Lockbox Lunacy in Real Estate
Globe and Mail article by Shane Dingman March 29 2018
Toronto's hot condo market causes many strange side effects, but spare a moment to behold the absurd glory of these pictures of lockbox lunacy.
If you're not familiar with a lockbox, it's a handy device where listing agents leave housekeys so that buying agents can bring clients to view properties while the homeowner is away. You might see one at a cottage, an Airbnb or even for a detached home. But in condo buildings with hundreds of units the question of how to manage all the lockboxes can get, well, a little messy.
Last week, André Kutyan, an agent and sales representative with Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., had enough and shared his frustration on social media: "This is the mess of lock boxes I had to deal with this afternoon at 33 Bay St. while showing condo units to a first time home buyer. Good luck finding the one you need!"
The post struck a chord, with fellow agents piling on to share their own tales of lockbox woe.
On Linkedin, a fellow agent chimed in: "I went through the same thing. Took me over half hour to find the lockbox, had to call the agent. Crazy! I always put a ribbon or elastic bands and my card on the back."
It's almost impossible to count the number of boxes latched onto the 12 bars provided in the picture from 33 Bay, but one of the not-completely-overflowing rows pictured appears to have 15 boxes, which would suggest there are at least 180 if not 200 plus boxes attached to this attempt to manage the lockbox chaos. Some are bedazzled with ribbons, stickers, or business cards to stand out from the crowd.
Agents can also complain that most of those boxes don't seem to be in use. Since January, 33 Bay has seen about 30 transactions on MLS, and maybe a dozen units are currently listed, Mr. Kutyan says. That leaves more than 100 unaccounted for lockboxes.
Overcrowding is not the only annoying lockbox problem though.
"Some have a designated lockbox area in a parking garage in the middle of nowhere; some buildings have zero provisions," Mr. Kutyan says. Zero provisions often means locked to a nearby fence, a site familiar to anyone who's strolled near a newish condo building. The need to tackle a frozen lockbox in winter is why Mr. Kutyan always packs a de-icer.
"I'm in my second year of real estate and am already aghast at the lockbox situation," says Susan MacKinnon, a sales representative with Royal LePage. "I was showing one condo that had the following instructions: 'The lockbox is behind the building, near the dumpster.' Can you imagine, being a female realtor, how scary that sounded to me? What if my showing was at 7 or 8 p.m. at night?"
There are better ways to handle lockbox overload, if any building managers are looking for Mr. Kutyan's advice.
"Some buildings will allow you to put a lockbox in the stairwell of the floor you're looking at," says Mr. Kutyan, which typically keeps the boxes from stacking up. "Some buildings the concierge will release the key to you … that's the most civilized."
And for heaven's sake, if you're going to create a designated lockbox zone, please let the area be heated - and have cell signal.