It’s really no surprise that the use of lockboxes is so prevalent in the real estate industry.
It solves a very specific issue that probably doesn’t even cross the minds of agents and brokers anymore. From its humble beginnings in the 1970s, the lockbox has been continuously improved throughout the years. It is now a feature-packed tool that every serious real estate agent should be using to its full advantage. Here are the pros and cons of a real estate lockbox:
History of the Real Estate Lockbox
The very first real estate lockbox was invented in 1955 by a man named Delbert Williams. Mr. Williams was a real estate professional himself; he wanted to solve a common inefficiency in the system that was also bogging his colleagues down at the time. Before lockboxes, agents, brokers, and realtors would have to first chase down the keys to the properties they were selling if they wanted to conduct a showing for a prospective buyer. Since leaving the key in an insecure location could leave the property vulnerable, Mr. Williams solved the problem directly: he made a secure location for the key.
That first lockbox was only a container made of sand-cast aluminum, secured with a standard bicycle lock. While primitive, it served its purpose so well that other real estate agencies began to use lockboxes themselves. After his invention became a success, Mr. Williams went on to establish Supra Products Inc., now known simply as Supra, one of the leading global providers of key management solutions geared especially towards the real estate industry. To learn more about Supra lockboxes, visit this website.
By the 1970s, real estate lockboxes had become an industry standard. The basic design has been reimagined and improved upon in the intervening years, but the concept remains the same. Lockboxes are secure locations for keys to the listing so that realtors can come by and conduct showings or tours for interested parties without having to trouble the seller.
The main function of a lockbox is its foremost advantage. It was invented as a time-saving measure for real estate professionals by a real estate professional. By using lockboxes, an agent or realtor spends less time hunting down the listing keys, giving him more time to do his actual job, which is selling the property.
Properties that have a lockbox get more showings, simply because they can be accessed more easily. The keys are often kept right on the property, eliminating the confusion of having to match keys to their respective properties. There’s no need to travel to the listing office, coordinate schedules, or inconvenience the seller.
Lockboxes also offer convenient access to the property to individuals who aren’t real estate agents or buyers. For instance, workers performing improvements and renovations can simply let themselves in. The same goes for inspectors, as well as any prospective buyer’s agents.
Real estate lockboxes also address some other minor issues. Having a lockbox on hand allows a seller to vacate the property quickly if an agent wants to drop in with an interested party. Why would a seller want to do that? Buyers can feel as though they’re intruding when they’re shown around an occupied property. That discomfort can make them less likely to speak their minds freely, and even make it difficult for them to envision themselves in the home. In most cases, sellers shouldn’t be underfoot while a showing is going on.
Lockboxes wouldn’t be used so prevalently if there were glaring issues about their security. However, while most lockboxes are secure, some types can still be vulnerable to burglars, vandals, and other malicious actors. Mechanical lockboxes that make use of a spin dial or combination can be broken into using brute force. There’s also the danger of having one too many people knowing the code or combination.
Electronic lockboxes are equipped with advanced technology and more robust security features such as Bluetooth connectivity, two-factor authentication, infrared, or proximity sensors. Some models are even able to send usage data, such as the identity of who used it last and when, to an off-site location such as a security server. Certain lockbox models can be programmed to notify the listing office every time it is accessed; some can be programmed to work only during times set by the seller or the real estate agency.
However, the main issue with electronics is that they are not immune to human error. Lockboxes that require authentication from a salesperson’s smartphone, for instance, won’t be able to receive signals if cellular service in the area is poor, too.
Overall, lockboxes are convenient for sellers who aren’t keen on being present for every tour or showing of the property, as well as real estate agents. Like every tool, though, they should be used carefully and responsibly.