Most St Paul area houses listed for sale by a real estate agent have lock boxes on the door with a key for the home safely tucked inside. The lock boxes may vary in style including numeric or alpha coded ones or the new fandangled electronic boxes that require an electronic key to access them. The one common denominator is that there is a key to the home inside the box.
Not all markets use lock boxes, however. There are some locations that require the listing agent to be present to open the home for showings. Other areas require the agent who is showing the house to pick up a key at the listing agent's office and return the key after the showing. Some locales allow appointments to be arranged between the seller and the buyer's agent.
My personal preference is the system we use in the St. Paul area. Here are my reasons:
- Imagine a listing agent that has 50 houses on the market having to go to each home to open it for every showing! That might work in a very compact community, but when listings are 30 miles apart it could be cumbersome.
- If the listing agent were required to open each house for showing, imagine the nightmare that would be to schedule. The showing time would need to be scheduled around the seller, the listing agent, the buyer and the buyer's agent's calendars! And I think I've got problems scheduling our family gatherings.
- Often my buyer clients ask for a block of time in which many houses can be seen. Obtaining a key for each of the listings to be shown, would be cumbersome. Imagine if the listed house were in Eden Prairie and the listing company that had the key was in White Bear Lake. My showing would require driving to White Bear to pick up the key, showing the house in Eden Prairie some 30 miles away, driving to White Bear to return the key and then repeating the procedure for each house being shown. Hundreds of miles would be required for each tour of houses. It's not a very "green" idea.
- Requiring the buyers' agent to get a key from the office would also limit the amount of showings that could be scheduled for each listing. If my showing were at noon, the key obtained at 11:00 AM and returned at 2:00 PM, any other agent wanting to show the house during that time could not gain access to the house. Whereas when a key box is on the property, multiple agents could show the house during the same block of time.
- Asking the buyers' agent to arrange showings with the seller is also difficult. Sellers are usually not present for showings in the St. Paul market. Buyers are more comfortable seeing the house and discussing the pros and cons of the property when the seller is absent.
- Some sellers try to "sell" their home to potential buyers which usually makes the buyers uncomfortable. In some cases the very thing that a seller considers an asset is actually a deficit for the buyer. Occasionally a seller tells too much information about their personal circumstances and compromises their negotiating position without even realizing it.
Lock box codes must be obtained through the listing company. As a result, permission to enter the home has to be granted before the real estate agent can get the code. Sellers can be notified so they can prepare the house and leave. When properly used, the lock boxes are efficient and safe allowing the maximum number of showings in a block of time and allowing agents to be more efficient with their time as well. Thank goodness I work in a real estate market that uses lock boxes!