The Pros and Cons of Using Mechanical, Electronic, and Smart Lockboxes

Pros and Cons of Mechanical, Electronic, and Smart Lockboxes for Real Estate

It seems mechanical, manual lockboxes are on the way out.

Today’s agents are increasingly opting for electronic options, like Supras and SentriLocks, which allow for mobile control, remote re-keying, and full cataloging of all visitors and access times. They can even help agents limit showing hours and other details.

Case in point: In May, the Denver Metro Association of REALTORS® announced it was giving out these out app-based lockboxes — plus a year of free service — to its 7,000-plus member agents.

Of course, mass adoption doesn’t make these options right for everyone. Plus, these electronic lockboxes aren’t the only high-tech option on the market today. Some companies are even using smart locks, which forgo the key-holding box altogether. Instead, agents and buyers enter a code on an electronic keypad to unlock a property instantly. These are particularly popular with iBuyers and other self-showing solutions.

Are you considering switching to electronic lockboxes or smart locks? Not sure if you should take the plunge? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

Mechanical Lockboxes

Mechanical lockboxes are a more manual approach to property access. They use a numeric keypad or padlock, along with a four- to six-digit code. The user has to enter the code, and out pops a key to open the door.

It’s an easy, affordable and user-friendly way to enable access to a listed property. Virtually anyone who’s ever opened a locker or other security keypad will understand how to use it easily.

At the same time, though, it’s also a vulnerability. The lockbox still contains a key to the home — one that can be copied or stolen and used later on. It also requires agents to change the manual access code after each showing and on each new property — something that takes time, effort, and many visits to and from the home.

Mechanical Lockbox Pros

  • More affordable than higher-tech options
  • Easy to understand for all users

Mechanical Lockbox Cons

  • Physical key is a vulnerability (could get copied or stolen)
  • Can’t control access hours
  • Can’t log visitors

Electronic Lockboxes

Electronic lockboxes allow approved parties to enter using an app or electronic key. The agent can change the code or key remotely, using only their mobile phone, making it easier to secure the property after each and every showing. These lockboxes also keep track of who has entered the home and when, and they often let agents control allowed showing hours as well — another important step to securing the property.

Though these are usually controlled via a mobile app, they also often still contain a physical key within the box. Again, this is a vulnerability — particularly on self-showings. They also tend to be more expensive than mechanical options.

Electronic lockboxes Pros

  • Easy to manage and control
  • Keeps a log of all visitors
  • Less hassle and upkeep

Electronic lockboxes Cons

  • Could be dangerous if an agent loses their phone
  • More expensive than mechanical lockboxes
  • Physical key is a vulnerability (could get copied or stolen)

Electronic lockboxes are generally safer than mechanical ones, but agents still need to be smart about how they use them. Changing out the code daily is crucial, especially if a home has seen a lot of foot traffic recently or the home is still occupied. It’s also important that agents review their access logs regularly to ensure only people they’ve approved are visiting the house.

Smart Locks

A third option is the smart lock, which isn’t really a lockbox at all — just a keypad or code that controls the lock itself. These are the tools generally used by iBuyers and those who allow homebuyers to self-tour homes on their own time, like Opendoor, Offerpad, and other similar solutions.

Like electronic lockboxes, these can be programmed to allow for specific access hours, and they cut down on agent hassle and time. They’re also great for reaching buyers or renters who may be operating outside normal business hours.

Smart Locks Pros

  • Easy to manage and control
  • Keeps a log of all visitors
  • Less hassle and upkeep

Smart Locks Cons

  • Could be dangerous if an agent loses their phone
  • More expensive than mechanical lockboxes

The Final Verdict

All three options have their merits, as well as a handful of drawbacks. The right option for you depends on your work style, the amount of time you have to visit properties/change locks, and your level of tech-savvy. If you’re not sure which to use, try out one of each on your next few listings. See which one feels right, which one works for your sellers best, and which ones you’re able to manage easiest.

Want to move beyond the lockbox and give your sellers even more value? Refer them to a trusted mortgage lender who can help with their move-up purchase. Contact Embrace Home Loans today to learn about what we can do for your clients.

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By Aly Yale / June 11th, 2019 / Categories: / Tags:

Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.