Airbnb Check-in Guide for Hosts

Airbnb Check-in Guide. Some tips for hosts who want a simpler and easier check-in process.

Update: Its now March in London and all my listings are usually full every day. There are two major reasons why I am full every day. The first is I have many regular customers who come every week on the same days. These are all people who live outside London (some live in other EU countries and fly here and back) but work in London for two or three days every week. The second reason is I have slashed my prices by 10% to stay competitively priced.

How to check-in your Airbnb guest?

How you check-in your airbnb guest depends in some ways on how you manage your airbnb listing. If your a live-in host then it should be much easier to personally check-in your guests. However if your listing is not close to you then a self check-in will probably be your best option. Some positives and negative of each method are explained below. I personally use both the self check-in and the personal host check-in methods depending on what other plans I have that day etc.

Airbnb Host Personal Check-in

The Airbnb host personal check-in method is probably the best. This method gives your guests the personal touch that has helped to make Airbnb great. It’s always good to actually meet the person you are dealing with. It also gives the guest a chance to ask important questions or local knowledge which can really improve their stay. I also find that the less anonymous a transaction the less likely there is for any problems. Such as bad behaviour. But also I find the guest is more clean and tidy.

I always try and check-in a guest personally whenever I can. Meeting my guest usually gives me a better idea of what this person will be like other than just looking at their profile. When I first started  as a Airbnb host almost 5 years ago at least half of my guests were first time airbnb users (today it’s maybe a quarter). This means that they had no previous reviews to judge from. But also it means they perhaps were not 100% sure of what was expected of them. This way I got to explain the house rules to them in a more descriptive way that just what was written on the listing description.

Airbnb Check-in Methods
Airbnb Check-in Methods

Airbnb Guest Self Check-in

There are two main methods for Airbnb Self Check-in. The first is easily the most common and that involves using a key safe. The second is owing a door with a smart lock system – usually a keypad but could be a smart phone enabled lock.

If your a host and you live far away from your listing (or you simply don’t like waiting around for your guests who often arrive late etc.) then investing in a key safe is probably your most likely self check-in solution. A key safe is exactly that – a little safe just to store keys. I have my key safe bolted to the wall near my front door. It’s not easy to see from the street as it’s down low, but is easy enough for a guest to find it without too much effort.

Which type of key safe should you use?

There are many different styles of key safe. A simple search on Amazon reveals multiple brand names and styles. Some are very cheap in price. What you need to consider is safety. Many of the cheaper key safes I have seen are made of a plastic and would not be very difficult to break with a decent hammer. So you might want to consider a strong metal key safe. The one I purchased was at the time the only one that was ‘Police Approved’. This one was expensive at nearly £100, so about ten times the price of some of the cheapest options. But I believed this one would be best for me. Not just for peace of mind but it looks like it will last a very long time and i’m in this for the long haul.

key safe
A strong and reliable key safe means you don’t have to worry about the wrong people getting your keys

Electronic Keypad Check-in or APP

Some new modern doors no longer the outdated insert metal key and turn system but can now be opened by punching in a code. The advantage of a keypad check-in is obviously there needs to be no physical transfer of keys. You can simply send the code to your guests either at the time of booking or a short time before arrival. There is some possible drawbacks to this scenario. The first being a communication problem might leave your guests stranded outside, unable to enter the listing.

Allow your guests to enter your airbnb listing with a key code
Allow your guests to enter your airbnb listing with a key code

Keypad door locks average about £100. They often do not look particularly stylish and look like they should belong on a office building. Depending on where you like a keypad door lock might stand out as usual and may attract unwanted attention. This might be a problem if your trying to give your airbnb listing a low profile. Smart locks are possibly the way of the future but might not be compatible with everyones phone. Technical issues could make you wish you stuck with the old fashioned key.

How Airbnb can stop you getting a mortgage and How to automate your Airbnb

It’s now May in London and it’s finally gotten warm like summer. I no longer need to keep the radiators bering all day and night to stop my guests complaining about being cold. Its been steadily busy the last few weeks. I have so many regular airbnb guests now (those that come almost every week to London, usually for work purposes) that I feel the slowdowns in bookings much less than previous years. I read a newspaper article recently that more tourists are visiting London than ever before so I expect most hosts are doing quite well.

Getting a mortgage with Airbnb

Recently I applied to re-mortgage my house. I was set to re-mortage with Santander and the deal was almost complete. The final hurdle was the usually quick and easy valuation of the property the bank does to make sure the house is worth what you say it is (in my experience they always value the property at exactly what you say it’s worth). I was not expecting any problems as my house is relatively new and in central London. I did not tell Santander that I run an airbnb business from my home. I felt it would not add anything to my application (current attitudes are to airbnb it seems is earning more money makes you a bigger risk, go figure?) so I didn’t tell them.

The valuation expert who visited my house reported back that I was running a bed and breakfast in my attic. There we no guests staying in the house at that time (some were due to arrive later in the day). So I was first amazed about how he knew this and secondly why he had reported this as it was in my opinion not his job to report on such things – he is supposed to be an independent expert to value the property. Santander refused my mortgage on these grounds. I later heard that the valuation expert had seen the bottles and water and chocolates placed by the beds.

Getting a mortgage for an airbnb is still an issue. Airbnb is seen as a commercial business and would therefore require a commercial loan. It does not seem even possible that anyone could use airbnb on a residential application for their own home. The ability to earn extra income to help pay the loan you are taking out to me seems like an excellent safety net. Most people rely on their employment income to pay their mortgage which is nowadays not so secure and reliable. Having a second income should make an application stronger but this seems not the case. How long will it be before banks change their attitude? I think not until they are forced to.

How to Automate your Airbnb

For me the worst thing is when a Airbnb guest arrives at your house early and your not at home. You may have no choice but to drop what you are doing and rush back to let your guest in. This is something that has happened to me on a few occasions. More often I plan to go out but a guest is booked to arrive later so I have to wait until they arrive before I can leave the house. So now I automate my airbnb in two ways.

  1. Install a Keysafe outside the house
  2. Install a intercom on the door that can call your phone

I bought a police approved high quality key safe and bolted it to the wall near my front door. It’s not visible from the street and has a protective cover so it looks like a wire box or something like this. A set of keys can be placed inside the box and a special code is needed to open it. Therefore if you can tell your guest the code and how to find the key safe they can enter your airbnb when your not at home.

Allow your guests to enter your listing when your not there.

For a long time I wanted to buy an intercom for the front door which would tell me if someone rang the bell and allow me to speak to them from my mobile phone. I understand the likes of Apple plan to develop such a device but have yet to do so. There are many such devices on the market already but none especially stand out. I was waiting for a reliable high quality intercom to hit the market for some time but so far none have appeared. Not willing to wait any longer as I was occasionally having trouble with guests arriving at my house but was not able to reach them on their mobile phones. I did purchase this intercom from Ring. It does work but if your in a area of low internet connection it can cut out easily.

See who enters and leaves your home.

So now It is possible for a guest to arrive at my house and they can speak to me on my intercom when I’m not at the house and I can tell them how to get the key from my key safe and they can get in the house without me being home. So I no longer need to rush home across half of London to answer my front door.

Get paid twice for your listing and how to automate your Airbnb business

I recently changed my Airbnb cancellation policy from Flexible: Full refund 1 day prior to arrival, except fees to Moderate: Full refund 5 days prior to arrival, except fees. The reasons for doing this are that I did have a few cancellations over the summer and although I had managed to refill most of the empty spaces in my calendar I started to think there is a real risk of a last minute cancellation causing significant financial loss to me so I decided to change to Moderate. This at least would give me 5 days to refill the space. What I didn’t think of was the possibility of selling the room twice.

Choose your Airbnb listing cancellation policy wisely
Choose your Airbnb listing cancellation policy wisely

Get paid twice for your Airbnb listing

If your cancellation policy is either Moderate or Strict: 50% refund up until 1 week prior to arrival, except fees then there exists the possibility of getting paid twice for the listing. For example if a guest books for a week but two days prior to check-in decides they can’t or don’t want to use their booking then they will not be entitled to a refund. You are then free to re-sell the listing to someone else and thereby get paid twice. This can only happen if the guest officially cancels the booking. To do this they need to officially cancel on the website and not just send you a note. A host can’t cancel a trip for a guest as this will give them a black mark (Airbnb will assume the host cancelled for their own reasons).

Selling a room twice can really boost your income for the month so it’s worth considering changing your cancellation policy.

How to automate your Airbnb listing

If you’re a live-in Airbnb host then sooner or later the issue of what to do if you want to take a holiday yourself arises. Even when I’m not on holiday I don’t like to leave the house for too long a period of time, in case there are issues when I’m not there. I certainly don’t like the idea of leaving the house for a week with guests in situ. Security is one thing that worries me most. Only I know who is a paid guest and who is not. No one else in the house knows each other and a stranger could easily enter the house unchallenged.

If I want to go on holiday the safest thing for me to do is to block off the calendar and have no guests over this period. Of course this means no income for a week which adds up to a lot of money. I could find a friend or family member who would be willing to look after the house but this is unfair on other people as they have their own lives and it’s actually more hassle for them than they realize (being a host is not as much fun as people think).

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There are agencies you can you who offer a professional greeting service such as Hostmaker and airsorted. These agencies help you automate your Airbnb business so you can be lounging on the beach drinking cocktails and just let the money roll in. In reality the amount on money these services charge is likely to wipe out any profit you could potentially make from your business as the margins for this business are wafer thin.