Ask your agent about lockbox security protocols
Is it safe to use a lockbox when selling your home?
Many real estate agents suggest their sellers put the house keys in a lockbox because this makes it easy for agents to gain access to the property to show the home to prospective buyers.
Lockboxes are a convenient and commonly used way to accommodate showings. But they do come with some potential risks, which I’ll get to in a moment.
You have no doubt seen a lockbox hanging from a door handle when you visited or passed by a property that’s for sale. Some newer electronic lockbox models have additional security features, such as the ability to alert the brokerage when the box has been opened; identify the real estate agent who opened it; record the time and date it was used; and only open it during specific scheduled showing times.
If you are contemplating whether to provide lockbox access to your home, here are a few things to bear in mind.
First and foremost, as a seller you are not required to provide lockbox access to keys for your property. Your agent can only give lockbox access to your home if you have provided consent, ideally in writing.
Many sellers do opt for a lockbox because it can be practical, especially when the home is vacant or located in an area that is distant from the seller’s brokerage. The alternative is for the buyer agents to travel to the seller’s brokerage or to the seller’s agent to get the key and to return it. You can see how time consuming that could be.
Agents, brokerages and clients recognize that the use of lockboxes requires a significant amount of mutual trust. An agent is aware that the lockbox code cannot be shared with anyone who is unauthorized to enter the home because of the potential risk to real and personal property, privacy, safety and security of both buyers and sellers. They also understand they are responsible for the safekeeping of the property when they are showing it.
Buyer agents must get advance permission from the seller’s brokerage, the owner of the home, or if the property is being rented, the tenants. You can be assured that before using a lockbox to visit the home, they must always have a confirmed appointment so that there are no surprises.
Even with these safeguards in place, it’s important to be aware of some potential risks that come with using a lockbox. There is the possibility it could get broken into, or the wrong person could get unlawful access to the lockbox code.
You might think it’s easy to break a lockbox, but it’s likely easier to break into a property through a window or door.
I encourage you to discuss the issue with your agent and ask questions about their brokerage’s lockbox security protocols to prevent the wrong people from accessing the key. Good questions to start the conversation is how often they change the code, and what type of lockbox they use. I also suggest that you visit RECO’s website, reco.on.ca, for more information on lockboxes.
If you decide that you are not comfortable using a lockbox, talk to your agent and agree on a plan, in writing, to only show your home to interested buyers with scheduled appointments when your agent or you are present.
If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.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.