In 2023, we asked over 250,000 agents and brokers how interested they would be in statewide lockbox access where they hold a license.  Nearly ¾ of respondents (72%) across multiple markets want statewide lockbox access. 

Respondents told us they don’t understand why lockboxes are used as artificial barriers to business opportunity. If they have a client that needs their help in any part of the state, they don’t understand why gaining access beyond their local market has to cost them. They really get frustrated by the neighboring market that will not allow them access to listings without joining an additional Association and/or MLS to get access. 

While some Associations cooperatively provide reciprocal lockbox access, and others provide a 1-day code option, many markets do not provide any opportunity for a practitioner to access listings in a neighboring market without additional fees to join a second MLS.

Here’s an example. There are three markets equidistant from one another. Two of the markets provide reciprocal access to one another, but do not provide access to the third. Each of the markets are less than 40 miles from one another.  

Why is it okay to grant lockbox access to one neighboring market, but not another?  Isn’t every licensed real estate agent equal under the laws of that state?  Isn’t every REALTOR® part of the same club? Shouldn’t they have equal access?  Why can agents and brokers in one neighboring market get easy access to a neighboring area, but the other cannot?  

In the example above, brokers and agents in all three markets hold the same state real estate license and yet some have more opportunities to sell than others. Why does that make sense?  Seems like unfair or even anti-competitive behavior to me. 

If we go back to the original agreement with the Department of Justice back in late 2020, the industry was going to be required to allow ALL licensees access to lockboxes regardless of their NAR membership status. It’s likely we may see that requirement re-surface.  If we were going to have to abide by this rule 4 years ago, why are we still fighting lockbox access for fellow NAR members?  What’s slowing the industry down from adopting this rule regardless of the status of this 2020 settlement that was ultimately abandoned? 

Here are the requirements outlined in that settlement before it was rejected by the DOJ. Specifically review the 4th settlement term related to lockbox access.

Original Settlement Terms:

NAR and its Member Boards must NOT adopt, maintain, or enforce any Rule, or enter into or enforce any Agreement or practice, that directly or indirectly:

  1. prohibits, discourages, or recommends against an MLS or MLS Participant publishing or displaying to consumers any MLS database field specifying the compensation offered to other MLS Participants;
  2. permits or requires MLS Participants, including buyer Brokers, to represent or suggest that their services are free or available to a Client at no cost to the Client;
  3. permits or enables MLS Participants to filter, suppress, hide, or not display or distribute MLS listings based on the level of compensation offered to the buyer Broker or the name of the brokerage or agent; or
  4. prohibits, discourages, or recommends against the eligibility of any licensed real estate agent or agent of a Broker, from accessing, with seller approval, the lockboxes of those properties listed on an MLS.

In this new world we’re living in we are going to have re-think the way Associations demonstrate value and compete effectively. Gone are the days of “forcing” licensed agents and brokers to do something to get access to business opportunities available to them with a valid real estate license. 

If you find yourself thinking in terms of how to “force” or “control” or “mandate” member behaviors, you need to think again. We have to think about earning customers, not forcing them to do things to get access to services that should be rightfully available to them already.