As we recently posted an interesting blog on a lockbox key, where the Realtor takes keys after showing a listing, this article written by Elizabeth seemed appropriate. Enjoy– JaCi Wallace
If you’ve ever wondered about the history of lockboxes, they go back to days long ago forgotten. But the newest lockboxes work digitally. They will record who comes and goes into your home, so you know which agents have had access and when.
Some sellers wonder if lockboxes are necessary, if they work and whether they provide security. The answer is a resounding yes to all of those questions. Moreover, without a lockbox, buyers might never see your home. Especially in buyer’s markets, when inventory is high, you want to provide the easiest and most convenient way for buyers to see your home.
The way I found out was by logging into my Sacramento MetroList yesterday to read the announcement — which has since vanished from its homepage — so I thought it best to alert my fellow agents that some of us are about to get screwed even worse than last fall. If you sell 2 or 3 homes a year, this probably is not a big deal to you. But if you’re like me, a Sacramento REALTOR who moves more than 100 homes a year, it totally sucks. My Supra account reports that I personally maintain 62 lockboxes in my inventory, and 12 of those are new Bluetooth iBoxes. This means I must sell 50 lockboxes, once worth about $5,000, for 20 cents on the dollar. Then I can replace that inventory by blowing $6,250 (*including tax for those of you doing the math) for the new Bluetooth iBoxes.
No matter how you look at it, if I want to maintain my present inventory, I’ve gotta dig into my nickel jar to find $5,000 to donate to MetroList. Not to mention drag out my red wagon to load up 50 lockboxes, and pull it along like a pack mule in 100-degree summer heat for 2 1/2 hours to reach MetroList. They should send a Rolls Royce to pick me up for the money I’m throwing at them.
What happened to the promise that we can keep our old lockboxes? I guess we’re SOL. My lockboxes still have plenty of juice left in them and should fully function at least another 4 to 5 years. They work, and when they don’t work for some reason, they can be fixed without much trouble. When a Bluetooth iBox malfunctions, you’re up a creek without a bolt cutters. I had a Bluetooth iBox die after only 20 showings. Stuck on the handrail of a home in Land Park. Just refused to operate.
I can speculate about why MetroList reversed itself without warning and without a conversation nor an explanation, but that would be pure speculation. It’s probably about the money, though. It’s always about the money. Especially when they say it’s not about the money, you can rest assured, it’s about the money.
Agents: If you don’t replace your lockboxes by December 31, MetroList will automatically fine you. Keep it up, and they’ll send you to, get this, a “tribunal hearing.” That’s a fine how do you do.
If it wasn’t bad enough that real estate agents were royally screwed last year during the famous two-for-one Supra iBox exchange — which means exactly what you think, trade in two lockboxes and get one in return — now those brand new, fancy schmancy bluetooth iBoxes are failing to function, what we call a malfunction; and the icing on top is it’s a malfunction without resolution. It’s a case of bend over and drop the soap because here in MetroList prison, they want to drive home the point hard and fast once again.
Sure, MetroList finally backed down and agreed that agents were NOT required to exchange MetroList lockboxes and we could continue to use our old infrared lockboxes. Except, many of the buyer’s agents in the field do not realize that many Sacramento listing agents did not switch to the new iBoxes. If an agent is a top producer, for example, she is not trading in dozens of perfectly good lockboxes with 75% of power remaining in the battery. Not unless she is a knucklehead. This means if a buyer’s agent trots out the door with just a Bluetooth cellphone App on his iPhone, he’s not opening many of the lockboxes in use throughout Sacramento, because those infrared lockboxes require a FOB along with the cellphone App.
No FOB, no openy lockbox.
It’s that simple. I would not say, though, that this is the #MetroListMess that is happening, although it could be. Because I know agents and many of us don’t have time to understand all of the intricacies involved with new technology, we just expect it to work. Tip #1, bring your FOB, people.
The more important issues are why do the Bluetooth Supra-manufactured iBoxes malfunction and why doesn’t MetroList have a solution? We had four Sacramento real estate agents attempt to open a MetroList iBox a couple of days ago. Two of them used a cellphone app with a FOB and two agents tried using the display key. The results showed up on the SUPRA website as an attempt to open the box, but the box refused to release the key much less the shackle. In talking with other agents, I am not alone.
Warning: Not every iBox will open nowadays.
Try calling Supra today. You will be placed on hold for 30 minutes and advised to call back After Hours, presumably when they are closed. Why is that? Why are so many agents calling Supra today? I wonder if it is related to the #MetroListMess. Dunno. After I finally connected, I was advised to contact member services at the Sacramento Association of REALTORS. Wait until you hear the member service advice.
First, they make it clear they do not trust their own members by stating we must pay them a $100 refundable deposit to rent a bolt cutters. They want to make sure they get the bolt cutters back. As further proof that they do not trust us, they ask that we give them, which we have already given them, our prized possession, the reference number from Supra. With trusty bolt cutters in the hands of a person like me, for example, who just had rotator cuff surgery and is still a recovering patient, I am required to then drive back to the property where the bad lockbox resides, cut it off with the bolt cutters, which is not as easy as it sounds, and then drive to MetroList to exchange the bad lockbox for another iBox, which could be just like the last one, defective.
I wrote to SAR and offered to give them $100 to forget that I once had this leased lockbox in my possession. Because you know, in the tradition of bend over and drop the soap, MetroList will probably find a way to make Sacramento REALTORS pay for the defective product they leased to us and seem to now take zero responsibility for, especially when we don’t return it at the end of the lease because it’s still attached to a home, in dead status. Except I failed miserably to make SAR understand that I was trying to give it cash to free me from MetroList prison. Just take the money and write off the loss of this lockbox, I pleaded.
SAR responded: “The $100.00 you would give us would be a deposit for you to check out the bolt cutters from us. That covers our cost of the bolt cutters in the event you don’t return them to us. It has nothing to do with MetroList being able to forget about the your lockbox.”
I explained again that I want to give them $100 to make this go away, but it still wasn’t sinking in. SAR wrote back: “The $100 I’m referencing is only to rent our bolt cutters.”
Words, just words on a page. Floating away into space.
What about the poor seller who has the defective lockbox on her railing, and the buyer who will have to deal with it after escrow closes? I asked SAR what happens to the lockbox, and who will cut it off since it’s not me and apparently it’s not SAR. The fellow working in member services at SAR responded: “If you are not cutting off the lockbox, then it’s not being cut off.”
I called SUPRA back, even though I did not want to sit on hold for another 30 minutes while SUPRA deals with all of the other iBox issues it must be facing, but I wanted to find out first-hand how to remove the lockbox. I felt I owed it to the seller since I was receiving little assistance from SAR, and MetroList wasn’t responding either to the email I cc’d. I asked SUPRA how can they expect a little old lady, especially one who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery, to use a bolt cutters?
Where can I buy a pair of overalls and work boots? I did not realize that trade attire was required to be a member of MetroList. I’ve never worked in the trades before. I’m just a Sacramento REALTOR, for crying out loud. I did not see this clause in the fine print of our MetroList lockbox lease agreement.
SUPRA said, and I kid you not, you can’t make up this stuff: “You should find a big burly gorilla of a guy” to go over to the home in Land Park and cut off the lockbox. My jaw dropped. Is this 1970? I ask: How Is This Still a Thing, John Oliver?
Tip #2: If you have a fully functioning infrared lockbox, you should probably use it.
Tip #3: Don’t put a MetroList iBox on a listing, say, in Lincoln, when you live in Land Park.
Tip #4: If you are a hoodlum looking for a way to swipe lockboxes, you still can’t get the key out even after you cut off the lockbox. But give me a jingle because this Sacramento REALTOR could use your services.
FOLLOWUP 3/1/15: MetroList, bless their hearts, has come to my rescue and will deal with the lockbox on the home in Land Park and has directed SAR to give me a replacement!
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.