Restrictions On Viewings – A Sure-Fire Way To Get Less For Your Property!


8 minute read

April 11, 2016

Nothing quite like a cynical post to start off the week!

This is a post for both the sellers and the listing agents, which I hope does not fall on deaf ears.

No matter how obvious, and how logical this is, we still see all kinds of restrictions on both access to, and showings of properties for sale in this market, and I can’t imagine how or why a seller or agent would allow this to happen in such a red-hot market.

How can you expect to get top-dollar for a property when it’s difficult for that property to be seen?


Maybe I’m a bit salty right now.

Actually, not maybe.  And not a bit…

I just watched my favourite golfer, Jordan Spieth, throw away a Masters championship that was all but his.

I know, I know.  He had nine holes to play.

But he was up FIVE strokes, and then went bogey on the 10th, bogey on the 11th, and an unfathomable quadruple-bogey on the 12th hole.

For those of you that don’t watch golf, let me find an analogy.

Maybe swimming?

So imagine Michael Phelps in the Olympics, splashing down the lane in the 200-metre back-stroke, when suddenly he gets out of the pool, eats a hot-dog, and then gets back in and finishes in 2nd place.

That is tantamount to Jordan Spieth’s quadruple-bogey with seven holes to play in the fourth round of the Masters.


Okay, let’s move on…

Are you familiar with the term “shelf space” as it pertains to a retail outlet?

Whether you’re talking about shirts on a rack in The Bay, or cereal on the shelf in Loblaws, retailers will pay more for better space on the shelf, as it means their items get seen by more people.

I’m sure there’s a whole industry of “spacing experts” that dedicate their lives to this.  I’m sure there’s a formula to what makes the best space on the shelf.  But I’m going to simply assume that “eye-level” is the best space, and that the lowest shelf is better than the highest shelf, for the simple reason that it’s easier to access.

A product has to be accessible in order for it to be sold.

A buyer can’t purchase what he or she can’t see, or can’t easily access.

If you were a green-bean manufacturer, surely you’d recognize that having your cans at eye-level on a shelf in the canned-food section is better than, say, having them in a display in the employee washroom.

Silly example?  Yes.

But when it comes to the accessibility of some properties for sale in Toronto’s real estate market, you could draw a parallel.

What’s easier to show – the condo with the key in the lockbox in the stairwell next to the unit, or the condo with the key at the brokerage twelve blocks away?

It’s like having your green-beans on display in the employee washroom.  It really is.

Every day, I’m shocked and amazed at how sellers, and/or listing agents, will restrict viewings on properties, when it’s just common sense to allow anybody and everybody, at any time, to see the property.

I tell my sellers, “Any time you say ‘no’ to a viewing, you’re saying ‘go away’ to a potential buyer.”

There are all kinds of retorts.

“If they’re interested, they’ll come back.”

“If they can be here for 6pm, they can be here for 7:15pm.”

But you have to remember, as a seller, that getting top dollar is a function of supply and demand, and part of that “supply” means “supplying” your property to the buyer-pool.

If you don’t supply them with your property, and access to it, then you’re missing out on half the equation.

You can’t simply assume that every buyer out there is in love with your property and that “they’ll come back.”

Many times, an agent is showing six properties, and if you make it hard to access your property, the agent or the buyer will just say “forget it.”

There are a lot of ways in which viewings of properties for sale are restricted, but I think they fall into four categories: restrictions because of tenants, restrictions because of lockbox issues, restrictions because of the seller, and restrictions because of the listing agent.


1) 24 Hours Notice.

I understand that the Landlord & Tenant Act insists tenants are given 24 hours’ notice for all viewings.

But I also understand the concept of “greasing the wheel.”

If you’re a listing agent, or a seller, why wouldn’t you try to get on the tenant’s good side?  Ask them nicely, buy them dinner, or give them money – see if you can get them to allow viewings without 24 hours’ notice, some, or all of the time.

For example, if the tenant works from 9-5 like most of the world, maybe he or she will say “okay” to same-day bookings, provided it’s during working hours.

Every day in this city, another property gets a “no showing” because of the tenant’s 24-hour’s n

2) Tenants Not Allowing Showings

Pick your tenants wisely, investors!

You might think that so long as a tenant can provide first-and-last month’s rent, they’re a “good tenant.”

But the time will come when they’re leaving, and you need access to the property to show it to other prospective tenants.

And I can’t tell you how many tenants simply say “no showings this weekend” to the listing brokerage, and the listing agent, and seller, allow it to happen.

You’ve got to bring this up in advance with your tenants.  Bring it up before the property goes to market, but bring it up when they sign the lease in the first place!  Make sure they know that signing a lease means allowing showings a year, or two years down the road.

And whatever you do, don’t commit to “no showings on weekends!”  It’s one thing for a salty tenant to call the listing brokerage and say, “I don’t want ANY showings this weekend,” but it’s another thing for a listing agent to allow this in advance of the listing!  I’ve seen listings that hit MLS with, “No Showings On Sat/Sun, Any Time” in the brokerage remarks.

How or why would a seller and listing agent stand for this?

You’re just asking to get less money for your property!


This is a big one, folks.

And while it doesn’t really affect you, the buyer, I’m sure you’ve been out there with your agent, playing “lockbox hide-and-seek.”

There are a few issues here:

1) Lockboxes Off-Site.

Putting the lockbox in the stairwell next to the unit is the easiest way to allow for access – it’s even better than leaving the key at concierge.

But when we aren’t allowed to put a lockbox in the stairwell, or leave a key with concierge, then we have to get creative and leave the lockbox somewhere outside.

For the love of God, fellow Realtors, find a way to do this efficiently.

Put the lockbox somewhere very, very close to the front door of the building, and make it easy to find.

DO NOT put the lockbox on a median in-between a six-lane highway:


That’s a colleague of mine trying to get a key out of a lockbox without getting killed by an 18-wheeler.

And that pole, on that median, in between six lanes of traffic is about a half-KM from the building.

This is a surefire way to ensure agents don’t show your property.

2) Lockboxes At The Brokerage

I’ve never understood this.

An agent lists a property for sale, and insists that you pick up the key at their brokerage.

If you’re showing at 75 Portland Street, and the key is at Private Service Realty (PSR) that’s located in the base of that building, then fine.

But anything else, in my opinion, is cause for concern.

Last week, I went to show a property on McCaul.  The key was at a brokerage (not even the listing brokerage, which was weird…) located four blocks away, in a rinky-dink little chop-shop of a brokerage that had no street-level signage, save for an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper taped to the inside of a very dirty door.

When you leave keys at the brokerage, you’re just asking buyer-agents to skip your property.

I was at McCaul to show McCaul, and only McCaul.  So I was going to get that key.

But when an agent is showing seven properties to a buyer on Saturday, and six of the properties have a key in the stairwell, and one of the properties has a key at a brokerage on a busy street five blocks away, guess which one gets “cut” in the interest of time?

3 Hard-To-Identify Lockboxes

Agents – how frustrated are you when you get “Lockbox on Bar, Code 1978” and then you arrive to find this:



You need an identifier on your lockbox, or you run the risk that the buyer-agent, who could be showing multple units, simply says, “Three units is just as good as four,” and quits the search after not finding your lockbox.

I once saw a lockbox with a helium-balloon tied to it.  That was easy to find!


There’s no excuse for a seller to restrict showings.

Absolutely, none.

If the tenants are restricting showings, fine.

If your moron agent is restricting showings, fine.

But if you, the seller, the person who wants the most money possible for his or her unit, is restricting showings, they deserve to get less than fair market value for your home.

Last week, I called to book a showing on a Mimico townhouse, and I was told, “No showings after 4:30pm on weeknights.”

I was shocked to see “owner” under the “occupancy” section of the MLS listing.

I called the listing agent and feigned, “How long have the tenants been there?”  He told me that the property wasn’t tenanted, but was actually owner-occupied.

I said, “Oh, well there must be some mistake.  I was told there were no showings after 4:30pm, and no seller in their right mind would restrict showings.”

He told me that the seller didn’t want to be “bothered” after work, and that he preferred showings during the day.

I asked him if he preferred 85% of fair market value.

Then came the bombshell – when he said, “Hey, it’s tough you know?  Especially when you’re dealing with family.”

Family?  Yes, the seller was his brother.

I told him, “That makes it MUCH easier!  Tell your idiot brother that 90% of weekday property viewings are after 4:30pm!  You know, like, when people aren’t at work?”

Excuse my sarcasm, but honestly, what is a seller like this thinking?

What is any seller thinking when they refuse any showing?

Every showing you refuse is one more buyer who won’t be buying your property.


1) No-Double Bookings

This drives me insane.

Some listing agents will refuse to “double-book” viewings, meaning that once an agent has booked for 5:00pm on Tuesday, no other agent can book for 5:00pm on Tuesday.

There’s nothing wrong with having John from Re/Max and Rebecca from Royal Lepage both show the property at 4:30pm on Friday.

In fact, in a red-hot market like this one, you can almost guarantee that there will be double-bookings at 5pm, 5:30pm, 6pm, and 6:30pm, every weeknight after the property is listed.

I’ve been at houses on weeknights where it’s a de-facto “open house,” since so many agents have appointments, that the door opens and closes every few minutes.

And amazingly, some agents will allow hour-long viewings, with no double bookings.

I called to book an appointment on a listing last week for 2pm on a Thursday, and I was told, “No double-bookings, try later.”  Well wouldn’t you just know that 3pm was taken as was 4pm.  The receptionist told me, “You can book for 5pm if you’d like.”

No thanks.  I was going to show it at 2pm, but now I’m not.  I sure hope you get action on offer night.

2) Listing Agent Must Attend Viewing

I get it.  If the house is over $10,000,000, that is…

But if the house isn’t owned by somebody with an over-valued sense of self-importance, and/or somebody who is afraid of people stealing their Faberge eggs, then why does the listing agent have to be at viewings?

Agents – you can’t allow the seller of your $699,000 condo to insist that you attend all showings.  It’s so unnecessary, and if you take the listing, with this restriction in place, then you’re doing the seller a serious disservice.

This is the same issue as all of the above: any restriction on showings means less showings.  And if the listing agent must be present, then the listing agent must give up his or her life to ensure he or she can be available when any of the 50,000 GTA Realtors wants to take a look.

I met a really nice couple a few years back who lived on the Mimico waterfront, and they told me that if they listed the condo with me, they wanted me to be present for every showing.  They wanted me to show the amenities, give a sales pitch, and hold the hand of the buyers.

I told them that not only would buyers be less comfortable with me in the unit, and not only would they want to leave sooner if I were giving them a sales pitch, but it would be impossible for me to attend every viewing because they lived off the busiest highway in Toronto, and I’d basically have to live in their condo from 4-8pm every day, and on weekends.

I was an awful idea, and completely unnecessary.  Alas, I did not list that condo.

There’s a lot at stake when listing your property for sale.

Done correctly, versus a terrible job overall, you could see a 20% difference in sale price – and we see this every day when properties get astronomical numbers, or when properties sit on the market for a bevy of reasons.

Restricting showings is a sure-fire way to get less for your property.

Real estate is often a numbers game.  And you want as many people to see a property as possible…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Paully

    at 8:38 am

    In the condo where I used to live, there was a resident/agent who always had lots of different restrictions on his showings. The other agents that lived or worked in the building generally suggested that he preferred to limit the showings so that he could be more likely to double-end the sale if other buyers were less able to get in to see the listed unit.

  2. Ed

    at 8:40 am

    David, in your opinion what would be an acceptable time to restrict showings in the evening?
    Perhaps no showings after 8pm?

    1. David Fleming

      at 1:35 pm

      @ Ed

      8pm used to be the unofficial cut-off.

      I’m seeing a lot of 8pm appointments now, so I think 9pm is the new 8pm.

      It takes a lot of guts to call a brokerage and say, “Hello, I’d like to book a viewing for tomorrow at 9:15pm, please.”

      I think 8pm appointments are common, but 8:30pm is pushing it. I don’t remember the last request I had for 9pm.

      However, I had a loft in King West a while back that was in the club district. An agent wanted to view it on Saturday night at 12:30am to see what the noise was like. It was vacant, so it wasn’t a problem, but my office was VERY confused by the appointment request…

      1. Geoff

        at 8:02 pm

        Yeah but that one makes some sense once you put in context. It’s not like it was a house up in Maple or something.

  3. Gord

    at 11:17 am

    A lot of this nonsense would go away if a buyer’s market ever returned! Poor practices by sellers and agents who figure they own the market-as you rightly say, it takes a real idiot to miss out on the best of a hot market yet these folks have figured out a way to do it!
    We leave it up to our clients with small children to decide if they can accommodate evening showings and they often restrict showings to those that can be completed by 7:30 or 8:00 PM.

  4. Marina

    at 11:23 am

    A few observations:

    1. It creeps me out when the seller agent does a sales pitch. If I ask a question, great, otherwise give me the handout or whatever and leave me alone!

    2. The only time I find it acceptable that people limit viewings is if they have small children and cannot arrange to go anywhere for a week while the house is shown. That should be very rare. Take a vacation and let the agent show the house!

    3. At a friend’s condo, I once saw a lock box with a troll doll hanging off it – bright pink hair and all. A little wacky but both effective AND memorable!

    1. jeff316

      at 2:19 pm


      Re: restricting showings, I once had to house / child sit for a friend that was out of town, and to boot his house was also for sale. And it was awful for all of us.

      It was really tough to pick up sticks with the kids on no notice, every early morning, late afternoon, evening, all weekend. There is only so long you can spend at the park, the mall, restaurants, the library, the pool, the community centre, etc. Homework needs to be done. People need to eat and bathe. We can’t clean the house with 30 minutes notice. We can’t get the dishes done for a surprise showing within a 15 minute window. It was awful and agents weren’t exactly kind about respecting our boundaries (and this was well before this crazy market.) It got to the point where we had to dig in our heels a bit, whereas had agents been more respectful we probably could have been a bit more flexible in return.

      Re: the sales pitch, well hallelujah. Leave me alone. I’ll talk to you if/when I need to. I don’t want a sales pitch. It’s like some real estate agents don’t get that almost all of them act the same way, say the same things, with the same salesy suaveness. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. When one agent told me that I was bound to sell my house “because every family moves after four or five years, for sure” I responded with “Did they teach you to say this in your agent training?” I felt like a jerk afterward, but get lost. Every average agent says the same things.

    2. Geoff

      at 8:04 pm

      I agree too. Now there are limits – I remember when I was selling and we had a 7pm showing booked, so my wife and I and our cat went out to our car dutifully at 6.50pm and hang out for an hour. Come back, don’t see a card or anything but whatever. At 9pm we get a knock at the door asking to see the unit. I flat out said no. Was that my sellers mind acting rationally? Maybe not but no one ever accused an Irishman of being purely rational either, I was pissed.

  5. Jessica S.

    at 11:34 am

    I work as a brokerage administrator and I would love to add to the list.

    Agents should make it easier for us to confirm showing appointments. At least 10 times a week I watch appointment times come and go where we were unable to confirm because the listing agent never called us back to confirm/or we have no direct way to contact the sellers.

  6. Jayne

    at 6:47 pm

    This is why when I list my place I plan on staying in my relative’s guest room while my stuff is in storage and let the home stager do their thing. As someone who does shift work its just easier, and my place might sell sooner. Those restrictions are too much, either you’re selling your home or you’re not!

  7. Wut

    at 3:45 pm

    Showing the house when it’s dark out when you’re trying to show off how bright the house is is counterproductive. And if you still have to live in your house it’s a pita to have all these lookers 99% of who can’t even afford the house going through your place. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with limiting showing hours. 10am-6pm with one or two weekends is more than enough time to let people see your house.

  8. Wut

    at 3:55 pm

    And having just sold my house, some observations:
    I did some showings myself. Didn’t say other than hi or to answer questions. But some of the buyer agents were so useless. Some were completely mute. Some had no idea the comps or were taking their client who had no chance of being able to afford the place. Even worse, the agent with the one bad bid actually said “well I’m the only one here”. Yeah, that’s going to get your client the place. Another agent had an appointment at 6, showed up at 7, and when I told her I’m getting an offer in 30 minutes she started making faces and saying why didn’t my agent cancel the showing. I wanted to punch her in the face.

    Having gone through the process for the first time I can’t stress enough how important getting a good agent is. There’s so much garbage agents out there. It is another positive for buying a prebuilt home that you don’t have to deal with this crap when buying.

Pick5 is a weekly series comparing and analyzing five residential properties based on price, style, location, and neighbourhood.

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