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Are You The Laziest REALTOR in the World?

Well, are you?

Do you like customer service? (go ahead and say yes…) Do you use a lockbox on your listings?

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The two are an oxymoron (which you would know now if you watched the video). I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for watching!


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Written By

Specializing in luxury condominiums in Vancouver, Ian has thorough knowledge of Yaletown, Coal Harbour and Downtown's new urban markets. As well as being a leader in marketing luxury penthouse suites, Ian also gives equal attention to all listings from entry level studios to waterfront townhouse villas.



  1. Jay Thompson

    March 19, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Gotta disagree with you on this one Ian, at least for my market.

    There are 50,000 homes listed in the Phoenix MLS. I’ve *got* to make my listings as easy as possible for buyers and buyers agents to get into the home.

    If I don’t use a lockbox, that means I have to get to the home to open it. In our market, if someone is driving by and wants to see the home, they won’t even wait 10 minutes — they’ll just move on to one of the other dozen homes within a 1/4 mile.

    Via an electronic lockbox, I can at least know who’s seen the house and follow up.

    One could say, “just make showings by appointment only”. Well, that doesn’t work here. With so many homes to chose from, you have to make them VERY accessible, and a lockbox greatly facilitates that.

  2. Marvin Jensen

    March 19, 2009 at 9:44 am

    If I’m showing a buyer a property, I certainly don’t want the seller’s agent lurking around doing a sales job!

  3. Kim Hannemann

    March 19, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Gotta agree with PhoenixRealEstateGuy – in my market, an electronic lockbox is a requirement. NOT using a lockbox is BAD service.

    That said, I try to hold Open Houses as often as possible unless the owner dislikes it.

  4. Matt Richling

    March 19, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Ian, Hello from Ottawa! Wondering how do you deal with other agents showing your properties/units with no lockboxes? Are you or another representative there as well? Find this interesting!
    Matt Richling

  5. Kathy Stilwell

    March 19, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I agree whole heartedly and am a convert to this religion. I was once a lockbox user saw the error of my ways. In this competitive market the realtors who give the best customer service, by showing the properties, doing open houses and doing all they can to sell the vendor’s property are the ones that will be left standing at the end of the day.

  6. Chuck G

    March 19, 2009 at 9:56 am


    I think your airbag may have gone off with this one… I have to agree with Jay and Marvin.

    As a listing agent, you can’t be everywhere for everyone — so if you make the listing difficult to show, clients will just move to the next property. There’s just too much inventory to choose from.

    As a selling agent, the last thing you want is the listing agent listening in on your conversation with your clients, and trying to tackle objections before you get the chance to.

    Keep up the great videos — they’re fun to watch.


  7. Molly

    March 19, 2009 at 10:02 am

    First, I am not an agent, but I work with them every day and my question would be…

    If you have more than one listing but not enough to employ an assistant, how could you give GREAT Customer service to your sellers (by showing their homes) if you have more than one showing at the same time on different properties?

    I am not convinced that a Lockbox is lazy, it is the only option some have, short of Cloning.

  8. fred

    March 19, 2009 at 10:06 am

    @Ian – Just Ridiculous! Lock boxes make life easier for agents to show homes, thus improving the “customer service” aspect.

    If I want to show a home without a lock box, I’d have to:

    a) try to arrange a time good for the seller, seller’s agent, me, and my buyer, which could be difficult.

    b) Wait for the sellers agent to show and if they are late that backs up all following appointments.

    c) Is a waste of time for sellers agent, as they just stand in the background waiting for us to finish.

    d) Might make my buyer feel uncomfortable not being able to voice their opinion in front of the sellers agent.

    e) Could give the sellers agent an advantage if my client said something they should not have said.

    This is why the lock box it so important in today’s real estate market. You’re thinking on this is so backwards, it’s really pathetic. Sorry!

  9. Dave deBruyn

    March 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Hey Ian & others….

    I am a fellow lockbox hater. Phoenix aside (I agree with your volume problem) I think that a Realtor who does not conduct their showings in person misses out on a TON of both verbal and non-verbal cues that take place during a showing. Asking the other realtor for feedback after the fact is close to useless, as they have zero interest in telling you the truth, in fact they have an obligation to their client to NOT disclose information that may be very important to how you handle an eventual negotiation. From my perspective being present for showings will tell you everything you need to know, straight from the heart – from the actual buyer’s perspective. A skilled realtor will pick up on all the cues during a showing, and make the appropriate adjustments (if required) to the listing, which in turn will help it sell faster. A lockbox itself is still handy as a backup, but nothing will ever replace being present for showings.

    My 10 cents (Canadian)
    Dave deBruyn
    deBruyn Design + Marketing

  10. Melina Tomson

    March 19, 2009 at 10:20 am

    For the most areas I think secured lockboxes, like Supra, are the way to go. Trying to coordinate schedules will be too cumbersome and it would make selling homes much more difficult.

    If your sole area is a condo building in NY, or Chicago and you cover an area of a few blocks, I can see that lockboxes might not be necessary. From what I hear in downtown Chicago, it can take a week or so to set up a showing. I think that is horrible service personally, but since everyone else does it, it is the norm.

    Every listing here has a lockbox. If I don’t use one and have to show up for every showing it would not be a cost effective strategy for me AND it would harm my sellers. We have almost 20 months of inventory and there are plenty of easy to show homes to see.

    Luxury homes do require the listing agent present out here (for the most part) to point out all the features, but the standard $150,000 ranch style home does need to be encumbered with trying to coordinate two agents schedules.

  11. John Morley

    March 19, 2009 at 10:24 am

    I totally agree with you on this Ian.

    In fact, not only are lockboxes for lazy agents, I think yard signs are for lazy agents too.

    I’m going to start standing out in front of my listings all day and all night instead of using a yard sign. That way I can answer any questions potential buyers might have and show them the house immediately. I’m sure my wife will understand. She wants me to give my sellers good customer service too.

    I love watching your videos, and so I apologize for the sarcasm… I’m only trying to make a point. What you are saying just does not make sense for virtually every real estate market in America. Not using a lockbox in my market would be awful customer service, not good customer service. Houses that are not on lockbox in my market, and most every other non-downtown market in America, will get less showings and will have less of a chance of being sold. In downtown Vancouver and New York City your thinking might make sense, but it is just silly for you to say that every agent in America who uses lockboxes is lazy.

  12. Jonathan Dalton

    March 19, 2009 at 10:58 am

    As someone working primarily with buyers, I do not want you with my buyers and me when we’re viewing the home. I don’t want you to point out the Berber carpet or the upgraded cabinets. I can do it myself. Without you (or the seller) there, we can talk freely about the plusses and minuses of the property without interruption.

    If opening the front door and sitting in the car for the next 5 to 20 minutes (because I’m throwing you out of the house while my buyers and I view the property) counts as customer service in Vancouver, then I guess that’s what it is. Here, I’d tend to wonder about an agent who didn’t have something better to do with their time.

    Homes need to be available to be seen on the buyers’ schedule. Not yours. Not the sellers.

  13. Jay Thompson

    March 19, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Dave deBruyn –

    What you are saying is exactly why the listing agent WON’T BE IN THE HOUSE with me and my buyer.

    If the listing agent insists on being in the home when I’m with my client, I will respectfully ask them to leave. If they refuse, my clients (whom I’ve already educated on this very matter) will leave and go look at other homes.

    I’d love to hear the explanation to your sellers about how you just provided superior customer service by driving off a prospective buyer.

  14. JR

    March 19, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I think if you ever get into a car accident and the case go’s to court, you are going to be f*cked.

    if you keep vlogging while driving it is reckless and its going to cause an accident.

    so try to sit down at a desk and stop putting everyone else on the road in danger!

    and I do find lockbox’s annoying but at the same time I also understand the need for them.

  15. Mark A.

    March 19, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    This can’t possibly be an “I’m right, you’re wrong” issue. There are a variety of pros and cons to using lockboxes.
    From a seller’s perspective, the question I would ask, would be: Am I not hiring YOU to sell my property? If you Mr./Mrs. listing agent aren’t there, who’s doing the selling? If selling residential real estate – in large part – is to convince buyers on an emotional level, speed of information might be key. In other words, explaining certain features of the property (that would be too cumbersome in the MLS remarks) to the buyer, as they’re touring the place, might make a difference between them wanting to write up the offer then and there and moving on to the next property.

    Otoh, if you’re a power lister, with 150 listings in you’re inventory, and only 1 licensed assistant, you might have a problem without lockboxes.

  16. Lynn Cromer

    March 19, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I wish we could use lockboxes in Miami. The high end Realtors here, for some reason, think showing the house is a service that must be provided to the Sellers. It’s a backwards idea and I don’t like showing a house with the listing agent there…too many people around. And I surely don’t like showing a house to an agent and her buyer…seems ridiculous to have us all there. But “Customer Service” in the Miami high end, means the listing must show the house. I don’t think there is anyplace else in America where this is the norm.

  17. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    March 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I saw a similar thread on Active Rain. My reaction is still the same: “Yeah. Right.”

    I already show the house to “unrepresented” buyers who ride by, see the sign and call because they want to “take a look” at the house. Who cares if they’re financially qualified or not? I’m giving my Seller clients good customer service by showing the house and, in this market, any showing is a good showing.

    Hey, if you have a ton of assistants that you can send out or if your business is so flush that you can advertise showings “between 5 and 7 on Mon, Weds and Fri.” than, good for you.

    The implication that using a lockbox to allow maximum possible access by other real estate professional who may be represent financially qualified buyers in order to provide the maximum exposure of my Seller client’s home to the marketplace is either lazy or undeserving of my fee is just plain wrong.

    BTW, when fellow real estate professionals refer to our fees or income as if they were astronomically high or unjustifiable is doing a disservice to themselves and to the profession.

    Ian, just send your checks to me.

  18. Teri Conrad

    March 19, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I am a true believer in no lockboxes. I absolutely would LOVE to use them as they would make my life so much easier but I offer ‘FULL SERVICE’ to my clients. You cannot replace the value of ‘reading’ the buyers when they go through your listing and I agree with Dave Debruyn that getting ‘feedback’ is not accurate. Not to mention the value of pointing out the features that the buyer’s agent couldn’t possibly know. If everyone did it we wouldn’t have that ‘discomfort’ and would be far more effective.

  19. Ken Brand

    March 19, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    What a juicy subject Ian! For some strawberry red for others lemon yellow. It’s great to share ideas and how things roll here and there.

    I’m with most. I see the “full service” angle. But as others have shared, if I have have a qualified hot as a pistol buyer who has a tight schedule and can only look at your listing between lunch and lunch…and you’re full servicing another listing client at the same time. If I can’t show it and sell, you’ve just full serviced your listing client out of a sale.

    There’s a constellation of lazy but using a lockbox is not in that galaxy.

    Love you stuff. For cryen out loud, what do you use to hold your camera while wheeling around town. Spill dude.

  20. Corinne

    March 19, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I would like to offer my thoughts as both a consumer and a seller. I am not a Realtor. I will never be a Realtor. I do however, have a handful of friends who are Realtors.

    As a seller, I feel that I pay a lot of money to the Realtors involved in selling my home and I want something in return for that money other than the occasional open house, an MLS listing, a sign in my front yard and written contract. I am your client and I want the best service possible.

    I want you to be accessible, I want you to be creative and I want you available during your working hours to someone who wants to see my home and to anyone who has questions regarding my home. I want you or someone who represents you present when my home is shown because you are the one who is representing me.

    If you are concerned about giving the other Realtor space to view my home and talk with their client in private, wait in you car or in the lobby if it’s a condo but when they are done viewing my place, be there to ask them if they have any questions.

    If you are the Realtor who is showing my home to your clients and you don’t want my Realtor present in my home while you and your clients are viewing my home, politely ask him/her to wait outside. You’re a professional so wouldn’t it be a reasonable expectation that you have that conversation with my Realtor when you make the arrangements to view my home so the expectation is clear?

    As my Realtor, the fact that you may have so many listings that you can’t possibly be at my home to let in potential buyers and be available for them is NOT my problem. Be resourceful and involve others. You are a professional and I would expect you to have a team of individuals who you can rely upon to take your place in those instances where you can’t be there. I see the lock box being a responsible solution to having multiple sets of keys cut however, I think it should be you or the person representing you who uses the lock box to let other Realtor in, not the potential buyer’s Realtor.

    I would also like to suggest to the Real Estate professionals that it’s time to start considering the difference in generations. Gen Y is a generation like none other and like every other business, the Real Estate profession is going to have make some serious changes to survive. If ever there is to be a generation who will find a way to sell & buy homes on their own, it’s Gen Y.

    I sign off with a quote and encourage those of you who struggle with change to consider it.

    “Every really new idea looks crazy at first.” Alfred North Whitehead

  21. Chuck G

    March 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm


    Not to pick on you, but I have been through so many homes where the listing agent doesn’t know a damn thing about the house they’re selling. I’ll routinely ask something as simple as “What’s the lot size?” only to get a blank stare and see them scurry off to their stack of papers.

    If you’re truly a “FULL SERVICE” agent, you’ll have a complete listing binder right there in the home, with all of the required disclosures filled out. Between that resource, and the eyes of a good buyer’s agent, that’s all a buyer needs. To insinuate that your value is “pointing out features that the buyer’s agent couldn’t possibly know” is pretty insulting. But what it really says is that YOUR marketing is lacking — if there truly is a “feature” that a buyer needs to know about, shouldn’t it be in your marketing??? Hmmmm.

    The biggest problem I have is the whole concept of “reading the buyer.” Remind me again whose client this is? Unless you’re acting as a dual agent (forms signed, of course) what right do you have to ANYTHING about a buyer who walks in with their agent?

    According to that twisted logic, I should be able to hang out and listen to the conversation between you and your seller, right?

  22. Jay Thompson

    March 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Teri –

    I’m curious. What do you do when you have two buyers agents wanting to see two different listings at the same time?

    How do you decide which listing gets FULL SERVICE and which listing gets nothing?

  23. Brad N

    March 19, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    OK I’m not a Realtor (yet)…..

    That being said, It would seem that having a home on Lock Box would make a home more available, Thus increasing the Traffic to the home. Just the same way that Vacant homes receive more views than occupied homes, or Homes with 2 or fewer pictures posted in the MLS receive less traffic than Homes with 7 or more Pictures.

    If this is the case, Shouldn’t this be a requirement to best represent the seller if it is offered in your area?

    Just a Question

  24. Will Ryker

    March 19, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Chuck G,

    That is a pretty passive approach. “Build it and they will come” mentality. If data & marketing materials are the ONLY thing required to sell a listing, then isn’t the Realtor redundant? What do you specialize in? Binders? A saavy consumer can put together a detailed package about their home, and get it on the mls(in most cases). What then is your value proposition?

    An active approach is to analyze how your listing (or product) is perceived by IT’S client – the buyer. Your job is to move the product, as fast as possible, for the most money. If you choose to ignore information that can & will give you an edge, then you do not deserve the listing. Juggling multiple listings? That is where your skill & your team if required will set you apart from the rest.

  25. Mark A.

    March 19, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    @Chuck G
    I’m totally aware and respectful of agency relationships. But when you’re saying

    […]Unless you’re acting as a dual agent (forms signed, of course) what right do you have to ANYTHING about a buyer who walks in with their agent?[…]

    are you suggesting that as the listing agent (=salesperson), I wouldn’t have a right to promote (=sell) the virtues of the property to your client? Without interfering with your agency relationship, of course?
    Btw, may I suggest “Threaded Comments”? It’s a feature in WP 2.7 now, you know… 😉

  26. Chuck G

    March 19, 2009 at 4:28 pm


    Two words for you…OPEN HOUSE. I’m sure you have heard of them. That’s where you can look at buyer’s reactions for three hours straight to your heart’s delight. Answer questions, point out features until your index finger hurts. If you can’t get a read on how your listing is positioned after a few of these, then you don’t deserve the listing either.

    But I agree with JD…I don’t need you to show me the house, and clients won’t open up when there’s a listing agent whom they’ve never met shadowing them and looking for “clues” to their reaction.

    Of course, that won’t happen. Because like JD, I’ll simply ask you to wait outside.

  27. Matt Stigliano

    March 19, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    As a consumer, I wouldn’t want anyone other than my agent in the house with me – I’d even include dogs and cats in that list too, but for different reasons. When buying houses, I have done a quick scan of homes with occupants still in them or an agent (not mine) tagging behind me – and left and removed them from the list 9 out of 10 times. It puts me off of my mission – to objectively and openly view the home and make comments, ask questions, and take notes.

    If an agent or a buyer has questions, my lines are open. Feel free to question me to death over my listing if you want some info that you don’t think was there in front of you (through marketing, packets, flyers, MLS, photos, videos, your tour of the home, etc.). As a buyer, if you’re interested and your agent is worth his salt, they’ll do this all for you as quickly as they can and report back to you. Of course, the agent should have done as much homework as they could have beforehand.

    Lockboxes aren’t lazy, they’re making the best use of technology. Is marketing a listing on the internet lazy? I mean, with a few clicks, I can get more people to look at my listing than if I put an ad in the paper or mailed out flyers to the area. Is using email instead of calling someone lazy? No, it makes the best use of your time (not that I’m against the phone – just sometimes email or even a text message is quick simple and allows you to multitask). Perhaps its lazy to mail out just listed cards, I guess I could hand deliver all ten million of them I wanted to send out.

    Laziness is a problem in real estate. I’ve seen examples of it. This in my opinion, is not one of them.

    Corinne – While me may disagree on the lockbox issue, I wonder what’s your take on this situation:

    I have a listing, it takes me 15 minutes to get to with little traffic, if there’s any sort of back up, we’re looking at 30-45. We (my team for this example) get a call at 4:15PM from an agent wanting to show the property. They are in the subdivision looking at some homes (which has approximately 1900 homes in various parts of the subdivision) and saw our sign. I’m out of the office, but my team member is open and can head out there. Since we have the lockbox for sets of keys at our office, he heads out from there. Traffic is snarled and the agent takes 45 minutes to get there. That buyer is now bored, the buyer’s agent is in a rush, and my team member shows up apologetically. The buyer looks through the house, but because they’re not in the best mood now, they don’t really care to take their time. Have they not possibly missed out on what was a great house? Did I serve you, my seller, by not being able to account for traffic and the buyer’s hatred for waiting? I just don’t think that any sort of impediment to the showing is good…especially in today’s market.

    I also wanted to comment on:

    I would also like to suggest to the Real Estate professionals that it’s time to start considering the difference in generations. Gen Y is a generation like none other and like every other business, the Real Estate profession is going to have make some serious changes to survive. If ever there is to be a generation who will find a way to sell & buy homes on their own, it’s Gen Y.

    I think many of the members and readers of AgentGenius are doing just that. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on what could and should be done…in fact, if you’d like, I would encourage you to contact me personally so that we don’t take up a ton of space here. I’m a consumer as much as I am an agent and I do like to hear the consumers point of view. I got into real estate thanks to two great agents and one absolutely horrible.

  28. Larry in Greensboro, NC

    March 19, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Ian not sure how many listings you have must be one or two but, I define bad service as not making your sellers homes available when the buyer wants to see them. In this market more then any other the buyers have alot of inventory to look at. My buyers will pass right on by a home that is not available to them when they want to see it. So if you are showing one home your other listings are now “off the market”. Is that customer service?

  29. Jonathan Dalton

    March 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Maybe I’m a little slow to realize I’m supposed to be heading out to pasture now that I’m approaching 40, but it seems to me every generation believes they’re like no other. Gen X certainly felt so, back before we found out we had gotten old.

    And maybe I’m a little jaded by agents who promote the features of a home without the slightest idea of what might matter to my client. Having been around the block a few times, I don’t need the listing agent to stand there spouting features at me and my buyers. Don’t need them. Don’t want them. If I have a question, I’ll ask.

    Basic reality … if there are seven identical homes, six are on lockbox and the seventh requires setting an appointment with the listing agent, I can guarantee you I’ll show the first six and worry about that seventh only if the first six don’t meet my buyers’ needs.

    If the home isn’t ready to show when I’m out with my buyers, it may as well not be listed.

  30. Jason Crouch

    March 19, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Ian – I think this is something that could work if your niche is tight enough, and it appears that yours is, if you are focused on downtown Vancouver condos.

    I am more accustomed to dealing with another agent’s schedule when I am showing luxury condos (and luxury homes in general), but if I have a client looking at homes for $130,000, as I did a couple of weeks ago, 10 out of 10 of the homes we saw were on lockbox. If there was one odd agent in the bunch who made us jump through an extra hoop to see the property, we may or may not get to see that listing.

    I guess my point is that customs vary by area and the niche that you are focused on. In your market, this may come across as lazy, whereas for most of us it is just the norm.

  31. Ruthmarie Hicks

    March 19, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    In our area, homes that DON’T have lock boxes tend to sit and sit and sit and sit…..I live in a densely populated area – BUT the geography can be treacherous and requires a car. There are towns and villages miles apart that I often have to visit in a single shot. Last Sat I covered 36 miles with one client in a very dense area with tons of traffic. I do NOT want to wait for a listing agent to get there. It throws a monkey wrench into the schedule and can cause me to have to reschedule en route.

    Buyers are also impatient. They don’t want to listen to the listing agent’s drivel. If they don’t like the home, they want to feel free to leave without having to “be polite.” If they like the home, they want to discover the home FOR THEMSELVES with as little interference as possible.

    Bottom line: seldom does a listing agents song and dance sell a home. But creating obstacles to showing will definitely PREVENT the home from being shown…and that can easily cost the seller a sale.

    Finally, there is the issue of the lister who tries to “steal” buyers and double end a deal. Many of these types insist on showing the home themselves. Unless there is a contract with the buyer (which is rare in our area) buyer’s agents will avoid these showings like the plague.

  32. Margaret Rome

    March 20, 2009 at 4:28 am

    Ian, Instead of a comment please take a look a one of my blogs It’s Not Lockboxes…It’s How Agents Use Them!

  33. Stephanie Edwards-Musa

    March 20, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Ian, I have had clients that refuse to see homes that must be accompanied by the listing agent.

    I personally would probably pass up a home with out a lock box as well.

    Is it lazy? No. It’s the same reason why sometimes you see people walking around a car dealership lot on the days they are closed as opposed to when they have their entire sales force greeting you as you step out of your car.

  34. Kayvan RAhmati

    March 20, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Top of the morning,

    Lock boxes are the biggest joke, there a disaster waiting to happen. How can you prevent a raid on your clients house when you give a group of who knows who an hour to them selves to your clients house. What stops a crooked RE agent from opening lock box, raiding house then taken lock boxes with them. Most realtors I call for showings ask for name and number :S there is 7% on 1st 100k 3%…. worth of security. I feel strongly about this topic, just the other day, I spent an hour and twenty minutes outside in the rain for a realtor and clients to go through the house, now i’m faxing back an offer. The client even commented that if I wasn’t there to point out unique features of the house they may have over looked most of them ( hidden storage, in wall speakers…etc). Plus I love going in 30 min before and setting some music, candles…you know make it feel homie :D. Who ever says a house sells itself, is an old fat cat, or dog… you know the one you can’t teach new tricks to. Don’t mean to rub people the worng way, but because of those who sleep in till noon and smile…and write…no print out a contract and call that real estate has made our profession a joke.. anyone can do it. But I guess anyone can do it, but not everyone can do it right. Humour me next time meet the other realtor and his clients at your listing see what kind of feed back you will get.

    Kayvan Rahmati

  35. Matt Thomson

    March 20, 2009 at 9:15 am

    As a buyer’s agent, I won’t show a home to a buyer unless I’ve previewed it. Let’s say I have a buyer coming to town and there’s 12 properties that I think might fit their needs. Let’s say 4 are vacant, 8 occupied.
    With a lock box I can make 8 phone calls to set up “rough appts” (I’ll be previewing your home between 2-4pm. It’ll just be me, so don’t worry about getting it all cleaned up) and then go and preview 12 homes in about 2hrs time.
    Without a lockbox, I have to call 12 agents, set up specific times (unless you feel that your time is well spent by not being lazy and sitting in your car for 20 minutes waiting for another agent to show up with no clients), and spend 20 seconds zipping through a house with another agent telling me why I should show this house to my clients whom they know nothing about.

    Oregon has full service gas stations–they pump the gas for you. It drives me nuts. It’s not a good use of the gas station’s time or money to have somebody do a job I can do just fine.

    A listing agent is not doing their sellers, me, or my buyers any great service by being at the home while I’m there showing it.

    Many comments suggested the listing agent wait in the car or lobby while it was being shown. Really? If I hire somebody to sell my house, you’re telling me it’s a better use of their time to sit in the car in front of my home than it is for them to be finding and implementing other ways to get that house sold?

    We call agents co-op agents here. Meaning we co-operate. As a listing agent, it’s my job to make the home accessible. As a selliing agent, it’s my job to take my clients in and get that home sold. We co-operate. That’s not lazy, that’s efficient and effective.

  36. Kathy Stilwell

    March 20, 2009 at 9:37 am

    For all you realtors who have a problem with the listing agent being in the property.
    A good listing agent is there to provide information if needed, and take cues from the buyers and selling agent. I agree that the buyers need time in the property with out me as the listing agent hanging around. However they also always have questions that the selling agent for the most part doesn’t have the answers to.

    I think all markets are different, in the downtown Vancouver condo market,lockboxes are not acceptable. I don’t think I know a single realtor in this market who even have a key for a lockbox anymore.
    Kathy Stilwell
    Downtown Vancouver Realtor

  37. John Houlihan

    March 20, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Whoa….caution needed, here! The Christian Right wants us to believe they too have the answer. The only answer!

    Ian, the argument that Lockbox vs No Lockbox defines Customer Service vs “Lazy” is off the mark (…in my opinion).

    The Lockbox allows for REALTOR previewing, prior to Buyer Showings. Has Previewing become a lost art?

    Making the property available and easily accessible is good for both clients, thus good customer service.

    A Buyer’s first viewing most often has as its objective elimination. Perhaps your presence is warranted on second viewings.

    Customer service is more than one-sided. Yes, you have your Seller. Yet, there is the Customer Buyer, and there is the Customer REALTOR.

    Two-To-Tango: Lest we forget, “It is the Buyer who invites the Seller to the dance.”

  38. BawldGuy

    March 20, 2009 at 10:42 am

    People, people, people. If this isn’t Ian gettin’ a jump on April Fools I’d be shocked. Unless he’s figured how to do business in 1963 Mayberry, he’s messin’ with ya. Nobody doing more than 10 deals a year would take this advise seriously.

    Please take the hooks out of your lips. He got ya. 🙂

  39. Russell Shaw

    March 20, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I’m with BawldGuy. But we will get rid of all of our fax machines and drive the papers over so we can get a really good feel for people’s reactions to our papers.

  40. Matthew Rathbun

    March 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    If this is a joke, it’s funny and evidential effective for getting comments.

    If this is not a joke, I want the two minutes it took, for me to be yelled at in the video, back…

  41. Matthew Rathbun

    March 20, 2009 at 12:34 pm


    If I want a good feeling, I can go to any street corner…. well, you know where I’m going with this.

  42. Lani Rosales

    March 20, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Please see the original article for Ian Watt’s new video response, it is the second video under the header “UPDATE.”

  43. BawldGuy

    March 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I’m gonna follow Grandma’s advice here, and keep my mouth shut. Wow.

  44. Candace Robinson

    March 20, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Putting a electronic lockbox has nothing to do with being a lazy agent, you can get that without a lockbox on the property Ian.

    In this market, it’s impossible to work without lockboxes and a mobile office anymore. We have thousands of listings and buyers want access NOW..allowing the opportunity for Buyer’s Agents to show. For me not needing to be there has no relevance to my standard of doing business for my sellers! In fact, on the opposite side of that, as a buyer’s agent, I don’t want the seller’s agent there while we are viewing the home, it’s not necessary. We are not showing a series of model homes here, we live in a big market with over 50K homes…Electronic locks are very necessary..if you don’t use one then I believe you are doing your sellers a disservice by not making it available to other brokers.
    Not to mention the ability to track the showings and followup with the buyers agents!

  45. IanWatt

    March 20, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I just called Jay Thompson and he didn’t answer. I guess he’s out showing some of his listings!

  46. Russell Shaw

    March 20, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Ian, if your goal is to get to the point where you can be safely ignored, you are almost there.

  47. sheldon pearce

    March 20, 2009 at 3:13 pm


    Like many others here I agree that no lockboxes is a very easy thing to do in a tight, close knit market like down town Vancouver. I would even say that luxury properties require both agents to be at the home during the showing. Not only for security etc. but for those questions that will come up.

    I, personally, have shown large ranches, vineyards, luxury homes and closed the deal’s because the selling agent was on the scene to answer questions effectively and efficiently. If I show a property like that a second time I will ask the agent to wait in their car or outside.

    I have no issue if another agent is present at my showings, I am confident enough to even invite them along. I also encourage my client’s to speak freely and openly about the property, and let me tell you they do. I don’t look at other agent’s as competition in the sense that Wal-Mart and Target do. I look at it like we are a large team trying to do the best job for our clients, Seller or Buyer.

    On the other hand, locally, lockboxes are a must in my opinion. I live in an area with “Old School” realtors whom would turn even more grey if I was to say, “I need to be present for all showings.”

    Ian has raised quite a few interesting point’s though and I am strongly considering testing his theory out in my own local market. I am very open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. This industry need’s it.


  48. Jim Lee

    March 20, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I think the best thing for my seller clients is to get as many potential buyers into their property as possible.

    If a property is getting several showings a day and I have to be there for each one then I need to basically move into that listing in order to be there to personally conduct the showings. Who shows my other listings while I’m living at this one?

    Should we only take one listing at a time?

    Frankly I’m not doing that and the next best alternative is to use a lockbox on listings.

    I also provide a “Homebook” (loose leaf notebook full of information about schools, neighborhood, average utilities, etc.) in my listings to answer questions the buyer’s agent might not have the answer too.

  49. Ken Brand

    March 20, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    OK Ian, I’m getting pissed, you still haven’t told me what you use to hold that camera still while you’re sitting in the car. Lockbox, smockbox…I wanna know how you rig the camera.

    Also, for the record I happen to know plenty of people who avoid this issue altogether….they don’t list and they don’t show and they don’t sell…they whine and wish.

    You’ve got yourself a Tiger by the tail my man….as they say in the great state of Texas, Ride’em Cowboy.

    Cheers….now spill on the rig.

  50. Alan May

    March 20, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Ian, it’s nowhere near as black and white an issue as you make it out to be.

    Stigliano said it best… but I believe it’s making the property available for any and all showings, and making certain that a showing is not missed. That is, in my mind, the quintessential “customer service”.

    Please note: I’m not saying that you’re doing it wrong, nor that you’re a Luddite by not embracing lockbox techonology (no, really, I’m not). So I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t call the rest of us, who believe in lockboxes, lazy.

  51. Matthew Rathbun

    March 20, 2009 at 3:45 pm


    Lockboxes are to the practice of real estate; what videos are to bloggers.

    Lockboxes are simply tools of the trade that make sense in most markets.

    I don’t think you’re lazier than I am, because you push a button and talk for 2 minutes, yet I have to check spelling, grammar, make graphics, use formatting etc… We both use these tools to communicate.

    If I were a seller hiring you, I would want the home available to a ready, willing and able buyer with the barrier of the listing agent’s schedule getting in the way.

    To insinuate that agents with more than 4 listings have them because they can’t sell is just…. well wrong.

    Prior to running my school, I listed and managed a company. My average inventory was about 15-20 and I had a fantastic closing rate and some of the shortest DOM.

    This is yet another great example of why I argue that real estate is still based on micro-markets. Your theory, in my market would ensure that you lost several listings. I don’t understand how limiting the access to a listing is ever in the Seller’s best interest. At some point a “right now” buyer is going to want in the house and you’re going to be involved in a fender-bender, with clients, with a sick family member or otherwise and not able to get there.

    As far as your question about articulating value of an agent outside of the lockbox or MLS, this is a flawed premise. Possessing and properly using the tools of the trade is one of the many facets of being of value.

    I would be more cautious of an agent who could articulate their full value in the comments of a blog post – it’s too big for that…

  52. Teri Conrad

    March 20, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    WOW! Very strong feelings!

    If the listing features are as obvious as some suggest then what the heck do they need listing Realtor for? Marketing is one aspect of my job. This is how I draw the traffic, but at some point I have to move the property. It’s called selling; brokering a deal.

    I understand that some buyers are uncomfortable, and I don’t believe in hovering, however it is useful to be on hand to answer any questions that may come up, and if I don’t have them I can make sure to get them and follow up. Far more proactive don’t you think?

  53. Jay Thompson

    March 20, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Well I just returned Ian Watt’s call and he didn’t answer.

    Maybe he’s out showing one of his listings. 😉

  54. Jay Thompson

    March 20, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Matthew said: “I would be more cautious of an agent who could articulate their full value in the comments of a blog post – it’s too big for that…”

    Precisely. If anyone here is interested in the full value I provide my clients, they are welcome to peruse the 1,300 or so posts on my blog. As for clients knowing this, many already know before they ask us to represent them. Those that don’t get the full story when we first meet.

  55. Paul McEwan

    March 20, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    May I turn this on it’s head?

    I’ve read through all these comments and by the time I finished writing this I’m sure there will be a few more.

    Real customer service involves choice.

    Can you see where I’m going already?

    I was at “Death of the Old School Realtor” and I have to agree with Ian’s, (among others), philosophy and the way things are going in the front runners of real estate marketing of late. While I was listening to him speak about social network marketing and online dominance I had visions of a ‘buy now’ button next to each listing. OK, that’s never going to happen.

    But in the eyse of the public we’re almost there if lock boxes are completely relied upon. There is already a lot of talk about service based commissions. There always has been. I think real customer service would offer the seller a number of different levels of service.

    As a seller, If I had 3 to 5 homes I wanted to sell, I want as many people through them as possible and I would prefer a reduced method of selling. If it is my own home with a number of key features I have installed, I might want the listing agent their to explain the home to everyone.

    A change in commission structure probably isn’t going to change anytime soon but if I was an agent, I think I might explain both ways of selling and let the owner decide.

    For the record, I don’t think you Realtors make that much per hours worked as the general public believes. Who sends out that message? That’s a good question.

  56. JIMBOB

    March 20, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Get with the times, ian, the last three places I bought were based on lock box viewings. I do not care who the listing realtor is and rarely want to hear his latest spiel about the place.

    I get things inspected I do my DD and I place my offer.

    Get into 1970, lockboxes have been around a long time and they work!

  57. Stephanie Edwards-Musa

    March 21, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Ian, I watched your update and I understand what you are saying. But, considering that all markets are different it is comparing apples to oranges.

    You mention a $5M home with security cameras everywhere, etc. If a home is different and unique regardless of price then a listing agent should be there if at all possible. These are rare in my market.

    Specializing in ‘green’ I can see the trend of no lockbox increasing in about 3-5 years in certain parts of the City to be able to explain the systems in the home. (in my market)

    We have grown as a society to like the WalMart and Burger King mentality. I’m talking humans. Everyone, all consumers. We want convenience and ‘your way, right away’. This is why people look at listings online before even contacting an agent. Now, I refer back to my car lot statement above.

    Taking your comments in the 2nd video and comparing apples to apples – Yes, not using a lockbox is lazy. Apples to oranges – No. It’s not lazy it is giving the prospective buyer what they want.

    Our jobs as agents is to figure out the most appropriate way to get the information to the prospective buyer whether it be through advertising/marketing or being there in person. It’s our job to figure out whether that home is an apple or an orange.

  58. James Davis

    March 21, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Ian, Great Question!!!

    I think there are a million ways to SELL a property & have GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE…and IF your MARKETING STRATEGY includes LOCKBOXES, then use it!

    I believe the FIRST responsibility of any Realtor representing a Seller’s property … is to provide the MOST exposure to the public (open houses, broker caravans, signs, flyers, audio listings, cable commercials, internet marketing, newspaper classified ads, magazine ads, lockboxes for easy preview by other agents, etc!)

    Get exposure for your SELLER!

    Last time I check, no realtor in the world SOLD a property to a buyer that was not 1st willing or interested in the property. Especially, when we are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars in property.

    I am from the school of thought that Realtors must EDUCATE the buying public about Real Estate… and MARKET the property to as many qualified buyers, as possible!

    So, if the LOCKBOX is part of your STRATEGY, then use it. If not, then don’t.

  59. Will

    March 21, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Coming from the “no Lockbox” culture of Vancouver I completely agree with Ian (and other Vancouver realtors here). I also understand what some “gurus” say about lockboxes and the listing agent getting in the way of the buyer’s agent by maybe opening their mouth too big when showing the property. After all, the buyer’s agent knows their client and knows what to say (and, more importantly, what not to say).
    So I think a balance needs to be struck. Feature sheets clearly do not convey all the benefits of the property (how can you describe the perfect home in a paragraph?). So now I make up real Feature Sheets that I email off to realtors wanting to show the place. That way they become much more familiar with it and are able to pump up their buyers before, during, and after showings.

    Since I work mostly condos I (or an assistant) have to be there to let them in. I don’t need to take over, and I don’t need to be inside following them around. I do, however, set the stage by getting the excitement level up (if needed) or lower their expectations (in the case of messy tenanted properties) so that they walk away with a more positive impression than when they were in the car/at the door.

    And that is what an agent needs to do (lockbox or not); Create the more positive impression. Being there enables you to answer their questions right away before they get fogotten or buried under the competition.

    No lockboxes. Sell the home. And make sure your sellers are committed to selling the home.

  60. Will

    March 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Ken Brand and others: Ian did a video showing his rig setup. Check his site.

  61. Kye Grace

    March 22, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Quite the conversation! I am going to steer clear of the lock box, generational sales concerns, what is good customer service etc. and focus on what I think Ian is trying to do with these videos.

    All be it with a far sharper stick than I choose to use Ian is prompting the individuals that comprise the Real Estate industry to find ways to be better. Ian wants everyone of us to step up and build a better model for our clients, ourselves and as a collective industry.

    Love or hate the videos above, Ian deserves credit for prompting dialogue and pushing the industry forward.

    None of us will ever be right 100% of the time. But trying new approaches and being open to new things will be the right thing to do 100% of time.

    Say you think he is wrong here, so be it.

    Was he wrong about video blogging 5 days a week consistently with fresh and brazen content? Bet that seemed pretty over the top and a ‘full of holes’ concept to many when he started.

    Bottom line how many of you are out there prompting and helping your peers to be better tomorrow than they are today?

    Not enough.

    How many are letting their peers do the same things over and over again knowing there is or maybe a better way?

    Too many.

    How many even know or think there is a better way with some of the best new ways to conduct Real Estate business yet to come?

    Way to close to zero.

    My prediction is this industry is going to change far more than the vast majority predict and the debate of using a lock box or not will be the least of the concerns if this industry doesn’t pull its head out of you know where.

    Ian and I are friends and I consider him a mentor, motivator and great Realtor.

    Does this mean I always agree with him or the context of his message?


    Do I always hear him out and consider what he has to say?


    Do I always leave each conversation with something to take away of value?

    100% Absolutely.

    For those of you who have swung the pendulum just as far the other direction as Ian does in his vids, take a step back and see if there isn’t a message in there beyond the use of lock boxes that will add value to you.

    Don’t make it about right or wrong make it about finding value in his message.

    Keep rocking the RE world Ian!

  62. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    March 23, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Here’s for your UPDATE, Ian.

    It is in the best interests of the Seller to provide the maximum amount of exposure to potential buyers as possible. That means allowing buyer agents to access the property even if I, the Listing Agent, cannot be present.

    I could go on and on but I’m probably too lazy.

  63. Danilo Bogdanovic

    March 25, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    To answer your question about what a listing agents/broker’s job is… (imho) a listing agent’s job is to procure a ready, willing and able buyer for their seller’s property. In addition, it’s the listing agent’s job to negotiatie the best price and terms for the current local market conditions and in the seller’s best interest.

    In my market (Washington, DC metro/Northern Virginia), buyers do not want the sellers nor the listing agent/broker at the property while they’re there. Even if you could sell ice to an eskimo, your presence at the property as a listing agent/broker will hurt the chances of the buyer purchasing that property.

    Why? Because people in this area hate being sold. In fact, they hate even the possibility of being sold. They want their peace and quiet and want only themselves and their buyer’s agent there when going through a property.

    For example, I am working with buyers that refuse to preview a home while the sellers, renters or listing agent are there. If someone is at the property, even another buyer previewing it, we get right back into the car and move on to the next property.

    Now you tell me…if a listing agent scares away my buyers by being at the property, did they help or hinder a potential sale?

    Here’s another example…One reason why open houses don’t sell homes anymore around here is because buyers don’t want to walk into an open house only to be sold by the listing agent. Buyers would rather come back another time with their buyer’s agent and have their peace and quiet.

    The way I see it, if you help procure a ready, willing and able buyer that presents an offer, you’re doing your job. If you do something to hinder that (such as scare a buyer away), you’re NOT doing your job and hurting your client.

    That is why, at least around here, having a lock box on your listing is extremely important. And it has nothing to do with being lazy.

    Btw, don’t keep your feelings inside. I mean, seriously…tell us how you really feel 🙂 LOL

  64. Handy Backup

    April 21, 2009 at 6:00 am

    > A lockbox itself is still handy as a backup, but nothing will ever replace being present for showings.

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