Real Estate Showings: Appointments Only vs Lockboxes

Real Estate Lock Box
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When a home goes on the market in MLS and is listed by a real estate broker, statistics report the greatest number of buyer showings to occur within the first three weeks of the listing. A key strategy agents use to get a higher sales price is to expose the home to as many buyers as possible during this time period. To show, agents, look for content in the MLS that stipulates how the home is available to be seen by buyers.

Vacant, Lockbox

Nobody occupies the home, or the sellers are on vacation. In either case, it is OK for the buyer's agent to simply go directly to the home with a buyer and gain entry through the lockbox.

Call First, Lockbox

Generally, the phone number listed in MLS is the sellers. The buyer's agent calls and establishes a mutually agreeable arrival time. If no one answers the phone, the agent leaves a message and goes directly to the home without further communication attempts, unless the seller calls the agent to reschedule.

Appointment With Tenant

In some parts of the country, disturbing tenants requires 24- to 48-hours' notice. The phone number listed is the tenant's, and the agent must negotiate an agreeable showing time directly with the tenant.

Appointment With Owner

There is no lockbox. The owner dictates when agents can show according to the owner's whim and schedule. The phone number listed is the seller's, and the agent must schedule an appointment in advance.

Appointment With Listing Agent

Agents must call and make an appointment with the listing agent who, in turn, calls the seller to make an appointment. The listing agent is present when the buyer's agent shows the home.

Restricted Days / Hours

Regardless of additional showing instructions, the seller requests that buyer's agents show the home only on certain days and/or within a specific time frame.

Key in Listing Office

There is no lockbox. After scheduling an appointment, the buyer's agent drives to the listing agent's office, picks up the key, shows the home, and returns the key to the listing office.

Call Listing Office

For more specific information about showing, the buyer's agent needs to call the listing brokerage to obtain that data.

Choosing Between by Appointment or Lockbox

Whether your home should be made available for showings by appointment only with the listing agent present or by a lockbox depends, in part, on the following variables:

  • Local Custom: In some parts of the country, it is customary for listing agents to accompany all showings. For example, in Chicago metro, most homes do not have lockboxes, and the listing agent meets buyer's agents at the home. In Miami, typically only vacant homes have lockboxes, the rest require appointments. In Maine, listing agents consider it a courtesy to be present during showings, but many homes have lockboxes. In California, Minnesota, Maryland, and Virginia, access to most homes is provided solely by a lockbox. Texas and Arizona are divided.
  • Security: Sellers often worry about safeguarding valuables when strangers come to the home. If the listing agent is present, it reassures the seller that thieves will not slip jewelry or family heirlooms into their little thug pockets. On the other hand, electronic lockboxes monitor who accesses the lockbox by leaving a record of the agent's name and contact information. Sometimes burglars cut lockboxes off doors or gas pipes and smash up the lockbox to get the key. It happens more often in new subdivisions that are unsupervised. The burglars then use the key to open the door and cart away expensive appliances.
  • Seller Preference: It is not uncommon for sellers of upper-end luxury homes to request showings by appointment only, typically with the listing agent present. Often, it's these same sellers who will refuse to let a buyer see the home unless the buyer can substantiate to the listing agent the financial means to purchase it. The reasons for limited access go beyond security. Privacy issues are the main reason, but also the listing agent possesses intimate knowledge of the home's extensive features that could be overlooked by an inexperienced buyer's agent who dabbles in exclusive homes.

Drawbacks to Home Selling Without a Lockbox

The problem is statistics reflect that homes without lockboxes receive fewer showings overall than homes with lockboxes and have longer DOM.

  • Agents can't always control the time between showings and could miss an appointment or be so late it is canceled.
  • Some agents don't want to bother with making an appointment so that listing goes to the bottom of their showing list until it ultimately falls off.
  • Sometimes buyers spot a home for sale while on tour with the buyer's agent and ask to immediately see it. Without a lockbox, it makes the possibility of an impromptu showing more difficult.
  • Buyers prefer to tour homes without the seller and without the seller's agent in proximity because their presence makes them uncomfortable. Buyers want to be free to express opinions with their agent that they would not otherwise bring up in the presence of the owner or listing agent.
  • Some buyer's agents believe that listing agents deliberately withhold lockboxes from a listing because the listing agent intends to double-end the deal and sell the home without cooperation from other brokerages.

At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.