‘Call Before Showing’ Codes Enhance Customer Service

Requiring buyer’s agents to call the listing broker before a showing can provide sellers additional clarity on property access and greater peace of mind.

Key takeaways:

  • When you take a listing, talk with the sellers about the CBS (“call before showing”) codes that can be programmed into today’s lockboxes.
  • CBS codes offer several benefits, including greater security and transparency about showings.
  • Agents who are unfamiliar with the codes or who are reluctant to use them should learn more about the codes so they can discuss the pros and cons with sellers and buyers.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about CBS codes in one of the markets I serve. If you aren’t already aware, CBS stands for “call before showing.” These codes are a setting in the most widely used lockbox brands, Sentrilock and Supra. They’re easily programmed when setting up a lockbox on a listing. When the listing agent applies the setting, it requires a second code to be entered to open the lockbox, after the agent’s normal code. When buyer’s agents call the listing brokerage or agent to set up a showing, they’re given the code.

“Why use them?” some agents ask. The codes were made part of lockbox functionality for a reason. Sharing more about this functionality will allow agents and their brokerage to determine if the benefits outweigh the cons.

Learn more about the power of Sentrilock, the official lockbox solution for the National Association of REALTORS®.

"I recommend making CBS codes part of the discussion you have with sellers at the time you list their property. Invariably, sellers have questions about how their house will be shown. They want to know if showings are coordinated by appointment and whether the listing agent will be present. For any number of reasons, they may be uncomfortable having a lockbox on their property (live alone, what ifs, don’t live there full time to monitor, multiple occupants, pet concerns, alarm, and so on). I counter concerns by sharing the benefits of our standard lockbox, and I explain that we’re notified when the box is opened.

If the sellers still feel hesitation, I have the CBS code conversation, and the sellers’ concerns generally vanish. That’s because they know their trusted agent will be contacted before the lockbox is popped open. Some of the benefits of a CBS code include:

  • It prevents showing agents from opening the door without a confirmed appointment and walking into the home when someone is, say, in the shower—or worse.
  • It reduces seller reluctance to have a lockbox at all.
  • In the sale of a second home, it offers a heads-up to sellers who may be in and out of the property, with or without notice.
  • Sellers like that it allows for dialogue between the listing and showing agent in advance, and that is the point when negotiations begin.
  • If you send the code and any instructions by text, you’re fresh in the showing agent’s text history, which encourages questions to be asked on the spot during the showing.
  • If the home is occupied or semi-vacant, valuables may be present. The extra code provides the homeowner with a greater sense of comfort knowing “anyone with a key” cannot pop open a box without requesting to do so. The standard alert is often delayed, either because the agent doesn’t see the alert right away or because the notice, sent by email, doesn’t arrive until hours later, or even the next day.
  • If there’s a vacation or off-market hold requested by the seller, you can still leave the key in the lockbox. Just apply the CBS code.
  • During the inspection period, you can monitor inspection access by the buyers, their agent and the inspector in states where inspectors have their own lockbox keys. After inspection, the CBS code can be changed so that the listing agent is aware if the buyers want to go back in.
  • CBS codes can be changed frequently if too many people who aren’t making an offer have the code.

Agents who are reluctant to use this feature may simply be unfamiliar with it. Or they may have a concern that other agents won’t show the property if they need to acquire and enter a second code. I don't believe that's an issue because buyers have wide access to property listing information, through both their agent and property portals, and buyer’s agents are motivated to show clients properties that fit their criteria and price range.

A successful agent introduced me to the CBS code feature during an interview with a seller, and I observed how the seller’s concerns were resolved. I work with senior clients, and I believe this feature offers them greater protection while allowing me, as the listing agent, to closely monitor who is showing the property and when. That’s one of the reasons clients hire me! I’d love to hear from other agents willing to share their experiences.

Better Access Control

CBS codes have been around for more than two decades, but newer technology exists that gives listing agents more control over property access. SentriLock, the official lockbox of the National Association of REALTORS®, has a feature called Access By Appointment (ABA). Through ABA, lockbox access credentials are linked to the showing appointment set up through the agent’s showing service. The appointment controls the time of allowed access, so showing agents can't access the property before the start or past the end of the appointment. With ABA, listing agents don't have to give out CBS codes, and, if the appointment is cancelled, the showing agent can't gain access.