WASHINGTON, D.C.–EasyShow and SentriLock are the new lockboxes on the block. And while these upstart brands may not have the name recognition or market penetration of such competitors as Supra and to a lesser degree RISCO, the developers of the new products hope the simple injection of competition into the marketplace will be their key to success
At a trade show here this week at the National Association of Realtors midyear conference, the newcomers and mainstays in the lockbox business alike were busily peddling their wares to potential customers who eventually will decide their fate, be it fortune, failure or something in between.
Representatives for SentriLock, a company in which the National Association of Realtors owns a majority stake, demonstrated their upstart product, which is now in use at a pilot project in Iowa City that began in April. SentriLock’s Realtor Lockbox, which is accessed by a thin card with an embedded data chip, costs $60 to $70 per unit.
SentriLock is planning to formally launch the product next month with 9,000 units planned for delivery to Realtors in the Charleston, S.C., area.
"We’re in volume production. There are a dozen contracts out right now that people are actively reviewing," said SentriLock CFO Wendell Morris.
SentriLock has one patent secured for a part of the Realtor Lockbox design with other patents pending, Morris said.
The association sought to partner on the Realtor Lockbox design to introduce competition into a market that is heavily dominated by General Electric subsidiaries Supra and RISCO. The legality of this dominance was called into question in early 2003 when the U.S. Department of Justice raided the offices of the two companies as a part of an investigation of possible antitrust violations.
Morris said the cards for the SentriLock system cost about $5 apiece and there is also a maintenance fee for technology support. Realtor groups can buy into three, four or five-year contracts for the lockbox system, he said.
Another breed of lockbox, EasyShow, made its debut this week at a nearby booth at the trade show. John Williams of the North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors developed the prototype for the lockbox after toiling for decades and investing about $600,000 of his own money. The product is now manufactured and marketed by the local association.
This alternative lockbox features codes that can be issued over the Internet and can expire within a specified amount of time after use. Steve Volkodav, a member of the North Shore-Barrington Association who demonstrated the technology at the trade show, said the product is available for a flat fee of about $70 with a trade show special of $50.
Volkodav acknowledged that the system "is not as sophisticated" as Supra’s or NAR’s offerings, but members of the 3,700-strong local association wanted an alternative to lockbox systems that require lengthy and costly contracts.
The North Shore Shore-Barrington association is less than a year into a five-year contract with Supra, but local Realtors are also free to purchase the EasyShow system. The group maintains the Supra contract "as a benefit to members who are showing agents," said Harvey Hoffman, who also demonstrated the EasyShow technology at the conference.
Supra CEO Greg Burge and RISCO President Warren Koeller have both previously said they welcome new competitors into the lockbox market. Supra’s products include the iBox, which features compatibility with many handheld computers, the ability to leave electronic notes such as "take off shoes," a greater number of accesses, and the capability to set different hours for weekday and weekend showings, among other features.
Craig Szmania, regional sales manager for GE Interlogix, which markets the Supra iBox, said technology sets the iBox apart from competitors. The iBox interacts via wireless, infrared technology with dozens of types of handheld electronic devices. In addition to ensuring security, the system also serves as an information source, Szmania said.
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