I’m selling my home and my real estate salesperson has suggested putting the key to my front door inside a lockbox. I see them everywhere; what should I know about them?

First of all, remember that the decision to use a lockbox is entirely yours to make. As a seller, you’re not required to allow lockbox access to your home, and you are within your rights to insist that your salesperson only show it to potential buyers through scheduled appointments when you’re physically present.

In order to install a lockbox, your salesperson requires your consent after a full explanation of the benefits and risks involved, so I recommend that the two of you discuss the issue before you make a decision.

A lockbox is a small box that holds keys to access a home, and is usually found hanging from a door handle or in other accessible locations on properties that are for sale or rent. The boxes are most commonly opened by punching in a security code on the box itself or through a smartphone app. Newer electronic models can alert the listing brokerage when the box has been opened, and record the date, time and identity of the salesperson who opens the box. They can even be programmed to work only during specific times of the day.

What are the benefits and risks I mentioned earlier? Lockboxes are a convenience for the seller and their representative; that’s especially the case when a property is vacant, or the seller doesn’t wish to attend every single showing. Lockboxes could also provide greater flexibility for those allowed to view the home, since the seller’s rep doesn’t have to be available. On the other hand, there is always the danger that a lockbox might get broken into or that the wrong person could obtain access to the lockbox code.

Salespeople and brokerages are expected to understand their responsibilities regarding lockboxes, but the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) has received complaints from consumers on this issue, which is why we recently provided the industry with greater clarity regarding the rules and procedures we expect them to follow. The use of lockboxes requires mutual trust between salespeople and consumers. RECO strongly recommends using a registered real estate salesperson when you buy or sell a home, and we want to be sure everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.

One thing you should know is that real estate salespeople cannot provide a lockbox code to anyone who isn’t registered with RECO as a salesperson or broker, and certainly not to unaccompanied buyers or unlicensed real estate assistants. If you see this happen, let your real estate representative know right away.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email askjoe@reco.on.ca.

 

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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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