Consumer smart locks and electronic real estate lockboxes both allow access to a home. While these two products may seem similar, they’re designed for two distinctly different uses.
Consumer smart locks are becoming more prevalent on homes, especially on properties with higher price points. Many consumers are finding they’re a good source of convenience for things such as deliveries, children in the home needing access after school when the parents are at work, or simply avoiding the need to carry house keys. These products are readily available online, as well as at home improvement stores, and are relatively easy to install. Priced anywhere from $150 to $250, they’re an up charge from a traditional lockset. There’s no doubt that the number of homes using these products in the future will continue to increase. REALTORS® often ask how this new technology impacts the need for electronic lockboxes.
Let’s examine how smart locks compare to electronic lockboxes in managing access for a home that’s listed for sale. There are number of key factors that should be considered in real estate beyond just gaining entry to the residence.
Security and Central Administration
When a property is placed on the market and the electronic lockbox attached, the business model for the security credentials is contained in the lockbox system. The authorization status of the agent is updated regularly, and placement of the lockbox on the listing facilitates controlled access during the marketing of the property in a closed security system. Access is tracked and reported back centrally, and authorization and deauthorization of the agent is handled automatically.
With a consumer-level product, there’s no interface to this security model. The consumer product has no concept of the potentially thousands of possible agents who may arrive to access the property, nor when any one or more of those agents are no longer authorized for access – for one of many possible reasons.
When an agent arrives to access a property with the electronic lockbox, there’s a very high degree of product uniformity. A single-access device carried by the agent, such as an app on the agent’s smartphone, can facilitate access to any of the properties for sale at that time. Now, imagine dozens of different consumer smart lock products, with each requiring a different app to access the property. Multiply this inconsistency across numerous properties, and you have the recipe for a lot of agent frustration.
Additionally, many of the smart locks today may not be readily apparent from outside the house. A showing agent may not be able to identify the type of product or how to operate it once they arrive for a showing.
Who will the agent call when there are issues? All electronic lockbox systems include centralized support to assist the agent when there are problems. Access to the property is critical during the showing, and no agent can afford the time to research a multitude of vendors to contact.
In contrast, SentriLock Bluetooth® REALTOR® Lockboxes include One Day Code functionality from the lockbox keypad in the event the agent’s access device isn’t working properly. This ensures that authorized access can occur even when the technology isn’t performing as designed.
Data and Reporting
Consumer-level products do facilitate recording access events, but that information is reported to the consumer and not the listing agent. Electronic lockbox systems provide this information to the listing agent, and also provide market-level statistics and housing activity information on a common platform. With consumer products, there’s no consolidation of this information.
Peace of Mind
In some recent informal surveys, clients indicated a reluctance to sharing access to their smart locks. The cited concern was the inability to trust that they’d be able to fully block third-party access to the property once they had shared the ability with REALTORS® to access their smart lock. With the electronic lockbox, they clearly felt greater peace of mind that, when the lockbox was removed from the property, third-party access would no longer be possible.
Most realtor associations establish strict rules for their REALTORS® around electronic lockbox use, and these rules can be enforced by the lockbox system itself. With consumer products, there’s no way to ensure compliance with standards and best practices.
It’s apparent that consumer-level smart locks and electronic lockboxes serve a very different purpose and are designed around completely different needs – consumer access to a dwelling versus a business function to assist in the sale of the property. The future will converge these new consumer products with the lockbox system, providing a consistent user experience for REALTORS®, data aggregation, and a supportable platform. As such, electronic lockboxes will continue to be an important and versatile tool for REALTORS® for many years to come.