Twenty years ago, the National Association of REALTORS® helped give birth to a lockbox company that today holds a roughly 40% share of the residential lockbox market. AExperience magazine talked with Scott Fisher, SentriLock’s CEO (pictured left), and Bob Goldberg, CEO of NAR and chairman of the board for SentriLock (pictured right), about the genesis of the company, its value, and what drives innovation today.
Where did the idea for SentriLock come from?
Fisher: My business partners and I had been in the real estate technology space for about 10 years. One of our customers wanted a lockbox alternative and came to us. That led us down the path of developing a competitive solution. We got through all the engineering work but realized that, to get traction, we needed a partner. I read an article about [lack of competition in the lockbox market], so I knew NAR was aware of the concern and I reached out to Bob. [At the time, Goldberg was senior vice president of marketing and business development for NAR.]
Goldberg: Scott said to me, “We think we’ve got a great product, and we’d love to talk to you about it.” So, I start to explain to Scott how our affinity program works, and I remember this pause. We didn’t have Zoom, so I couldn’t read Scott’s facial expression. But it was sort of like, “Bob, to go forward with this, we need investors.” [After board of directors approval, NAR became a 59% owner, later purchasing SentriLock outright.]
What sets the product apart?
Fisher: For one thing, we’ve integrated an entire showing service platform into our app. Also, we know safety is a concern for real estate professionals, so we pioneered an alert system that agents can easily use during a showing. And we’ve made the transition for associations who choose SentriLock almost effortless.
Goldberg: The company can innovate quickly because it’s independently run. It has a five-person, volunteer board of directors made up of people in the business.
Fisher: We’re proud to have a 45-second average response time in our call center, because we know when members call, they’re probably with a client, and they don’t need to be sitting on hold.
Goldberg: By the way, that call center is U.S.-based. If there’s a customer service issue or a question, our support people are right there in Scott’s office in West Chester, Ohio.
Fisher: Product assembly is also done in the United States, and by the end of this year, 85% of the content of the lockbox will be domestically sourced.
What’s a feature AEs may not know?
Fisher: In some markets, they’re putting two lockboxes on the property—an electronic lockbox for agent access and a mechanical box for all the other access, such as repair or inspection. With our one-day Flex Codes, agents can provide temporary access with electronic credentialing, which makes it a much more secure experience, and the agent gets the data from all those visits. There’s also Access by Appointment, which restricts access to the time of the appointment, so homeowners don’t have to worry about somebody showing up at the wrong time or staying too long.
How’s the data used?
Fisher: It’s a leading indicator of home buying and selling activity. It’s also a great retention tool for agents. We track how long prospective buyers are in the house, which is helpful in completing the full picture of what’s happening with that property. Overall market stats give agents a picture of where consumer interest is going. We’re a key piece of information that is not available through any other channel.
Goldberg: The data is also an opportunity for AEs because they can give the local newspaper leading indicators for the marketplace and position the association as an authoritative source.
What’s the future of lockboxes?
Fisher: With electronic locks becoming more prevalent, some people believe it’s the end of the line for lockboxes. I’d challenge that assumption. These consumer products might be great, but none of them are connected to each other, and the agent is not getting the data. I don’t foresee that this business is going anywhere. The use case will change, and we will adapt.