I’m selling my home and my sales rep wants to use a lockbox. How can I ensure that my home is safe?

A lockbox can be an effective tool to allow potential buyers and their sales representatives to access your home while you’re not there. But before you consent to using one, ask your representative about the steps they take to ensure they have the right safety precautions in place.

You and your real-estate professional should outline in writing who will be present for every showing of the property, whether the lockbox can be accessed by another professional (i.e., appraiser, home inspector, etc.), and determine whether photography or video of your home is permitted.

In Ontario, your representative must comply with a legal code of ethics when they represent you and several of the rules in the code would also apply to the use of lockboxes.

Your representative should follow some basic precautions to protect your best interests. For example, does your real-estate professional plan to change the entry code on a regular basis? This is a simple security measure that can make a big difference.

The entry code to your property should never be written down on a piece of paper that could be left behind or otherwise discovered. If you must keep a written record of your code, make sure it’s tucked away somewhere hidden.

Another good practice your brokerage must adopt is confirming the identity and registration of every person asking for the access code — including confirming that an individual requesting the access code is a real-estate professional and is registered with RECO.

Ask your brokerage to keep a written record of real-estate salespersons and brokers they have provided the access code to, in the event something goes missing from your home or accidental damage should occur. You can ask that the brokerage collects their full name, the name of the brokerage that employs them, their phone number, email and other relevant contact information.

As well, it’s important to ensure your household items remain safe and secure when you have strangers walking through your home. Consider taking these important steps in order to protect your valuables:

    • Remove anything that has sentimental or monetary value from the property before the open house.
    • Be sure to place small items (such as portable electronics and jewelry) in a secure place.
    • Remove prescription medications, including those in medicine cabinets, dressers or nightstands.
    • Ensure any bills, bank statements, credit card receipts, passports and any other personal documents are secured under lock and key.

Digital lockboxes permit a greater level of security. These lockboxes can be programmed securely online so that codes can be changed easily and frequently. Each person viewing the property can be provided with their own unique access code for the short period of time they have to access the home. Since every code is unique, your representative can keep track of who is accessing your home using the lockbox.

When it comes to keeping your home safe and secure, it’s very important to have an open conversation with your representative to ensure they are taking the proper precautions before installing a lockbox.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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