As you know, for several months, the GMAR Board of Directors has been examining whether to bring electronic lock boxes into our market. This is on the heels of several years of members asking the Association to bring electronic boxes to our market, as well as those who have said we don't need them.
The Greater Milwaukee marketplace has been using combination lock boxes for approximately 40 years. Combination boxes were seen as a step up from the previous system of keeping a large board with hooks behind the receptionist's desk in real estate offices.
In the 1990s, electronic lock boxes came on the market. Their function was the same, to allow access to a home without having to go through the trouble of going to the listing agent's office to get a key. Electronic lock boxes also provided information on which agents went into a home, when they accessed it, and gave a listing agent showing information to present to their seller.
The Association has seen a growing sentiment among members toward electronic lock boxes over the last ten years, but there has been significant resistance because of the cost of electronic systems vs. the benefit they offer. The issue of "security" has often been used as a major argument to compel those against or undecided about using electronic lock boxes. But, the topic of security of a house, of agents, etc. has never won over a majority of agents and brokers, particularly when the cost of such systems is considered.
Part of the recent growing sentiment in favor of using electronic lock boxes is due to - and rightly so - concern about unauthorized access to a property via agents giving out combination lock box codes to potential buyers, contractors, etc. This is a major violation of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, but also illegal, opens liability questions for agents and brokers, and is embarrassing for the listing agent and broker.
Also, our society has become more accustomed to technological changes (i.e. car phones transforming into today's smart phones) and using those new technologies in our daily lives. The information various electronic lock box systems provide is basically the same, and immediate. Some systems notify the listing agent when the lock box is accessed. A listing agent could actually call a showing agent while they're in the process of showing a house.
Additionally, as technological changes become more advanced, the cost usually comes down. This has happened in the electronic lock box business. Costs of lock box systems today are much less than when they were introduced in the early 1990s, and they offer more features and information.
Ultimately, at its meeting on November 16th, the GMAR Board of Directors decided to move forward and bring electronic lock boxes into the marketplace. The Directors took a very long time in making their decision and weighed the opinions of all members who submitted them earlier in the year. The factors that tipped the scale in favor of electronic lock boxes were, growing member sentiment, acceptance of technological gadgets, information offered to listing and selling agents, and current problems with illegally accessing properties.
Cost, of course, was the largest factor against electronic lock boxes. However, the Directors felt an annual cost of, at most, $150 per member was a reasonable fee for the benefits electronic lock boxes offer.
The GMAR Executive Committee will spend the next few weeks negotiating with potential vendors to make sure the GMAR can get the best deal possible for members. We will forward more information to you as soon as we know it.
As always, your thoughts, comments, and opinions are welcome. Please send them to email@example.com.