Giving or loaning keys to a buyer before closing is a really BAD idea!

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Gold, Fair Oaks

I received a call from a new agent with his first transaction in escrow asking if it is okay to give the keys to the buyers so they could take measurements.  He thought if he said no it would sound like he didn't trust them.

My answer was:  Absolutely not!  Do not do it.  For one thing, an open
Don't give buyers the keys early!escrow is not a sold property.  A closed escrow is the goal, but it is not always the end result of every one that opens.

When I represent buyers, they often ask me for the keys, assuring me that their escrow will close and it will all be okay.  I politely demur, and let them know that I will escort them into the house and wait while they are there.  We need to make sure that buyers understand that it is not a personal attack on their trustworthiness, but is simply something we cannot do.

When I am the listing agent, I owe a duty to the seller to protect their property when they entrust me with their key.  It is my general rule that there is also no exchange of keys at the closing table.  The keys are provided when I am notified that the sale has recorded.  It is then that the buyers legally own the property and not before. 

Don't give buyers the keys early!If the seller asks me to give the keys sooner than that, I will ask them to sign a release to that effect and honor their wishes, but I advise them against it. 

One time my seller and I thought all was done, and the docs had all been signed, but then it was learned that the buyers' bank had not yet wired the balance of the down payment to escrow, and there was a glitch when an outstanding check was processed that made the wire transfer from that account impossible for the full amount. 

The buyer had to go out and get the balance of the down payment in cash from another source, so the recording didn't occur for another week.  If I had turned over the keys and
Buyers get the keys when they are the legal ownershe hadn't been able to bring in those funds, the buyers would be in a home that the sellers still owned.  Bad news!

And as for letting the buyers in "just to measure" or whatever, unless the agent will stay with them while they are there (I have done this on many  occasions with my buyers), no agent should "loan" the keys to a party.  That is simply a bad idea for any number of reasons and is in direct violation of our MLS Rules.

MLS RULE - 13.6 Listing Brokers Permission

MLS Rules require a MetroList Participant or Subscriber be present whenever providing access to a listed property.

A property is considered "Listed" up until the time the listing agreement has terminated or the transfer of title has taken place. You must get permission from the Seller before providing access to individuals if you (MetroList Participant/Subscriber) cannot be present on the property for the entire time.  Do not take keys from a lock box and pass them to buyers waiting to close or trades people wishing to start work without the Seller or Listing Brokers prior permission. Violations can result in fines up to $15,000. 

Bottom line:  Having access to the keys to someone's property is a privilege that is entrusted to you and you are responsible for them.  Do not take that lightly.



Susan Neal

Broker / Realtor
Century 21 Noel David Realty
Fair Oaks, California


Full time real estate services in Fair Oaks CA, with friendly professionalism, 30+ years experience.
I work hard to give my buyer or seller a low-stress


"Happy clients make me happy."

For all your real estate needs or questions, call me at (916)705-8951or visit my website at

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Thinking of selling your home?  Remember, it costs you nothing for me to come out and discuss your home, the market in your area, and give you a market analysis and presentation so that you will know what you can expect to get for your home.

Call for appointment:  (916) 705-8951

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Susan Neal
Broker / Realtor

Susan Neal Fine Properties
Fair Oaks, California

Full time real estate services in Fair Oaks CA, with friendly professionalism, 30+ years experience. 
I work hard to give my buyer or seller a low-stress transaction.

"Happy clients make me happy."

For all your real estate needs or questions, call me at (916)705-8951 or visitmy website at    

HUD homes resource            Search HUD Homes

Check out my business page on facebook:  Susan Neal Fine Properties



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Ann Wilkins
Golden Gate Sotheby's International Realty - Oakland, CA
Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont CA

I always accompany buyers if they want to go back to the house.  Often times they want to meet with contractors to get bids, measure for furniture, show parents etc.  Not all buyers require this but I try to accommodate if they need to go back.  I did have a client who bought a condo in her building.  The seller who was a friend moved out and gave the client the keys so she went ahead and had the floors refinished and the walls painted. Freaked me out but it closed with no problems.

Jul 23, 2011 05:15 AM #38
Melissa Woycechowsky
John Arquette Properties - Syracuse, NY

The house I sold in California had to have termite work and when the exterminators removed the tent the buyer was there and asked to be let into the house.  I got there a few hours later and the buyer was inside moving my stuff around and wouldn't leave.  I was really, really, really pissed.  I couldn't get my agent so I called his agent and she came over and made him leave.  I should have called the cops.

Jul 23, 2011 05:19 AM #39
Andrew Robb
RE/MAX Renaissance Realty - Peoria, AZ
RE/MAX Realtor - Peoria, AZ

Interesting timing on your post... just last evening I had to accompany my buyer to the house a second time so they could take even more measurements. All part of our job really.

Jul 23, 2011 06:26 AM #40
Scotti Jowers
CENTURY 21 Shackelford French, Search West Monroe Homes - West Monroe, LA
Realtor - West Monroe, Louisiana Homes for Sale

You have to go with them. It's really a no brainer when you consider liability issues, among other things. I definitely agree with Andrew above. It is part of our job. Thanks so much for sharing, Susan!

Jul 23, 2011 06:38 AM #41
Eve Alexander
Buyers Broker of Florida - Orlando, FL
Exclusively Representing ONLY Orlando Home Buyers

I am seeing moreREO listing agents claim that the buyer cannot get keys after closing until the BANK says so...

Frankly, I do not give out keys to a buyer until after closing, but unless that is stipulated in the contract, just because someone says so, does not make it so.

A few months ago I had a REO deal with an agent that was a nuttttttttt.

Buyer paid cash and  closed on Friday, I did not give out the keys...the following Wednesday, the listing agent realized that the buyer had changed the locks...he went bananas, he went to the house and told the buyer to move his things out or he was calling the cops.  He called me 22 times in 3 hours threatening me to with an ethics violation.  He claimed the the BANK did not give buyer permission to move in YET.

Get real, the deed was transferred and the buyer owned the property...Tell that story to a judge.

Whatever happened to common sense?

Jul 23, 2011 06:52 AM #42
Kathy Schowe
California Lifestyle Realty - La Quinta, CA
La Quinta, California 760-333-8886
Agreed- BAD, BAD, BAD idea!!
Jul 23, 2011 08:33 AM #43
Sandy McAlpine
Search Lake Norman Homes For Sale - Lake Norman NC

Anything can happen before the closing so it's best to wait until after it is recorded and the new owners are signed in!

Jul 23, 2011 09:09 AM #44
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTORĀ®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Great post. I've been asked before and I always say no.  Good for you for following the rules!

Jul 23, 2011 09:17 AM #45
Olga Rotaru
Yes, I totally agree, very bad idea to give buyers the key before it goes on records. I learned it from my own mistake. Once a buyer asked to show the condo he was buying to a contractor for a quote. I was in another state and couldn't be there at that time and the contractor was a busy guy to come another time so I got weak for a second and gave the buyer the lock box number. Property was an REO, vacant anyway. How I was going to regret it! Buyer went back to the property sever times without telling me afterwards. He showed it to all his friends, family, neighbors etc. As you already know everybody felt obligated to advise my client on the Purchase, as they were big expets. My client ultimately backed out for o reason. He lost his interest - was like giving a kid to play with a toy any time he wanted before he buys it. The kid got bored he didn't want it anymore. The less access to the Property the better. I lost a good commission and this was the least could happen, as soon as i released the keys to the buyer i lost control over that transaction. My commission, reputation and licence - all were in hands of that buyer. Never Again! E E
Jul 23, 2011 12:13 PM #46
Gayle Barton, Forsyth County Real Estate
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY Georgia Properties - Cumming, GA
Cumming GA Homes For Sale (404) 710-0204

I read posts like this from time to time and I just can't figure out why an agent who would NEVER hand the key to their home over to a virtual stranger has no qualms doing so with a seller's keys.  No way. No how.

Jul 23, 2011 02:14 PM #47
Mike Henderson
Your complete source for buying HUD homes - Littleton, CO
HUD Home Hub - 303-949-5848

Really great and prudent tips.  It's all about protecting ourselves and our clients from liability risks.

Jul 23, 2011 05:00 PM #48
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

When my son was looking for a home we had agents give us the lock box combination and tell us to go look and call if we were interested. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Jul 23, 2011 07:29 PM #49
Sean Williams
AcklesWilliams of Semonin Realtors - Louisville, KY
Your Louisville Realtor

I get this question all the time!

Jul 24, 2011 09:28 AM #50
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

It only takes one thing to go wrong for you to get in real trouble.  Do it enough times and that one thing will bite you.

Jul 24, 2011 10:47 AM #51
Susan Neal
RE/MAX Gold, Fair Oaks - Fair Oaks, CA
Fair Oaks CA & Sacramento Area Real Estate Broker

Thanks for all your great comments!  I'm so glad to see that my Active Rain friends are careful about doing things like this that are so dangerous.

Jul 24, 2011 06:40 PM #52
Thomas Haught
The Russell Realty Group - Saugus, MA

Thomas Haught

No closing means they do not own the house, therefore no keys.  The law cannot be more clear on that one.

Jul 26, 2011 06:06 PM #53
Gerard Gilbers
Higher Authority Markeing - Asheboro, NC
Your Marketing Master

I'm with Mike #48, if the buyers insist they need to be told of the liability and ethics issues of what they are asking you to do. Access is granted with permission and with a licensed agent.

Jul 31, 2011 06:09 PM #54
Kasey & John Boles
Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - - Boise, ID
Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties

Absolutely.  I've never had to explain this to a buyer - they get it.  But, I'm surprised at how many times on our listings we "catch" a buyer with keys or the key out of the lockbox hidden for a contractor or buyer that we didn't know was going in.  Bad, very bad. 

Aug 08, 2011 05:41 PM #55
Home Buyer - Spokane, WA

  Well, how about this boys and girls.  While you all seem to be rubbing each other's backs in support of leaving your buyers out in the cold, I wonder how your buyers feel?  I am currently having a house built, and I work Monday through Friday 8am-5pm.  What is a buyer like me supposed to do about overseeing the progress of the home construction?  My agent seems to have lost 90% of any initiative shown during the pre-purchase (or contract-signing anyway), pre-$20.5k in escrow time period - so where does that leave me?  Answer: seriously contemplating breaking into my own house just to see what's going on...

Nov 22, 2011 03:16 PM #56
Susan Neal
RE/MAX Gold, Fair Oaks - Fair Oaks, CA
Fair Oaks CA & Sacramento Area Real Estate Broker

Home Buyer:  I'm sorry you are having trouble overseeing your home being built.  That shouldn't happen, and I would think that someone who has keys should be able to give you access on the weekends. 

What my article was addressing was the instance where an existing home is being sold to a new buyer.  Giving them the keys early can cause many problems because they may begin moving in before the seller is ready to give them possession.  But I always make arrangements to give my buyers access at their convenience.  They do need to take measurements and do inspections, etc. 

I suggest you contact the builder and make an appointment (maybe a standing weekly appointment?) to do your walk-throughs and check on the progress and have any of your questions answered.

Nov 22, 2011 04:06 PM #57
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