Real Estate Showings: Appointments Only vs. Lockboxes
According to research, when a home goes on the market and is listed by a real estate broker, the greatest number of buyer showings occur within the first three weeks of the listing. This is because agents work to expose the home to as many buyers as possible during this time period. To facilitate this strategy, agents install lockboxes on homes to allow for more timely access.
Homes with lockboxes tend to show more, and more showings mean the possibility of a faster sale. However, not everyone is comfortable with a lockbox and not knowing who might be in their home.
Some brokers require their agents to use lockboxes, while others offer choices. If you're given a choice, you'll have to decide on based on your level of comfort with agents and buyers in your home, your selling needs and your availability to be present at a showing. You might want to know your options, and then understand some of the advantages and drawbacks.
Using a Lockbox
Vacant With Lockbox
The home is unoccupied, or the sellers are on vacation. In either case, the seller is OK with the buyer's agent going directly to the home with a buyer and gaining entry through the lockbox.
Call First With Lockbox
Generally, the phone number listed in multiple listing system (MLS) is the seller's number. 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.
By Appointment Only
Appointment With Tenant
In some parts of the country, 24- to 48-hours notice is needed to view a property with tenants. The phone number listed is the tenant's, and the agent must negotiate an agreeable showing time directly with the tenant.
Appointment With Owner
The owner dictates when agents can show according to their schedule. The phone number listed is the seller's, and the agent must schedule an appointment in advance.
Owners are also able to restrict the times and dates when their home is available to be showed. The buyer's agents must call the seller and set an appointment for a showing.
Appointment With the 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.
In some cases, the seller requests that the listing agent be called for specifics on a property for showing, as well as requiring that the keys to the property are held in the listing office. In this case, the agent will need to call ahead to the listing agent, and drive to pick up the keys to show the home, then return the keys.
Choosing Between Appointments or Lockboxes
Whether your home should be made available for showings by appointment only with the listing agent present or by a lockbox can depend on local customs, area security, or your preferences.
In some parts of the country, it is customary for listing agents to accompany all showings. For example, in the Chicago metro, most homes do not have lockboxes, and the listing agent meets the 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 between lockboxes and appointments.
Many homeowners want to be assured of the security of their homes and belongings and don't feel comfortable with a lockbox, while others are able to feel safe with a lockbox present.
Sellers often worry about safeguarding valuables when strangers come to the home. If the listing agent is present, it reassures the seller that their valuables are safe. Electronic lockboxes monitor who accesses the home by recording the agent's name, contact information, and time of access and departure—while not a physical presence, someone is held responsible when the home is shown.
It is not uncommon for sellers of upper-end luxury homes to request showings by appointment only, typically with the listing agent present. Sellers of these homes sometimes will refuse to let a buyer see the home unless they can substantiate to the listing agent the financial means to purchase it, as a protective measure (and to keep the general public out).
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 days-on-market.
Agents can't control the time between showings, causing a home to miss out on prospective buyers. Some agents don't want to make appointments, making that listing go to the bottom of their showing list.
Sometimes buyers spot a house for sale while on tour with the buyer's agent and ask to immediately see it. Without a lockbox, it is difficult to conduct impromptu showings, which can reduce the number of interested buyers.
Buyers prefer to tour homes without the seller or 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.