Lockboxes and Security – Assigning Blame Where Properly Due

The following has been on the main page of the Arizona Regional MLS for the past couple of weeks:

Fraud Alert Regarding [redacted] and [redacted] An individual masquerading as Subscriber [redacted] and now Subscriber [redacted] is using their names and MLS credentials to gain lockbox codes to enter listings. Several thefts have been reported.

What is happening to the sellers in these instances is extremely unfortunate, don’t get me wrong. But in reality, they share in the blame for utilizing the services of a real estate agent who is too cheap lazy braindead unthinking to use an $80ish SUPRA electronic lockbox rather than a $10 combo lockbox from Home Depot.

With an electronic SUPRA box, the only people getting into a property are subscribers who own an electronic key. When an agent enters their own personalized PIN number and the keybox opens, an email is sent immediately to the listing agent to let them know the property is being viewed (assuming they have the alerts set.) While no security is perfect, it’s pretty damned close; the only way to circumvent the box would be to cut it off and throw it through a window because you simply can’t crack them.

The combo lockbox carries a few more security worries. For instance, for the longest time about 75 percent of all bank owned homes in the Valley could be accessed using one of two codes. (I’m not repeating them here, silly readers, but the agents reading this are nodding and smiling.) This was considered secure.

Lately, meaning the last few months, listing agents have decided to up the security by asking for agents’ ARMLS ID before giving out the code. Again, I’m not going to be the one giving out the incredibly complicated rubric but it’s reasonable to say any 6-year-old can come up with a reasonable facsimile of an ARMLS ID. These IDs, incidentally, don’t exist as security measures as much as passwords to access the MLS.

So it seems some crook out there was managed to stumble upon the incredibly sophisticated “security” combination of a matching phone number and MLS ID. Storming Fort Knox, this isn’t.

Where does the blame for these crimes go? I’ve already mentioned the sellers but also …

  • To the listing agents for displaying wanton unprofessionalism in not using an electronic lockbox
  • To ARMLS itself, for not requiring agents to use an electronic lockbox versus the combo boxes (though this policy mercifully and belatedly changes next month)

Simply put, if you’re going to sell your home, make sure the agent you hire is using the electronic lockbox. It’s really that simple.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.