Please welcome our newest writer Matt Wilkins who is a young Realtor running a unique brokerage he will be talking about (among other things) over the coming weeks. He has an interesting perspective and is no stranger to controversy or critical thinking. We are excited to learn from him as he joins us, please let him know what you think of his article below and don’t hold back- he can take it!
Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back?
As the years have gone by, it seems the way listings are accessed has taken a huge step backwards. In many markets more and more listings are using mechanical lockboxes in lieu of electronic ones that most of us were accustomed to seeing on all listings in years past.
How Did We Get Here?
Although many are quick to say that this shift is due to the increase in REO and short sale listings or politics among associations with regard to electronic lockbox systems, the root of the issue has to do with cost. As bottoms lines are squeezed, many look for quick ways to cut costs and and feel that using a $10-30 mechanical lockbox instead of an $90-120 electronic lockbox on a listing is a quick and easy way to maximize the budget. Although this may be a good move for now, it can lead to possible issues down the road.
Saving a Little Could Cost A Whole Lot More
Depending on your specific location, saving money on lockboxes could turn into a huge hit to both your pocketbook and reputation if issues arise with regard to property access. First and foremost, there is no definitive way to control and log access. Although some agents/brokers use showing services to log who requests access to the property, this does not prevent someone from using the code given to access the property on future occasions. Also, some listing agreements include verbiage regarding an electronic lockbox being used for property access so taking the cheap route may put you and your broker in breech of contract. Furthermore, E&O companies depending on the policy may not cover properties using a mechanical box as it does not show the agent/broker as making every effort to provide secure access to the property. This article by Matthew Rathbun, although specific to Northern Virginia, mentions many general points that apply to any area of the country.
This is an issue that has strong proponents on both sides of the fence. From what I have seen and heard lately the issue is not developing new rules but enforcing the rules already in place. Brokers need to be more aware of the systems them and their agents are using and deal with the possible liability that can/will arise from it. Associations and MLSs need more enforcement and education on their rules and regulations regarding this issue (example of MLS listings where lockbox combos are published in remarks that are seen by consumers).