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Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Lock Box (Portable Key Safe)


What is a Lock Box?


Wouldn’t it be great if there were a more secure and convenient way to give people access to your home?

Then you wouldn’t have to take time off work or worry about being home to let someone in.

Thankfully lock boxes (also commonly known as a portable key safe or real estate lock boxes) provide a solution that’s not only secure and always available, it’s relatively cheap too.


Here’s how Wikipedia defines a real estate lock box:

A real-estate lock box is a padlock-shaped box that hangs around the doorknob of a house that is on the market. The device holds the keys to a house to allow communal access for all real estate agents, while continuing to keep them secure…

Of course, a lock box isn’t just useful for real estate agents showing homes, it has a few every day uses that make it practical for many families to purchase one.


Everyday Practical Uses for a Lock Box

Here are some practical uses for a lock box (also called a portable key safe):


Children coming home from school

If you have children, you know how easy it is for them to lose things; but with a lock box at least they won’t lose the keys to the house. A lock box isn’t complicated so teaching them how to use it won’t be very hard.
The same goes for any out of town guests who need to get in or out of your home when you’re not around.


Getting into seldom used spaces

A lock box is also ideal for sheds, cabins, or other spaces that you don’t need to go to often but need to be secure.


Contractors working in your home (plumbers, handymen, renovation, installers)

Save your vacation days for actual vacations. With a lock box you know longer have to take time off work to be home when someone is fixing something in your home.

Pretty Woman Maid

Services working in your home (carpet cleaning, house cleaning)

House cleaning is very unpredictable and our cleaners can get delayed for a number of reasons. For example, we sometimes go into homes that are “very clean” according to a customer, only to find out that it’s quite the opposite. With a lock box you don’t have to worry about being home to let them in.



Real estate agents

Nobody uses lock boxes more than realtors. Why? Because all realtors know that the chances of selling your home increase greatly when they can show it while you’re not home. It allows prospective buyers a chance to visualize themselves living in the home instead of feeling like an intruding guest, thereby increasing the chance of selling the home.



Different Types of Manual Lock Boxes (Portable Key Safes)


Manual Lock Boxes

A manual lock box, sometimes called a portable key safe, is the most common type of lock box available. It’s easy to use and the most cost effective of all the different types available. Some of the different ways to open a lock box include: a combination dial (like what you would find on a locker), push buttons, or a series of built in wheels (like the kind you see on brief cases).

Below are some of the common types of manual lock boxes available. Click to enlarge.


Combination lock style lock box

Combination lock style lock box

Internal wheel style lock box

Internal wheel style lock box

Push button style lock box

Push button style lock box

Wall mounted combination lock box

Wall mounted combination lock box


Generally, the combination for each type can be reset as needed and some models even require an extra code to remove the shackle that attaches it to a post or rail.


Buying a Real Estate Lock Box (aka Portable Key Safe)


Where to buy?

Quality lock boxes usually range in price from $30 to $45.

They are sold at most Home Depot, Canadian Tire, and Walmart locations, or online at Masterlock, MFS Supply, Ebay, or Amazon, etc.

Other home improvement stores may also have a small selection of lock boxes on hand.


Key Characteristics

No matter which lock box you choose, you can be assured that it’ll be extremely difficult to break into.

But that doesn’t mean they’re all the same.

The electronic and more advanced boxes that some realtors use cost quite a bit more, but those ones come with advanced features that you probably won’t need (for example, visitor metrics: what time, the name of the realtor, regional locks, etc.)

As far as manual lock boxes are concerned, ease of use and durability will probably be the most important measuring sticks. But other than that, there isn’t too much that separates one lock box from another.


Here are some key questions you might want to consider when choosing your lock box:

  • Durability – Can it stand up to the cold weather? Does it have a cover that protects the combination dial and/or buttons? Is it vinyl coated to prevent scratching of your handles and doors?
  • Easy of use – How easy is to change the code? Is it easy to open? How does it mounts?
  • Security – How many digits can it take in the passcode? Is it a true password or not?
  • Size – How many keys can it store? Is it big enough to store passcards, fobs, etc.?


TIP 1: Be aware that for some of the push button lock boxes, you’re not required to enter the passcode in sequence.

What dose that mean?

Here’s an example: if I have a push button lock box and my passcode is 1-3-5-9, I can enter 3-9-5-1 and it will still open!

Same thing happens if I enter 5-9-1-3 or 1-9-3-5 or any other combination with those 4 numbers. As long as the right 4 buttons are pressed, it will open, regardless of the sequence they were pressed in.

That being said, there are still a huge number of possible combinations the passcode could be, and most people won’t know how many digits are in your passcode to begin with.

Either way, it’s still very secure for 99% of the applications you’ll need it for, we just want you to be aware of it while choosing between different types of manual lock boxes.

Again, we’re only talking about just the push button lock boxes, and only for some models.


TIP 2: Durability is very important especially if the lock box is going to be exposed to the elements all the time.

Some online reviews have mentioned latches or buttons getting stuck after several months of sitting idle. After a lot of elbow grease and fiddling around they did manage to get open, but that’s after several hours of effort.

To save yourself that effort, get the most durable lock box you can get and see if there are any online reviews mentioning issues with latches or buttons getting stuck.


TIP 3: Keep a spare set of keys and/or passcards some places else.

The durability issue in Tip 2 ties in with Tip 3.

As you know, these lock boxes are meant to prevent unauthorized people from opening them; which means they’re extremely difficult to break into.

If you have the code to release the lock, that obviously helps a lot – that’s the reason the owners in Tip 2 were able to open their “stuck” lock boxes.

But if you forget the code to open the lock box, you can pretty much say goodbye to whatever was stored in there.

That’s why it’s recommended that you keep a spare or master key hidden somewhere else, just so you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.



Scrubbi is a house cleaning service servicing homes in Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, and the surrounding area.





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