What I'm Seeing Now


How To Pick A Lock ... smith

No pun intended with the title.  Okay, maybe a little.

I am reading lots of articles about crooked locksmiths.  This problem has cropped up in recent years.  You need a locksmith, look in the phone book or do an Internet search, and a local phone number pops up.  And you think you are calling a local locksmith who miraculously can come right over.

What has happened instead is that you have been routed to a clearing house in another state that sends someone to your house who is not licensed and has no idea what he is doing.  And later your house is visited when you least expect it.  And with or without a key to your house.

The locksmith industry is alarmed by this trend.  And necessarily!

You have become easy pickings!

The locksmith industry thinks the solution to this is CONSUMER AWARENESS!

Can I cut through the clutter and list some things you can do to be more aware?  These are some things to look for when the locksmith shows up, in no particular order.  If you see some or all of these things, get another locksmith!

  • He shows up in an unmarked car - BIG RED FLAG.
  • There is a local phone number, but no local store locations.
  • He does not have the "right tools for your job."
  • The business has a generic, innocuous name:  Locksmith USA
  • There is only one, or maybe no, local store locations.
  • He demands cash payment.
  • The final bill is substantially more than was quoted over the phone.
  • He doesn't speak English.
  • The work is shoddy looking.
  • The final bill presented has a business title with an address in another state.
  • Instead of picking the lock, he recommends drilling out the lock set and putting in a new one.

My locksmiths (I use two) have many store locations in many local cities.  One I started bowling with in 1987 and have used him ever since.  They both have excellent reputations and are licensed.  Not all states require licenses for their locksmiths.  Hopefully yours does. *

My recommendation:  Don't get taken for a ride.  And certainly DON'T put yourself in a position to get visited at a later date by someone who is not coming over to help you with your lock problems.  Do a little research and get a good guy over to your house.  Not someone you will come to regret!

*  Only 14 states require locksmith licensing:  Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 65 commentsJay Markanich • May 07 2010 06:13AM


Excellent advice for both agents and consumers.

Even though I can find a vendor for any service on the Internet, I tend to gravitate to vendors with a commercial location. 

Licensing is a help and MD and VA both require licensing. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 10 years ago

A lot of companies are popping out helping service people obtain leads in the Internet . . I'm not sure they are checking their qualifications

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 10 years ago

Lenn - of course you are right, but don't forget about bump keys!

Fernando - some of these companies, at least in this regard, are more devious.  That is the thing to watch!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Excellent advice!  I give my buyer clients locksmithing service (from a reputable local locksmith!) as a closing present.

Posted by Richard Strahm, Lansdale and North Penn Real Estate (American Foursquare Realty) over 10 years ago


This is good advice, and these days, we need the services of good locksmiths more than ever!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 10 years ago

I had no idea this had become a problem and I am glad to see that licensing is required in Texas. I've used the same two Locksmiths for almost 20 years Though one has a pro that speaks very little English ;-)

Posted by Russell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI (Realty Austin, Austin Texas Real Estate) over 10 years ago

This is great advice.  I talk on my radio show constantly about scam artists and how they are trying to steal identities.  This is so simple and you know enough people get caught up in it that the thieves keep working it.  Thanks for the heads up.  Charlie Gantz, Greenwood, IN; J.D., M.B.A.; Owner/Principal Broker, Atlas Property Group, LLC

Posted by Charlie Gantz, J.D., M.B.A. (Keller Williams Commercial, Tampa Bay) over 10 years ago

Good advice, most people would just pick up the phone book and call a locksmith when they needed one without knowing who they were calling.  Nice post to remind us to beware.

Posted by Diane Williams over 10 years ago

I have my "lock guys" on speed dial on my cel phone....They are often cheaper than changing out the locks if the locksets are still in good shape!!!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 10 years ago


I never thought about this problem - perhaps because I'm in a state where locksmiths are licensed. Great warning to all, however - thanks!

Posted by Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ (Weichert) over 10 years ago

Great advice! I had to call a locksmith this past Sunday.  I knew exactly what company in our area to call.  They showed up within 45 minutes and I was back in the model home within a few minutes of the locksmith arriving.  However if I wasn't in the real estate business I could have been caught trying to find just anyone off the street and you are right danger lurks.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 10 years ago

Jay - Sounds like good advice for homeowners.  I'd never thought about the problem. As a builder, I've always done most of my own lock work, and when I needed a locksmith, I took my locks to his place of business.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 10 years ago

Jay, Thanks for the heads up.  Scary to think what could happen.  ~Lisa

Posted by The Scott Loper Team Bux-Mont Premier Properties (Keller Williams Real Estate - Montgomeryville) over 10 years ago


This is good example of just being cautious when hiring any professional to come to a home.  It is best to check everyone out thoroughly.  I would also not trust anyone who did not show up when I Google them. That has become the acid test for me in many cases.


Posted by Claudette Millette, Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass (The Buyers' Counsel) over 10 years ago

I had never heard of this before.  I do have a wonderful locksmith and he does a great job.  I also, give his service out as a gift to my clients.

Posted by Cindy Edwards, CRS, GRI, PMN - Northeast Tennessee - 423-677-6677 (RE/MAX Checkmate) over 10 years ago


Great information.  I am re=blogging so my audience can take advantage of your advice!!!!

Sally English

The English Team at RE/MAX Executives, Atlanta Georgia

Posted by Sally English, Sally English Atlanta Real Estate Agent (The English Team) over 10 years ago

Because they do tend to use a call service (call 10 numbers in the phone book, get the same sweet voice on the other end) getting a quote can be an interesting experience, too. I have those I use in my immediate area, but sometimes in another area I like to do a yahoo search which allows for searching by specific address and picking a neighbor... that works out well for speed and ease and all... but the locksmith. It is harder to pick a winner. TGIF!

Posted by Kristen Correa, Broker, I love coffee & real estate. I am out of coffee! (Kristen Correa Real Estate & Reedy Creek Realty Services) over 10 years ago

I am lucky enought to know the local locksmith. He is an older gentleman, doesn't dress the best, but he does a good job and his rates are fair. I don't want him or anybody to do this type of job for too little, you get what you pay for. He has even one occasion tried not to charge me anything when he was unable to help, aren't his time and gas spent on the road to and from worth something? Paid him what I thought was fair since he isn't on nothing and would give me a number.

Thank you

Posted by Scott Baker, Realtor Homes for Sale Cincinnati/Dayton Ohio (www.eHomeReports.com Coldwell Banker West Shell) over 10 years ago

Unmarked car is NOT necessarily a RED FLAG. Locksmiths put themselves in harm's way and many carry guns. An unmarked car is a further layer of defense against spouses and "friends" that are being locked out.
If you need to know who the best locksmiths are in your area, look up an agent with more than one REO listing and they will tell you who to call. 

Posted by Robert Slick, NRBA, RDCPro, Trident/CCAR MLS (Beach and River Homes) over 10 years ago

Thanks for sharing this information.  When asked there's only one locksmith I recommend.  It's a local company that's been in town for a long time.  They've helped me and my clients several times.

Posted by Stephen Howell, Annapolis MD Homes For Sale 443-994-8043 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 10 years ago

Interesting I had never heard of this but I have had a comment spammer commenting on my blog with a link to a web page for Columbus- Locksmiths. He left a comment on a post on my WordPress blog about comment spam.  He wrote about being employed by a locksmith site to comment spam.  I thought that was odd.  How much Locksmith business can there be in Columbus, to hire a spammer?   Looking at the bottom of the page.. there is Orange County, Louisville and other locations. 

Ah ha!

The comment spammer has come back more than once.  I can't remember if I put his URL IP etc in spam or moderation because he...  is just a spammer...  he is using an assumed name.  I don't require sign in.    He is kinda creepy.  I think I left one of his links live though. 

I Re-Blogged you Jay.  Thanks



Posted by Maureen McCabe, Columbus Ohio Real Estate (HER Realtors) over 10 years ago

Jay, this is very good advice. Let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages and get a local locksmith. Thanks.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 10 years ago

waht a great post, things you never think about.

Posted by Andrew Monaghan, CRS, GRI, EPro Associate Broker (The Monaghan Group) over 10 years ago

Thank you, Jay. Handing the keys to a theif, more or less. I never would have thought of it. I'll discuss it with my new buyers.

Posted by Glenn Roberts (Retired) over 10 years ago

I've been recently thinking that a good closing gift would be to give my client locksmith services, especially for those buying a bank owned or short sale.  This is timely information - thanks!

Posted by Bill Wallace, William Wallace (Bridge Realty) over 10 years ago

Great post I'm reblogging it now.

Posted by Dale Cosack, Newtopias: The Cosack Team (BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors - Newtown) over 10 years ago

Excellent advice Jay. I have to reblog this one! New York does require licensing though.

Posted by Jackie Connelly-Fornuff, "Moving at The Speed of YOU!" (Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY) over 10 years ago

Excellent advice Jay - I will also re-blog it for my associates and clients who visit my blog.  Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Susan Laxson CRS, Local Knowledge & Global Network (Palm Properties) over 10 years ago

Good advice Jay.  When stranded in Nashville Tn one dark evening...I called local police and asked if his wife was stranded who would he call...he reluctantly gave me a name and number.. i sent him and the locksmith a thank you card when i got home.  It pays to ask questions and you do have to be careful!

Posted by John Howard, GRI, Mountain Home, Arkansas 870-404-3614 (Century 21 LeMac Realty) over 10 years ago

Great advice Jay! I could see where this could be a huge concern in many areas!

Posted by Duane Murphy, Broker- Owner-Real Estate - (Expert Real Estate Partners LLC) over 10 years ago

Jay...very good post

I found a guy one day who practically lived in the van he came out in. It is loaded with all types of machinery and supplies concerning lock-smithing. His wife was with him. These two were the poster children for the business. He was a master (pun) of his trade. She handled the books, destinations and collections. He gave me choices and then prices. In the end, I asked for a discount and he said why not? The part I like the best is when I called his number, I got instant contact. He then asked all the right questions. When he arrived, he questioned me to his satisfaction. I tried to hurry him and he would not have it. He had to be sure of what was going on. To interact with pros.......wow!

Thank you

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 10 years ago

Thanks for a good reminder to everyone about the importance of checking credentials for an important trade.  Unfortunately, Oregon is not a state that requires licensing of locksmiths ... now I'll have to find out why!

Posted by Maureen Bray Portland OR Home Stager ~ Room Solutions Staging, "Staging Consultations that Sell Portland Homes" (Room Solutions Staging, Portland OR) over 10 years ago

We use locksmiths all the time to rekey our bank owned properties, and value the relationships we have with local businesses that are licensed, bonded, and stand behind their work. If you are looking for a locksmith, I recommend asking someone for a personal referral rather than searching the internet. You bring up some great points - congrats on the feature.

Posted by Christianne O'Malley, Exceptional Service - Delivering Results in Reno! (RE/MAX Realty Affiliates) over 10 years ago


There is a real downside to some of this online convenience. Craig's list has more than its share of mayhem for sure.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Whoa Jay...

This makes me glad we've been using the same locksmith for 15 years. He's older than dirt, but he can be trusted :)


Posted by "The Lovely Wife" (Broker Bryantnulls Wife) The One And Only TLW. (President-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Locksmith's must have seen an upturn in business with all the bank owned property! Not wonder there is some scamming going on.

Posted by Mary Strang over 10 years ago

Great advice. I didn't know this was such a potential problem. Thanks.

Posted by Eric Michael, Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519 (Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI) over 10 years ago

Richard S. - that is a very good gift!

Richard W. - knowing them for 20 years is the more important criteria!

Charlie G. - no doubt every industry has its scam artists!

Diane - they scam artists are counting on that!  That's how predators work.

Wallace - and you know them from history and experience!

Irene - you should still develop a business relationship.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Cindy J. - my guys, Baldino's and Spencer's, are really good, around a long time, known to me and do great work.  Who do you call?

John - it is always cheaper when you take it to them.  Here they will rekey a lock for $5 if you take it there.

Lisa - bummer isn't a strong enough word.

Claudette - that's a pretty good measure, but experience and history is great too!

Cindy E. - sounds like a good guy and a great gift!

Thank you Sally!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Kristen - you are right, it is not only harder, but more risky!

Scott - he sounds like a great guy to know and have in your back pocket.

Robert - my guys come in a big van full of machines and tools.  A sure sign they know what they are doing.  They have even invited me into the van to see the production.  An unmarked car?  I have never seen a locksmith in one.

Stephen - that's the best kind of professional to know!

Maureen - that sounds like a radar alert to me...

Michael - careful with that one unless they have a lot of local locations.


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Not a good idea when the locksmith shows up in an unmarked car (and then shows up again when you are not home).

Posted by Melissa Zavala, Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County (Broadpoint Properties) over 10 years ago

Well thank for the advice today. I enjoyed the post.


Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) over 10 years ago

Excellent advice and what amazes me is so few states require a license. I have an excellent locksmith that I have used for years.

Posted by Cameron Wilson, The Short Guy - Murrieta,Temecula,Menifee Californ (Labrum Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Andrew - thanks!  Happy to help!

Glenn - that would be a great discussion.

Bill - great closing gift.  The police always recommend that you change the locks when you move into a new place.

Dale - thanks.  I hope it helps your clients.

Jackie - I am surprised.  They require everything else!

Laxson - I hope it helps them all.  We try, we try...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Great technique John!  I bet they appreciated it.  Usually people only send notes when they are displeased.

Richie - he sounds like the best locksmith in town.  My guys have great vans too, and you can take a tour when they come to the house!

Maureen - keep us posted. 

Christianne - you can't beat personal referrals.  But there are other important criteria too.  And thanks!

Steve - I don't think I would find someone like that online, but that is how people and trends are going.  I think the scam artists are taking advantage of that kind of trend.

BB's Wife - how can you beat that?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Mary - scammers are in the business of taking advantage of circumstance.

Eric - well, hopefully a lot of people know now!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Melissa - scammers have every technique they need.  That would be one of them!

Patricia - I am pleased that you are pleased.

It is puzzling to me too, Cameron.  Long-term relationships are best!


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Hi Jay -- Wow, I have never heard of this, so thanks for enlightening me.  I refer 2 locksmiths that I have used for years, so I'll have to ask them how prevalent is it around here. Thanks!

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) over 10 years ago

Thanks Jay for excellent advise.  I didn't have a clue and am happy to learn that at least NC Locksmiths are licensed.

As many new buyers like to change the locks I'll re-blog this great info.

Sue of Robin and Sue

Posted by Robin Dampier REALTOR®, Hendersonville & Western NC Real Estate Source (Coldwell Banker King) over 10 years ago

I didn't realize that you might be calling out of state clearing houses.  It's important to check on to the locksmith.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 10 years ago

Wow! I never would have thought. As with realtors, definitely find a good, local one you can trust.

Posted by Jeff Lorenzen, Park City Real Estate (Keller Williams Park City Real Estate - Park City, UT) over 10 years ago

Jay, there seems to be an angle in every business; it is good to know that Texas requires license.

Posted by Teral McDowell (Referral Patners LLC) over 10 years ago

Chris - check the phone book for "local" locksmiths without any store locations.

Sue - buyers should change the locks as a matter of course.

Christine - apparently more important than ever.

Jeff - we should all have our group of go-to's in our back pockets!

Teral - the scammers seem to always know the best angles.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Jay - Excellent advice to assist people who are in the process of selecting a locksmith.

Posted by FN LN over 10 years ago

Good info. this is something I was unaware of. I see my State requires licensing.

I put out a newsletter, would you mind my using this blog for one of the articles?

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Excellent advice!  Thanks for the post.

Posted by Ron and Alexandra Seigel, Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy (Napa Consultants) over 10 years ago

Interesting. Oklahoma requires a license and that has to be on the vehicle if you are mobile. 

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) over 10 years ago

Thanks Marc.  We aim to please!

Jim - sure why not!  Of course, be sure to tell everyone how cute I am.  Oh, and that I'm a great top thrower...

Ron and Alexandra - you are welcome!  Thanks for stopping in.

Joe - that makes it easy!  The bigger the van, the more equipment inside!  And easier to see the license!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Jay, great advice and worthy of a reblog.  Thanks for writing.

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) over 10 years ago

Damon - thank you, twice!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Great information. It just is a reminder to deal with local vendors or to get referrals from their clients.

Posted by David Okada, Service-Beyond Your Expectations (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Jay...I couldn't resist...I was surfing blogs and saw yours again and the below thought leaped out at me. I am sharing rather than not....so here goes....

.........You dont "pick" locksmiths....they "pick" you..........

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 10 years ago

David - referrals are the way to go.  But be sure to investigate the company.

Richie - good one!  So, if I remember my algebra - AB=BA?  You could sell that as a bumper sticker!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Jackson - this is not a forum for personal advertising.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Margery - if your name is Margery, this is not a forum for personal advertising.  Write your own blogs.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

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