John's Florida Real Estate Blog


Are the Keys in Your Lockboxes Offering an Invitation to Thieves??

Please Rob This HomeOn several occasions in the past couple of weeks I was showing homes to buyers using both combination and electronic lockboxes. The use of these devices greatly improves the homes accessibility for showings which can make the difference between a sale and a stale listing. I highly support their proper use on homes that are for sale!

I was amazed by the fact that at many of the homes the keys in the lockboxes had a tag on them WITH THE HOMES' ADDRESSES ON THEM! If those keys should somehow not find their way back into the lockbox, an unscrupulous person has a perfect "invitation" to come back and empty the home of its contents.

I realize that agents want some way to identify keys, but putting the addresses on them is not the way to go. Yes, it is unlikely that an agent will not replace the key. But like an airplane crash that seldom happens, when it does, it can be horrendous and raise all kinds of liability problems.

On my lockbox keys, I put my OWN name and my company name. Also my phone number. That way if the keys do get misplaced, the person who finds them can give me a call. I actually had Tampa International Airport call me several years ago when they found my keys in their parking garage. To identify the property, I might (but not always) put the last digit of the address on the tag after my name. That can help ME whittle a found key down to just one or two properties in my inventory. At that point I can easily match up the key with my originals in the office.

For the set of keys I keep in my car, they also have my name and address, but the property is identified only by an obscure clue that no one else would be able to figure out, ie "two cat people" or "Violin Lover". But even then, those keys are much more secure and always under MY control, unlike those in the lockboxes.

So, whatever you do, I strongly suggest that you find some other way to label your keys in lockboxes. It will better protect your sellers' properties and hopely reduce your liability.

JOHN ELWELL - REALTOR at CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc. 813-783-4444 or e-mail:  Webpage:

John Elwell - REALTOR


Bill Nye Realty, Inc.


Licensed in Florida


Comment balloon 93 commentsJohn Elwell • October 12 2011 01:27PM


Great point!  You can never be too careful!!

Posted by Linda Edelwich, Glastonbury Office's #1 Top Producing Agent-not on (William Raveis Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

True, and let's face it, there are people out there just looking for the "chinches in our armor". I am surprised that no crook has found a way to hack the electronic lockboxes with some device. But all we can do is take steps to protect our customers and ourselves as much as we can. One agent told me that this was just something I worried about and no one else cared about. Oh well, call me super careful. But I think my customers appreciate it.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

John, I try to always use supra lock boxes. Sometimes I use combo boxes, but only for certain limited occassions - they're too easily cut off with bolt cutters.

Posted by John M. Scott, Broker / Owner San Francisco Bay Area (BRE # 01442690, Scott Keys Properties) almost 9 years ago

I see this all the time, especially with condo's. I prefer to code the key and keep a protected document at the office that identifies them. Homeowners are already leary of leaving keys in a lockbox on their door. I think we should do whatever we can to help them feel at ease and protected, while they are putting themselves in a vulnerable position. Thanks for posting about this.

Posted by Valarie Swanson, San Diego Real Estate (CENTURY 21 Award) almost 9 years ago

I am not so worried about people breaking into the lockboxes. I am more concerned with agents walking off with the keys in their pockets or dropping them somewhere. It is no problem if it is just a key by itself. Who is going to try every lock in town? But if the key has the address attached to it, the thief knows right where to go.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

John- you make a very good point.  I'm not a Realtor but with everything else on their minds while showing a house or anything else, I could see where a key could get misplaced.  Putting a code on them is a more secure way. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) almost 9 years ago

John, thank you for this reminder.  We can get busy and become careless/reckless.  As Valerie stated, homeowners are already leary; and the mishandling of a key does added damage to their level of trust.  Failure to properly secure the key after a showing, un-authorized return visits, and allowing the prospect to gain access to the combination are even greater assaults on the homeowners' level of confidence.

I have used combo locks on occassions such as an out-of-area agent [identity verified]; contractors, inspectors, etc.  The combination gets changed after those uses, or the combo is removed.  Color coded tags help keep keys sorted, and the secret identity is an excellent idea.  I've used the last four of phone numbers, street number written backwards, and even an unrelated number.

I knew of an agent who gave the combo code to a prospect, and the prospect went back and put the five-finger discount on box and key (to keep anyone else from seeing property until he could make an offer without competition).  The listing agent was furious.  I doubt the showing agent has ever repeated that offense.











Posted by Fred Cope, Looking For Homes With A Smile (Reliant Realty in Nashville, TN) almost 9 years ago

I try to avoid putting addresses on keys in combo lockboxes, but I think it is a good plan to avoid addresses altogether.

Posted by Dawn Maloney, 330-990-4236 Hudson & Northeastern Ohio (RE/MAX Trinity Northeast Ohio Real Estate Specialist) almost 9 years ago

Excellent advice John!  Thanks for sharing your thougths and suggestions on how to protect keys left in our possession.

Posted by Lisa Dunham, Associate Broker, Alexandria Virginia Real Estate almost 9 years ago

John -- An excellent point regarding safety and security.  Your internal code is also fantastic.  You could do sequential code #s (rather than part of address) on the tags in lock box with the cross reference back at the office.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 9 years ago

Thanks for the comments everyone. Yes, some could think it is being paranoid, but sometimes that pays off when it keeps us out of hot water. And this is such a little thing to be careful about, I think it is a detail worth taking extra care with.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Great post, John.  That is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  Showing agents wnalk off with keys all the time and I don't wnat to have to fear where they are or WHO HAS THEM!

Posted by Gayle Barton, Forsyth County Real Estate, Cumming GA Homes For Sale (404) 710-0204 (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY Georgia Properties) almost 9 years ago

A lot of responses to a simple suggestion - Clearly one that hits  home for all of  us - Thanks for the reminder!

Posted by Marcia Kramarz, CDPE,LMC,CBR (Re/Max Executive Realty) almost 9 years ago

Good suggestion!  So important that we safeguard the seller's home as much as possible while on the market - and since human beings are accessing the keyboxes, careless mistakes can happen...At least this helps minimize the potential for disaster if that key does get misplaced.

Posted by Nancy Conner, Olympia/Thurston County WA almost 9 years ago

45+ years in the biz and this has NEVER BEEN AN ISSUE.  Who ROBS a VACANT house?  Electronic lockboxes RECORD who has used it so there is a TRAIL to who has the keys.  NOT identifying the key is more of a potential for MISadventure

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) almost 9 years ago

Unfortunately I have a drawer full of keys that I have no clue what property they used to belong to.  By not having an address on them they are a mystery.  You bring up a good point to consider a code system to at keep the address off of a key so it's something I will consider.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) almost 9 years ago

In our area with all of its winter homes, they are seldom empty. And I know of few agents who have no listings with owners living in them. And not everyone uses electronic boxes. In some areas very few agents do.

But the issue is not the security of the lockbox, it is once the box is opened by the agents, there are times when the keys do not make it back into the box! As others have mentioned, it does happen. And when it does, if the tag has the address on it a less than honest person has a clear path back to a door that they can open easily.

If some want to put the address on the keys, by all means be my guest. It is your choice and your responsibility. But most here seem to go along with being extra cautious when dealing with a client's most important possession.

I just know that for me, no seller will be able to say "John, they used the key I gave you to get into my home. Since there was no forced entry." I can demonstrate that my procedure would not allow that to happen and thus I am not at fault.

But in the end we all have to do what we feel is best. I choose to be proactive and do things this way because it is best for my clients and thus best for me.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

That is a great suggestion!!  I am going to use this tip.

Posted by Suzanne Gantner, GRI, E-Pro, SRES, SRS, ABR (Sky Realty, Central Texas Real Estate ) almost 9 years ago

I had an unusual situation recently. A lockbox stopped working. We were are to determine it was defective. The lockbox company will replace the box free of charge as long as they don't have to break into the box to recover the keys. The seller thought he should replace the lock. I assured him that there would be no way to trace the keys back to his place. He finally conceded but also had his inactive alarm system activated for added security. So the lockbox do make our life convenient but they aren't infallible.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) almost 9 years ago

Hi John, congrats on the feature!  I don't put identifiers on the keys I put in the lockboxes but your idea of putting your own contact info on them is really good.  I do keep a spare just in case one of these keys should get lost somehow. 

Posted by Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES, Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living (Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch!) almost 9 years ago

Hello John,

  I agree, not a very good ideal to have the address with the key.

Posted by James Loftis, ( almost 9 years ago

I have never seen an address on the actual key holder, but sometimes just a secret code that no one would understand. Be Careful out there!  

Posted by Ralph Gorgoglione, Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407 (Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes) almost 9 years ago

You can't be too careful so it's a good point that you made to use obscure identifiers. However, I find that most lockboxes are placed on short sales and foreclosures and are mainly vacant, so the situation isn't as bad.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) almost 9 years ago

I do the same as #4. I put the house number on the key but not the street. Too many times an agent has accidentally pocketed the key, the house number is enough of a bread crumb for them to find their way back, but not enough for a thief.

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker In Sonoma County, CA almost 9 years ago

Unfortunately, sometimes we accidently pocket the keys.  And sadly, sometimes our fellow colleagues, who are too lazy to show properties, give out the lockbox codes to prospective buyers.  Yes, I have seen situations wherein the investor-buyer stole the keys from the lockbox, hoping that no other buyers could view the property and therefore his offer would be the only offer.  This happens only rarely, and it's on the REO combo lockboxes.  The Sentrilock and Supra are very safe!

Posted by Regina P. Brown, M.B.A., Broker, Instructor (MBA Broker Consultants) almost 9 years ago

These are good suggestions.  I love the Supra because you have a record of everyone who goes in.

Posted by Team Honeycutt (Allen Tate) almost 9 years ago

I once had a Supra box that would not open or unshackle. Luckily, the type of handle on the door allowed me to loosen it and take the box off. I turned it in to our local association. They gave me a replacement box and about a month later I got an envelope with the keys inside it. So GE at least gave me pretty good service on that one.

On a side note, I have always wondered what is going to happen when the strong batteries inside Supra's boxes start to die and will not respond. Anyone know? My guess is that at some predetermined date, we will all be called into our association offices with our boxes for an exchange. They already did that once when the old boxes became obsolete. You remember the ones we actually had to plug the old black keypads into.

Then I suspect that Supra would take the old boxes back home, open them, replace the batteries with new ones, and hand them back out again. Sounds logical anyway.

I certainly hope we do not have to buy completely brand new boxes!!!!! Ouch, that would seriously hurt to say the least.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

I like Suzanne am going to take advantage of your suggestions.  I have never put addresses on a key, but I have never put my address and contact either.  Thanks!

Posted by Joy Daniels (Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd.) almost 9 years ago


This procedure seems to work well. I think I'll follow it too.


Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) almost 9 years ago

Great post and great idea! I have always remembered who's key was who's, but it makes sense for if it doesn't end up back in the lockbox.

Posted by Stacia Whatley, StaciaSellsHomes Your Western WA Realtor® (Hawkins-Poe Inc.) almost 9 years ago

I've never even thought of putting an address on the keys in the lockbox. Seems ridiculous to me. If they walk away, I just put new ones in it.

Posted by Eric Michael, Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519 (Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI) almost 9 years ago

I can't recall seeing a key in a lockbox that has the address on it but I sure might have missed it. But this is certainly a situation where we should be as cautious as possible since other agents are not always that way. Why point the way to the door?

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California) almost 9 years ago

John a while back one of my coworkers brought in a supra lockbox that someone tried to pry open. It looked really beat up. Fortunately they were not able to open the lock.....maybe the dame should be changed to super....

Posted by Dolores "Dee" Mauriello, Realtor, Homes For Sale Wayne NJ (Keller Willaims ) almost 9 years ago

I am also surprised by how many of my colleagues only have one copy of the key to each house. If it should become lost, even though it cannot be traced back to the home, how embarassing to have to go to the seller and ask for a replacement. I always have 3 copies. One in the office, one in my car, and one in the lockbox. None of them directly traceable back to a specific home.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

John, I agree that tagging keys is a bad thing.  I always make 3 copies also. 1 For the lockbox, one for my car and one I leave at my house.  I do not tag any of them but I do code them.

Posted by Steve Warrene, Pittsburgh Real Estate Investment Specialists (Your Town Realty) almost 9 years ago

'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'  I put the street name on the key, but your suggestion is even better--your phone number and 2 digits of the address.  Very helpful suggestion.

Posted by Lloyd Binen, Silicon Valley Realtor since 1976; 408-373-4411 (Certified Realty Services) almost 9 years ago

We do not label any keys related to their addresses. That is just inviting robbers to come visit the house if you ever looses the key. Great post and thanks for sharing.

Posted by Mike Yeo (3:16 team REALTY) almost 9 years ago
Excellent point - I never even thought of that! Thankfully that's not something we do with our listings.
Posted by Kerry Lucasse, Your Urban Nest Atlanta Real Estate Consultant (eXp Realty - Urban Nest Real Estate Group) almost 9 years ago

Sage advice, John. Also good information to pass on to the sellers so they know that you are trying to protect them while their house is open to strangers who may be interested in buying it.

Posted by John Juarez, ePRO, SRES, GRI, PMN (The Medford Real Estate Team) almost 9 years ago

John, I had a supra box stop working on a property that was 70 miles or more from my office. At least in our area, there is a way to open the battery box (a special tool) and replace the battery, then get a special code to reactivate the box. I had to make that drive to do it, but it worked. Didn't involve actually removing the lockbox, either.

Posted by Sonsie Conroy, Energetic, Enthusiastic, Knowledgeable Realtor (I serve buyers and sellers everywhere in San Luis Obispo County) almost 9 years ago

John, I just showed a house yesterday with a little tag and the address on it - you make such an excellent point. Of course, Frank has all our keys in his car, too, so I'm going to pass this on to him.


Posted by Sharon Alters, Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL (Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308) almost 9 years ago

Great advice John!  Actually this year we have had 2 of our MLS lockboxes broken into.  The thieves or vandals have had to go to a great deal of work to destroy the lockbox and get it open.  In one case at a REO property the appliances were stolen.  At the other one, there was nothing taken...we could never figure out what the thieves were up to - maybe just vandalism!  We all need to take precautions these days.

Posted by Lori Mode, Real Estate Made Simple (The Mode Real Estate Group) almost 9 years ago
I love the clever key nomenclature. If mine said dog lover it would be the same as the address!
Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge almost 9 years ago


None of my lock boxes has ever been vandalized.  Thank heaven.  I usually put the street number on the key.  But these new boxes have such a small area for the key, that I put a colored dot on the key and nothing else.  The color coding identifies each house that has a lock box.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) almost 9 years ago

The worst kinds of combination lockboxes are those where the numbers have to be reset. Or the combination locks that have default combinations like "OCN" or "AMER" that the agents don't bother to re-set.

In a condo complex, it helps to ID both the lockbox as well as the key -- but on the key, the only thing that should be there besides the agent's name and the unit number.

Posted by Pacita Dimacali, Alameda/Contra Costa Counties CA (Alain Pinel) almost 9 years ago

Thank you for the tip about codes for the addresses. I use both types of lockboxes but do not have the address on the keys.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 9 years ago


I ALWAYS use electronic lock boxes, and never put the address on the keys. Excellent security tip!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) almost 9 years ago

We have always ordered boxes of key tags with our office name, phone and address on one side and a spot on the reverse to put an ID# (3 digit internal office number assigned to a listing) The only time in all our years we deviated from the system was a house key that actually unlocked our OFFICE FRONT DOOR as well...!!!!!

Posted by Beverly Jo Cole (Southern Cross Real Estate, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Hi John, that is one thing I have never seen here. Keys with the addresses on them. If I did, I would call the agent. The keys I have on me for my listings are coded just in case.

Posted by Jackie Connelly-Fornuff, "Moving at The Speed of YOU!" (Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY) almost 9 years ago

John, thanks for the great reminder about how you can never be too careful where someone else's house keys are concerned. The potential liability is huge should they fall into the wrong hands with any type of identifying information on them!

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) almost 9 years ago

I don't put a tag on the key I put in a Lockbox. Some agents don't take the time to put in back in correctly and a tag could jam the whole thing !

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) almost 9 years ago

John, this is the very reason I DON'T put addresses on either.  I will put the name of the street but no numbers.  Maybe I will rethink that and use some kind of a code.  That makes more sense to me. Thanks!

Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

That is a very smart suggestion. Being so obvious with the labels is an open invitation for robbery!

Posted by Aaron Seekford, Ranked Top 1% Nationwide 703-836-6116 (Arlington Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Excellent suggestion.  I did have another agent accidentally walk off with a key to a property. 

Posted by Paula McDonald, Ph.D., Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Beam & Branch Realty) almost 9 years ago

John - this is very sound logical advice, but I too have encountered this very situation numerous times. Our duty as agents is to protect our client's - this duty goes beyond negotiations and market comps, we must protect our client's safety, privacy, and peace of mind when we are in a position to do so. Thanks for your post.

Greg, Fischer Real Estate Services, Fort Worth, TX

Posted by Greg Fischer (Fischer Real Estate Services) almost 9 years ago

I think many of us have walked off with a key, or started to. Knowing whose it is makes it easier to get it back to him/her. But all I need to know is the agent's name, not the address. It sounds like many of us have ways to get keys back to us without revealing the property that the key will open.

Thanks for all of the great comments!

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago


Good post and great idea to put your name instead of address.  What do you do with preservation companies who are following seller's directions (HUD) and hanging lock boxes on the properties with keys and address tag?  It is not that simple, is it?




Posted by Violetta Polyakov, Broker/Owner (Florida Home Consulting - Мы Говорим По Русски) almost 9 years ago
I carry key tags with me so that the moment the homeowner gives me a key I can do the same thing you do and show the owner what is on the tag. One more way to demonstrate a point of experience that sets you apart form other agents.
Posted by David Gibson CNE, 719-304-4684 ~ Colorado Springs Relocation, Relocation, Luxury & Lifestyle residential (Colorado Real Estate Advisers LLC ) almost 9 years ago

John, I've never thought to identify the key that's in the lock box.  I do, of course, identify the extra key I keep at home.  And, until I read this, I hadn't thought of having an extra one for my car in case I'm out and about - that's a great idea.

Posted by Juli Vosmik, Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739 (Dominion Fine Properties) almost 9 years ago

Agreed & it's just better to be on the side of safety. My name & company are on the keys if they happen to fit in the lockbox.  Even in my car if I carry keys for my listings there is only the first letter of the person's first name on the tag.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) almost 9 years ago

Thank you so much for this post.  I had been putting the address on the key tag never considering the idea of how a thief could accidently come upon these keys!  I will start coding from now on!

Posted by Dawn & Charlie Tetro, Real Service Real Results (PalmerHouse Properties & Associates) almost 9 years ago

When in a condo complex the standard here seems to be to label the lock box rather than the keys. I cringe when I see lockboxes with unit numbers on them (#364). I use my last name on the lock box, no unit number.

Posted by Vickie Nagy, Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen (Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Good point.  My daughter just found a key in the dryer last night.  She said, "Mom, this fell out of your pocket."  I have no clue what house it goes to!

Posted by Tamara Inzunza, Close-In Alexandria and Arlington Living (RE/MAX Executives) almost 9 years ago

     You all have great common sense tips that it seems most people are following.  I am sure that there are those 2% that do their own thing and are inviting something bad to happen.  I remember when we sold our first house we left some appliances, furniture, and televisions for staging purposes.  The only reason I did it is because we have security bars on the windows and doors.  The realestate agent did a great job of calming my fears.  I was most worried about the flat screen t.v.s mounted in the rooms.  I always thought someone who viewed the property might return at night. 

Posted by Warren Edwards, Professional Photographer - 360 Virtual Tours almost 9 years ago

I put my company addresss and phone number (no name) and a code  the code is not the mls #  it's the keybox number.  Only I have access to that info to know what house has what key box so that I would know what house it went too.

I also use that same info on the keys inside our office.  so if someone breaks into our office and stole all those keys they would not have the addresses.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) almost 9 years ago

Here in Southern California we have experience a rash of burglaries after agents have had an open house. Police are warning all of us that strangers are casing the open house, and seizing the opportunity to come back and break in. Key is not needed.

Posted by Lorraine or Loretta Kratz, Certified Negotiation Consultants (Crescent Moon Realty, Inc. & Land N Sea Auctions.) almost 9 years ago

Great idea.  We use the Supra lockboxes and are about to upgrade to their neweest bluetooth boxes later this year.  However, agents are known for having undiagnosed A.D.D. so they get sidetracked and who knows where the keys end up sometimes.

Many times, I don't even tag the key in the lockbox since I have had problems with them getting stuck before due to tags, but with the new boxes, there will be more room so I will start doing this for my real estate listings in Boise.

Posted by Jim Paulson, Owner,Broker (Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) almost 9 years ago

John, point well taken. Putting your name, address and telephone number with a house code make sense.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 9 years ago

We use supra lockboxes and also regular combo lockboxes. On occasion, I've had the problem of not being able to remove my supra lockbox or get the key out. This is a huge problem, as one can imagine. Having an additional key is recommended! I've also had standard combo lockboxes stolen with the key in them (it's hard for me to get my mind around that one, but it's happened twice already in the last few months). I have come up with a system as you do, and put nicknames on the keys so that I will know what listing the key belongs to. I label the key in the lockbox with the street name and no other mark in case an agent inadvertently walks off with it.  There's usually more than one property for sale on the same street. I like Cynthia's method of just putting on the street number. That's enough of a clue. Glad this post get featured. Important to know how to best protect our clients while we are selling their homes.

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) almost 9 years ago

Security is naturally important, so a code to identify the property with the address and phone number of the Agency seems like a good solution. 

Posted by Kimo Jarrett, Pro Lifestyle Solutions (WikiWiki Realty) almost 9 years ago

Most lockboxes we open generally have blank, no ID on them (which I think is a mistake) BUT for those that do have an ID they often have the address....shame on the agent.  Our listings are generally owner occupied and higher end requiring our presence for showings but when we do use a lockbox (Supra bluetooth here), I ID the keys without an address - it's hard to get our contact info on the key and there isn't much room in the box to add a tag.  For the keys I carry in my zippered key vault in the car, I do ID them without the address as well.  It's amazing to me the agents who don't even think about neighbor is a broker/owner and someone took her bag of keys from her car and then dropped them in another neighbor's garbage can...that neighbor found them, called her but told me about it ....said they had the addresses on the key tags!

Posted by Linda Cooley (RE/Max Metro) almost 9 years ago

Great points regarding labeling.  We don't use lockboxes in our market as listing agents always do the showings.  This practice probably arouse becuase our housing stock is made up of condos and co-ops, not single family homes.  That being said, I've been toying with the idea of using lockboxes for our new development listings when we represent the sponsor.  It seems like it can add a tremendous amount of efficiency to the listing business, though liability issues are an obvious concern.  

Posted by Kate Akerly, Manhattan Beach Residential Sales (Kaminsky Group) almost 9 years ago

Both 'coding' key tags as well as having multiple key copies are Great Suggestions, John! Thanks for sharing hem.


Posted by Bruce Kunz, REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale (C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100) almost 9 years ago

I prefer the electronic boxes but combo code boxes are extremely common due to the fact that they cost far less than electronic ones.  I never put an address on the key tag so I like your coding system - thanks for the idea.

Posted by Terry McCarley, REALTOR, SRES, CDPE - Cape Coral, FL (REMAX Trend - Cape Coral FL) almost 9 years ago

Excellent post--I've gone to a system of "coding" mine because of the worry they may fall into the wrong hands. 

Posted by Judi Monday, CRS-Green Valley AZ Expert, Green Valley Arizona R (RE/MAX Valley Properties) almost 9 years ago

I never label keys in lockboxes.  They are in the box already so obviously they go to the door to the house the lockbox is attached to.  I always keep a spare set in my car trunk though and those are labeled with the street # and first letter of the street only. 

Posted by Rob Arnold, Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F (Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

That is an excellent idea. Sadly, you can never be to careful.

Posted by Jim McFadden (Royal LePage) almost 9 years ago

Keys do go missing.  Vacant properties do get "cleaned out".  I had a bank-owned home with missing appliances on the day of escrow closing - not a fun day for me when all I expected was to pick up my marketing materials to bring back to my office.  Lucky for me that it was not a case of a missing key but rather someone who managed to destroy the bank's combo code box to gain access.  My SUPRA box was fine.  But the entire experience has made me quite cautious about key management.

I appreciate your suggestion about proper labeling of the keys.  I've had the bad habit of putting the street name or the street number on the keys.  This is maybe not such a good habit as I do think it would be fairly easy for someone to just drive down the street looking for my signage!  The street number alone may not be any better as we usually have 5 digit numbers - not too many repeats and if the key is lost in the neighborhood it would be pretty easy to figure out.

Wouldn't it be best to just put your 'Starbucks' name on the tag (let's assume you go by "Mike") and your phone number?  If the key with YOUR name and YOUR company name was found on the street in front of the house with your for-sale sign, don't you think someone could put two-and-two together?  But if they found a key with "Mike" and your home phone number (not the office or your cell phone which are on the sign) it's harder to figure out and then when someone calls your home phone number looking for "Mike" you know your key is finding it's way home.

Posted by Michael J. O'Connor, Eastvale - 951-847-4883 (Diamond Ridge Realty) almost 9 years ago

We put the transaction number on the keytag, that way no one but the office knows what the keys are for if they get (misplaced).  We also enforce the use of electronic lock boxes and actually have a separate "CBS" code that an agent must input first, if the home is still occupied.  This way we know exactly who and when people have access to the home and the lockbox.  This makes for very happy clients and for the few discount brokers that don't have e-keys, they can be inconvenienced by an accompanied showing so that I can make sure that that the property is being represented properly to their clients.

Posted by Martin Kalisker, Professional Standards & Legal Assistant (Greater Boston Association of REALTORS) almost 9 years ago

Like many others, I code my keys, in case they are lost. 

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (United Real Estate Dallas ) almost 9 years ago

Clearly agents are not thinking when they put the addresses on the keys. Clearly.

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (eXp Realty) almost 9 years ago

I work in a rural area where the majority of agents use combination lock boxes. I use Supera since I like to know who is showing my vacant house listings. I might need to open a house for someone not using a Supera key or temporarily place a combination lock box on a property. I also prefer the added security those boxes offer. If the person you are showing a property wants they can look over your shoulder they can probably see the combination used. I believe the reason the combination boxes are used is the cost of the Supera boxes and the yearly fee.

I have a key ID system that works fairly well, I use the parcel number it identify the key. The general public probably would not be likely to figure it out. With that and my phone number I would hopefully get the key back if someone accidentally took it. You have to use the key to lock the house when you leave with most of my listings which makes it harder to forget to put the key back.

Jacqueline Drake CRS

Cochise County AZ

Posted by Jacqueline Drake CRS, Southeast Arizona land, farms & horse properties (Jacqueline Drake Realty) almost 9 years ago

Excellent advice.

Posted by Kathy Strader, ASP (Memorial Staged Homes) almost 9 years ago

You are so right. I recently had someone return keys that they found in the street. These keys had the complete address of the property on them. I am glad they were found by an honest person. I constantly tell our agents to put a code on the key tag that only they will recognize.

Posted by Glenn Elliot (ERA Justin Realty Co.) almost 9 years ago

John, a code on a key tag versus an address is an OUTSTANDING idea/recommendation.  Good job!

Posted by Kent Dills, Real Estate 817-495-8028, Bellingham, Washington (Broker, Dills Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Sounds like many are coding keys or will be doing so in the future. Bad things may never happen to your customers' homes, but it is nice to know that when they do, you are "free and clear" of any culpability due to your procedures. Glad everyone liked the post!  :)

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

John, You caused me to think and that's why I come here.  Thank you for the post. 

Posted by Beverly Femia, Broker Realtor Stager - Greater Wilmington, NC Are (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) almost 9 years ago

Hi John,  Great idea.  And I never thought about that address leading to the wrong person.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) almost 9 years ago

Our MLS requires a Supra lockbox so we know who has been there and would know who may have taken the key but not until someone reports it missing.  I just don't put a tag on it at all.  Tends to get in the way of closing the lockbox and I would rather make a new key than take any chances of it falling into the wrong hands.

Posted by Nancy McNamee (Keller Williams Realty) almost 9 years ago

We list the keys in the office with the owners' first names (ie John and Sally). Agents who put property addresses on master keys are idiots.

Posted by Doug Rogers, Your Alexandria Louisiana Agent (Bayou Properties) almost 9 years ago

I've always thought it was very strange when I've seen that as well - I definitely think it could be a liability. -Kasey

Posted by Kasey & John Boles, Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties (Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - almost 9 years ago

Wow, key control is obviously very important. But more important than that is lockbox control. How did your lockbox keys get to the airport parking garage? Who are you letting have the access to your lockbox? If a licensed broker or associate removed the keys and took them to the airport, that is obviously an issue that can be handled with their broker, with the board, or with the real estate commisssion. 

The standard of practice in the Denver metro area is a great system, and I cant imagine anything like that happening here.


Posted by Jayson Holland, Jay Holland ( almost 9 years ago

Dear John -

I am writing a post about agent courtesy today and searching for posts about hidden lockboxes to include as links. Although it isn't exactly on my topic - the post is wonderful and very important! I wanted to re-blog it but the option isn't there! Thanks for the effort.

Have a happy day -

Posted by Lynn B. Friedman, Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers (Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty Call/Text 404-939-2727 Buckhead - Midtown - Westside -- and more ...) almost 7 years ago

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