxes, please learn how to change the code from the default. I'll bet half of those boxes that are in use have the same three letter code. Really, that's like keeping the photos that come with the wallet...

To be fair, there are a number of good agents who utilize these types of lockboxes strictly for their bank repo properties so the direct safety and security of a homeowner and their belongings are not at risk. They use these so that repairmen can have access as well as their client's representatives can periodically gain access to the house. But I still believe that even vacant houses have valuable stuff inside that some ‘less than savory' characters may want to take. We had a case a couple years ago of a woman who moved herself and kids into the basement of a spec home and stayed for a couple weeks! Yikes!

Conversely, the electronic eKey lockboxes that are available are about as secure as can be. The listing agent gets notified when it's opened via the internet, sometimes mere minutes after the box is opened, and access is denied from 10PM to 6AM. (Sorry to my sellers but no, I can't come and let you in your house if you've locked yourself out after a night out on the town anymore...)

I would certainly be in favor of mandatory electronic lockboxes but I don't believe that will ever happen. At the very least, we agents would like something on our ‘agent print outs' at least indicating that there is a code needed for entry. Please don't input the showing instructions as simply: ‘vacant, show anytime' with no mention of a coded box!

Oh, and one other thing: For you agents that are writing the code on your MLS printout, at least transpose a few digits that you alone will know... oh, and don't throw it away at the gas station!

Bottom line: If you are thinking about listing your property for sale, whether occupied or vacant, don't you owe it to yourself to use an agent who thinks enough of the security of your property to spend the extra fifty bucks on a proper lockbox?

Ten Recent Posts about Real Estate or the Marketing of Real Estate:

•1.       Thinking of selling? Is the security of your listing worth 50 bucks to your agent?

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Bill Swanson is an agent with CBSHome Real Estate with over 20 years experience of helping buyers and sellers in the Omaha area.

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Topic:
Home Selling
Location:
Nebraska
Groups:
"Whacked"!!!
Tags:
customer service marketing yourself
lockbox
client security

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Rainmaker
323,181
Mike McCann - Broker Nebraska Farm Land
Broker Nebraska Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700
Mike McCann - Broker, serving all of Nebraska

Bill,

I agree with many of your comments.  I, however, am not a member of the MLS and do not have access to the electronic lock boxes. Haven't been for over 2 years after 16 years of being an MLS member. However...that is not why I am chimimg in.

I wanted to comment on your mention of the 3 letter coded box.  On a HUD repoed home, those are mandated by HUD.  Not 4 letter or 4 digit but 3 letter.  I have to use them when I first secure a home for HUD.  I agree that it is not the best and that almost all vacant homes have valuables that can be stolen and some vacant houses also have unauthorized people living in them.

Mike McCann your Smiling Nebraska Ag Broker!!

 

July 22, 2010 11:17 PM
Rainmaker
283,625
David Matney
Omaha, NE Real Estate | Omaha, NE Homes For Sale
Alliance Real Estate

Bill, I absolutely agree! 

July 22, 2010 11:33 PM
Rainmaker
167,408
Bill Swanson
CBSHOME Real Estate

Mike & Dave, thanks for reading. Regarding those 3 letter lockboxes. The one thing that bothers me about them is when the agents don't even change the combo from the default code when the box is purchased. But if that's what HUD wants, they're the boss!

Bill

July 23, 2010 10:03 AM
Rainmaker
323,181
Mike McCann - Broker Nebraska Farm Land
Broker Nebraska Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700
Mike McCann - Broker, serving all of Nebraska

Bill,

I was in a town in central Nebraska the other day and could tell this one house was a repo...walked up to the door and the home was vacant...went to the neighbors and the neighbors did not know anything about the house...except the folks had lost it...I called the register of deeds with no luck...it had a 3 letter lockbox with no sign of any type anywhere.

I thought what the heck...tried the 3 letter code in my head and on the first try....well I agree with you that you can order cases of 3 letter lockboxes all coded the same and rarely are the boxes recoded.

Your smiling Nebraska Ag Broker!!

 

July 25, 2010 11:13 PM
Rainmaker
589,438
Jim Hale
On the Move for You! - Eugene - Springfield Oregon Real Estate
ACTIONAGENTS.NET

What whacks me is when you have a listing that is in foreclosure and the lender in their wisdom wants to have a contractor come and secure and weatherize the house, changing the locks - prior to foreclosure mind you.  They want to go from our universally used electronic boxes to their simple-minded combo boxes.  They are completely nuts.

July 26, 2010 01:46 AM
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Rainmaker
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Bill Swanson

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