Growing a business as a realtor is more challenging than selling consumable products or an ongoing service. You can’t rely only on repeat business as it can be years between transactions. Studies show that the typical homeowner spends 7 to 15 years in their home before relocating, and many stay for their lifetime. What you can focus on instead is referrals. Providing stellar service to buyers and sellers is the best way to put word-of-mouth to work for you.
There are many ways to endear yourself to your clients. The most notable is showing them they can come to you for the answers about anything concerning the home selection and closing process. Each tidbit of information you pick up gets you that much closer to being the omnipotent being they hope you are. You can’t know everything, of course, but one thing that is likely to impress them is being able to give good advice about home locks and security.
Changing the Locks
When your buyers are getting ready to close there is one piece of advice you can give them that can save them some grief – change the locks right away. It isn’t a matter of trusting that the sellers didn’t keep extra keys. It is not knowing the full history of who could potentially have a key. Someone the seller gave a key to may not have considered robbing them, but they may not have the same moral aversion to stealing from a stranger.
The best way to broach the subject is to point out the peace of mind that changing the locks affords. There is no more guessing about who has a key and what they might do with it. Additionally, if different entry points have different keys, you can point out the convenience of getting all the locks keyed the same so only one key is needed.
Which Method to Choose
There are two ways to go about securing the home. One is to replace the locks with new ones. The other is to rekey the existing ones. Much of this decision will depend on the type and quality of the existing locks. The following questions will prove helpful in making this decision.
Are the Current Locks Worth Keeping?
The quality of the current locks is important to note. Locks are given an ANSI rating of Grade 1, Grade 2 or Grade 3. Grade 1 locks provide basic residential security. Grade 2 is better and can also be used for light commercial applications. Grade 3 is the highest grade and suitable for both residential and commercial use. It is not only best to replace Grade 1 locks but these often cannot be rekeyed anyway. The condition of the locks is also important.
The ANSI rating system is used for deadbolts as well. Ideally, every exterior door should have both a high-quality doorknob and deadbolt. It may be necessary to change the knob when adding a deadbolt if the aesthetics of a matched set is desired.
Does the Buyer Like the Existing Locks?
If the quality warrants rekeying over replacement, the rest of the decision is based on whether the new homeowner likes the look and operation of the locks. There are many new styles on the market with added features that may make replacement more tempting. Keyless locks using RFID, keypad/touch screen, biometric or Bluetooth are growing in popularity.
It is essential to remember that some new technology is more for convenient access than heightened security. As long as security is not compromised in the process, the bells and whistles are perfectly fine.
It is more cost effective to rekey locks rather than replace them. Even a high-security lock that takes more effort to rekey will cost less than replacement with another high-security lock. Hiring a locksmith for rekeying involves only labor, whereas replacement has both product cost and labor. It also takes less time to rekey so the labor costs are lower.
Talking to a Buyer About Security
It can feel a bit uncomfortable to talk to the buyer about security. Chances are you found them a wonderful house in a safe neighborhood. Still, you fear talking about improving their locks may cause them to think they made a mistake. You don’t want to undermine their peace of mind or lessen their faith in you. That is understandable, but if you notice the locks should be upgraded or deadbolts should be added, the right thing to do is point it out.
One way to handle it is to remind them that lock replacement is the perfect time to upgrade to higher quality locks and put in deadbolts. This way you are focusing on saving them money rather than pointing out a security shortcoming. Also, don’t worry too much, because the reality is most buyers will be thrilled you told them how to make their home more secure. A savvy buyer has already checked the crime statistics and knows how important security is regardless of the neighborhood.
Other tips you can give them about home security will usually be welcomed as well. Locks are not impervious, so other precautions such as burglar alarms, motion-activated exterior lights, and having a dog are useful too.
Tricks of the Locksmith Trade
Sharing a few tricks that are not common knowledge can really make you shine. For example, ask your buyer if they routinely give a key to a caregiver, housekeeper or another service provider. If they do, let them know this trick. Ask the locksmith to key the front door to provide a master key that works both knob and deadbolt and provide a separate key they give to their employee that works only the knob. On service days they lock only the knob when they leave.
Another tip is for those that often give out keys yet worry about them being duplicated. Past advice has been to have them made with the words “do not duplicate” stamped on them. That doesn’t work, as most key duplication services don’t notice and don’t honor it even if they do. Instead opt for a high-security lock with keys that cannot be duplicated at such locations.
One last tip is knowing that neither locks nor keys last forever. Proper maintenance using Teflon or other dry lubricants from time to time is the best way to keep all those tiny parts working properly. Making a copy of a key that has been used numerous times often doesn’t work, so be sure to set aside an original key for that purpose. Getting additional keys when a lock is installed is the best option.
What About Helping Sellers?
So far the discussion has centered on how door-lock knowledge can help your buyers, but you can help your sellers as well. When you are listing a home it is wise to offer any advice that will make it more marketable and fetch a better price. If you notice basic grade door locks or a lack of deadbolts, suggest that the seller take care of the improvement. That may still leave rekeying to the buyers but will save them the cost of replacement.
Another selling point the seller can implement is put in the listing that they’ll cover the cost for the rekeying. If the property is vacant, they can even proceed with it before closing, without taking possession of the new keys themselves. The keys can be entrusted to the realtor or closing agent instead. This saves the buyer time when they are already busy with moving in.
If the seller is not willing to cover the expense, you can still discuss whether this can be done pre-closing by the buyer to save time later. The other reason to talk to your sellers about door locks is that the information will prove useful to them in their new home.
Commercial Properties Too!
Commercial realtors can also benefit from these tips. Buyers and sellers of business properties face the same situation. In fact, changing locks after a property changes hands is even more critical because there could be hundreds of employees and others that have squirreled away keys over the years. If the business is closing, the seller may want to consider rekeying or changing the locks to preserve the property from those unhappy about it. It is difficult to sell a property that has been vandalized.
Happy Clients, More Referrals
Being a realtor has many rewards that go beyond the commission. The knowledge that you’ve helped a buyer find their dream property and secured it properly, or helped a seller have a successful sale, are icing on the cake. Added touches, like answering their questions about changing the locks, show you are an experienced professional.
A heightened level of concern for your client does not go unnoticed, and they will be happy to refer you to family and friends. And, who knows, they may move sooner than you think or seek you out to buy a vacation home or business property.
Get your home locks fixed today!