"Do NOT give out my lockbox code to anyone!"

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty - Lakeside Market Center

"Do not give out my lockbox code to anyone!!"

I've been seeing this remark (and variations of it) on many listings in our MLS over the last 6 months or so.  As always, it makes me cringe when I realize that the listing agent has had to deal with other agents who do not treat a sellers property with care and respect.

Finally the National Association of Realtor® addressed this issue in the updated Standards of Practice - Article 3 - 9, effective January 1, 2010:

REALTORS shall not provide access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or the listing broker.

What a shame that this even had to included in our Standards of Practice, but I'm thrilled that it is there now.  Perhaps more real estate agents and brokers will start to file formal complaints and hold the agents who participate in this lazy & unethical practice accountable.

Comments (107)

Isaac Showell
Long & Foster - Laurel, MD

Until the documents, money and keys change hands at the settlement table, the potential buyer has no right to a key or uncontrolled access to the property.  Handing out the key or the combo code (which is tantamount to the same thing) is unethical as well as dangerous.  And if it happens before the property is under contract and the key is not returned properly, this practice also impedes the sale of the property by preventng access by other qualified buyers.  Even without the new NAR standard of practice, does not common sense and common decency at the very least say do what you would want done with your own property.  Keep the property secure.  Keep your fellow agents safe.  Maintain standards of behavior that elevate the public's perception of our profession.

Feb 13, 2010 01:33 PM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

We use Supra lockboxes. We don't have REO properties, and they are always coded lockboxes. It is a risk to give a lockbox code to an unlicensed person. Not a good idea and NAR agrees.

Feb 13, 2010 03:18 PM

All this makes me very glad that we have digital ekeys that record who comes into a listing.  Many REO companies do require a lockbox with a code, but not all do.  Some just require that the home be rekeyed with a certain number key so they can gain access. 

I can't imagine that any of these agents would feel "just fine" if you sent in an unaccompanied buyer to one of their listing.  That's a law suit ready to happen. I would imagine a police report could be filed as "breaking and entering".  You don't have to actually break in for that to be true. And how naive are the buyers to think it is okay for them to wander through someone house unaccompanied. 

The biggest question becomes - How can we as realtors expect home sellers and buyers to respect us as professionals when time and time again there are realtors who can't respect the profession?

Feb 13, 2010 05:45 PM
Kris Wales
Keller Williams Realty - Lakeside Market Center - Macomb, MI
Real Estate Blog & Homes for Sale search site, Macomb County MI

Rich,  Thank you.  I wish we had a choice, but for now we are using the lockboxes and most agents (and brokerages) are extremely security pro-active with them.

Jasmine,   I don't know how often this was reported, but I would think that because NAR formally addressed it that means they've heard of several instances in which this happened.

Maureen,   The showing service must have had complaints coming in from agents and had that verbage added to their instructions.  I agree with you, shame that it even has to be said.

Chrissi,  I betcha that happened on a vacant home.  That's where the laziness on agents parts seems to come in to play.  Vacant to them means no harm, no foul.

Jo-Anne,  If I had REO listings I would put that language, as well as "If I catch you I'll report you"..I've never heard of the MLS keys before, but from what you described that sounds very secure.  Wasn't a bad idea at all.

J David,   That's a no brainer isn't it?  I don't know why any agent would use the default code, other than once again, laziness.

Bob & Carolyn,  I don't get it either.  Thanks.

David,  MA Pass sounds like a good system.  Unfortunately, the instances that we hear of this happening are to the vacant homes. 

Nancy,  I agree with you about a police report being filed.  If word got around that this was the consequence to pay I'd bet we wouldn't hear much more of it happening.

Feb 13, 2010 09:16 PM
Kris Wales
Keller Williams Realty - Lakeside Market Center - Macomb, MI
Real Estate Blog & Homes for Sale search site, Macomb County MI

Monique,   Makes you scratch your head in wonder, doesn't it?

Kent,  In a perfect world that is the way all homes would be handled :-)  Those of us in service areas without Supra (or Sentra or one of the others) do all that we can do to keep our sellers homes secure.

Scott,   From what I'm hearing it's the REO properties that are the ones being violated.  A seller is a seller is a seller...they should be protected from intrusion also.

Linda,  I like the idea of a one day code.  Thanks for clarifying.

Jackie,  I've seen that also, often.  Do you remember our school lockers?  We always spun the dial on them, why wouldn't we do it on the lockboxes?  Makes no sense.

Dwayne,  I'm with you.  I think this is one of the most unprofessional things we could do, and yet the agents who do this must not care about what their buyers think of them.  I surely wouldn't hire an agent who could do this and expect them to handle my transaction with any care or trust.

Alan,  Have you reported those agents???

Billie,   You're right.  We do all we can then the choices are up to them.   Otherwise we'd be arrested for assault if we tried to change their behaviour as adults :-))

Tom,  I'd be a bit tougher.  Suspension on first offense. 

Aaron,   I think this is why having the Supra in our area was turned down by members..the cost.  Wish it wasn't.  I remember sending an email to our board asking them to approve it.  But my vote obviously didn't matter.

Wendy,   Wish they were here in my area.  Perhaps now that NAR added this our board will revisit the issue.

David,  I agree.  Because we the people are becoming more lazy more laws to control what should be common sense and decency are enacted.

Feb 13, 2010 09:31 PM
Kris Wales
Keller Williams Realty - Lakeside Market Center - Macomb, MI
Real Estate Blog & Homes for Sale search site, Macomb County MI

John,   I haven't had a buyer ask yet, and can't imagine anything but "No" would come out of my mouth.  What I've wondered about the REO'S is this:  Since so many of them use the same codes, is that something that the bank owners insist on?  (For convenience to their contractors)

Glenn, The solution is in the hands of the mls or the local board  I fully agree!

Michael,  Haha!  If it was their own home I'm sure the agents wouldn't be giving it out.

Jason,  I hope they do also.  It's well past time.

Judy,   That's scary.  I can't believe the agent or their broker didn't pick up on the fact that it went into to the public remarks!!  Plus, it takes Realtor.com a few days to refresh any changes. 

Glen,   Brokers need to do their due diligence, I agree.  However, if brokers don't know their agents are doing this, they can't put a stop to it.  Reporting is the key.

Jackie,  I know!  How hard is it to turn the tumbler???

Clark,   Posting this article, and reading all of the responses has caused another "to do" item for Monday morning:  Calling our local board and asking why this hasn't been discussed again?  (Getting Supra or Sentra)  Thanks.

Vicki,   They'll care once they get reported and their is some teeth in the consequences.  Hopefully what NAR has done will raise awareness so agents will feel empowered to report.

Wayne,   Haha!  You bet.  21st century is what is needed everywhere now.

J Philip,  Pleaseeee tell me that the buyer knocked on the door and didn't have the lock box code.  If they did have the code, you need to report that agent to your local association. 

Jeff,  I consider myself blessed that I haven't run in to this personally, but you're right:  We need to report it each and every time it happens.  I'm not sure about what our local MLS has done, but now that NAR has made this official I'm sure the boards can't turn their backs on it.

Carol,  That's what I suspected (mandatory codes from the bank owned asset managers)  Your solution, having a Sentra also, makes good sense.

Isaac,   Absolutely!  Maintaining a standard of behaviour shouldn't be that difficult to do.

Frank and Sharon,  I'm glad they addressed it also.  Thank you.

No-Name:   That's one of the issues I have with this also:  How in the world can we expect consumers to have respect for our profession when we don't treat the profession with integrity?  The agents that do this give us all a black eye.  Thank you.


Feb 13, 2010 10:02 PM
John Currey
Coldwell Banker Good Life Real Estate Group Kansas City - Kansas City, MO
Residential Market Specialist

Kris, THANKS for your response. Yes, YES--am confident that the vast majority of agents are great and ethical in EVERY association! But, of course, it is for the few exceptions that causes this whole issue to even have to be discussed. Probably past time every association considers transferring to an electronic-based system, due to same. Am enjoying keeping up with all the great comments & observations. Thanks for the post!!! -JC/CBA

Feb 13, 2010 10:11 PM
Margaret Mitchell
Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty - York, ME
Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate

It all comes down to respect for others' property.  Years ago, before I was a Realtor, my builder husband came home after hearing a group of agents discussing their listings at lunch.  He said it was terrible - they talked about the property like it was theirs, not someone elses.

We have had two security instances in our area recently:  one a "buyer" toured some high end homes, left a window unlocked, gained entry and moved in.  In another, on mechanical lockbox, someone meticulously robbged the home of things like granite counters, copper pipe, etc.

I use electronic lockboxes, not mechanical.  I will meet agents there if they do not have a key card.  I do not lockbox homes with pets.

Feb 13, 2010 10:20 PM
Bob Harris
BHG Real Estate III - Charlottesville, VA
Charlottesville VA Real Estate

My wife and I are both Realtors. It's funny we share everything, but lock box keys and codes. Some things are just too sacred.

Feb 14, 2010 12:18 AM
Mark Montross
Catamount Realty Group - Burlington, VT
Listing and Buyer Specialist
It is utterly unfathomable that people do this and very sad that it actually has to become an official ruling versus common sense and normal ethical behavior.
Feb 14, 2010 11:51 AM
Sherry Chastain
Hendersonville, Nashville, Old Hickory, Lebanon Tennessee - Hendersonville, TN
Realtor, Selling Homes, Lake Properties,Luxury Homes,Short Sales

Yikes I can't imagine putting a combo box on my sellers home! I guess I would need to up my insurance.

Feb 14, 2010 02:43 PM
Jeff Colby
OmniQuest Media Labs - Obeo Distributor - Omaha, NE

Great post! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on the feature.

Feb 14, 2010 06:52 PM
Ann Cordes
Century 21 Randall Morris and Associates, Waco - Waco, TX
Home Ownership is Not a Distant Dream

A few weeks ago I got a call from a potential buyer who was at one of my listings about 40 minutes away. He wanted me to give him the lockbox code so he could go in and look at the house. I said no, but made an appointment to meet him later that day. I called to verify the appointment before leaving and sure enough he cancelled.

Feb 15, 2010 02:24 AM
"The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW.
President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc. - Kissimmee, FL

Dear Kris...

I've given the lockbox code to my Buyer because we're closing next week and they wanted to start moving some belongings into the house. I hope you're okay with that. If not please let me know, but keep in mind I've already given them the code. Sincerely, Mr Ka Ka Head :)

1. Wrong.

2. Can't legally get them out of the house if it doesn't close. Possession is nine tenths of the law. But I suggest you seek the opinion of an Atty on that scenario :)

3. We used Supra for awhile. The problem there is we can't get to know the Agents we'll be working with when they come and go at will.

4. How do you push a listing that somehow didn't make it into a search criteria if you use Supra? It's not like you can have a conversation with a Supra :)

I have a gazillion rebuttals for any scenario on this one but I'll knock it off. This is Kris's pretty featured post :)


Feb 15, 2010 10:15 AM
Thesa Chambers
Fred Real Estate Group - Bend, OR
Principal Broker - Licensed in Oregon

we are seeing the same thing - and it amazes me - why would anyone want that liability - the only lockboxes we have with combos though are typically bank owned homes - but still

Feb 15, 2010 05:36 PM
Kris Wales
Keller Williams Realty - Lakeside Market Center - Macomb, MI
Real Estate Blog & Homes for Sale search site, Macomb County MI

John,  You're welcome :-)  Isn't it always the case that a couple of bad apples causes these types of things to  become an issue?

Margaret,   Those incidents are scary AND should never have happened.  Once again, I wish our local association particpated in the electronic systems.

Bob,  That cracked me up :-))  Not sharing lock box codes?  I like how you keep your business and personal lives separate.

Mark,   It's unfathonable to me also and to most agents I would suspect.

Sherry,   We can keep them safe with good procedures, but I would much prefer the electronic ones myself.

Jeff,  You're welcome, thanks for stopping by.

Ann,  Doesn't surprise me.  I'm also glad you didn't meet a stranger at a home instead of your office for the first time.

Billie,   No need to stop, I always enjoy Mr. Ka Ka Heads responses to things :-)))   Hope you're doing well!  BTW, give it a year.  I bet some programmer will figure out a way for agents to type in feedback directly into the electronic boxes, then you can have your electronic conversations!!!  Not a darned thing that is techie suprises me anymore.   Uh oh.  Watch:  Someone will read this and do this and make a gazillion dollars and I won't see one cent of it.

Thesa,  I think in my area that it is the bank owned homes that this is happening to.  Many people above suggested using both the electronic access and lockboxes...electronic for agents, lockbox for service providers.

Feb 15, 2010 09:55 PM
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

You can do feedback with Supra... or could that may have been our last version of Supra. I tried it for awhile but most agents were NOT checking their email at the time.

You could use a CBS (call before showing)  code on Supras then agents have to call for that code before they can get the key out.  If someone is abusing it there is a record.   All showing in our market are scheduled through the listing office (or most likely now a showing service), just because there is a SUPRA on a front door that does not give anyone the right to enter. Much more secure than a combination lock box. 

Bank owned homes are mostly on combo boxes though here too,  most anything that is vacant is.

A vendor / RE guru was a local agent in a former lifer.  An agent in my office was fit to be tied when they made a copy of the key from the lockbox for the buyer once they were in contract so the buyer could just let themselves in.   With MLS participants like that NOTHING is going to keep the buyer from coming and going at will from a property they don't yet own.


Feb 15, 2010 10:30 PM
Kris Wales
Keller Williams Realty - Lakeside Market Center - Macomb, MI
Real Estate Blog & Homes for Sale search site, Macomb County MI

Maureen,   Aha!  I had no idea you could do feedback with it (or one of them :-)  There goes my gazillion dollar idea.. 

Our local associations don't use any form of the electronic boxes (sounds rare now from what I've been reading).  The CBS that you talked about sounds like a no-brainer.  Added security to the access is always best.  I still don't get why bank owned homes aren't treated to the same type of service.  I know that vendors need access (and probably don't have Supra or Sentra keys) so a lockbox just for them makes sense.  But I liked what I read about other REO agents who use both.  One set of access for agents, another to satisfy the vendor requests from the asset manager.

Some of the stories I've read from other commenters make me sick, as in the one you stated above.  You're right, with MLS participants and agents like this there really is nothing we can do to stop it.  What we can do is report them each and every time.

Feb 15, 2010 11:31 PM
Maureen McCabe
HER Realtors - Columbus, OH
Columbus Ohio Real Estate

agents get all bent out of shape over having to use a CBS code to get into a home. I put a lockbox with a CBS code on a house in Dublin because there were two houses on the market on the cul-de-sac... chance of someone showing the wrong home and there was a security system.  Walk in and that goes off and you are calling our office to say you weren't given the security system  code... well since you never scheduled an appointment... to show the house...

One of the top agents in our town her listings always have a CBS code.  In the dark in the cold it can be a hassle.

I believe E & O is less with a secure lock box system (such Supra and Sentra) on occupied properties  but you can use combination lockboxes on vacant homes.  I think using both is good but I think sometimes the lockbox for vendors ends up being given out to agents. Savings on E & O probably does not offset the cost of the lockboxes.

I can not believe areas that are urban that don't use an electronic lockbox system but I know with overlapping MLS in a region it can get to be a hassle and expensive.  We are floating out in the middle of the state without a lot of overlap. Yes people from more rural areas a bit outside of Columbus will try to get the listing agent to meet them so they can show a listing in our mls if it is on Supra.... or only show properties on combination lockbox occasionally....


Feb 15, 2010 11:55 PM
Kryste Adams
RE/MAX Key Properties - Luxury Homes, Golf Course Homes - Bend, OR
Bend, Oregon Real Estate

This is sad.  I showed a house a couple days ago and the agent asked me to make sure all the doors were locked before I left....I can't believe she had to ask.

Feb 17, 2010 01:55 AM