Why "self check-in" is the #1 value driver for your Airbnb listing

Jesper Vik
Head of Sales

Smooth access is one of the most important things to get right for your Airbnb. Here’s why you should invest in mobile keys for your listing.

Real Estate
November 24, 2022
minutes reading time

I had the pleasure of working at Airbnb for 7 years. I’ve drank the kool-aid, and since 2012 I have checked in to hundreds of Airbnb listings. I’ve also hosted a few dozen guests myself. I feel I can confidently say I've seen almost everything when it comes to check-in experiences. Having been on the inside of Airbnb I also know a thing or two about how to succeed as a host.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Key handovers can be a real nightmare.

Some Airbnb hosts romanticize the idea of meeting your guests in person and providing a personal check-in experience. It's a nice idea, however, it’s not always possible.

Guests arrive early or late
When you travel there are a lot of moving parts. Delays can occur. In some cases your guest has a business dinner scheduled when they initially planned to check in, and now need to check in earlier to drop off their bags.

Something comes up that leaves you unable to wait at the listing
We’re all busy people and before you know it something important or exciting comes up where you have to or wish you could leave the listing. 

Having someone else deliver the experience is expensive
If you want to make things easier for yourself but still provide a personal check-in experience, there are plenty of companies out there that can provide this service. However, that will cost you, and if your guests are delayed it will most likely cost you even more.

Self check-in is a top priority for Airbnb 
With all the things that can go wrong during check-in, there is no wonder why this is one of the top priorities for Airbnb.

But before we get into that, let’s get into what self check-in is. 

What is Airbnb’s “self check-in”?

Self check-in means guests can access a place without needing the host to be there. Any time after their designated check-in time on their arrival date, guests can conveniently gain access via:

  • A key lockbox
  • A smart lock
  • A keypad
  • A key or access via the building staff, such as a doorperson or front desk attendant, who must be available 24/7 to do so.


Now let’s get back to why Airbnb is doubling down on self check-in.

The check-in is the most critical moment for both hosts and guests. It’s the largest friction point for any stay, and certainly accounts for a large portion of Airbnb’s customer support work. It’s the moment of truth. It has therefore landed a spot as one of the six categories an Airbnb listing is reviewed by — among others like cleanliness, location, communication, value for money and accuracy. 

On average, listings with self check-in score better than those without and it is the #1 indicator of the lifetime value of an Airbnb listing. Why?

  • It provides a smoother guest experience as it provides a flexible check-in.
  • It is much easier for a host to manage and makes for more sustainable hosting. Airbnb avoids churn from what is referred to as host fatigue.
  • Airbnb receives fewer customer support cases with self check-in.


It’s a win, win, win scenario. Therefore, self check-in has earned itself a spot right next to the Instant Book filter.

The launch of Instant Book in 2014 has been one of the most impactful launches in Airbnb history. Now the booking option is joined by Self check-in.


As you probably have gathered by now — I highly recommend enabling self check-in for your listing. But, it has to be done right!

In my opinion, smart locks with mobile keys are the superior solution. Let me share some stories to illustrate why:

Poor self check-in alternatives I’ve had over the years:

Lock boxes

Katie's place in London: The key was put in a lock box, 400 meters away from the apartment. The lock box was placed on a bike rack, with a handful of other identical lock boxes. So here I am, after dark, crouched over a bike rack with the flashlight on my mobile phone for 5 minutes until I finally find the right one. Apart from not being a great experience for the guest, downsides are:

  • Guests can forget to put the keys back
  • Changing the combination after every reservation is a hassle, so many hosts don’t. 
  • They are an invitation for bad actors to try to crack open and gain entry to your place. 
  • The physical keys inside them can still be copied, lost or misplaced. 


Code locks 

Chris’ place in San Francisco, one of our favorite listings when visiting Airbnb HQ: Check-in was smooth with his code lock, however the code was the same for each time we stayed which made us question how safe this was. 

  • Changing the combination between every reservation is a hassle, so many hosts don’t.
  • A code can be shared with anyone during a stay so even if the code is specific for the booking you still have no control over who has access. 


Leaving the key at a restaurant or kiosk 

Edgars place in Paris: The key could be picked up in the 1st floor restaurant which happened to close at 10pm. The problem was that my delayed flight had me there at 11pm. The host went the extra mile and met me at the apartment close to midnight, which was not a great experience for any of us.
Other weaknesses of this alternative are:

  • Leaving the keys in the hands of someone else.
  • Your keys can get mixed up with someone else's keys.
  • The person you left the keys with might leave work or be busy when guests arrive.


Key exchange service

I have used this option myself when hosting before buying a smart lock. My keys were kept in a key locker behind the counter often at kiosks that are open 24/7. It’s not a bad solution, but you pay for it. Furthermore, both you and your guests need to actually go to the key hotel to pick up the keys, which can often be quite far from the listing. 

I’d like to point out that for the most part the check-in options mentioned above work out all right, but when they don’t it’s a bit of a disaster. To provide the best possible self check-in there is a clear cut winner: smart locks with mobile keys. 

Why mobile keys are your best friend

Development in the lock industry has accelerated immensely over the last few years and with the introduction of smart locks comes functions that enable convenience and security on a whole new level. Savvy hosts are already leveraging the opportunities with the new technology and more hosts are steadily catching on as this technology is making it into the mainstream.

Here are some reasons smart locks and mobile keys provide the smoothest, most secure check in experience for both hosts and guest:


Mobile keys create a secure self check-in process.
Unlike code based lock boxes and smart locks, mobile keys are tied to each individual guest and cannot be shared outside of your control. They cannot be stolen, copied or lost. The mobile keys can be temporary and automatically be deleted at check-out. 

Mobile keys create an easy and flexible check-in process.
Just determine the period the mobile keys should be valid for and pick the recipients. Keys can be shared ahead of arrival as they will only be valid within the defined period. No need for changing codes or coordinating with physical keys. 

Mobile keys create a smooth experience for your guest.

Mobile keys enable check-in and check-out at any time of the day. No need to worry about delays or changes in plans. The key is already ready on their phones so they can go straight to the listing - and when they check out, all they have to do is leave. Not having to share a limited number of physical keys for a larger party is a big plus. 

Manage your Airbnb listing remotely 
Manage your listing from anywhere. You can easily grant access to guests, cleaners, carpenters or anyone else from your phone. No need to pay someone else or trust your local shopkeeper with the task.

Ultimately it’s the #1 value driver for your listing.

Regardless of whether you rent out your space every now and then, or if you’re a full blown professional host — smart locks and mobile keys are the ultimate investment to make the work easier on you as a host, and the experience better for the guest. It’s also by far the most secure self check-in option. By enabling self check-in, you will score better in Airbnbs search rankings. And with great check-in reviews this score will improve for each booking making you more visible to travelers.

Interested in learning more?

See what locks work with Unloc 🔑📲

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