Realtors warn of potential security flaw at homes listed for sale

Posted at 10:40 PM, Oct 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-07 00:40:35-04

DENVER -- Several Denver-area real estate agents are raising concern about a potential security flaw that could leave some homes listed for sale vulnerable to thieves.

The problem involves homes equipped with combination lock boxes on their doors – meant to give real estate agents easy access to keys to show homes to their interested clients.

Denver7 Investigates watched as an agent called from a private number to arrange showings and received lock box combinations without providing any verifying information about the agents other than their name and supposed company. It did not appear further checks were made.

The agent called from a phone number the agents said was not included in the profiles registered with the MLS. The agent, who Denver7 is not identifying, worried it’s possible anyone could call and claim to be an agent.

Denver7 took the concern raised by multiple agents to broker-Realtor Anthony Rael.

“It’s troubling and it’s something that sellers need to be aware of,” Rael said when he saw what Denver7 uncovered. “If anybody can get access to your lock box … somebody can let themselves into your property at any given time, right?”

In April, Denver police investigated an incident in which a homeowner believed someone may have posed as a real estate agent in order to gain access to their lock box, break in, and steal guns, jewelry and electronics.

How to protect your home

Real estate agents tell us homeowners should not just assume their homes will be secure during the showing process. They need to discuss with their listing agent how their homes will be secured, including asking whether the door will be secured with a combination lock box or a more-secure electronic box.

Rael said he only uses the electronic boxes because they can only be accessed by real estate agents with authenticated key cards and/or one-time codes arranged through a secure showing portal.

“We have one of the hottest housing markets in the United States right now. We need to take extra precautions to protect people’s best interests,” Rael said.

Some cities like Charleston, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina use electronic lock boxes as standard equipment, that is used on most homes, spokespeople for local associations of Realtors told Denver7 over the phone.

Many Denver-area real estate agents seem to be resisting that change – possibly because the electronic boxes cost as much as $90 more than the cheaper version.

“When you have just the regular combination lock boxes you really have no idea who came and who went,” Rael said.

For homeowners whose listing agents intend to use combination boxes, agents tell us they can require additional security measures including requiring showing agents to provide more information to verify their identities before lock box combinations are released.