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Archive for May, 2020

Property access and security revolutionized with lockbox technology

The traditional mechanical lockbox has long been making property showings easier and more convenient for real estate agents by eliminating the need for the seller to be home or available for key collection and drop offs. However, this system has become outdated as security concerns have come to light over unauthorized use of the code, codes not being reset, rust or deterioration making the lockbox difficult to open, and no real way to track who has access.

With technology being integrated into almost every part of the real estate and home buying process, it seemed like a natural step for Master Lock to use technology to meet both industry and client expectations.

Master Lock Vault® Enterprise technology encompasses Bluetooth-enabled lockboxes and integration with the Showing Time™ mobile app, bring all parts of the showing process together in “one app, one tap.” Agents can retrieve all the details on the showing appointment, as well as open the lockbox with the app in a seamless manner, and without breaking their stride.

“When a showing agent shows up to a property with a prospective homebuyer or renter, it’s a sales call,” said Barron Robertson, Product Manager at Master Lock. “The goal is to continue the selling process and fumbling with a faulty lockbox can chip away at a good first impression.”

The lockboxes and app were designed with efficiency and security in mind, he added. Having a system where everything is in one place simplifies the process and saves time, which has proven to translate into more showings and faster sales.

These Bluetooth-enabled lockboxes also arm the agent with an added confidence surrounding the safety and security of their clients’ homes. The Real Estate Council of Ontario says agents should follow similar guidelines to those set out by U.S.-based National Association of Realtors, which recommends changing temporary access codes every 72 hours. This is a difficult task when using traditional lockboxes, but using the Master Lock system, temporary codes automatically change every 4 hours. The system relies primarily on Bluetooth credentials specific to each agent, which also allows the listing agent to track in precise detail who is coming in and out of the property, how long one person stays at the property, as well as who has approval to enter the property at any point in time.

“It’s a secure system that makes it easy for agents to adhere to best practices when it comes to the security of their clients’ homes,” said Robertson.

This new system is also making showings in rural markets much easier. The system was designed to be able to work outside of cell coverage, so you can still access a property without having to rely on a real-time connection. Because of this, the system is not only being embraced in urban and suburban neighbourhoods but in rural regions as well.

“For larger geographic areas where there’s a lot of time and space between showings, the ability for a listing agent to share credentials with somebody who could be an hour away, really starts to pay off in time efficiency,” he said.

Similar technology has typically been offered with long term contracts or hefty monthly fees, but Robertson added that Master Lock wanted the system to  not only be flexible in its capabilities, but also in its price and accessibility, so it can be adapted to the needs of any individual, group or company. As Master Lock approaches 100 years in the industry, introducing this technology is just another step in providing dependable solutions to aid in home protection and safety.

The Master Lock Vault Enterprise technology covers all the bases. It benefits the homeowner by providing an added layer of security, it’s convenient and provides an unprecedented amount of data to the listing agent, and the showing agent benefits from a seamless process, leaving potential buyers or renters with a positive first impression.

by Kasi Johnston

06 May 2020

Alarm bells raised over new COVID-19 legal clauses

Alarm bells raised over new COVID-19 legal clauses in real estate purchase and sale deals

One of Ontario’s most respected real estate lawyers has sounded the alarm against using untested COVID-19 clauses in property transactions.

Sidney Troister is a partner at Toronto’s Torkin Manes LLP, and is widely regarded as one of Ontario’s leading real estate lawyers.

Last week, Troister and his law partner Aaron English distributed an e-bulletin cautioning against the use of these clauses.

The first clause they say “raises a number of issues and questions” provides for an extension of closing if the buyer’s lender, or the local land registry office, should cease operations. If the delay exceeds a particular date, the clause allows either party to terminate the transaction.

Jeffrey Lem, Ontario’s director of titles, has stated that the land registration system will not be closing. As well, there is no basis to expect that the banks will “cease operations.”

Troister and English warn that giving either party the right to terminate could allow a dishonest or insincere party to use the clause as an excuse for ending a transaction that otherwise should not be cancelled.

Another clause concerning the lawyers states that if there is a delay in registration of the title documents, the closing will be extended past the scheduled date to the “next possible date,” and there will be an “escrow” or trust closing where funds and keys may be exchanged.

The Torkin Manes bulletin notes that this clause does not specify how the closing will take place or what would be involved in such a complex arrangement. Under this clause, a buyer would be in the purchased property paying expenses but the seller would not get his money to pay off the mortgage.

Troister notes the escrow closing clause “is hardly satisfactory to address the nuanced issues” involved in that type of transaction.

A third clause states that if the buyer or the seller is the “subject of a mandatory COVID-19 virus quarantine, the closing will automatically be extended, at the request of either party, for a period of 14 days.”

This problematic clause does not distinguish between a quarantine and voluntary self-isolation. It also does not address what should happen if either party remains unwell after the 14-day period.

As well, the clause seems anachronistic in our electronic age that provides a digital solution to print, sign and scan documents, as well as meet by videoconference. This clause, the lawyers say, sends mixed messages that open it to both confusion and disputes among the parties.

While there are certainly ways to ensure real estate transactions can proceed under the restrictions of the pandemic, the proposed clauses could cause the opposite — or easily lead to litigation among the parties and their real estate agents.

Troister and English caution that buyers and sellers contemplating entering into agreements of purchase and sale for real estate during the current pandemic should view these COVID-19 clauses “with caution” and would be wise to seek legal advice before including them in any purchase agreement.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents.  He can be reached by email at, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.