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Airbnb lockboxes: The best alternatives

As a short-term rental professional, you are undoubtedly aware that the way you allow your guests to take possession of their accommodation is a crucial aspect of managing your business. In fact, the process of handing over keys to the property can become increasingly time-consuming as you expand your portfolio of rental properties. Like many property management companies and advanced managers, you have likely chosen the traditional solution for self-check-in: the Airbnb lockboxes.

Even though this solution might have initially seemed like an excellent idea, particularly in terms of saving time, you might now notice some of its limitations. Therefore, we will present you with even more effective alternatives that are now available. Implementation, discretion, and integration with your Airbnb channel manager – you will see that there are many advantages to replacing the outdated Airbnb lockbox with one of these solutions.

1. What’s a lockbox?

It is a device that sometimes resembles a miniature safe or a large padlock. As its name suggests, it contains the key to the accommodation lock you wish to share with guests without necessarily having to go there yourself (or sending someone to do it). Often with mechanical opening, meaning with a four-digit code that you scroll through using dials, you can set it up in various strategic locations that are easily noticeable by travellers (but also by other occupants, which is where the problem lies):

  • In the case of a house, the lockbox is typically fixed to the wall right next to the front door or the gate of your property.
  • For an apartment building or a gated community, it is not uncommon for the lockbox to be in the form of a padlock attached nearby, such as on a street railing or a bike rack. This also allows you to place the badge or key fob required to open the common areas of the building or the entrance gate to the complex, if necessary. We will discuss the limitations of this use case further below.

The benefits of using a self-check-in system with a secure lockbox are numerous:

  • Ease of installation: There’s no need to call a specialist. Generally, it only costs you a few drilled holes on your facade or finding a spot to hang it, more or less prominently
  • More flexibility for guests: By not being required to be present, you no longer impose specific arrival times. Travellers feel free to arrive whenever they want, which greatly enhances their experience.
  • Simplified and much smoother management for you: This system is primarily designed to save you valuable time, which you can use to handle other tasks related to your short-term rental business.
The proliferation of lockboxes on facades and streets
The proliferation of lockboxes on facades and streets

2. The limitations of an Airbnb lockbox

Even though, as we have just mentioned, there were significant initial advantages to using these lockboxes, the considerable growth in the short-term rental market has highlighted some negative aspects of their use.

About security

Once the key is out of the lockbox and in circulation, there is a risk that unscrupulous individuals might make duplicates. This poses a risk of your property being occupied illegally. Additionally, the code can easily become known, and it’s risky if you forget to change it regularly.

However, this does not solve the main problem: keys are still in use and the risk of loss is very high. Whether it’s guests, your staff or a contractor needing access, a lost key means you will need to replace the lock cylinder to avoid any risk.

A note on management

We naturally recommend systematically changing the code between each stay. This task can be tedious and time-consuming, especially if you have a large number of accommodations that you have chosen to make accessible via mechanical lockboxes. You risk spending a considerable amount of time travelling to each location, sometimes multiple times a week, to change the codes.

This situation can quickly become a nightmare in terms of management. An alternative option would be to hire a service provider to change the code for you, but the money you spend on this could be used for other purposes. You could also have your cleaning or maintenance staff handle this task, but they might forget to do it and the arriving guest will need their access code a few hours or days in advance, so you can see that this kind of arrangement is impractical.

The hunt for lockboxes is on

In response to the frustration of some residents with the proliferation of short-term rentals in their buildings or neighbourhoods, many cities have made Airbnb lockboxes a symbol of the fight against Airbnb rentals. Drastic measures are being taken to remove these devices from the urban landscape.

In Edinburgh, council chiefs are cracking down on illegally placed lockboxes across the city following complaints from locals in one of the city’s most historic areas. Residents in the picturesque Dean Village were furious when lockboxes were drilled into a wall surrounding a children’s playground. The lockers have now been removed and replaced with a council notice demanding their owners contact the local authority to retrieve them. Authorities have warned other key box holders that they will not hesitate to seize the safes if they are found to be illegally placed. At worst, you risk never seeing them again or finding them in poor condition.

With the ban on Airbnb lockboxes and evidence that they are not as secure as once thought, you need to look for other ways to let your guests into your properties. We have compiled the most popular and reliable solutions that will also allow you to add an extra level of automation to your business.

3. Airbnb lockbox alternatives

Several solutions have emerged in recent years to replace traditional lockboxes and automate access to your Airbnb accommodations.

a. Solutions to access the accommodation

Keynest

It’s a simple solution to make the keys to your accommodations available at a “KeyNest Point.” This point can be a partner retailer or a pickup location.

Keys handover at a KeyNest Point
Keys handover at a KeyNest Point

This locker system enhances the guest experience while simplifying the key handover process for you as a manager, especially if you oversee a large number of short-term rental properties:

  • Your guests can retrieve their keys from one of these lockers in exchange for a code. With over 5,000 KeyNest Points, one will certainly be near your accommodation. At the end of their stay, they simply return the keys to the same location. This gives them some autonomy for their arrival and departure.
  • Enjoy real-time tracking of all your keys. You will know immediately when the keys are picked up and returned. With a dedicated app, you can access all information about your keys: who has them, at which KeyNest Point they were picked up, and when they are due to be returned. You are also promptly notified if a key isn’t returned on the scheduled day. An automated SMS is sent to the person who hasn’t returned it (guest or service provider).

KeyNest’s direct integration with some PMS lets you automatically generate pick-up codes and send them to guests. This is part of what we offer with RentalReady, with thousands of properties already benefiting from this automation.

Good to know: For each property managed in RentalReady with keys on KeyNest, we automatically send guests a unique link with their check-in information. It contains all the useful details for key collection at a KeyNest Point, including the address, opening hours, and distance from the property.

Igloohome

Originally, the company started by marketing a connected lockbox that opens with a PIN code or via Bluetooth, valid only for the duration of your guests’ stay.

Igloohome has successfully diversified its offerings to meet the new expectations of professionals, providing a wide range of products that cover many use cases in short-term rentals and hospitality. They offer a smart lock that allows access to your properties without needing a key. With a code generated for each guest, they can enter without issues.

Range of Igloohome locks
Range of Igloohome locks

Your management is simplified with this system and you have access to an activity log through an app that informs you about the comings and goings in your apartment or house. You can send the codes via email, SMS, WhatsApp, and more.

Learn more about Ingloohome range

Good to know: We offer a native integration (API) with Igloohome, allowing unique codes to be generated for each guest for every booking made via RentalReady.

Smartlock Nuki

Nuki smart locks have proven themselves with their easy-to-use and robust hardware. They are adaptable to a wide variety of doors without requiring modifications (no disassembly or drilling needed). They allow you to lock and unlock the door by entering a code on a small keypad installed outside or via a smartphone app.

4th generation of SmartLock Nuki
4th generation of SmartLock Nuki

The code combinations are endless and you can generate a different one for each guest or anyone needing access to the property (such as the host, cleaning staff or maintenance personnel). With the app and the lock’s ability to connect to the property’s internet box, you can:

  • Open and close the property remotely. This is very convenient if one of your guests has forgotten personal items and wants to return after their stay has officially ended. You can allow them access just once and lock the door again as soon as they have retrieved their belongings. There’s no need to send someone or go there yourself.
  • Manage access permissions, set the time frames during which a code can be used, and use many other useful features.

Learn more about Nuki range

Good to know : We enable managers using RentalReady to automatically generate codes and access for their Nuki equipment, thanks to an integration with our partner Seam.co

Tedee

The latest addition to the smart lock market, the Polish brand Tedee offers several models, including the ultra-minimalist Tedee Go. This smart and connected lock is installed on the cylinder from the inside and turns the key automatically.

Connected lock Tedee Go in black
Connected lock Tedee Go in black

Because it is connected to the internet, you can lock and unlock it remotely via a smartphone, providing you with convenient management of arrivals and departures in your Airbnb property:

You can give virtual keys to anyone you choose (guests, staff) and activate or deactivate them as needed.

  • You can view a detailed real-time log of the door’s openings and closings.

Learn more about Tedee

Good to know: Although Tedee has entered the short-term rental market more recently, its popularity is growing. Through our partner Seam.co, we enable the synchronisation of reservations managed via RentalReady with Tedee products

b. Solutions to access the property building or housing complex

BnbAccess

The BNB BOX allows you to control a building door remotely. Once you have plugged the box into a power outlet and connected it to your private intercom inside the property, you can open the building door (or the gate of a gated community, among other things) when the guest arrives. You can also assign temporary access periods to your guests, enabling them to unlock the building door via the BNB Access app, but only upon their arrival.

Nuki Opener

With this device, Nuki allows you to grant access to your building or private gated community by connecting it to your villa or apartment’s intercom. You can schedule the door or gate to open at specific times or unlock it remotely.

The Nuki Opener has the advantage of integrating with the rest of the Nuki ecosystem, allowing the implementation of smart access scenarios for guests.

Conclusion

As you can see, although economical, Airbnb lockboxes aren’t a perfect solution. With their low level of security, they do not allow you to optimise your guests’ experience by providing smooth and secure self-check-ins.More than ever, the choice of smarter and connected solutions is vast and the connectivity with your PMS has become essential.

Feel free to schedule a meeting with our experts to discuss the guest journey automation capabilities provided by RentalReady.