• Buyers want instant access to vacant properties.
  • Properties that are easy to access get shown more than those with barriers.
  • Technology is driving out the need for a showing/buyer's agent.

Not long ago, I was preparing to show my childhood friend some condos in downtown San Diego. As I pulled listings, I naturally checked the showing instructions for each.

While putting our tours together, I noticed that each listing had either one of these two showing instructions: 1) Call agent to schedule; or 2) Vacant on lockbox – GO.

Scheduling showings on occupied properties can be one of an agent’s most frustrating and challenging tasks short of getting an offer accepted.

Seasoned agents love a vacant property — lockbox entry is convenient. But I found that some of the listings required calling the agent on the instructions, only to be revealed that they were vacant.

I thought to myself, is this in the best interest of the seller? Why couldn’t they simply just put that information in the showing instructions?

Why did I have to call someone to find this out?

Crowdsourcing the situation

While en route to the showings, I posed this question to a popular Facebook group.

Here’s the post: “OK friends, I need your help understanding something. If the property is vacant and on a lockbox that every Realtor in the association has access to, why do I need to call the listing agent to make an appointment? Or better yet, why do I have to talk to a showing service such as showing time for example? Why can’t I just go and use the lockbox?…”

The responses varied from professional to downright insulting and embarrassing for our industry.

Do Realtors put these instructions in their MLS to make themselves feel important? Are they so bored to that they want to make their phone ring to appear busy? Is there a lack of technology across MLS boards throughout the U.S.?

Most importantly, are the clients’ best interests really being considered?

Additionally, why can’t we use boxes like Toor and others to let buyers in without agents present? Do agents really need to be present in showings? What if we were able to verify the identity of the buyer and allow them access to a lockbox?

Another expected convenience

Our job as brokers and listing agents is to sell our clients’ homes as quickly as possible at the highest possible price, so access to the home should also be as easy as possible.

Is it not as important as ensuring the home is marketed appropriately? If I require a broker to call me for permission to show a home when it’s vacant when a lockbox could do the trick, then I am doing my seller a disservice.

Today’s buyer is able to get real-time property updates, sometimes faster than the brokers get it.

With this instant notification from sites like Redfin, Trulia and RealScout, we are training our clients to expect to get what they want immediately.

A client can text me and get an immediate response; they can get real time property updates — so why can’t they see a property on demand?

Buyer’s agents’ future

A buyer’s need to gain access to a home through an agent may eventually be eliminated. With the dawn of smart lockboxes, buyers can register themselves to gain access to a property by simply providing identifying information.

The argument of needing to track who’s accessing the property is not a valid excuse anymore. If you’re part of a professional organization, then their technology should track who’s coming in and out. Unless you’re using an combination lockbox, there is no need to have agents be the gatekeepers.

The idea of self-guided tours is growing in popularity in the rental industry. Many landlords and property managers are embracing the self-guided tour technology of ShowMojo and Rently.

If we train a renter to think they can show themselves a rental unit, they’ll expect to see a home for sale the same way when they’re ready to buy.

I can’t help but think that sooner or later we’re going to see the buyer’s agent become a glorified door-opener, if they don’t become extinct before then.

Lee Arnold created the brokerage Benchmark Property Management in San Diego, California, in 2011.

Email Lee Arnold

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