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How do Realtor's Lock Boxes Work?

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Gateway, Reston, Herndon, Ashburn, Sterling, Fairfax



This is a SentriLock Realtor’s lock box

How Do Realtor's Lock Boxes Work?

Diane: My husband and I have been driving around the Chantilly Highlands area of Herndon..... trying to get a feel for area neighborhoods for our future move. We can see all kinds of lock boxes hanging on the doors of the homes for sale and were wondering how they work. Can you tell me?


Steve: There are basically two types of lock boxes…combination and electronic that areour neighbor DC used here in Northern Virginia. The combination boxes are usually put on bank owned (foreclosed) vacant, or inappropriately on normal human owned homes by cheap listing agents.   I have seen some in use that we used for facilitating handyman entrance back in 1983… with the same combination!

The combination for the box is either put in the listing, or buyer's agents have to call the listing agent to get it (a waste, since they never answer their phones or get back to you, since it would interrupt their daytime TV schedule.…or they call you two days later after your client has returned to her current home in New York).

  This means active, professional buyer's agents often do not show those listings since there are so many other properties out there that can be visited easily.

The best use of combination lock boxes is when they are registered with  a service like Centralized Showing Service…those people DO answer their phones and record your identity before giving you the combo(each agent has a special password that identifies them to the folks at the service).
The electronic boxes come in two forms…one requires the insertion of the Realtor’s electronic card key …the other will read a signal from a  key when you point the key at it. These are known as Supra keys.

2 Types of Keys

Diane: What is a Realtor’s key?

Steve: Each Realtor who pays his dues in a timely manner, has an electronic key to the lock boxes within the metro area. My identity is coded into the key….it is very cool and adds good security and follow up potential. When I enter a property with my key, the lock box on the property sends an identity message to my key, recording the date, time, and property I was in.

At home and at our office, we have a key cradle connected by telephone lines to the Metropolitan Regional Information System (MRIS). (That is the name of the local multiple listing service which has all listed properties in MD DC, and VA)



When I put my key in the cradle or up date my key card (it expires every day), a message is sent to the listing agent of each home I visited, telling them who I am and when I was in their listing. Pretty cool, huh?

When we get notified that someone was in one of our listings (homes we are marketing), we do two things. We email the showing buyer’s agent a picture and summary of the listing they were in, along with a form with questions about what they thought of the home. This makes it easy for them to respond.

We can then gather the comments of the agents who viewed the property and send them to our client who is selling the home. We also call the showing agents to answer any questions they may have, in order to facilitate the sale.

So True

Diane: Thank you for that complete answer. When we are ready to sell our old place and buy a new home…you and your wife are the only Realtors we intend to contact… we just love the way you work, your attention to detail, your thoroughness, your professionalism, your kindness, compassion, and understanding, your nuanced yet deeply meaningful way of communicating your care for us personally, the knowledge that you and Jan will go the extra 10 miles for us, meeting handymen, inspectors, carpet people, painters and I just know it will be the best experience of our lives outside the birth of our children. (I made up this last part of  Diane's note...I couldn’t help it)

Steve: Thank you for the kind words Diane, we will do our best.


Chantilly Highlands homes for sale, Chantilly Highlands realtor

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Why pay more and get less when selling your home? Jan and Steve Bachman of RE/MAX Gateway use professional photographers, create interactive photo floor plans, print full color brochures, and make an individual property website for your listing that goes out to 40+ public real estate search sites including Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow etc.


We also create a custom photo tour that is sent to other agents and prospective buyers.



RE/MAX Hall of Fame, Platinum Club, A Washingtonian Magazine Top Agent 2018

Happy to Help. No Hassle, No Pressure.

Jan and Steve Bachman are full time Realtors® with RE/MAX, specializing in Homes for Sale in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington Counties.



Our 3 rescue dogs have been GREAT! Go get a couple.


Diane Osowiecki
Diane O and Friends - Benchmark Realty - Franklin, TN
Greater Nashville Real Estate

Great post on lockboxes.  I think people should know that having a combo lock on an occupied house is, in my opinion not a very safe thing.

Jan 04, 2010 02:43 AM
Ross Quintana
Real E Smarter - Spokane, WA
Real E Smarter Real Estate Coach - 509-362-1966

Good explanation of lockboxes. I have a section in the binder I give my sellers explaining security and lockboxes and I think it helps them understand the process of showing better.

Jan 04, 2010 02:48 AM
Katherine Barnett
Re/Max Realty Specialists Inc.,brokerage - Milton, ON
Milton, Oakville, Burlington & area Real Estate

Interesting and helpful! Thanks

Jan 04, 2010 04:00 AM
Steve and Jan Bachman
RE/MAX Gateway, Reston, Herndon, Ashburn, Sterling, Fairfax - Herndon, VA
Realtors - Northern Virginia

Diane, Ross and Katherine...thanks for stopping by. Yes combo boxes are an annoying thing to deal withReal agent cleaning up mess of  pretend agent providing no security to speak of. I have gone to many home where the agent just gave the buyers the combo over the phone since they were too lazy to take them to the property themselves. When I arrive, the NON AGENTS are either in the property or struggling with the lockbox....

I wish each of their so called professional real estate agents could be discovered and reported...it is a dangerous thing. You never know what you will be walking into.

Jan 04, 2010 04:48 AM
David Slavin
Keller Williams Premier - Katy, TX
CDPE, ABR, SRES Keller Williams Premier

At a listing appontment, I make it a point to make sellers aware of the lockboxes and the type that I use (Supra) that provides them an extra layer of protection while their key hangs on the door.

Jan 05, 2010 04:57 AM

Well you are a quality guyl Dave but as in the rest of the real estate world, we end up dealing with the dirty end of the stick left us by others....driving one hour and having a combo with no key in the box sends me through the roof.

Jan 05, 2010 09:10 AM