Planning

The Best Lock Box For Airbnb Check-In

Lock and chains over barn doors

A lock box is one of the best systems for checking in guests at your Airbnb. I’ve been storing physical keys in a lock box on the premises of our listings for several years now with great success.

We use our lock boxes as a backup to our primary check in process, but they’ve been hugely important in guaranteeing a great check in for every guest.

Today, I’ll share with you the lock box we use, and one lower priced alternative. So let’s get to it.

Two Uses For a Lock Box

I think there’s a good argument that every Airbnb should have a lock box on site. If you’ve stayed in many short term rentals while traveling, then you’ve likely gained access to your accommodations using a lock box a few times.

One of the challenges of hosting is creating a smooth process for your guests to use when they check in.

When we opened our first Airbnb, we just kind of winged it, and we ended up locking our guests out a few times. That’s a situation that’s frustrating for everyone.

So one of the uses for a lock box is to put on the front door handle of your listing in order to give your guests access. You give them a code and they use the code to open the box and get the keys. This is one of the better check in systems.

The second use for a lock box, and the one that Kate and I use, is as a backup method for your guests to get inside.

We do leave our guests a code for entrance into our units, but the code is for a battery powered deadbolt. We had lots of problems in the early days of running our Airbnbs, and one was that occasionally guests aren’t able to successfully operate the electronic deadbolt. When this happens, the guest will call us.

At first, we had to physically drive over there and let them in, but after this happened a few times, we decided to install a lock box on site with the physical key. That way when there was a problem, we could just direct them to the lock box and have them get the physical key. Since we did this, we haven’t had to rescue any of our guests in person.

Master Lock 5401D – The Lock Box We Use

  • Wall mountable
  • For indoor and outdoor use
  • Single code, easy to reset

We have a Master Lock 5401D at all our properties. Lock boxes don’t have a lot of features, and they really shouldn’t. This lock box has never had a single problem, and I believe that’s because of it’s simplicity.

You can mount the box with four holes in the back panel. I mounted mine on wood. It may be trickier to mount on other surfaces, but I’m sure it can be done (although wood screws come in the box).

You can set the code just by opening the box, setting a switch, and then putting in your code. Unfortunately, you can only have one code at a time, but the tradeoff is that you don’t have to worry about batteries (which run out eventually).

Lastly, I’ve never met a guest who couldn’t use this lock box. You literally just move the number dials to the right code and then pull the tab. Super simple.

Master Lock 5400D – To Hang On Your Doorknob

  • Fits on doorknob
  • For indoor and outdoor use
  • Single code, easy to reset

The Master Lock 5400D is the same lock as the 5401D, but it fits on a doorknob instead of mounting on a wall. I would use this model if I wanted the lock box to be my guests’ primary method of gaining access to my Airbnb.

There’s not much to add, it has the same simplicity and durability. This lock has the same simple mechanism to set and reset your code. And it has the same easy to use interface.

It’s another easy to use lock box that just works.

ZHEGE Key Lock Box – Lower Cost Option

  • Fits doorknob
  • Indoor and outdoor use
  • Single code, easy to reset
  • Lower price

I’ve never used this lock box, so I can’t vouch for its quality. But if you’re looking for a lower cost box with all the same features of the Master Locks and good reviews, then the ZHEGE Key Lock Box is a great choice.

Another interesting feature is that this lock comes in a few different colors. If your listing has a bold colored front door, then maybe the colored locks will be enough to win you over.

Should You Go Electric?

I’m not recommending any electric/battery powered lock boxes. I believe that mechanical is the way to go here.

There are a few issues with battery powered locks.

  • Eventually the batteries run out, which can happen when a guest needs to get into the house
  • Batteries can mean moving parts, which can break
  • Some of the electric locks can be confusing to use for less tech savvy guests

Electric deadbolt vs. electric lock box

We don’t use any electric lock boxes, but we do use electric deadbolts. Now electric deadbolts have the same problems. The batteries can run out, the moving parts can cause problems, and some of our guests have a hard time using them.

However, there is one big reason why we bother with the electric deadbolts. Sometimes guests leave and they don’t lock the door behind them.

We wanted a deadbolt that would lock automatically if our guests forgot.

The reality is that sometimes our guests have trouble with the electric deadbolts. But we’re able to continue using them because we keep lock boxes on the property in case a guest has a problem with the deadbolt.

In my opinion, there don’t seem to be enough benefits to an electric lock box to justify using one. Plus they’re more expensive.

The only argument for an electric lock box

I can only see one reason why an electric lock box might sound appealing. One time we had a guest check out after needing to use our lock box and they left the correct code visible on the lock box when they left.

When we arrived the correct code was already put into the box. When Kate saw that she had to reset the code to prevent any chance of a break in (in case someone saw the code).

With an electric lock box, you should have virtually no risk of a neighbor or thief learning the code. But if you’re not paying attention, a mechanical box could get left on the correct code.

Conclusion

Lock boxes are a great tool for Airbnb hosts that want to create a smooth check in process for their guests.

I recommend avoiding anything with a battery since they increase the risk of a bad check in experience for your guests. Kate and I have an electronic deadbolt as our primary form of access for guests, but we keep a Master Lock 5401D with keys to the house near the front door in case our guests have trouble using the electric deadbolt.

Happy investing.

Michael

I'm living the path to financial success and sharing everything I learn in this blog. I believe in the power of cash flowing investments, due diligence and time. This is my journey so far.

Before 2016: Just living my life, working full time and trying to get by.

2016: Kate and I start to discuss the possibility of getting into real estate investment. We read books like Rich Dad Poor Dad and listen to the Bigger Pockets Podcast. We find a Realtor and start looking at property. We even make an offer or two, but nothing happens.

2017: Kate and I continue looking for property. We meet with banks and find lenders willing to work with us. In one month (August), we turn our basement into an Airbnb and list it AND we purchase our first long term rental property, which is a triplex. We can't find good tenants for our triplex.

2018: In April, we finally get our first tenant in the triplex, our second in June and get it fully rented in July. Our basement Airbnb makes so much money that in September we decided to buy another property to exclusively rent out on Airbnb. It makes us even more money than the first one!

2019: Kate decides we should put together a mastermind group. So we get in touch with people we know who care about money and start sharing knowledge with each other. Our triplex is profitable, but our two Airbnb properties are making way more money, so we buy another property to put up on Airbnb and VRBO.

2020: Coronavirus hits in March and all the guests booked at our Airbnb properties cancel. We freak out, but after a few weeks everything comes back and we're making money again. Discussion and research from the mastermind group makes me want to investigate online business as an investment strategy. Kate and I started Unbound Investor with plans to purchase a website in 2021.

OK you're all caught up!

I learned everything I know from books, podcasts, conversations with friends and family and of course through real world experience as a cash flow investor. And I'm always pushing to learn more.

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