A real estate lock box is a little secured container that holds the keys to properties that are for sale. It is impossible for every local agent to have individual keys to every home for sale in the area. So, realtors commonly hang a lock box on a home’s doorknob to allow property showings by other agents. When someone breaks into the lock box on a single family home and a family is robbed, it’s a terrible thing. However, when someone breaks into a real estate lock box that holds the keys to a condo building, every home in the complex is at risk. It also creates a major liability issue for both the realtor who placed the lock box and for the condo board.
It was not so long ago (though it seems like another world), when people did not feel the need to lock their homes. Neighborhoods may have been more stable, and there was more overall trust. In addition, most households had one earner, not two, so during the workday, homes did not sit empty all day. When a house went on the market, the real estate office was given a key. In many cases, showings occurred while someone was home. If a showing was scheduled when the home was empty, the agent used the office’s key to enter the home.
As more families began to rely on two incomes, real estate showings increasingly required access to empty homes. Around the mid-1950s, a realtor named Delbert Williams became frustrated with having to constantly pick up and return keys, so he developed the first storage container that would allow easy access to house keys. The idea caught on, and the real estate lock box was born. Of course, there are pros and cons to everything, and lock boxes are no exception.
While lock boxes are important tools to help your realtor sell your home, you should be aware that they do pose potential security issues. Real estate lock boxes are only secure if the people with access to the keys are honest. For example, a south Florida realtor’s son and his friend used her electronic lockbox key, and helped themselves to items from three west Boca Raton properties. The realtor never thought for a minute that her key was not safe.
Lock boxes are also only as secure as their ability to keep people from breaking them open. In a Seattle case, thieves got into a real estate lock box on the fence of a condominium complex. The box contained the access key to the gate, and once inside, the thieves had full access to the property, including the garage and storage areas.
In some of the reported cases, the quality of the lock boxes was just not good. But there are better lock boxes out there. Some use technology to limit access by generating multiple codes. A visiting agent can get a code that will work just once. That way, if someone gets the code later, it will not work. There are also lock boxes that can limit access to certain times of the day. And some, like the Supra, are impervious to crowbars and bullets. So, if you are selling your home, talk to your realtor. Express your concerns. Tell your realtor you only want a high-security real estate lock box on your home. If your realtor is not willing to meet your specifications, ask a local residential locksmith to help you find a lock box that will keep your home secure