Host Guides: 3 Lockbox Alternatives For Airbnb Hosts

December 5, 2018

As Houst’s City Manager in Edinburgh, I’m often asked about what alternatives there are to a railing or wall-mounted lockbox for allowing guests access to their short-term lets. As it happens, there are a few...

But first – why is this an issue?   

The use of lockboxes for Airbnb guests in Edinburgh has gained a lot of media attention recently. In November, an extraordinary photo emerged on Reddit of a front door in Edinburgh with a whopping 11 key safes next to it...

The offending door, located on Edinburgh’s iconic royal mile.
Credit: u/cynical_response, Reddit

Interestingly, lockboxes aren’t exactly new to Edinburgh. When Houst first launched in the city 3 years ago, a number of lockboxes were already in use – but not for Airbnb purposes.

For example, elderly or unwell residents allow day carers access to their homes via lockboxes, because they’re often too unwell to answer the door themselves.

Today, many of our part-time hosts (and, anecdotally, non-hosts in Edinburgh too) have lockboxes, even though they’re often living in the house. This allows them to go jogging without a set of jangling keys, or means they can give access to cleaners or workmen without having to be home to let them in.

While it’s undeniable that Airbnb has led the rise in lockbox numbers in Edinburgh and elsewhere, it’s also clear that they’re not necessarily a problem in themselves, and don’t always mean that a property is used solely for hosting guests.

But they’re not for everyone.

Given the continuing debate around lockboxes (and that they’re not exactly the modern-world access solution you’d expect of the modern-world phenomenon that is Airbnb), hosts may wish to look at some clever alternatives – as luck would have it, I know a few…

Here are my top three lockbox alternatives:

1. Smart locks

Cheap, easy to install and accessible by pin code, keycard or key-tag.

2. Digital locks

Although more expensive, these are easy to install and can be controlled from an app on your phone, so you can change your code as often as you’d like, and share new codes with visitors easily through the app.

3. Remote access solutions

This isn’t a practical solution for busy hosts as they will need to be able to give access to guests in real-time. However, it does allow you to unlock street and apartment doors from an app, SMS or keypad – without needing to share any codes. 

Lockbox alternatives (from left to right):
Smart locks, digital locks, and a remote access solution. 

These options are pretty appealing, but there’s one big reason why a lockbox may be the way to go: if your property doesn’t have main door access, your guests or visitors will still need access through communal doors.   

Most modern apartment blocks use key fobs, but if you are in a tenement with a shared front door, it may be possible to install a simple keypad entry system as an alternative – or even one of the options listed above.

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