Is it a Violation, Laziness, or Being Opportunistic?

Real Estate Agent with Solutions Real Estate CA DRE #01490977

I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek since I believe I know the answer according to our MLS.

I suspect it is true in many places.

The market has spawned plenty of opportunistic behavior...attempts to take advantage of buyers, sellers, and other agents, including criminal conduct. The dramatic increase in REOs, and short sales, also seems to have resulted in increasing laziness on the part of some who are presumably called upon to represent their seller clients but apparently do very little in that regard.

Combo lockbox - easy to use, easy to shareI have been hearing increasingly that some agents are allowing buyers to see properties on their own by providing them with the combo codes for lockboxes. In some situations that I have heard about from buyers themselves, it is the listing agent that provides the code to the buyer who is not with an agent and wants to see the property.

But buyer agents are doing the same thing.

And buyers seem to have no concerns about doing this - perhaps they don't realize the problem with what they are doing, or maybe they are just being opportunistic. Apparently these agents see no problem with this conduct either.

I haven't heard of any agent sharing their Sentrilock cards, but I would not be surprised it that, too, is happening here and there.

In several cases this has happened in a 55+ community where I have a listing. A buyer who I have talked to several times who came to see my property told me specifically about another listing she had seen where the agent "seemed so desparate" for her to see it but was not in the area and so gave her the code to get it. This was not a bank sale, by the way.

I had a call yesterday from a buyer who wanted to see my listing and asked if I could provide him with the code, and that he had just seen a number of properties in the complex that way. I let him know, in no uncertain terms, that this is a violation and could land the agent in big trouble. Not to mention that I have a Sentrilock box which  requires a electronic card (the "Smart Card")and pass code. His feeling was that this should not be a problem since he "used to be in real estate" but was now retired.

I was touring an REO in Oceanside for an out-of-area buyer of mine recently. I was in another part of the house and upon coming into the living room to leave, I discovered a young man looking around. I asked who he was, assuming he was an agent, but the response was his agent had sent him over to check out the house (it had a combo code). This was not the first time this has happened. I have gotten in the habit of locking doors once I enter to preview a property or take my buyers through.

Is this happening in your area? Thoughts?


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Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Jeff, if this isn't agents behaving badly, I'm not sure what is!  We're not seeing too much of this around here.

Aug 21, 2009 03:24 AM #1
Mark Brian
Silver Star Real Estate LLC - Anderson, SC
Anderson SC Realtor

Simple solution is to start talking with the person and find out who their agent is. Then report them.

Aug 21, 2009 03:26 AM #2
Brian Burke
Kenna Real Estate - Englewood, CO
Broker & Advising Expert-Denver Luxury Real Estate

Jeff - we have heard of this from our buyers as well which is shocking to me. And they way they say it is like it's the norm! Talk about liability. ~Rita

Aug 21, 2009 03:27 AM #3
Mike Frazier
Carousel Realty of Dyer County - Dyersburg, TN
Northwest Tennessee Realtor


I believe this is a problem in my MLS also. Still some unethical agents out there.

Aug 21, 2009 03:27 AM #4
Jon Budish
Resident Realty - Fort Collins, CO

Jeff, I haven't heard of this here in northern Colorado.

Aug 21, 2009 03:28 AM #5
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

Not to mention the possibliity of the 'buyer' not being a buyer but needing a place to sleep. In any case this is a clear violation..not to mention that they are not thinking in the best interests of the homeowner.

Aug 21, 2009 03:36 AM #6
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional

Wowser Jeff! You have struck upon one of the fundamental reasons why we use electronic lockboxes and not the workman lockbox in the first place. Security and accountability of entry. The particpants of the MLS need to protect this right granted to them from abuse. Coupled with some of the other Outrageous behaviors we have both noted in our conversations , there needs to be some serious enforcement of the rules. In the past 2 years, I have seen the denigration of our real estate practice through many different aspects and it is very troubling.

Aug 21, 2009 07:48 AM #7
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

This is a major violation of our MLS rules; not to mention, completely unprofessional. I'd be mortified if I found an unaccompanied buyer in a house, AND I would totally rat their agent out to the REALTOR Association! Yeah. I'm a tattle-tale. Whatever. And I only use Supra lockboxes. They'd need my D-key to open it and there's no way that's gonna hapen.

Aug 21, 2009 08:52 AM #8
David M. Childress
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Akron, OH
I would love to be your Realtor® in Akron Ohio!

Thanks Jeff, that is a rarity around Akron Ohio, so far. It is done on bank owned sometimes, but I don't even do that with mine. I would rather show them myself. I always wondered if they got hurt or fell down in the dark basement, who would they sue, me or the bank or both? Of course, lazy agents that pass out their codes probably shirk their duties elsewhere as well.

Aug 21, 2009 09:54 AM #9
Lee & Pamela St. Peter
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices YSU Realty: (919) 645-2522 - Raleigh, NC
Making Connections to Success in Real Estate

I have been hearing increasingly that some agents are allowing buyers to see properties on their own by providing them with the combo codes for lockboxes.

I have just gasped.  I don't do that easily but this is really bad news.  AND it's against some real estate law I'm sure.  Thankfully it's not happened (that I've heard of ) here in the Triangle.  I can't imagine where their heads are!!!  Their liability is through the roof!

Aug 21, 2009 10:47 AM #10
Terry & Bonnie Westbrook
Westbrook Realty Broker-Owner - Grand Rapids, MI
Westbrook Realty - Grand Rapids Forest Hills MI Re

I'm sure it is here also. I just can't imagine allowing a buyer into the home with out the agent present.

Aug 21, 2009 01:52 PM #11
Hannah Williams
Re/Max Eastern inc. - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-953-8818

Jeff..That is a good question..I don't do it myself..but There are plenty of lazy real estate agents out there and it would not surprise me or shock me at all...


Aug 21, 2009 01:57 PM #12
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Jeff, this is crazy.  I have not heard of it happening around here, but I have not asked either. 

Aug 21, 2009 02:18 PM #13
Jenny Kotulak
RE/MAX Real Estate Centre Inc., Brokerage - Oakville, ON
Broker - Oakville Ontario Real Estate

Hi Jeff,

I haven't heard about this here either.  But I'm sure some agents would try it if they thought they could get away with it.  How desrespectful to the homeowner. What if they came home and found these random people in their house? Those agents should have their licenses yanked.

Aug 21, 2009 05:05 PM #14
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker


Agent behavior that you described would be signs of negligence and incompetence

Aug 22, 2009 12:29 AM #15
Mary Strang
Viroqua, WI

Sounds like the boundaries of good service are getting blurred by a few agents. Since there is limited service on the list side perhaps some think it is now OK over on the sell side? There may be some New opportunities for franchises,  Assistant to Buy or Self Showing Saver or how about,  DIY Buyer.

Aug 22, 2009 12:44 AM #16
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Pat - well given I have now heard this several times, it makes me think there is more of it going on that I suspect. I suppose it should not surprise me given other things we hear about.

Mark - agreed. This sort of thing NEEDS to be reported.

Rita - it is a HUGE liability, not to mention a violation big time.

Mike - my bet is it is happening in many places, at least where folks are using combo boxes. But perhaps they are giving out their cards, too.

Jon - maybe agents are behaving there

Sally - me thinks they are not THINKING at all!

William - well things have gotten rather ugly and there is not much accountability. And folks don;t report it either, it seems. I have a good idea which agents are dpoing this in the community buit am not sure and do not want to falsely accuse.

Lisa - that IS the advantage of the electronic boxes. I haven't heard that folks have been violating their use...yet. But  would not be overly surprised.

David yep, I woul dguess if they are willing to do this sort of thing that there is much more going on behind the scenes where they are not doing their jobs.

Lee and Pamela - of yes, it is a definite violation. Folks can lose their MLS privileges, for one.

Terry - yep there is quite a liability, even if the home is vacant. And it it still wrong.

Hannah - it's a sad state when so many of us seem to feel that they are not surprised at this sort of behavior - what kind of commentary is that?

George - good you haven't heard but my bet is someone in your area is doing or has done this.

Mary - LOL.



Aug 22, 2009 02:28 AM #17
Monica Bourgeau
New Phase Business Coaching - Portland, OR
Business Coaching

We have a Sentrilock system in our area with a card that is provided to the agent. I haven't seen them given to buyers because there is a hefty fine from our MLS for doing that, but I have seen agents in some areas use their own lockboxes or none at all which is amazing to me. They just leave the house open or a hidden key for showings.

Aug 22, 2009 02:37 AM #18
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
Good Company Real Estate - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Jeff - Due to the high number of foreclosures and REO's, I have been hearing some stories of agents providing the code and just sending their clients to the listing on their own.  On normal resale homes, agents typically use supra lockboxes that you can only unlock with an infrared key that records your information.  Unfortunately, banks don't use these, and the listing agents, as well as buyers agents are not escorting their clients to the showings.  It is just laziness, and very much a violation!

Aug 25, 2009 10:08 AM #19
Robert L. Brown - Grand Rapids, MI
Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic

The reason it's starting to get out of hand is noone has been penalized severely enough to stop the practice. It needs more then just a slap on the hand and the response"i wont do it again" to make people aware how severe the problem can be.

Sep 08, 2009 01:07 AM #20
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Jeff Dowler, CRS

The Southern California Relocation Dude
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