Lockbox Lament

Surely there has got to be an easier way!

I’ve noticed an increasing trend among the concierges in downtown condominiums whereby they don’t hold on to keys so that sellers can allow viewings of their units for by prospective buyers and their real estate agents.

That leaves the keys out on the street….literally, in most cases…


Last weekend, I was showing condos at the new “Success Towers” over at 18 Harbour Street where there are dozens of units available for sale or for lease.

I am a very, very organized person and you might go as to say that I am downright obsessive compulsive and freakishly neurotic.  When it comes to showing properties to potential buyers, I always have a complete itinerary printed and stapled atop all the MLS listings for properties that we’ll be viewing that day, and on the itinerary is the appointment time, building, unit number, price, vacant/occupied, and of course the lockbox code and location.

Aaaah yes, the lockbox code and location!

At 18 Harbour Street, I was told “KEY @ CONCIERGE,” so I simply walked my client through the lobby, presented my business card, and asked for the key to the unit upstairs.  The concierge informed me that he did not have the key.  In fact, it was building-policy to not hold keys at the front desk!  (I’ll come back to this “policy” later on).

I called the listing brokerage and they apologized, and told me that the key was in the stairwell and the lockbox code was “1950.”

So I took my client up to the 18th floor, went into the stairwell where most lockboxes are usually kept, only to find: no key.

I went to the other stairwell, and the result was the same.

So I called the listing brokerage back and told them that I had searched high and far, but there were no lockbox and no keys to be found.

The receptionist apologized again, and informed me that the key was not in the stairwell at 18 Harbour Street…

….but rather, in the third floor stairwell at 16 Yonge Street.

Hold up.

The key for an 18th storey unit at 18 Harbour Street was in the 3rd floor stairwell at 16 Yonge Street?

This made no sense!

But you know what?  It’s becoming more and more common to see ridiculous showing instructions like this one, and quite often, the buyers and/or the agents don’t even bother showing the units!

It begs the question: who is setting the policies?

Back up for a moment, and for those people not in the know – when you’re an agent working with a buyer, you essentially cooperate with all the brokerages in the city through the usage of the Multiple Listing Service.  I’m a Bosley agent who may be showing a property listed by Re/Max, so the Re/Max listing agent will need to leave a key for me and other agents to use to enter the property.

With a house, it’s not very tough.  You just leave a lockbox on the front railing or even the front door.

With a condominium, it’s a different story.

Ideally, the key would be left with the concierge, but for some reason, many concierges in the city don’t accept keys.

So the alternative is to leave a lockbox in the stairwell of the building.  This is the most common placement for keys.

However, many buildings now don’t allow agents to leave lockboxes in the stairwells (some do it anyways), and threaten to cut them off if they find any.

So agents have to get creative, and do something like this:


Here is the railing behind 800 King Street West where agents have left keys, and will subsequently page out instructions to the cooperating agents “LBX CODE 1956.  KEY ON RAILING BHND BLDG.”

As an aside, what I find funny about this photo is that there is exactly ONE unit for sale in the building, yet there are FIVE lockboxes in this photo and I found three others on the adjacent rail.  It is my contention that (some) real estate agents are amongst the less-intelligent fraction of the general public.  Real estate agents order lockboxes by the dozen because they always lose them!

Some of the agents in my firm make $500,000 a year but have no common sense and lack basic intelligence.  They’re just successful because they’re good at their jobs, but ask them where their last lockbox went and they’ll have no clue!

The worst example of this has to be on the fence behind D.N.A. at 1 Shaw Street and 1005 King Street.  This fence has about one-hundred lockboxes on it, and there are only 2-3 units for sale in that building.

Take a look:


You’ll get the page “LBX CODE 1234.  NEAR PKG MACHINE ON FENCE.”

Yeah, that helps.  There are only a dozen lockboxes there, so I’ll just quit my job and spend all day trying the codes.

Next to these dozen are another dozen:


And after that, just look at the next panel of fencing:


While we’re on the subject of real estate agents being stupid and leaving their lockboxes all over the city, I also find it comical that probably more than HALF of all the alpha-coded lockboxes have the code “S-P-I” since that is the default code when you open the package, and most agents are unqualified to change the actual code.


Some buildings, like at Chocolate Lofts, don’t allow the concierges to keep keys nor do they allow lockboxes in the stairwell, but they do provide an area next to the dumpster in the basement for agents to leave lockboxes as shown below:


And for those playing along at home, the NINE lockboxes shown here are for the ONE unit that is currently for sale…

So what is the root of this issue, or non-issue if you are already bored of my rant?

Well, I don’t understand the “WHY” involved in the matter of concierges not keeping keys at the front desk.

A concierge is supposed to be there to help and serve residents of a building, not to read the paper and give people a hard time.

A concierge is supposed to provide security, but is not a security guard, or police officer.

WHY concierges don’t hold on to keys for residents trying to sell their largest assets is beyond my comprehension.

The rules are either put in place by the Board of Directors of the condominium, or by the Property Manager or security company themselves.

Either way, all three of these parties should know that a condo is undoubtedly a person’s largest asset, and thus it should be treated with the utmost care, especially when it is for sale.

What could possibly be more important amongst all the door-opening, parking-pass-writing, and guest-greeting than for a concierge to ensure your potential buyer has no problems getting in to view your condo?

If you’re the Board of Directors, and the security company you hire has a policy of not allowing their concierges to hold onto keys, then you either tell them “tough luck,” or you hire a new company.

The Board of Directors is made up of condo-owners, so I fail to see how they could fail to recognize the importance of allowing keys to be kept at the front desk, or god-forbid, in a lockbox in the stairwell in the building!

The phrase, “Out of sight is out of mind” might be appropriate here, since I don’t understand why a property manager or concierge could possibly find fault with leaving a lockbox in a stairwell that nobody frequents.

Before anybody points out that the Board of Directors is in place to deal with more “important” issues such as the reserve fund, yearly budget, major repairs, performance audit, etc., I ask this question: “What could possibly be more important than the value and saleability of your condo?”

I went to show a unit the other day at Rezen and the concierge had the nerve to tell me that I couldn’t show the gym to my client – that no real estate agents were allowed to view the amenities.

As an owner of an investment property, I was somewhat disheartened.

Thankfully I’m the Vice-President of the Board at Rezen, and one email to the property manager was all it took to change the concierge’s tune.

As for the rest of the condominiums in the city, I wonder why the Boards, the Property Managers, or both don’t put a little more effort into “the small things” and prevent real estate agents from trekking through two-feet of snow in a back alley somewhere at 8PM in December to search for a lockbox that is frozen-shut.  That’s one agent that won’t show the property, and one less potential buyer for that condo-seller.

What could possibly be more important than the value and saleability of your condo?


Leave a Reply to Calico Cate Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Katie says:

    Awesome article 🙂

  2. Calico Cate says:

    Sounds like you’re all playing Where’s Waldo.

    You’re right, there should be a better system. I cannot imagine trying to show a property and not being able to open the door.

    Just curious, when someone buys a condo, is there a new lock system installed. I wouldn’t feel very secure knowing that a key to my home was hanging on a chainlink fence down in the parking lot………