The Friday Rant: I Can’t Sell What I Can’t See!

It’s absolutely ludicrous how hard some agents will make it to show their listings!

Yes, I will concede: it is a seller’s market!

But if I can’t get inside a condo to show it, then how can I see it, and advise my client to purchase it?

Some agents fail to realize that making a property accessible is part of “marketing,” and it’s a crucial step in listing and selling a property.

Humour me, and just listen to what happened yesterday…


Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Marge becomes a Realtor?

I haven’t seen it in probably ten years, but I still remember just about every line.

Recall when Marge shows Ned & Maude Flanders a house, and while standing outside, Ned says, “Well, I’d hate to have you come all this way for us not to buy a house.”

Then Maude says, “Wait a minute, Neddy; the home-buyer’s guide says to actually go inside the house before making an offer.”

What a novel idea!

You can’t sell a property on paper, no matter how hard you try.  Unless you’re selling vacant land, or a house that represents “land value only,” I’m sorry to say – but the buyer MUST go inside the property.

So it amazes me when I see Realtors listing condos for sale and making it next to impossible to get inside.

On Thursday night, I went to see a unit at Quad Lofts on Brant Street.

My showing instructions said, “GO DIRECT,” which means that the seller/tenant will be home, and you just have to knock on the door.

For those of you that know the complex, there is 19 Brant Street, and 23 Brant Street, and it’s #23 that has the concierge.  Of course, I was showing a unit at 19 Brant Street, and so by “GO DIRECT,” it means I have no way of accessing the building.

It means, essentially, that I have to lurk in the foyer, and wait for somebody to come out, and then put my foot in the door to stop it, and head inside hoping that person won’t call the cops.

Are you guys familiar with this move?

Can we all admit that we HATE doing this, and that we feel really sleazy?

I waited around in the foyer, and when the first person came out, I didn’t have the guts to follow inside.  She was really eyeing me, and I thought she would freak out.  It was a good thing I didn’t follow inside too, because once she passed through the door, she stood there and waited for it to close, then looked up at me, and sneered.

This place would shortly prove to be like Fort Knox.

I looked at the name on the listing, and although that was the name of the seller and not the tenant, I figured I’d look him up on the buzzer.  Low and behold, he was listed!  But when I buzzed him, the call went to his cell phone’s voicemail!  So much for that idea…

I was frustrated, and waiting for my client, so I called the listing brokerage and said, “Hello, I’m here to show a unit at Brant Street, it’s David Fleming, Bosley Real Estate, 7:00pm, and, well, I’m just wondering how I’m expected to gain access to the building?  My instructions said ‘GO DIRECT’ and I can’t get inside.”

The receptionist said, “Oh, that’s strange, um, you’re supposed to have the lockbox.”

Great.  So all of this could have been avoided…

…..or could it have?

The girl on the phone paged my office with the lockbox code (they can’t tell you over the phone, you know – in case you’re just impersonating a Realtor…), and after doing the whole lockbox scavenger hunt, I opened it up to find……no FOB.


So I now had a unit key, but still no access to the building!

After calling the listing agent and leaving a polite yet frustrated voicemail, I finally decided I would just follow behind the next person who went inside the building.

My clients showed up, so now I didn’t look like a serial killer in a suit anymore, but rather a serial killer with an entourage, and I simply asked a guy, “Do you mind if I follow you inside?  I’m showing a unit, but I have no front door FOB.”

Kindly, he replied, “No problem dude, but you can’t move the elevator up to the floor you want to go to without a second FOB.”

Second FOB?  We didn’t even have the first!

I went with him to the elevator to see, and as he suggested, you needed to “unlock” the elevator door with a FOB, so we were out of luck.

We decided to try the stairs, but each level is locked with a gigantic magnetic locking system, and if I didn’t put my shoe in the door, who knows if we’d still be locked in the stairwell right now…

I asked my clients to wait in the lobby, and I went across the quad to #23 Brant Street, and asked the concierge if he could help.  He told me he was not allowed to unlock the door to the foyer, let alone the elevator, and that my only option was to call the superintendent.

I asked him, “If you were in my position, what would you do?”

He said, “If you don’t have a FOB, you’re out of luck.”


I left another voicemail for the listing agent, why, I’m still not quite sure.

By this point, about 45 minutes had passed since we were scheduled to view the unit, and as luck would have it, the tenant to the unit was coming back to the condo, thinking we had already finished!

He overheard us talking about the unit, and asked if we were finished.

I told him we hadn’t even got started…

He was nice enough to bring us up to the unit, with his magical FOB, and sure enough – we were inside for all of eight seconds before we realized “this isn’t the one.”

I’m not being rude, but seriously – all you condo-owners, you just “know” when it’s not the one, right?

On the way out, I called the listing brokerage, and they transferred me to the listing agent’s cell phone.  He picked up this time, which I didn’t take personally (ie. he didn’t pick up when I called twice, or call me back after I left two voicemails saying I couldn’t access the unit, but he picked up when the number on his phone showed up as coming from his office), and I asked him how I was expected to gain access to the floor that the unit was on, without a FOB?

He simply said, “I don’t know.  I didn’t know you needed a FOB to gain access to that floor.”

Then I asked, “Okay, but even if I didn’t need a FOB to gain access to the floor that the unit was on, how was I supposed to get inside the lobby, without a FOB?”

He replied, “Well, if you buzz the seller, he can buzz you inside.”

THAT was the plan?

Buzz the seller, who doesn’t live there, and hope he picks up his cell phone which is for some reason still connected to the intercom at his old building?

Don’t get me wrong – this condo was over-priced by a mere $50,000, and even if it were accurately priced, we wouldn’t have been interested.  But it bothers me that this place was impossible to show from the very get-go.

It bothers me that all over the downtown core, there are condos listed by agents who have never actually tried “viewing” the units themselves, just to see how the process goes.

Agents are cheap people by nature, and they quiver at the thought of a FOB being “stolen” (because that happens ALL the time….) out of a lockbox, so they just don’t put one inside it.

Their solution?

“Follow somebody inside.”

I’m being serious here, folks.  I’ve received showing confirmations that read like this:


All the time, folks.

And those who don’t actually page that out, will still expect you to do it.

Personally, I think the missing FOB, is the largest annoyance when trying to show a condo, but while I’m at it, here three other ways to make showings on your condo listing difficult:

1) Key Pickup.  If you can’t put a lockbox in the building, then find a lamp post, hydro meter, or pole.  Asking a buyer-agent to pick up the key at your office on Front Street when the listing is on College Street is like asking them not to bother showing it.  And when does your office close?  Oh, right, so I have to make sure my showing takes place before then?

2) Rusty Lockbox.  A lockbox is $39.99 at Home Depot, and if you buy them in bulk from TREB, they cost even less.  I’ll be honest and say that I probably lose 3-4 per year, either because I lend them to colleagues, or because I leave them behind in a building where some trigger-happy guy with bolt-cutters just LOVE to remove lockboxes!  It’s a goddam tax write-off, seriously!  So why do some Realtors use the same gold-and-black, alpha-dial lockbox that they got in 1982, and risk the damn thing jamming, freezing, or rusting shut?  You can’t get into a condo without the key, and you can’t get the key without opening the lockbox.

3) Ghost Lockbox.  All of my lockboxes have my business card taped to the back, and they usually have princess stickers (that I stole from my niece…), or some other identifier on them.  I once tied a balloon to a lockbox when I had to put it in a high-traffic area.  When I get a confirmation that says “LBX 1984,” and I show up and see 65 lockboxes, I call the agent and tell them what I think of the situation.  I have no problem doing so.  A lot of Realtors won’t sort through 65 lockboxes to find the one they’re looking for, and all it means is that the listing agent’s laziness cost them a viewing…

That’s a wrap.

Have a great weekend, everybody!


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  1. Al Gore says:

    Nevah undah value the necessity of a LOCKBOX.

  2. Cliff says:

    Good reason why I’m strongly considering private selling in the future. Too many crappy agents that won’t put in any time to sell my property. It’s akin to getting a bad waiter who does nothing and at the end of the night expects the 5% tip. In this hot market, a lot of agents don’t even need to do open houses. Properties are sold quite easily so why pay em 20,30, $40K for doing something you could have done yourself?

    1. Amelia says:

      Cliff – you only need one agent – a good one. If you choose unwisely, it’s your own fault. The irony is that many who decide to DIY end up cutting corners anyway. They ultimately get less money for their property while making more work for themselves! And that’s IF they sell their property. 99.999% of FSBOs go to a realtor after 6 months to a year of headache! And then they are more than happy to pay 5% to have the “problem” (they’ve created for themselves) go away. Smart people use top agents to sell their homes and they never look back.

  3. Jim says:

    I would like to know what the conversation would be between the listing agent and a buying client after a showing?

    client: ….How could the listing agent not know how to get into the building?

    Agent: Sorry about the experience, but, I know him personally. I can assure you he very good. He was just having a bad day.

    Client: Who did you say he was?

  4. Potato says:

    Just call it preconstruction with a completion date 60 days hence and the sight-unseen problem should be solved! 😉

  5. crazyegg says:


    Yes. I agree with your views on lock boxes.

    The alpha dial ones are the worst and take the most time to open. RETRO!

    The Masterlock ones with the 4 numeric dials are bad too. These are very difficult to navigate especially in the winter when they are frozen. God forbid, I really don’t know how a female agent with long nails open these suckers…

    I like the standard GE push button ones the best.

    Like you said, some agents are just too cheap and/or too stupid to get decent ones…


  6. Jasontang says:

    There are so many lazy agents out there and I always question ‘why a seller would hire such lazy agent?’

    Is it the discounted commission? In that case, it’s a lesson of ‘you get what you paid for.’

    Or I’ve encountered listing agent stating a unit is NW facing when in reality it’s a south facing unit and learned that she doesn’t know how the compass works. Her exact words: ‘lake view means it’s south?’

    1. @ Jasontang

      The unit I saw last night advertised a den. There was no den. Nothing even resembling a den. Not even a closet, or a nook, or an alcove.

      I love seeing these units and playing the game, “Try to find the den.” It’s amazing what some listing agents will do when there’s no repercussions on MLS for flat-out lying…

  7. Paully says:

    This is just another piece of proof that there are lots of crappy agents out there. It is way to easy for someone to become a real estate salesperson — All you need is a pulse and a little cash and you are good to go.

    When some of these clowns accidentally find someone who trips and signs an offer on their way to the floor, the sticker that they slap on the sign should say “BOUGHT,” and not “SOLD.”

  8. A Grant says:

    I wonder if seller was just too cheap to bother paying the deposit for an extra fob to be left in a lockbox.