Handling Airbnb Key Exchange: Options, Pros & Cons
OK, your guests are on their way. And you wish to provide them with the smoothest, most stress-free experience an Airbnb host is capable of.
But trust us: all your efforts will be tainted if you don’t perfect the First Step.
The great ritual of Airbnb keys exchange.
Don’t be intimidated, though. There are different ways to do this: you just need to find what works best for you and your property. Take a look at the list of ideas below, as we weigh in on pros and cons for you.
Things to consider before making the decision
- What is your typical guest like?
Is your Airbnb more popular among large friend groups, business folk, tourists from abroad, or families? This matters. People with a bunch of kids will appreciate the opportunity to have physical keys, while carefree college kids might be OK with more flexible options.
- Where is your property located and how high are your prices?
If your Airbnb is on a more expensive side or is in the middle of a busy city area, better keep the exchange as hassle-free as possible. For more affordable stays you can introduce more affordable options (still: make sure they’re safe and effective).
- Do your guests tend to make last-minute reservations and make shorter stays?
Someone who plans their trip in advance may have more time to factor in an Airbnb key exchange into their plans. But those in a hurry will appreciate a swift solution.
8 Ways to Handle Airbnb Key Exchanges
These are the most common practices, tested by Airbnb owners all over the globe. Keep in mind that you can always combine different options for different opinions — just don’t get them mixed up.
Hiding the key under a flower pot or a doormat
Pros: Easy and literally costs you nothing. The keys are just there for the guest to grab and enter the Airbnb right away.
Cons: Lack of security. Doormats, pots, and other garden gnomes are the first places a bad actor will look for house keys. And an exchange like that will certainly throw off even the most chill of guests: they won’t feel safe with a host that careless.
Discover vacation rental security tips for your Airbnb rental.
Using a friend, a relative, or a neighbor as a middle man
Pros: Someone close to you, trustworthy, and knows your place well, can make the guests feel welcome and at home. Apart from handing the keys, they can show the guests around, answer questions, and help with the accommodations.
Cons: You have to know if the person is 100% reliable and therefore will show up on time (or will be home, if you choose to leave the keys to the neighbors). Also, it’s one thing to ask a friend or a cousin to help you out just once and for free. If you’re planning on using their assistance from time to time, it’s only fair to start paying them for it. If this doesn’t fit into your budget (or if you don’t want to bring business into your relationship), reconsider.
Partnering with neighborhood businesses
Pros: Can work on the quid pro quo basis. You ask a bar/coffee shop down the street to be your Airbnb key exchange spot, thus bringing them potential customers. They in turn provide your guests with discounts and don’t charge you much for the exchange assistance. This is great for vacation rentals: people arrived here to relax anyway, might as well introduce the nearest place to eat & chill at.
Cons: Guests will have to make an extra stop to grab the keys. Some will find it inconvenient. Plus, just like in the friends or neighbors case, you need to be absolutely certain that the business employer is a reliable and trustworthy individual. Finally, not all businesses work 24/7, and if they happen to have an emergency of their own, your Airbnb check-ins will be the last thing on their minds.
Asking your cleaner to hang around and wait for the guests
Pros: If your Airbnb is in high demand, your cleaners will find themselves amid the busy check-in schedule anyway. If they usually finish tidying up just before new people show up, they can wait a little longer to give them the keys. Just pay the cleaner extra when you need their service: it usually won’t be much.
Cons: Most professional cleaners have tight schedules of their own, and lingering at your property for a few extra bucks may not be worth it for them. After all, guests rarely arrive at a fixed time.
How to outsource Airbnb cleaning service in 5 minutes read here.
Dropping the keys at the front desk
Pros: The administrator in the apartment building of your Airbnb property is there to screen people anyway. Most of them work 24/7, rarely leave their post, and have a lockbox you can use to deposit your keys. The fee will most likely be affordable: a bit of cash or a small gift.
Cons: Just like with every third-party person, you need to be certain the administrator is trustworthy and good at safety measures. You will also need to come up with precautions and verifications; probably a secret word that the new guests will have to provide.
Putting the keys in a lockbox
Pros: Self-check-ins are fast and easy — and can become a determining factor for guests who aren’t fond of physical meetups or are in a hurry. Lockboxes are always there, never late, and don’t negotiate their fee. Just make sure your guest can easily find the lockbox on your property.
Cons: Even the best technology can fail, sometimes at the worst possible time, with the guests at the door. So you’ll have to frantically look for a locksmith and maybe pay him extra for the emergency services. You also need to reset the passcode after every check-out for the sake of security (which means you or a trustworthy third party should arrive there in person) — and maybe reassure your guests that their pass is unique, uncompromised, and no one will enter the Airbnb while they are staying.
Using a Smart Lock system
Pros: Smart Locks are compact and won’t take a lot of space; simply put them on the wall next to the entry. There are plenty of models to choose from, including deadbolts and levers, and you can find a blend in design to make the device less noticeable for random parties.
You can also operate smart locks remotely, from any part of the planet via a mobile app.
Cons: Most smart locks are pricey: expect to spend a couple of hundreds on an average model. Power or Internet outage also poses a problem, since smart locks connect to WiFi (which should be extra secured as well, by the way). Again, some people can be a little paranoid that you use the same passcode for every guest.
Hiring a professional Airbnb property management firm
Pros: The professional approach of your manager. This is their job; the risks of them being late, losing your keys, or jeopardizing anyone’s safety are minuscule. Airbnb property management usually includes key exchanges in a package deal, along with coordinating cleanings, guest support, and security. They also work around the clock.
Cons: The price. An average Airbnb property management can take a hefty 20-25% of the rent. If you only need help with pick-ups and drop-offs, it may not be worth the expense.
Using a professional keyholder service
Pros: It’s a blend of automated and standard exchanges: you or your leaving guests leave the keys at a special and secure site and the new arrivals pick them up from the storage using a unique passcode. You can track the pick-ups and drop-offs online. Keyholder services can offer affordable monthly fees and are available 24/7.
Cons: You need to find a key holder spot as near to your property as possible: very few travelers are excited about going the extra mile (figuratively and literally). This industry is still growing, and not every town has a key holder chain yet.
To sum it up
When it comes to managing an Airbnb, safety and comfort are the main priorities. Both parties — the guests and the host — shouldn’t be anxious about the potential hustle and bustle. When it comes to finding the best way to handle the key exchange, think of it as one of the most important investments in your rental business. If you are choosing between several options, pick the one that is A) more convenient and B) more secure. We understand that price matters too. But sometimes it’s better to pay a little extra and sleep a little tighter, knowing that your guests are all set.
Read also about smart home and automation technologies for Airbnb business.