Knock, knock: Amazon Key raises real estate agent concerns

by Alison McAvoy

We’ve seen it happen before. First we were introduced to Airbnb, an online marketplace that allows its users to book housing accommodations from a phone, tablet or computer. One year later, Uber burst onto the scene, and pedestrians everywhere could rely on a simple app to get them to their destinations, rather than speeding taxis or delayed trains.

The digitalization of otherwise in-person services has been on the rise ever since, and ecommerce giant Amazon is jumping in with its new unlock-and-key service. With the service, known as Amazon Key, users no longer need to be home when their packages are delivered — with a simple installation of a smart lock, delivery couriers can unlock users’ doors via an app and leave packages inside rather than outside. Amazon also provides a security camera for homeowners to install inside their homes so they can see who enters and leaves.

What it means for agents

Despite Amazon’s confidence in its new product, which is now available in 37 metro areas nationwide, concerns still abound for Amazon Key. Not only are homeowners worried about remotely granting access to couriers they’ve never met, but real estate agents are fearing for the future of their careers, lest they get displaced by technology.

“When you stop and think about it, the only art of a real estate transaction that can’t be done electronically is the exchange of keys,” said Kevin Goyer, a realtor from Saskatoon Canada. In a survey of real estate agents to see how eager they are to use Amazon Key, Inman found that 60 percent were reluctant to use the service to give house tours. Instead, agents valued the benefit of person-to-person interactions with their clients.

Still, some agents are keen on the idea of easy access to homes. “Why wouldn’t I want to expose the home to as many people that want to see it as long as I don’t have personal security or property security concerns?” Russ Cofano, a real estate executive, said to Inman.

Costs?

Not just anyone can freely install Amazon Key. It can only be utilized by Amazon Prime subscribers, who already pay $99 a year for expedited shipping and streaming privileges on the website. On top of that, installing the smart lock and security camera costs $249.99, making the grand total for a new Amazon user $349.

Most remain optimistic about Amazon Key, however. Concerns surrounding safety and privacy are expected to shift, much like they did when Airbnb and Uber first emerged.

“Amazon is credible,” says Cofano. “[It] has a lot to lose if there are people that get hurt by this process.”

  • DM says:

    I use Amazon a lot but I’m a Real Estate Broker and this will never fly. In certain states a Realtor must be present to show a home so I say stick to selling online products and leave Real Estate to the professional’s.

  • Matt says:

    Will Amazon accept the liability of allowing strangers into a listed home? If the perspective buyers have specific questions about the listed home, neighborhood, HOA, etc., who will supply the answers? In theory, good idea … but in practice NOT SO MUCH!

  • Barbara says:

    I see a lot of lawsuits appearing on this. So they allow a buyer access, they contact the seller directly to purchase the home, they are truly clueless on what the heck they are doing. Seriously though… a lot of sellers don’t want lock boxes.

  • EF says:

    How is this any different than using a Sentri lock, besides the soft/hardware? They both grant access.

  • Mike Hall says:

    Mr. Goyer may not be aware, but there are countless parts of the art of agency that can’t be digitized or done electronically. Like looking someone in the eye, slowing down and explaining tough things carefully, easing concerns, building rapport, assessing fine points of a home’s condition…and on and on. But I digress. I shop on Amazon, but I adopt tech selectively to try forestall Big Brother. Big Brother keeps putting two and two together, listening to our voices even when we’re not “using” devices, and feeding us stuff based on that. This is a problem. The frog gets boiled one degree at a time. We’re all in the pot.