This past week, I came across a post card hanging on the door knob of one of the homes that I currently have listed for sale. The card was hanging from the door knob and was about 15 cm by 40 cm in size – so it was very highly visible.
The card featured the words "LOCK BOXES SUCK" superimposed on a photo of a standard REALTOR's lock box. Okay, I was intrigued.
I turned the card over. It was marketing by the local For Sale By Owner (FSBO) franchise. I didn't see a similar card on any of the neighbouring homes – so I assume it was targeted to only the homes with real estate signs. Hmm – I'm quite sure I wouldn't do business that way, but they probably have a business plan and process that they must follow as franchisees. In the really fine print on the card it specifically stated that they are not real estate brokers nor agents. Wow – that's news to me because when I was looking at ways to expand my real estate business a few years ago they were one of the avenues that I explored at the Calgary Franchise Show. It was indicated to me that they were willing, at that time, to sell franchises to licenced real estate brokers and to REALTORS®. In fact, I seem to remember the representative saying that 3 of the 5 Calgary territories already franchised were owned by local REALTORS. Maybe their business model has changed. In any event, I didn't believe the system was in the best interests of the end customer (it wouldn't significally help in the sale of their home) and therefore not realy in the long-term best interests of the franchise owner. I didn't persue the system further.
Aimed at the homeowner, they were stating on the card:
- Being show-ready 24/7 is unrealistic.
- They could enjoy more control by not having a lock box on their home.
- They shouldn't have to drop their plans at a moment's notice or rush home on their lunch break to clean.
- That they should show their home when it is convenient to them.
I'm quite sure they already have the facts, but many home seller's don't. So in order to help clear up this misleading advertising, here are the facts:
- Sellers with lock boxes already have control over when their home is being shown. EVERY home viewing REQUEST must be authorized by the seller. Their agent cannot authorize a showing of the home without getting an approval from the seller.
- Sellers regularly turn down showing requests. We get it – life happens! Birthdays, illnesses, school projects and the like are regular reasons given (not that reasons are required).
- Sellers LOVE the convenience of not having to drop everything to be home to show their home. REALTORS have access to their home without them having to be there.
- Only REALTORS (and authorized appraisers) have access to the lock box controllers through or real estate board cooperative. This means that the home seller doesn't have to verify the identity of every single person asking for home access.
- Many agents do what I do: Request from the seller an acceptable showing window – usually it's a daily window of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Then the agent programs their lock boxes so that they just can't open outside of those times. Authorization within those times is NOT automatic – but could be only if the seller requests it in writing.
- Sellers (or their agents) that are at home during a showing are politely asked to leave so that the showing agent can freely discuss the attributes of the home with their prospective buyer clients.
- Lock boxes are secure and are not easily broken into. It's more likely that someone will break a window instead of trying to break into one of our board's lock boxes.
- If a home property listing is entered into the local MLS System and it has a lock box on it, then that lock box must be one acceptable to our current system. Not only would a different type of lock box be a violation of the real estate board's rules that agents have agreed to follow, REALTORS typically won't open any other type.
Also, most sellers already understand that buyers often want an efficient system to view homes. With a fast moving market like Calgary, buyers don't just look at one home per day -- they typically book an entire afternoon to view their favourite prospects. If potential buyers can only view a home when the seller is available to let them and their agent into it to view it, then they're likely to give it a pass by. They may go out of their way to view it at an inconvenient time, but, based on experience, they don't. And they typically want an efficient route to drive to view the various homes.
Additionally, one of the advanced features that I have programmed into my lock boxes is for them to automatically (and immediately) email and text me the information of the identity of the person holding the particular lock box controller that opens the lock box. Any person opening the lock box without authorization is subject to significant penalties and could potentially lose their real estate licence and could be charged with tresspassing. It is an easy feature to activate so I'm sure most agents have done so. Except the agents, perhaps, that don't value, like or use email or text messages.
So lock boxes may be ugly. They clearly aren't evil and surely don't suck. They are EFFICIENT.
Welcome to the future of real estate, my friends.