ibox exchange

Upside and Downside to the MetroList iBox Exchange at Cal Expo

Real Estate Document On Realtor DeskWhen my team member Josh Amolsch and I walked into Cal Expo for the MetroList iBox Exchange, a vision of a Tiffany sterling silver flask flashed quickly through my brain. I had been joking around earlier about needing to find a bar that serves bourbon to get through the iBox exchange, but those jokes proved to be unnecessary. I did not need a sterling silver flask in my bag, not that I have ever owned such an item anyway but it is now on my extravagant holiday wish list. As an emergency backup for those Sacramento short sales that haven’t yet gone away.

A sea of tables were laid out before our eyes. If I had organized the event, I would have placed table stands with alphabet letters to direct traffic, but the event was very well set up. The people at each table understand their task and only their task and were able to easily direct us to the next table. We met Q at the first table, who was not named after the Star Trek character (because I asked). His eyes grew wide when he perused my lockbox inventory on his monitor and exclaimed: You have a lot of lockboxes!

I did not exchange them all. I kept roughly 40 of them because MetroList made a last-minute decision that we could keep our lockboxes if we didn’t want to exchange them 2 for 1 (thank you, MetroList). The reasoning from MetroList for the measly 2 for 1 exchange (when the rest of the country seemed to get 1 for 1) is because if it exchanged our lockboxes 1 for 1, our monthly dues would go up by $10. That would result in $120 extra a year, more than the cost of a new lockbox. Is that really true? MetroList says it is.

Also, my 40 other lockboxes have a lot of juice left in them. More than 50%. They will last at least another 7 years, I imagine, which is when the warranty runs out on the new lockboxes. Except we don’t own the lockboxes we picked up in the 2 for 1 exchange. They are leased to us, and if we lose a lockbox or some thief, heaven forbid, saws it off the gas meter or removes the door knob with a lockbox attached and runs off, a Sacramento REALTOR will have to pay MetroList $100 each.

That’s the downside. Because of that, I probably won’t use my new lockboxes unless I absolutely have to. But the exchange went very smoothly. We were in and out in 30 minutes, and I was able to blow up and capture 3 portals for my Ingress team. I own that California Bear on Exposition. The good thing is if I lose it, I don’t have to pay a hundred bucks like I would have to do if I lost my new lockbox.

How Sacramento MetroList iBox Exchange Affects Home Sellers

3-lockboxes-sacramento-300x225The reason Sacramento real estate agents are getting hosed by MetroList is because . . . well, I’m not really sure of the explanation that MetroList gave me when it called to discuss my “hatchet job of MetroList.” There was much blabber about blubber: how large our MetroList is and how many lockboxes we have in our system, and how none of us will really know exactly what went on behind the scenes and never will know because it’s confidential and not for public knowledge.

It’s a secret organization we Sacramento real estate agents are required to belong to if we want to conduct business, and we’re not entitled to know what goes on. MetroList would like you to know, though, that the deal it got “beats all other deals in the long run.” Even though many other MLS systems in the country negotiated a 1-for-1 exchange. We are instead offered a 2-for-1 exchange and we should be grateful, sighs MetroList.

In case you don’t know, when an agent exchanges her 2 lockboxes for one lockbox, that lockbox is considered a leased asset. The way this information was initially presented was confusing, and it made it sound like the agent might be responsible for the lease payment, but actually it is MetroList that will pay on the lease. Through 2020. It claims that all other MLS’s are in the same boat on the SUPRA lockbox exchange program in that they are all leased lockboxes. The agents don’t own them when exchanged. The difference between those MLS’s and our MetroList, claims MetroList, is our MetroList told us we don’t own the lockboxes.

Was that disclosure by mistake or on purpose? It doesn’t matter. We can complain all we want, and march up and down in front of MetroList offices at 1164 National Drive carting picket signs that read: MetroList Lockbox Ripoff! 2-for-1 Unfair to Agents! Highway Robbery MetroList! and it won’t do anything except get you on television. And people say that Elizabeth is a bad influence.

The situation is we real estate agents are unhappy about it, we’re losing half of our lockbox inventory, and according to MetroList it’s better than it could have been, and when you think about it, it’s probably all SUPRA’s fault.

On the other hand, here are some tips for exchanging your lockboxes at the MetroList iBox exchange:

For starters, they are heavy. I own roughly 70 lockboxes. With a torn rotator cuff, I can’t carry them. But my team member Josh Amolsch is kind enough to offer his assistance and transportation. At first, I considered using my red Radio Flyer wagon, but then I came up with a better idea. Rolling luggage! Pack those suckers as tightly as possible and I might be able to fit them into several Victorinox dual caster rollers. Those things are built like steel. I have a feeling Building C is a long ways from the parking lot at Cal Expo.

Second, MetroList printed material says we should expect to wait 90 minutes to exchange 10 lockboxes. I suspect that’s because there is a separate lease agreement for each lockbox, but they don’t really say. But it does make me suspect that it could take all day to exchange my lockboxes, so I have swapped my appointment time with another agent, which means I can be at CalExpo early in the morning on another day. I guess I should pack lunches and drinks. I wonder, can you bring in bourbon into Cal Expo or do you have to buy it there?

Third, there will be two days my home sellers might have no lockboxes. Because I will need to divvy up the south part of the Sacramento Valley from the north to efficiently collect all of my lockboxes; but don’t fret, I will note MLS showing instructions. I probably own enough contractor’s boxes to install those on my active listings for showing in the interim. The best idea I’ve come up with so far is to label envelopes with each address, insert keys and seal the envelope for replacement storage until I get my new Supra iBoxes.

There is always the option during the MetroList iBox exchange to leave keys for pending listings in my office for pick up at closing, and I imagine many agents will select that alternative, which will be an inconvenience for many of us. But the way I look at it is we probably won’t have to go through this again until at least 2020 when the lease is paid off by MetroList. Then again, that didn’t stop me from upgrading to the iPhone 6. Just sayin’.

Update: In a surprising turn of events, MetroList just announced agents will not be required to exchange their lockboxes, and we can continue to use our existing lockboxes until the boxes, themselves, no longer work.

You can read more about the actual lockbox exchange itself at Cal Expo in this next blog, the Upside and Downside to the MetroList iBox Exchange at Cal Expo.

Fun Facts About Sacramento SUPRA iBox Exchange for Lockboxes

Sacramento-LockboxIf it’s not bad enough that people knock Sacramento for being a good place to live because it’s within driving distance of better places to go, we also seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to our SUPRA iBox exchange for lockboxes we purchased through MetroList. I wouldn’t be surprised if Randy Newman writes a song about it.

For starters, for being the 5th largest city in California, we seem to be last on the list for getting the iBox BT LE upgrade. This is a new Bluetooth-enabled lockbox that reads both infrared, apparently, and bluetooth signals. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to get it. The real estate agents who belong to the Bareis MLS in Marin got their iBox upgrades in January. They also received a 1-for-1 exchange, and their MLS allowed an agent’s representative, with written authorization, to do the exchange.

Not so in Sacramento. Here it is almost Halloween, and our iBox Exchange was just announced for November. The dates are November 17th through November 20, 2014, and it’s by appointment scheduled by your last name, so you know where that puts yours truly, at the bottom on the last day just above the Wisemans. Plus, MetroList is not offering a 1-for-1 exchange. I don’t know why MetroList could not negotiate the same deal with SUPRA that others did around the country. Nope, it’s a 2-for-1 exchange, which means for every two lockboxes we turn in, we get a new iBox BT LE. That’s probably not a big deal for many agents who might own only two lockboxes, but by my estimation, I own roughly 70 lockboxes, and at $108.75 a pop, that’s over $7,600 invested in these lockboxes.

I hand them 70 boxes and I get 35. Thanks for the highway robbery, MetroList.

Look-it, besides Bareis MLS in January, St. Louis MLS got their iBox Exchange in March 2014. Charlotte, North Carolina, finished their exchange a while back, too. But Sacramento, the capitol of California, will be lucky to get it done by the end of next month.

From what I can find, other MLS systems have fully allowed their agents (subscribers) to own the lockboxes upgrades received through the exchange, but our Sacramento MetroList will only “lease” them to us if we exchange them. They’re not yet telling us how much the lease payment will be, as that apparently will be disclosed to us after we stand in line to exchange our lockboxes. We have to pay off the lease in full to own the lockbox. (They do say if we buy and not exchange the new iBox, it’s $115 plus tax and we own it outright.)

MetroList won’t let us send a representative in our place to exchange the lockboxes, either. To participate, I would have to borrow a larger vehicle that can transport my Red Radio Flyer wagon, which I would then use to cart all of my lockboxes into Cal Expo. Or, make 17 trips on foot in four-inch heels.

These guys at MetroList are tough. No 1-for-1 exchange, we’ve gotta go there in person, and when they’re finished beating on us, we don’t even own the lockboxes.

But with the downside of everything, there is always an upside. Sometimes, you’ve gotta squint through rose-colored glasses to find it, but it’s there. The upside is the new containers are much bigger. They are large enough to hold 5 sets of keys and 2 security cards. Can’t quite stuff a remote control in there yet, but a larger capacity is a great benefit. I will no longer be required to slam the lockbox onto concrete to jangle the key loose.

Also, SUPRA says the lithium batteries never need replacement. That’s probably because the batteries are inaccessible and by the time they’re about to expire they’ll come out with a newer iBox and offer a 5-1 trade. From what I could find, the iBoxes in St. Louis are warranted for 6 years but here in lovely Sacramento, we supposedly get a 7-year warranty, with no explanation why we get that extra year over St. Louis. The battery life is extended because it shuts off when not in use. This is good because some of my old 280-series boxes have no juice left at all, and the 530’s and 535’s are getting low.

Another benefit is A Sacramento real estate agent can also use her new iPhone 6 without a key fob to open the iBoxes, but if she uses an ActiveKey that particular device will continue to work. The problem with the eKey systems seems to be that it takes two hands to open the lockbox. One hand is required to push up on the container before engaging with a cellphone held in the other hand. I’ll probably stick with the ActiveKey because it’s been completely reliable for me. They say the eKey will work even if there is no cellphone tower as long as the app has been activated that day, and I can’t remember to do that. I’m lucky enough if I remember to turn on my phone, which I no longer have to do because the iPhone 6 automatically turns on when unplugged.

A pro and con is the fact the lockbox shackle is now completely removable from the lockbox. This means I don’t have to try to wiggle into a small area with the entire box to try to latch it over a pipe, I can just slip in the hook portion to determine if it will fit. The downside is I imagine once it has been released from, say, the gas meter, the lockbox itself will fall on your foot. And then I will stub my toe. Again.

Plus, I have the added benefit of being one of the very last agents in Sacramento to get her lockboxes on the very last day offered, which is also, according to MetroList, the last day all of the old lockboxes will work. It sounds like they expect me to immediately turn around at 5:00 in the evening and somehow drive to all of my dozens of listings to exchange out the lockboxes or the old lockboxes will no longer open. The old lockboxes won’t work when the exchange is finished, says MetroList. I wonder if they thought this through? Other than how to turn our pockets inside out and shake us upside down, I mean.

For an update on this situation, please see my followup piece: How Sacramento MetroList iBox Exchange Affects Home Sellers.

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