Through your pre-trip communications, you will have used the Airbnb messaging system to…

  • Coordinate check-in and checkout times
  • Explain how to get to your home
  • Overview home amenities and other important information
  • Answered any other questions your guest may have had

However, there is no formal online check-in process. Hosts have a number of options for checking-in guests and providing access to their place:

Being There in Person
Having Someone Else Meet the Guests
Utilizing Key Exchange Services
Installing Keyless Door Locks
Leaving Keys in a Lockbox

Remember that check-in is one of the six review criteria you’re assessed against. Furthermore, if you get check-in right, you’re off with a head-start on everything else. Get check-in wrong and you’ve left a bad taste in your guests’ mouth from the get-go of their trip.

Each of these options is overviewed in greater detail below.

Being There in Person

PRO: Personalization and guest appreciation  |  CON: Personal time commitment

It is not an Airbnb requirement for you to physically meet your guests in person. Nonetheless, being there to meet and greet your guests face-to-face still remains the “first prize” for guest check-in’s.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Adding a “human” element with the opportunity to share local knowledge, insider tips and recommendations from a real human who’s there in person
  • Alleviating guest anxieties around being in a new place and providing guests with the opportunity to gain answers to questions they may otherwise not have asked
  • Increasing the likelihood that guests will respect and take care of your space and property
  • Providing a more effective and efficient opportunity to explain your space that saves you from phone calls, text messages and emails further down the track
  • Giving you early indicators of “red flags”that signal potential problematic guests you’re then able to monitor more closely or strategize ways of avoiding problems with
  • Better understanding your target guestsby seeing firsthand who they are, how they found you and what they plan on doing – all useful intel for gaining additional reservations and pleasing future guests

All of this adds up to better reviews and greater profitability.

An important caveat is that you should always attempt to gauge just how much or how little the guest wishes for you to provide assistance or engage in having a chat.

Your guests may be arriving late at night and might simply want to go to sleep. Your guests may have traveled a great distance and possibly want some personal downtime. Or maybe your guests are just not “people persons” and would prefer to just be left alone.

Whatever the case, use your common sense and social awareness to provide the appropriate interaction. Even if you feel you’re able to give them so much more, your willingness to be there in person in and of itself should count for a lot in the eyes of your guests.

The principal challenge when meeting your guests in person is simply the time investment required for doing so. Work and social commitments, travel times and early / late check-in’s are all potential impediments to wanting or being able to actually meet your guests in person.

Many hosts also wish to “scale” their Airbnb efforts in a way that drives efficiency and minimizes their personal time commitment. A key element of this is replacing any task that can be automated with a process that doesn’t require their personal hands-on involvement.

With alternative options like key exchange serviceskeyless door locks and leaving keys in a lockbox – you may decide that these alternative options represent a more suitable solution for your situation and desired level of personal commitment. Remember that even if you possess a lockbox or install keyless door locks, you’re still able to meet your guests in person upon their arrival – they are not mutually exclusive options.

Many new hosts choose this approach when starting off on Airbnb since the number of guests are traditionally lower and these “hands-on” personal interactions will assist them in learning the ropes and understanding their guests.

Hosts are also more likely to receive positive reviews, and being there in person serves as an appropriate vantage point for deciding whether any of the other options for providing access to their home may or may not be more appropriate.

Having Someone Else Come Meet Your Guests

PRO: Personalization and guest appreciation  |  CON: Reliability of helper

For many hosts, meeting their guests in person is simply not practical due to personal schedules, time constraints or other pre-existing commitments. For other hosts, meeting guests in person represents a bigger commitment to Airbnb than they signed up for.

Whatever the reason, hosts wishing to have someone meet their guests in person may still consider having a friend, family member, neighbor or other co-host come meet the guest on their behalf. Almost all of the benefits of personally meeting guests yourself  remain, but with a few small caveats.

These people are your ambassadors. They therefore need to be equally likeable, equally knowledgeable and equally capable of providing the assistance a “live” host is expected to provide for your place. They should also be equally capable of spotting “red flags” and able to relay any concerns or issues back to you.

Having someone else meet and greet your guests will inevitably result in personally forfeiting a lot of the learnings that would otherwise come from the personal interaction of welcoming your guests yourself. These include hearing the questions of incoming guests, learning how guests came to find you and understanding what guests plan on doing throughout their trip.

In the absence of these learnings, your ability to continually improve your understanding of your target guests, how you’re able to win more bookings and how you’re able to better please your guests will be somewhat constrained.

Depending on your circumstances, having someone else be available to meet your guests might be best kept as an option relied upon for rare occasions or emergencies. Alternatively, you may wish to formalize their involvement by making them an official Airbnb co-host.

Inevitably, asking favors while you profit may cause a misalignment in expectations between yourself and whomever you ask to help out. If having someone else meet your guests becomes the standard means of providing access to your home, you may wish to consider remunerating or providing meaningful gifts to whomever helps you out.

Key Exchange Services

PRO: Host and guest convenience  |  CON: Limited to hours of store / office operation

Key exchange services utilize a network of local shops and offices that act as key handover points for your guests. Larger key exchange services have multiple locations around town, which often represents an opportunity to find a key handover spot close to your home.

Hosts pay a monthly fee plus an additional fee for each time a key is picked up. Some of the more sophisticated services allow you to track the location of your keys from a smartphone app. Some also offer 24-hour pickups from select locations in the event of a late arrival (or when the more numerous local key exchange shops or offices are already shut for the day).

Similarly, other services provide a 24/7 “front desk” where guests are able to pick up keys at any time on any day of the week, or will even drop keys off to guests arriving at your property for a fee.

Below are some key exchange services you may wish to checkout...

Asia, Australia, Europe & North America

Europe

UK

Keyless Doorlocks

PRO: Host and guest convenience  |  CON: Lack of personalization

Keyless door locks are a great option for hosts that are unable to be present at their homes at the time of a guest’s arrival.

They eliminate the need for guests to inconvenience themselves with key exchange services, and eliminate your need to re-key locks and replace keys when they get lost. They also assist big groups by allowing everyone within their party to come and go as they please without needing to coordinate the sharing of a limited number of sets of keys.

Keyless door locks enable the guest to gain access to the home using a code which is provided to them prior to their arrival. They provide the ability to issue new codes and replace old codes, thus ensuring that the guest’s ability to access your home is limited exclusively to the duration of their stay (much like a security key card at a hotel).

Many digital door locks enable you to create new codes or delete old codes remotely from your computer or smartphone. Some also enable you to receive email or text message notifications and alerts to let you know when codes have been used, who’s entered your property and when they’ve done so.

Digital keyless door locks do not work on all doors however. Where this is the case, small modifications to the door are commonly able to be made to make them compatible.

Hosts that live in apartment buildings may have the unique challenge of having a front door to their building (on the ground floor) that is locked in addition to their personal apartment door. Even if a digital door lock were installed on the host’s apartment door, guests may still need keys to gain access to the building first. If this is the case, digital keyless door locks represent a limited remedy in providing guests access to your place.

Below are some keyless doorlocks you may wish to checkout...

Leaving Keys in a Lockbox

PRO: Host and guest convenience  |  CON: Lack of personalization

Lockboxes are small key safes that are attached to secure places on your property such as a wall, door, gate or inside an unlocked mailbox. The lockbox contains physical keys to open your property and is itself only openable with a code.

Similar to keyless door locks, you provide the code to your incoming guests prior to their arrival and they simply enter the code, open the lockbox, get the key and then gain access your home.

It is a convenient solution for hosts that are unable to be physically present to meet and greet their guests, or are unable or unwilling to have someone else open the home on their behalf.

Despite the convenience, this option is not without its risks. Lockboxes represent a safer option than leaving the key under a rug or hidden in a pot plant, but are still not impenetrable by a thief or someone wishing to open it. They also “shine a spotlight” on the fact that within the lockbox are likely to be a set of keys that open the door to a home in the area close by to the lockbox.

Prudent hosts should change the code frequently, otherwise they risk previous guests maintaining continued access to their place. Changing codes frequently may not always be practical for hosts that have a high turnover of guests or do not wish to return back to their property after every stay at their place.

Both the Master Lock 5400D  (freestanding) and Master Lock 5401D (wall-mounted) are two of the more popular lockboxes used by Airbnb hosts:

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