If you remember when the MLS published listings on paper, and you stored them in ring binders, you may remember a time when there were no lockboxes. Listing agents obtained a key that was typically stored at their brokerage, and buyer agents stopped by to pick up the key before a showing. Fast forward to today, and the world has changed quite a bit.
The need for security is much greater than it was in the good old days. For example, real estate agents working today would think of leaving keys to a listing hanging around the office. The electronic lockbox is the most common of the showing solutions in use today.
The Evolution of Lockboxes
Lockboxes became popular for two very good reasons. One is the additional security that comes from removing keys from the brokers’ offices. The second reason is that lockboxes made showing homes much more efficient. Agents who have always used a lockbox can’t really imagine running all over town picking up keys to homes before showings.
Electronic lockbox design has changed radically over time as technology has advanced. In the 1970s, the early lockboxes were opened with a small key, which is why some agents still call an electronic key a “lockbox key.” Other types of lockboxes were developed over the years. Some used a code and others used a dial. Some of these types are still available today, but they aren’t typically used in the real estate business. Today, electronic lockboxes are the choice of most agents doing real estate showings.
A number of manufacturers make modern lockboxes. In general, an agent’s MLS organization will promote a lockbox for general use. It makes everyone’s life easier if all the agents in an Association use the same lockbox. In that way, all agents are familiar with the operation of the lockbox and only need one type of key. The MLS may approve other types of lockboxes, but since the MLS is trying to serve all the members of their Association, it makes sense to have one approved electronic lockbox for real estate agents who are members of the MLS.
Electronic Lockbox Costs
Local REALTOR® Association and MLS organization fees for a lockbox vary across the country, but often range around $100. In addition, there is a fee for the right to use a key to the boxes. Some lockboxes need to be replaced every 72 months, and of course, lockboxes can break, so agents should budget for lockbox costs.
When to Use a Lockbox
Obviously, using a lockbox on all listings is an important step to making a sale. If you make it easy for other agents to show the home, it increase your chances of getting the home sold is as short an amount of time as possible.
However, the homeowner must agree to use a lockbox. Some homeowners are hesitant because they don’t like the idea of having their house key out of their control. Here are some things to explain to encourage homeowners:
- Security features of the lockbox itself. It’s virtually impossible for a thief to steal the lockbox; the way in which it attaches to any object is extremely strong.
- Restricted access. Only members of the local Association will have access.
- Location options. If the homeowner doesn’t want to put the lockbox on the front door, it’s also acceptable to attach it to the back door, on a gas meter at the side of the house or on a gate. Some agents have even put a heavy chain around a tree and attached the lockbox to it.
Types of Electronic Lockboxes
There are two major vendors of lockboxes specifically made for real estate, Supra and SentriLock. Both of these vendors work with many different MLS organizations.
The featured SentriLock product is the Bluetooth REALTOR Lockbox, developed in 2003. This lockbox has a number of interesting features:
- Illuminated keypad
- Replaceable batteries
- Double steel vault (the part of the box that holds the key)
- Instant showing notifications
There are three ways to access this type of a lockbox:
- Mobile application. The agent who owns the lockbox can download a mobile app that allows them to access individual lockboxes in order to assign them to a listing. Showing agents use their mobile app to open the lockbox.
- Membership card. This is a physical card that looks like a credit card. The showing agent inserts the card into the slot in the lockbox to open it.
- One-day code. Sentrilock allows the listing agent to set a one-day code that can be used by contractors or even locked out homeowners. The codes can be set for a specific timeframe after they are first used. For example, if a contractor will be at a listing at 11 a.m. and will leave by 3 p.m., the one-day code can be restricted to work only during that time.
This is the official lockbox of the National Association of REALTORS®, but MLS organizations aren’t required to use it.
- This is Supra’s original infrared technology lockbox.
- iBox BT. This lockbox accepts both infrared and Bluetooth access. Some adapters are necessary for smartphone usage.
- iBox BT LE. This is Supra’s latest lockbox model. It is compatible with the widest range of smartphones and tablets. It communicates with most smartphones and tablets using infrared, Bluetooth and Low-Energy Bluetooth technologies without an adapter.
How the Lockbox Helps Manage Showings
Before electronic lockboxes were used throughout the industry, the only way an agent could know who showed their home was by looking at the business cards left behind, or tracking who picked up a key. Some showing agents didn’t leave a card, and some agents leave a card still today as a courtesy to the homeowner.
Today, not only do lockboxes make it easy for showing agents, but they also play an important role in managing showings and obtaining feedback from the showing agents. Lockboxes from major vendors like SentriLock and Supra track each time the lockbox is used, which means that a showing has taken place. Agents are notified in a variety of ways, including text message, email or logging into a system provided by the lockbox vendor that the agent can access online.
Many agents go one step further and use the lockbox information to obtain showing feedback. Feedback from homebuyers is critical to help agents understand and respond to buyer feedback. However, obtaining that information is a time-consuming process for the listing agent.
Today, information from electronic lockboxes can be imported into systems such as the Showing Feedback system offered by Pro Agent Solutions. In fact, Pro Agent Solutions can import showing data from Supra, SentriLock and Risco electronic lockboxes.
Once the Showing Feedback system obtains the information, it will automatically send an email questionnaire to the showing agent. The listing agent can create an unlimited number of customized questionnaires to obtain the most useful information. In addition, the listing agent can provide a portal for the homeowner to view showings and feedback for themselves. The listing agent can also send email blasts to every agent who has shown a home to inform them of things like price changes.
If you want to automate the process of tracking showings and getting homebuyer feedback, today’s lockboxes and a showing feedback system are the tools you need!