Guest Check-Ins: How to Handle Key Exchanges

Guest Check-Ins: How to Handle Key Exchanges
Airbnb Advice
November 15, 2018

The check-in process is a crucial part of all experiences on Airbnb. It is at this point that guests gain their first impression of their stay and you as a host. How you handle this part of the Airbnb hosting journey will set the tone and heavily influence how people perceive your property and skill. Unfortunately, it is also a process that many hosts have trouble with. This is particularly true with key exchanges. Getting the keys to the property to guests can be difficult for a number of reasons, the most common being that people arrive at their Airbnb rentals at all times of the day and night. A large proportion of guests using Airbnb are international travellers, meaning the time they get to their booked location depends on flight arrivals and other factors. It’s highly probable that at some stage in a hosting career (and chances are it will be early-on), a host will be required to navigate a late night or early morning check-in. While the ideal situation is to meet guests in-person upon check-in, in reality, this can be difficult at times. Unless you are prepared to be on-call to meet people at your property whenever they are able to get there, it is necessary to have some sort of system in place to avoid speed-bumps in your hosting experiences. Check-ins can be a source of worry for a lot of guests and can be the deciding factor between whether someone chooses to book with you or not. For this reason, it’s definitely worthwhile to invest the time into fool-proofing the process. Taking the necessary steps to make check-ins and key exchanges as smooth and stress-free as possible can place you on the best footing for providing an enjoyable experience and gaining that desired 5-star review. Key management can be handled in a couple of ways and as they are recommended by a number of international top hosts, are proven to work for seasoned hosts.

Here are the best ways to handle key exchanges if you are unable to be there in person:

Install a Secure Lock-Box

A lockbox is one of the most common ways Airbnb hosts navigate key exchanges for guests arrivals. The beauty of a lockbox is that they can be used both when guests are checking in and out, and as they are protected by your chosen password, they do not have to be hidden in obscure locations. There are a number of lockboxes on the market, with some products offering smart technology that allows you to change your password with each guest. This adds an extra layer of security to your check-in process. Traditional mechanical lockboxes have a much lower price point and can be found at most major retailers. If you choose to go with a smart lockbox, you may have to look at spending a bit more, however, it will be worth it in the long-run due to how much easier it allows the process to run.

Provide Guests with Instructions on How to Find the Keys

Last year Airbnb made the move to streamline the check-in process with a new feature within the app and website. The check-in instructions tool provides a visual guide to arriving at a property and allows hosts to give full instructions alongside pictures to simplify this process as much as possible. For hosts, this feature is one of the best ways to ensure check-ins go off without a hitch and guests are able to gain access to the rental as fast as possible. Well-written instructions and helpful images are necessary if you’re leaving your key somewhere hidden.

Designate a Trusted Person or Employ an Airbnb Management Company to Meet Guests

If you are uncomfortable with using a lockbox, hiding your key or your property doesn’t suit this kind of strategy, you can always implore the help of another person if you are unable to be there yourself. This person can be a neighbour, a friend that is willing to help, a nearby business (such as a cafe) or a professional Airbnb management company.The upside of getting someone to hand over your key to your guests is that they are greeted with a friendly-face upon arrival to their rental and are able to ask any questions they may have. By taking control of this process, you are able to set a positive tone for the duration of the stay. The check-in process is a really important moment as an Airbnb host, so it’s important to nail it down and get it perfected for every guest you have.

Key Exchanges Require Thought and Planning

As an Airbnb host, earning a 5-star review should be on your mind at all times. From the first enquiry to checking-in and the experience, right through to your closing well-wishes - your guests' perception should be kept top of mind. As mentioned by Jim Breese at, key exchanges are something that you have control of. Not every aspect of a guest’s stay can be managed, however, by ensuring you make checking-in a pleasant experience, you have taken another step towards a great review.

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