Using a Smart lock for Your Airbnb

A Personal Welcome:

Opening the door to greet your Airbnb guests, highlighting the special touches of your 5-star home as you give them the tour. Your guest exclaims that your place is even better than the photos. There is nothing like that personal touch. Sometimes. But how do you allow your guests to enter your 5-star home without you being there in person?

Today’s episode “The Ins and Outs of Using a Smart lock for Your Airbnb” because life happens. 

Reviewing a Product:

You might have another job, or your vacation rental isn’t nearby or some guests just don’t want that kind of welcome. They might want to stop and see some sights and not have a specific time of arrival.

Dear hosts, I used to wait for my guests, then I got a lockbox. Now I just replaced the lockbox system I used for years to a smart lock. This seemingly small choice has changed my life for the better in a big way.

As you know, I like to live with a product for a few months before I provide you with a review. Sometimes, it takes me a couple of years like with Episode 72 Ring Video Doorbell Pros and Cons. There is the excitement from first discovering a new product, ordering it, and then the much-anticipated arrival and opening of the box. Then, there is the actual reality of living with it. How do the dream and reality compare? It can take a while to find out.

That’s today’s episode: “The Ins and Outs of Using a Smart lock for Your Airbnb.”

I get it. You might be saying, I greet every one of my guests. I used to do that for many years… Then, the arrival time kept changing or the guests’ flight were delayed. I got tired of constantly having to change my plans to accommodate my guests. I wanted my life back.

I needed a solution.

Lockbox vs. Keyless (also known as the Smart lock)

I didn’t want to change the lock on my door to a keyless system.

I thought it would be:

  • Expensive: Hiring a locksmith means $$
  • Confusing: I didn’t know what to get…so many choices… WiFi, Zwave… What did I need?
  • Ugly: It would not match my door, or it would look out of place.

Instead, I got a lockbox, which worked for many years. I wasn’t crazy about the location. In addition, the directions were a bit confusing. You had to get the keys in one place, but then you weren’t supposed to open that door, which was right there. I had to tell my guests to go back up, and then open the other door. If I had more than one set of keys, did the guest take the keys with their names? Sometimes they did, and sometimes they did not.

Too complicated. Forget it.

What are the Pros of a lockbox:

  • It’s inexpensive: For less than $30, you can buy a lockbox and have it ready to use in no time.
  • Easy to use: It was easy to install and set up. Yes, you have to read the instructions to set up your combination. Don’t forget that.

Lockbox Cons:

  • One Code: I doubt you’re changing the code between guests, at least I wasn’t
  • Keys: Guests can take the keys with them, yes, they did with me.
  • Size: Limited space means a limited number of keys you can leave in the lockbox. Forget having cute keychains.
  • Urban Area: Many Airbnbs many lockboxes; better differentiate yours.
  • Weather: If it rains and it gets cold, it will freeze and get stuck, it happens.

I had a lockbox for many years, but then guests started complaining about the actual lock. I also had the infamous party guests, which you can hear all about on Episode 69: An Unauthorized Party In My Home, and it was time for a change.

What is Smart Lock?

Your front door deadbolt can be opened with a key, which is how it has been done forever. Now they have fobs, keypads, or smart locks.

A smart lock can be either Wii or Bluetooth enabled. It locks and unlocks a door by sending secure signals from a computer, phone, or tablet. It creates a digital key to give access to your home to your Airbnb guests, cleaners, and everyone else you want.

One of the best things (in my opinion) is that a Smart lock also monitors access and lets me know who’s coming and going.

So many options, so little time…

Research:

Ohh the research that was done to figure out what to get… Javier, my tech man here at Eveland, now knows way too much about smart locks.

Decide how you want to communicate with your smart lock: via Bluetooth, Zwave, or WiFi.

Let’s start with Bluetooth Smart Lock:

  • Bluetooth is considered more secure.
  • Bluetooth doesn’t burn through battery life as quickly as Wi-Fi, but the range is limited.

If you want to control your lock remotely, then you will need to have a hub.

Javier’s main reason against using Bluetooth was its limited range. The phone has to be close to program the lock. This makes it harder to unpair from an already paired phone, and not everyone carries a Bluetooth phone.

Zwave Smart Lock:

Then there is Z-Wave. A Z-Wave enabled smart lock doesn’t connect directly with your phone. You need a compatible hub to talk to your lock. Then you can connect with your lock. If you want to connect to your lock remotely, you need to add WiFi, which is why we decided to just go with a WIFI lock for my own Airbnb home.

WiFi Locks:

I’m going to shake things up a bit and start with the cons.

  • Battery life is shorter, so place a reminder on your phone to change the batteries before they die.
  • If the Internet is down, the lock will work with the previously set up codes but you can’t enter new codes until the WiFi is up again.
  • Cost: It’s more expensive than other locks.

Okay, here come the Pros.

The love for my WiFi smart lock runs deep. Very deep.

  • Remote locking and unlocking: Yes, I can open the door from another country. I have watched my guests via the Ring video and opened the door for them. That is soooo cool.
  • Ability to create temporary codes: I have set up temporary codes for my guests with set times to expire.
  • Auto locking options: The lock will automatically engage behind my guest. I don’t have to worry about whether my guest locks the door or not because I can see it on my phone.
  • Monitor: I see when my guest or cleaner arrives and departs. Yes, sometimes even Wayne, my designer friend guru, gets creeped out when I text him that I know he is in the house.
  •  

What Smart Lock did I buy for my own Airbnb?

After researching the August Lock, Yale, and Schlage brands, I decided to go with a Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt. I installed it with the handyman while we were doing the big renovation that I spoke about on Episode 74: Reviews: Learning, Adapting, and When to Say, No, Thank You.

Reasons for buying the Schlage Encode Smart Wifi Deadbolt for my own Airbnb:

  • I wanted a key option just in case the battery dies.
  • I wanted to be able to use it remotely.
  • I wanted something that was easy to use for me and my guests.
  • I didn’t want my guests to need a smartphone to use it.

I had some minor problems with the original programing, and I had to do a full reset. Since then, everything has worked really well. I use the Schlage app remotely to set up the guests entry codes with no issues..

Communication Automation:

Remember that I use iGMS, formerly known as Airgms, for my automation communication with my guests. This is free for up to four listings. You can use my affiliate link by going to TheHostingJourney.com/iGMS so you can set up your communication as well.

As part of my communication strategy, a few days before arrival my guests get all of their check-in information. This information includes the smart lock code, a video on how to use the lock, written instructions, and the time of day when the lock will grant them access. Everything is automated because of the way my code works. I use a number plus the last 4 digits of the guests’ cell phone number. iGMS pulls those numbers from the reservation and adds those digits to my template. I don’t need to do anything. Easy peasy.

Things to Note:

One of the things I did add was a little motion detection light above the lock for the guest’s convenience.

In my Facebook Group, The Hosting Journey, one of the members was asking when you should set up your code to allow your guests to enter. If the code says 3pm, the lock will not work at 2:59. Trust me. I normally set it up for 30 minutes before check-in and 30 minutes after check-out. I don’t let the guests know this because this is for my peace of mind, not theirs.

Now you have the ins and outs of actually using a smart lock for your Airbnb. There are many articles and reviews out there, but you probably don’t have time for them all. That’s why Javier and I did the research for you. I know you want real-life experience, and that’s the reason behind the recommendation for installing a smart lock for your vacation rental.

Your host,

Evelyn

PS: Want more…

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