By Don Procter

The traditional lockbox has come to a crossroads as high-tech lock systems that offer better security and transparency build a following in Canada’s real estate world.

One of those systems is Master Lock’s Bluetooth-driven lockbox integrated with ShowingTime’s scheduling app. The system reduces safety risks for customers and salespeople showing properties in part because it does not permit unauthorized code-sharing – a weak point with traditional lockboxes.



At the same time, it improves accessibility and appointment scheduling through ShowingTime, essentially a reservation system that provides salespeople with the management of schedule showing appointments and market reports to the real estate industry in Canada and the U.S.

John Lusink
John Lusink

The first brokerage to use the integrated system in the Greater Toronto Area is Right At Home Realty. The brokerage purchased “a large quantity” of the lockboxes this fall to rent or sell for $250 each to its agents, says Right At Home president John Lusink. To date, agents have preferred to buy the lockboxes. “It tells us they see it as a long-term solution,” Lusink says.

Currently, many homes in the Toronto market use traditional combination lockboxes. They are inexpensive but the unlocking code doesn’t change – unless the owner or the listing agent changes the code – so anyone who knows the code can access the property any time.

Those lockboxes don’t have tracking capability (Master Lock with ShowingTime does) so issues can arise where sales reps accuse each other if something in the property goes missing, says Lusink.

He says he has even heard instances where the codes have been shared with contractors to evaluate the condition of a property.

Lusink says Master Lock’s improved security comes at an opportune time as complaints to the Real Estate Council of Ontario of unauthorized access to properties for sale increase. Realtors in violation can face substantial fines.

Ashvin Ramchandani
Ashvin Ramchandani

Master Lock’s lockbox integrated with ShowingTime allows agents to use one app for management, including everything from scheduling property appointments to walking through the front door, says Ashvin Ramchandani, business development manager, Master Lock Canada.

The technology eliminates any “fumbling around” to enter a code or provide dual authentication as is required with traditional lockboxes, adds Barron Robertson, Master Lock’s group product manager. “They can continue their conversation with the customer while they are forming their first impression of the property at the front door.”

Robertson says that unlike traditional mechanical lockboxes, users don’t have to be at the property to reset a code for the Master Lock, because it is a cloud-based system that can be updated anytime from any location and the history of usage can be viewed any time.

The lockbox can be accessed in three ways:  through Master Lock’s app; through integration with ShowingTime; or through a backup code, Robertson says.

ShowingTime president Michael Lane says the integrated system has a second level of security because a lockbox won’t open for anyone other than the person who made the appointment. “You can’t walk into the wrong property or show up four hours early because your calendar was confused.”

Lusink, who hopes all of his company’s agents will move to the system, says it is simple to set up and easy to use.

Cristian Enache
Cristian Enache

Right At Home Realty sales rep Cristian Enache purchased the Master Lock system because he sees it as a “powerful tool” for security and also a sales aid because it tracks visit times an agent and client spend on a property. “That can be really important for me,” he says, noting agents who visit a property for a few minutes are less apt to have an interested client than those who spend a long time on the property. So far, Enache doesn’t see any drawbacks to the lockbox but he says he will wait to see how it performs over winter.

Ramchandani says the company is producing a White Paper in partnership with Right At Home Realty to illustrate how the system provided a secure and transparent solution for agents and administrators. “We want to share how we have addressed the pain points in home showings.”

Barron says unlike some other systems, an objective at Master Lock is to try and avoid long-term contracts and offer “much greater flexibility. Because of that we can work with associations and MLSs to form a model based around their needs.”

Ramchandani says that the hot real estate pace of the Toronto market adds to the value of the Bluetooth-driven lockbox. “You sometimes have challenges where there are overlaps in scheduling . . . That’s a big thing we’re trying to overcome with this.”

Lusink doesn’t see any downsides to the new lock technology. “A challenge is in getting the real estate boards and other brokerage firms to join the program. Many boards are now offering a similar program with other suppliers but they don’t all offer the fully integrated digital solution as this one does.”

Master Lock’s lockbox technology was first introduced in the industrial sector in 2012. How it will fare in Ontario’s realty world remains to be seen but Ramchandani says Master Lock is engaged in negotiations with a number of real estate boards in Canada.

Lane is confident that Master Lock is on the right path. “Over the next 10 years, I see them emerging as a major provider of systems to boards throughout North America. I think the other vendors will evolve to compete with them . . . but they (Master Lock) are a very viable new entrant to the space with a long-standing reputation.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. There is quite a bit of info available about use of Bluetooth Master Lockbox in conjunction with Showing Time App. Here are a few questions: (1) Can Bluetooth Master LB be used with TREB Listings? (2) Would such integration enables automatic generation of code for showing agents? (3) When Sentrilock Lockbox was introduced the assumption was that the same was good for TREB listings, but that wasn’t the case. (4) While Sentrilock is sold for $160 per unit, Master Lockbox is $250 per unit, what Master lockbox features support the price differential as compared to Sentrilock?. I am using Sentrilock for quite some time now and there is a monthly flat fee of $20.00 for any number of lockboxes used. Not sure about Master lockbox recurring fee though. Will appreciate if someone can shed light on above questions.

  2. It’s a small price to pay for both your clients and your security. We are paid well for the job we do, Clients are entrusting us to protect their property from entry by unauthorized visitors. Yes this includes the clients who were sent by their agent with the lockbox code in hand. There is no excuse for this happening.
    If a theft occurs and you don’t know who entered the property your client won’t care that you saved $29.95. We could of course go back to picking up keys and dropping them off at the listing office, that’s fun.

  3. Am I reading this correctly? Those sound very much like the Supra iBox that we have been using in Alberta for more than 15 years. They started with infrared and cell tech and in 2010 added Bluetooth. Works great with smart phones and iphones. The cell tech notifies us via text and or email when a lock box is opened, who opened it and the time. Automatically asks for showing feedback. Online tracking and activity reports are great. Another feature is that you can set restrictions for showing times and add additional security codes. Work great in winter even in the deep freeze -20s and -30s and all weather. Battery life on the boxes is great, almost ten years and most are still at 65% or more after a lot of use.

  4. Monthly costs and ‘cloud based’ technology both are prone to expense and disastrous failures. Of course, Master Lock won’t tell us that.

    Software glitches, power failures at server or sub-server requiring manual (or remote) ‘reset’, and of course, in very cold weather, or very wet weather, (or tardiness on the part of the controlling Agent), power required at the bluetooth in side lockbox could be diminished or non-existent. Not to mention, hackers can hack anything, especially, if it is on the door of an expensive home. The bluetooth has to be ‘discoverable’. Bluetooth and garage-door-openers use a limited band-range radio-frequency. Soon software will be sold which can decode any pre-written code to open any door.Or, simply transmit the code to a nearby listening device. Then there’s millions of ‘updates” from the gurus of the manufacturers. With the updates will come unwanted ads to your cell phone, or sync’d PC. Microsoft used to call those updates ‘service packs’. If you didn’t update, you were s.o.l.!! You paid for it, but the advertising revenue went to the owners of the system. Then we will have to buy ad-blocking software.

    TREB’s fiasco with Supra electronic lock boxes were purported to have many modern outstanding features. When the deal was cancelled it cost us Agents dearly. (Penalty of $750,000., then!!).

    So, technology we must embrace, but, at what cost. Are we merely the guinea-pigs?

  5. I’d happily sign up if they could include a FOB that will refuse to lock when another agent puts the wrong keys in the wrong lockbox! Happens too often in Condo sales & rentals when the buyer agent takes multiple sets of keys and mixes them up. The simple solution is for all listing agents to put ID tags on their keys instead of just the naked key without any identifying info. (but even though I tag my keys, I did have an agent swap my keys with another lockbox in the same condo tower! Only found out when the next agent showing called me to say the key didn’t open the door to the condo unit… I had to search on MLS for competing listings to narrow down where the switch was made & then go to open both lockboxes and fix the mix-up! Sheesh!)
    But we are all professionals here, so luckily that has only happened a handful of times.

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