A lockbox or key safe is a simple storage device about the size of an old iPod that can be attached to a door handle or wall. A key is locked into the container and then opened with a code that gets inputted manually. Like bike locks, lockboxes differ widely in strength, size, and dial format. The most common models are:
Push-button locks—Allow you to set a combination you can punch in any order.
Wheel models—This model has four scrolling wheels with numbers or letters to form a combination.
Dial models—Similar to a classic high school locker padlock, with one rotating dial for entering a combination
(Sources: SP Works; marissa anderson, Flickr; Ali Express)
Where to Buy Lockboxes and Key Safes
A local hardware store
Buying the Best Model
Finding the right model of lockbox is all about striking a balance between strength and ease-of-use. If you’re looking for ultra security, a great product-test done by sweethome.comconsulted a number of expert locksmiths and found that dial models (though less convenient to open) are the hardest to break into. Pushbutton models are simple to program, but passcodes can be predictable and easy to guess, and an expert can break into most wheel models by fiddling underneath the gears with a small piece of metal. Here are some well-reviewed lockbox options that are both sturdy and difficult to decode:
Kidde Access Point Keysafe – A great dial model hailed as the best by sweethome.com. This model can hold up to five-digit passcodes (the more digits the harder for a thief to break). Price: $39.00 Holds: 5 Keys Size: 6.8 x 3.2 x 2.7 inches
Kidde AccessPoint Keysafe Pushbutton– This model is not a dial, but as long as you’re careful to keep your codes as random as possible it should be just as secure, and easier for guests to use–especially in the dark. Price: $27.00 Holds: 2 Keys Size: 4 x 2 x 2 inches
MasterLock 5400D – The highest rated model on Amazon. Even though it’s a wheel model, customer reviews agree it will still get the job done. Price: $23.29 Holds: 5+ Keys Size: 9.2 x 5.2 x 1.9 inches
Vault Locks 5000 – Large, heavy duty lockbox that can store multiple keys & key cards and also offers up to 10,000 different combinations. Price: $24.99 Holds: 5+ Keys Size: 6.2 x 4.1 x 1.4 inches
Lockbox & Key Safe Storage Pointers & Things To Look Out For
Tips to Make your Lockbox Safer
Lockboxes are already pretty secure (a sturdy lockbox can usually withstand about 45 minutes of banging with a hammer), but hosts should still be cautious and take steps to mitigate any potential risk:
Change the lock code often (ideally after each guest leaves).
Keep the lockbox inside the building.
This is for those living in an apartment building or complex. Keep your lockbox somewhere beyond the first gate or door, so that it isn’t accessible from the street.
Keep your lockbox out of sight from the main road.
This means either attaching the lockbox to the side of the house, the backyard fence, the garden, or even to the house or apartment of a trusted neighbor down the road/hallway. In fact, some people go as far as to hide their box under stealth containers, like a fake rock in the yard.
If you live an urban area with a lot of foot or car traffic, then don’t worry too much about being discrete. A good lockbox takes a lot of loud effort to break into, and for burglars without locksmith experience, it would be no more efficient nor subtle than simply breaking down the door.
Installing Lockboxes (On the Wall vs. Looping)
Lockboxes are installed with either screws or a metal loop around a door/railing. While attaching your lockbox to a solid wall takes more time and equipment (normally an electric screwdriver), it’s also more secure than looping the box around the door handle like a padlock. The metal loops are usually weaker and easy enough to break with a set of construction tools.
Harsh weather conditions like extreme cold, snow, or rain, can jam or freeze a lockbox and prevent it from opening. In most cases this can be prevented by buying a flip-open cover for your lockbox.
Most customer complaints about lockboxes revolve around people accidentally locking themselves out of the box before inputting a passkey. This kind of blunder can usually be avoided by leaving your guest clear, specific instructions about using the box. If it’s a recurring problem, invest in a lockbox that doesn’t lock unless a key has been inputted, and consider leaving a backup or emergency key with a neighbor.
Hidden Lockbox Storage
It sounds a little childish for a tech-savvy microentrepreneur, but if you hide your key in a good location that hits the perfect balance between easy-to-describe and hard-to-find, it can be a viable option. A lot of people hide a key as a back-up plan in case they can’t depend on any of their neighbors to hold a spare key, or they don’t want to bother installing a lockbox. As a result, there’s a whole industry dedicated to key disguise, including fake rocks and fake sprinklers that can be placed in nondescript locations in the front yard.
Best Hiding Places:
The best hiding places are the unexpected ones:
A neighbor’s yard
Tucked away in the backyard or behind a bush/fence
Somewhere along the side of the house
In or under a plant pot
Under a rock among many others
In or under a garden ornament
Choose a hiding place that’s catered to your property:
If you have a garden – Use a planter, bush, or even a fountain as your hiding spot. Backyard gardens accessible by a side gate are good because they’re off the main street. If you have a tree – Try tucking your lockbox either behind the tree or in a branch where you don’t think it’ll fall. Be careful not to place it somewhere your guests will have to work hard to try to access. If you have a porch – If there’s any space under it that’s usually a safe bet. You can even attach the lockbox to the bottom of one of the porch stairs. Basket hanging plants or any plant in a pot are a great camouflage for key sets and lockboxes – the more leaves and coverage provided the better. If you have a lawn – Fake sprinklers are great in lawns because they’re subtle, but also easy to find if you know what you’re looking for. Remember to hide within reason. If a key is so well hidden that a guest can’t find it, then it’s as good as lost.
Pulling this off mainly requires a good set of instructions on where to find the key. Include a vivid description of the spot, and try to trace the path from the porch of your house to the key’s hiding place. Here’s a template to give you an idea of how a set of find-the-key instructions should look:
How To Find Our Front Door Key Hello! Thanks again for booking with us, we’re so happy you’re coming to stay at our home! Unfortunately, we won’t be home to greet you when you arrive, but here are the instructions on how to get into the property. The key to the front door is hidden in our backyard. When you arrive at the address, go around the left side of the house and you’ll find a wooden gate leading into the back. It’s unlocked, and don’t worry, the neighbors know you’re coming so they won’t look at you funny when you slip through.
Our key is hidden in a fake sprinkler that looks like this:
Unscrew the lid, and the key marked “MG” opens the front door.
You’ll find the fake sprinkler container just to the left of the sliding glass door, and just to the right of the small fountain up against the back wall of the house.