Seemingly small things can lead to big problems when listing your house.
When it comes to deciding on a listing agent, many sellers are often confused about what they should be looking for. Most won’t know what to ask except the commission question. Others will Google questions to ask and find some which are very helpful, such as, “are you full time?”, “How many homes did you sell last year?”, and “What will you do to market my house?”. These are definitely good things to know about the person who will be representing your home for the next 6 months. However, this only scratches the surface. Far beyond that is a level of professionalism and knowledge that you will be glad you have, or sorry you don’t. With agents of such high caliber comes one often overlooked facet – security and safety procedures for your home while it’s listed.
More and more, we face reminders that we cannot assume every person who requests a showing has the intention of buying. Yet, in order to sell a house, a buyer needs to be able to view it. So, sellers paint, declutter, repair, and stage their home to encourage their visitors to choose their property over others. However, often sellers do not think about protecting themselves from those who aren’t interested in buying, and this is where a truly professional agent will fill the gap.
Among the listing paperwork and sign installation should be a discussion regarding safety and security during the listing period. Yes, the buyer’s agents will be present when the property is shown, and theoretically they should be right next to their buyer the whole time, but that might not always be the case. With that in mind, the seller should prepare their home accordingly. A quality agent will run down a list of suggestions that greatly reduce any problems for sellers.
One very important consideration, which on the surface doesn’t seem to be a problem, but can make a world of difference, is your lockbox. These hold the keys to your home and allow agents to access them. In an attempt to save money, many agents use combination lockboxes, which have either dials or push-button mechanisms. When a call is received to book a showing on a house with a combination box, the code is simply given over the phone to the caller, thus granting them access to the home. Yes, the listing broker could ask a few questions to try to verify the caller, but most of the time, that simply is a matter of the agent’s name, brokerage name, time they want to show it, and maybe phone number. Since agents market themselves for a living, these pieces of information are not hard for anyone to find on the internet via a simple search.
In addition to easily getting the code, there is the issue of keeping the code private. Not only will buyer agents need to find/remember this code and enter it without their buyers seeing, but they have to remember to re-scramble the letters/numbers when closing the lockbox. Commonly though, we have walked up to many listings where the code was still showing on the lockbox, meaning it was unlocked, and therefore the keys were available to anyone who walked up. The latest incident of this was on a local listing in January, and the keys were actually missing! Since the lockbox was on the front door, it was obvious to passersby that it was there. Just by checking periodically for that inevitable time when the last person forgot to scramble the code, someone who probably doesn’t have good intentions got those house keys. Of course, I immediately told the owners, but when showing multiple houses, not all agents will remember to do so.
In order to prevent the combination lockbox security issue, we use electronic lockboxes called Supra boxes. These are expensive, but they are the only lockboxes we use, because of the peace of mind they afford to us and our clients. Only authorized, monitored entry to your home is allowed. These boxes are industry-specific and require paid membership with an electronic key that is assigned to each agent. When they get their e-key, the agent is also given an individual access code which must be punched in. This prevents anyone from just picking up their key and using it. So, without an e-key AND the matching personal code, no one can enter our listings!
Perhaps the greatest advantage of using a Supra lockbox is that it automatically reports all access. After a lockbox is opened, we are sent a notification containing the property address, date, time, and WHO is opening the lockbox. We carefully monitor all access to our listings, and compare the notification to our list of showing appointments. Although it is a no-no, and all of our listings require appointments before showing, once in a great while agents will show without an appointment. If this occurs, we immediately call when we see the notification, and find out what they were doing there. These notifications allow us to immediately send each agent a request for feedback about the property. We can also eliminate the question of whether or not an agent showed a property, as sometimes the sellers aren’t sure they actually did so. In addition, should something happen at a property during a showing, such as lights being left on, etc. we can narrow it down and determine who did it.
So, although asking about the type of lockboxes an agent employs in the listing of your home seems trivial and way down the list of priorities, it, along with other security and liability-prevention measures, is a substantial question. The answers to these questions are indicative of the overall approach of the listing agent you are considering. Are they going with the easy, cheap, unconcerned route, or have they invested in your home’s security and taken steps to prevent larger problems down the road?