Many property owners are only vaguely familiar with a real estate lockbox. They may have remembered a buyer’s agent utilizing something to gain access to properties or they may equate lockbox with some sort of banking practice or the 2000 presidential campaign and the related satire stemming from the extensive use of the word “lockbox” when describing social security and other economic issues. For those who don’t understand, a lockbox is used in real estate to secure a key to the property (it might include multiple keys to gates, security screens, front door, etc.). Once the key is removed, it can be used to open the door and enter the property.
What people do not realize is that the lockbox is an extremely powerful tool in obtaining showings for a property. Exposure to the maximum number of buyers increases one’s chances of selling a home. Think about it, you have a property in Tucson. A buyer who is relocating from New York is on a short weekend trip to look at properties. She needs to see as many properties as possible in a short period of time. Sunday she will return to New York and does not plan on coming back for awhile. Her buyer’s agent wants to allow her to view 10 properties per day, but doesn’t know the exact times they will be at each property, only a range. The agent is also aware that his client may decide in the car that she does not want to view a particular property for whatever reason. It is a dynamic situation and while the agent is comfortable providing a range of times he might be at a particular property, he would like the flexibility to view properties and cancel or move up showings based on his client. As a property owner, having a lockbox can provide an advantage in cases such as these.
There are two types of lockboxes used in real estate: mechanical lockboxes and electronic lockboxes. Mechanical lockboxes can be accessed by anyone that knows the combination or code, whether they are a real estate agent or not. They are frequently used by property management companies and general contractors that have a lot of different types of people that need to obtain access to the property. Electronic lockboxes can be accessed by a member or affiliate (e.g. an appraiser) of the local Realtor association. They are sometimes called Realtor lockboxes or e-lockboxes. There are only 2-3 major manufacturers of the electronic boxes, so they are somewhat expensive, but most people agree that the benefits outweigh the costs.
Besides increasing showings, users of an electronic lockbox also benefit from the fact that the box functions as an advanced tracking device. You can typically find the name, brokerage name, and phone number of any Realtor that has entered the property as well as the time of the showing. You can see if a particular Realtor has returned to the property on multiple occasions. Additionally, if the lockbox is ever lost or stolen, it can be disabled. Finally, most electronic lockboxes come with a feature that allows them only to open between selected hours, such as 8am to 8pm. The main negative surrounding lockboxes are the potential that someone could enter your home in a malicious fashion, such as to steal property or commit a crime. While these incidents are very rare, you should still be mindful of them and decide what is best for you. You also need to weigh the pros and cons of whether you would be better off meeting someone at the property who had similar intentions.
Next time, you list a property for sale, you should strongly consider using a lockbox. They have greatly increased the ability to show properties and feature many other benefits.