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Key-sharing Company Finds New Set of Clients in Real Estate Agents

May 14th, 2014 – in miscellaneous technology

A new Canadian company that started as a way for Airbnb renters to easily get keys to and from their renters has fallen upon a new client demographic: Real Estate agents who want to grant sellers privacy from burglars and agents in urban areas where lock box locations are nonexistent.

Keycafe partners with local coffee shops, which store keys in a secure lock box. A terminal allows the agents picking up keys to enter a secure code to check out keys, which are then tracked by the agent representing the seller through a fob. Once a buyer agent requests access, the selling agent generates a code. The buyer agent uses that code to access the keys, and lets herself in.

For multiple showings, the seller agent can tell who had the key for the longest amount of time, and who did not show to tour the home.

“We didn’t originally identify Realtors as a target market as a vision for the company, but they found us,” Keycafe co-founder Jason Crabb said. “They say it’s more convenient than a lock box. A lot of times the owner doesn’t want them to put a lock box near the property, because it indicates there’s nobody home — so there’s a security risk. And, also, we are putting a lot into high-density downtown areas, where there is no location to place lock boxes.”

The firm began in 2012 in Vancouver, B.C., and has most of its café partner locations in that city, as well as Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. There are two locations in Brooklyn, and 20 more are about to go live, Crabb said. The company’s goal for the city is 100 in all. Keycafe will soon be expanding to other American metro areas, such as San Francisco.

“We’re growing or network each week, as fast as we can,” he said.

While the system may seem complicated, for agents who want to provide clients a sense of security or those who sell condos and apartments, there are not many alternatives.

Lock boxes don’t allow agents to track whether any agents have actually shown the property, Crabb said. Additionally, the company’s Real Estate agents clients have said that as long as the keys are located within a five-minute drive of their listings, they are happy with one central location for all keys.

Other benefits the company has learned about is time savings of property access to service providers such as staging companies, appraisers and maintenance workers, who would use the same system as the Real Estate agent. The system is anonymous, so finding one of these keys is the equivalent of finding a key on the street. The holder would have no idea what door the key opens.

“Keycafe is all digitally controlled, so using their smartphone, Realtors are able to manage who has access, when they have access, and can track — in real time — the status of the keys,” Crabb said. “I don’t think it would replace lock boxes. This is adding to a Realtor’s toolbox.”

The service is free for casual users — defined as two key pick-ups per month. For small business owners with a handful of listings, there’s a plan that charges $4-per-month and $2 for each key pick-up. For larger businesses, there’s a plan that costs $12-per month and unlimited free key pick-ups.

Author: Roman Gokhman