How to Automate Your Short-Term Rental Check-In with Smart Locks

automate short term rental check in

By The Hospitable Team

It’s every short-term rental host’s worst nightmare. 

Your phone rings, and it’s your guest, upset and annoyed because they’ve arrived at your rental, and the rickety key lockbox is broken and won’t open. Or worse, it’s been stolen. Or, perhaps the person you hired to meet them at the door has been caught in an accident, and now can’t get there in time—so they’re just sitting there, waiting. Now what?

Maybe another guest has been delayed, and your assistant can’t wait around to let them in. Or maybe the guest accidentally locked their key inside, and now they’re stuck on the street with a plane to catch, and your cleaners can’t get in before the next guests arrive either. Major disaster.

It’s clear: By relying on unsafe lockboxes or inefficient in-person key handovers, you run the risk of such scenarios (or worse) happening every single time a guest arrives. Cue a terrible first impression, unhappy guests, and bad reviews—not to mention security risks and serious stress for you.

So what’s the alternative? Smart locks and automated messaging.

With a matching automated messaging flow, guests receive helpful messages ahead of arrival with all the info they need for a smooth check-in at exactly the right time. 

There’s no need to have anyone meet them, no problem in case of delays, no risk of stolen or locked-in keys, no security risks, and no unreliable lockboxes—and far less stress for everyone.

And luckily, the whole process can be managed via a digital platform specially designed for vacation rentals. So it’s easy to set up, manage, and run automatically. Let’s see how.

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The benefits of automating your check-ins with smart locks

02_Hospitable_AutomatedLocks_A photo of a woman looking at her laptop on a sofa

OK, but do smart locks really make things simpler? Is it really worth changing up your entire access system for your vacation rentals, and investing in smart locks—especially if you’re just starting out as a host?

Well, we say yes. Here’s why.

Smart locks are better for the host

Smart locks with automated short-term rental messaging flows simplify rental access for guests, but they also make life a lot easier for hosts too. Here are some major ways they help: 

  • Save time and money. No more need to hire anyone to meet the guest, or meet them yourself.
  • Save on extra costs. No more need to cut keys, buy fobs, or maintain lockboxes.
  • Less stress. No issues if guests are delayed and can’t make their original check-in time.
  • Easier management. Smart locks can be set up and managed remotely using digital platforms.
  • Hours saved on manual admin. Codes are generated and sent to guests automatically.
  • Better reviews. Guests get a great first impression because they can access their rental easily.
  • Safer rentals. Codes change with each new guest and there’s no risk of accidental key lock-ins.
  • Increased security. No risk of stolen or broken lockboxes, copied keys, or unauthorized entry.
  • Easier turnarounds. Cleaners and repair staff have their own codes for easy, secure access.
  • Better guest experiences. Hosts now have more time to personalize and improve stays.
  • More bookings. Modern guests expect digital check-in and are likely to book if you offer it.
  • Efficient energy use. Smart locks connect to smart lights and thermostats for extra savings.

You can grant or bar access remotely too, change codes at the touch of a button, see at a glance which smart locks have been used and when, and remotely lock or unlock. 

Some smart locks also send you a security alert if the wrong code is entered more than four times, for even higher security (and a chance to check up on guests to help them if they’re having issues).

Jason Wolohan, co-host of a successful cabin rental in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Hospitable.com user, says that the automated messaging feature plays a key role in helping him save up to 20 hours per month in guest management.

“I did spend quite a few hours upfront,” he says. “But after that, you get your return on time back pretty quickly. If I click on an automated message, it tells me that it’s going to save me nine minutes,” he explains.

“If you figure that I’ll be watching my kid ride his bike outside, and then all of a sudden, I would have to remember, ‘Oh yeah, I need to send a check-in message, or a check-up message to those guests who checked in yesterday’… well, nine minutes seems pretty reasonable,” he says.

“It’s a very good feeling of peace of mind knowing that I don’t have to dedicate the mental capacity to managing these items daily.”

Smart locks are better for the guest

Newer hosts may worry that without meeting guests in person or giving them a physical key, their arrival might feel unfriendly or clinical. But actually, the opposite is true. Guests love smart locks. Here’s why.

  • More convenient. No more waiting for an awkward or delayed in-person handover.
  • No delay stress. Guests can rest easy if they get delayed or their arrival time changes.
  • Streamlined access. Guests like the convenience and ease of doing everything on their phone.
  • A great first impression. Guests can walk straight into their rental, for a super-smooth arrival.
  • Reassurance ahead of their stay. Guests are sent all access info in advance before their stay.
  • Less risk. There’s no chance of lost keys, or accidentally getting locked out with the key inside.
  • A clean rental every time. No risk of arriving to a dirty rental as cleaners have easy access.
  • Better communication. Automated messaging establishes better communication with the host.
  • More control. Guests can use some systems to control lights and thermostats for a cozier stay.
  • Less worry on check-out. Guests don’t need to leave keys for cleaners or other guests.
  • A more personalized stay. A less stressed host has more time to offer personal touches to guests. 

Studies bear this up: One specialist report found that 80% of vacation guests, and 92% of business travelers, would be more likely to complete their rental reservation if the property had smart home technology, while 60% said they would pay more for it.

75% of guests said they worried about losing their accommodation keys, and 77% felt that smart locks were safer than a traditional key.

The study also found that 53% of guests felt that smart locks meant they no longer had to worry about being locked out, and 48% liked not having to coordinate with the host when arriving or leaving. The report concluded: “Clearly, smart locks can help guests enjoy a carefree, key-free stay.”

The best way to automate your check-ins: Combine smart locks with automated messages

Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.

We will detect questions and answer on your behalf; send fully custom messages triggered by events, and much more!

So now you know why you need smart locks. But how do you actually use them? How do guests get the information they need for access, and how do you automate that so you don’t have to spend hours typing out manual codes and messages every time?

The answer: Using smart locks together with automated messaging, via a specially-designed platform like Hospitable.com.

Hospitable’s integration with popular smart locks such as the Schlage Encode means you can generate new, easy-to-remember codes with each guest, and send all the arrival and check-in information in advance as part of your usual Airbnb check-in instructions (or Vrbo check-in instructions!), entirely automatically.

Hospitable’s Guest Experience Messaging lets you pre-write and pre-schedule an entire guest messaging flow that gets sent at each stage of the guest’s booking, at the exact right time. 

This can include:

  • A booking confirmation message
  • Week-before message
  • Pre-check-in message
  • Check-in message
  • First-morning check-up message
  • Check-out message
  • Post-stay message
  • Review reminder

It might also include a mid-stay upsell message, a message asking about early check-in, extended stay, or late check-out, and a message and marketing email 30 days after check-out.

By integrating your smart locks with Hospitable, you can set and forget your automated messaging flow, so it works seamlessly for each new guest. 

There’s no chance of them arriving to the rental without a code, no risk of you accidentally forgetting to send them the details, and once the initial set-up is done, no extra work for you.

Smart lock systems that integrate with Hospitable.com

Hospitable connects to two types of popular lock systems, the Schlage Encode and RBoy Apps—with an integration with RemoteLock on the way soon. Here’s a summary of each so you can decide which might work best for your vacation rentals.

Schlage Encode

04_Hospitable_AutomatedLocks_A photo of the Schlage Encode smart lock
The Schlage Encode is an investment but offers serious security and ease of access
Credit: Schlage.com

The Schlage Encode is a smart WiFi deadbolt. It’s available in a range of designs and features a simple keypad system for each keycode access. There’s also the option to open using a key for emergency backup (for example, in the very rare case that the four AA batteries fail).

It can be fitted onto most standard doors, conforms to commercial and residential standards of security, and has an in-built alarm. It requires a 2.4Hz WiFi internet connection, and can also work with smart home devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Batteries last six months, and the lock sends alerts to let users know if the power is running low.

Availability

The Schlage Encode is available through retailers recommended by the company itself.  

Pricing

The Schlage Encode is currently listed at $396.90 on Amazon.com, and is generally sold at $290+. It’s an investment, but the costs and stress it saves you and your team are significant, while the ease it offers renters is a compelling selling point.

What users say about the Schlage Encode

The lock receives generally positive reviews from users. 

One reviewer on Google, Brittany M, said: “I love everything about this lock! Installation for 2 locks took less than an hour! I would 100% recommend this lock! It’s on the more expensive side…but worth the extra cash as it doesn’t require a wifi bridge or connector, [and] has alarm functionality should the lock be tampered with, and has more code storage capabilities.”

Another, Annville Outlier, said: “Schlage Encode locks are remarkably easy to install and program. They really enhance the appearance of my property, and give me the assurance that it’s safe.”

The home security and smart home expert on review site Reviews.org gave the lock 4.75 out of 5.

However, some reviewers said that installing the lock can be tricky at first, some noted that the numbers can sometimes be a little difficult to see at night, and others said that the batteries often last less than the six months stated by the manufacturer.

RBoy Apps Rental Lock Automater

RBoy Apps helps manage locks specifically for rentals and manages user code generation.

The Remote Lock Automater set-up is perhaps a little more complicated than simply buying Schlage lock hardware, but it does give you more lock options if you would prefer a wider selection of brands, as it’s compatible with lock hardware such as Schlage, Yale, and August Pro.

It also integrates with OTAs, channel managers, and host tools such as Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hostaway, Guesty, and, of course, Hospitable. 

Once connected to Hospitable, you can manage codes from within your dashboard, and push them to your smart lock.

Availability

To use RBoy Apps, you need to buy a license for the Rental Lock Automater (RLA). This gives you a login and password. You then download the RLA to connect and use it with your chosen smart lock. This then integrates with Hospitable for seamless use.

Pricing

A single license costs $99.

What people say about RBoy Apps

One user and rental host said: “I want to offer a big THANK YOU for this amazing product. It has made my life as an Airbnb host so much easier. I honestly think this has been the biggest improvement to my workflow ever.”

Another said: “I am rather impressed with this. I can’t even tell you how many hours of lock programming this is going to save me! Literally hours every month.”

How to automate your check-ins with Hospitable.com’s smart lock integrations

Now you’ve seen which smart locks work with Hospitable, let’s look at the step-by-step process for connecting each system so you can start automating check-ins.

How to connect your Schlage account to Hospitable

  • Go to Apps
  • Click Schlage Encode
  • Click on the “Connect with Schlage” button
  • You will be asked to match each device to your Hospitable.com properties.
06_Hospitable_AutomatedLocks_A screenshot of Schlage Encode code sharing process
Hit the Connect with Schlage button here

Once your device is connected and matched to a property, Hospitable will ensure that the codes for all your future guests are generated. The code can be a randomly generated number, or use the last digits of your guest’s phone number.

The code is only valid for the length of the stay and will be deactivated if the stay is shortened or canceled. The code is deactivated 24 hours after guests check out.

Giving guests their code

You can use Hospitable’s shortcode (small text phrases of code) to insert the Schlage code automatically into pre-written messages. This shortcode is %smartlock_code%.

For example: Hello there! Your smart lock entry code is %smartlock_code%. Have a great stay!

For more step-by-step details on connecting with Schlage, check out this article.

07_Hospitable_AutomatedLocks_A screenshot connecting other tools on Hospitable
You can then add shortcodes to messages to give guests their keypad code

How to integrate Hospitable.com with RBoy Apps

  • First, ensure you have the latest version of the RLA

On Hospitable.com, copy your reservations iCal feed link

  • Click on Properties
  • Click on the property you want to connect
  • Click the Copy the iCal feed button near the bottom of the page

Add the property iCal feed in your RLA app

  • Click on Manage property and click on your property/unit name
  • Scroll down and click on Custom Channel Managers
  • Paste your iCal feed in the Calendar URL field
  • Update check-in and check-out times in Hospitable
  • Extract phone no. from reservation: Enable, to make the code from the guest’s phone number

This will set guests’ keycodes as the last four details of their mobile phone number.

08_Hospitable_AutomatedLocks_A screenshot of Schlage Encode code sharing process
Connecting RBoy Apps is done via the Properties tab on your Hospitable dashboard

For more step-by-step, detailed instructions on connecting with the RLA, check out this article or RBoy Apps’ own installation instructions page.

Giving guests their code

You’ll need to use Hospitable’s custom codes to insert the RLA code automatically into pre-written messages. These custom codes are guest_phone_last4, guest_phone_last5, or guest_phone_last7 (for codes that are four digits, five, or seven digits long respectively).

For example: Hello there! Your smart lock entry code is guest_phone_last4. Have a great stay!

Synchronization 

By default, RLA synchronizes your calendars every two hours. If you make a change within two hours of check-in or check-out, you’ll want to force a re-synchronization.

You can do this by opening the Manage Property page and then exiting it (which triggers a re-sync). The sync time can be reduced to one hour from the Advanced settings section at the bottom of the main page.

Automated check-in messages: Real-life examples

Now you know how to set up your smart locks and automate check-in messages. But what does the perfect check-in message contain? Let’s take inspiration from some real Hospitable users.

What every check-in message must include

09_Hospitable_AutomatedLocks_A photo of a man sitting at a table with a coffee looking at a smartphone
Check-in messages should include everything the guest needs to start their stay smoothly

Your messages to guests should make sure they have all the information they might need to arrive, check in, and access the property as easily and smoothly as possible. This will reduce stress for you both (and reduce the risk of them having issues and needing to call you).

Check-in messages should normally include: 

  • Thanks for the booking and welcome
  • Arrival info such as check-in time
  • The exact address and directions
  • Information for access, transportation, or parking
  • The keypad code
  • Any other must-know immediate details, such as the WiFi code or where to find extra towels
  • Contact details for help

However, at Hospitable we recommend that you don’t send all this info at once but break it down into three different messages, to make the information more digestible.

Make your check-in message part of your overall messaging flow

10_Hospitable_AutomatedLocks_A photo of Lauren and Aaron Havens to show their messaging flow
Lauren and Aaron Havens scaled their business Home Havens from 16 to 160 units in four years, and have a detailed messaging flow

Sending your keycode information works best if it’s just another part of your overall messaging sequence, says Lauren Havens, co-founder of the Home Havens vacation rental company in Utah, which scaled from 16 to 160 units (and two motels) in four years with the help of Hospitable.

Home Havens has an automated messaging flow that’s designed to make the guest feel as welcome as possible, while providing them with all the crucial information they need to have a seamless stay.

It includes: 

  • Thanks for booking after confirmation, with a video tour of the guest’s booked rental
  • Pre-check-in 24 hours before arrival (the code is sent here)
  • Check-in day, inviting feedback and answering property-specific questions
  • House-specific reminders with extra how-to details for the property
  • First morning, sent at 10am on the first day, hoping they’re enjoying their stay and inviting feedback and questions 
  • Check-out, including check-out instructions
  • Review reminder, sent after check-out to say thanks and request a five-star review 

Home Havens sends the access code in what they call the ‘pre-check-in message’, which also includes the property’s address, how to access the property, Wifi passwords, and helpful information such as food delivery services in the area.

In this way, the keycode is just another part of the welcome.

She says: “The guest wants to feel like you’re personally hosting them (even if you’re actually hosting hundreds of people per day).”

Lauren also says it’s good practice (and easy) to tweak messages and make them sound more personal. For example, if it’s Christmas, they’ll change the check-in message to say “Merry Christmas, we’re so happy you made it to snowy Utah.”

Smart lock access is just the beginning for your rentals

11_Hospitable_AutomatedLocks_An image of one of Quynh and Tris properties in San Diego
A three-bedroom property belonging to Quynh Vu, along with her husband Ti, in San Diego. Quynh used Hospitable to expand their business

Using a tool like Hospitable enables you to do much more than just smart lock access. In fact, smart lock integration is just one of the many features that Hospitable offers to simplify hosts’ lives and make guest experiences better.

It also includes:

  • Automated replies to common questions using AI, saving time and replying to guests ASAP
  • A centralized inbox so you can access your conversation with a guest from one place
  • A channel manager to ensure that your pricing and availability get updated across channels
  • Task management to help coordinate staff such as cleaners and maintenance contractors
  • Financial and operational metrics to give you insights into your business
  • Double-booking protection across multiple booking channels
  • Review management to post automated reviews of guests and request ratings post check-out.

Using these features helps to save you time, stress, and hassle, reducing manual tasks. This gives you the headspace you need to offer a better and more personalized service, get better reviews, and expand your business further, if that’s in your future plans.

In fact, pharmacist-turned-vacation rental host Quynh Vu, along with her husband Ti, was able to expand her business to six properties across three states in just two years because of the time and effort saved with Hospitable.

In the beginning, she was spending up to 10 hours every week on the Airbnb app to stay on top of guest communication, and manually organizing everything from access to turnarounds.

She said: “This seemingly endless workload made me feel disconnected from my personal life. Passive income didn’t feel passive at all.”

But when Quynh and Ti started using Hospitable, they set up automated messaging to save time (among the other features they used), and schedule messages in advance. 

This way, Quynh won back the hours she previously had to spend on answering guest questions, and her guests still have all the information they need.

Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.

We will detect questions and answer on your behalf; send fully custom messages triggered by events, and much more!

Smart locks and automated messaging: A match made in Hospitable heaven

Smart locks are truly revolutionary for your vacation rental business and can eliminate almost all of the stresses that come with physical keys and unreliable lockboxes overnight—including accidental lock-outs, lost keys, stolen or unreliable lockboxes, delay stress, and difficult in-person handovers.

But buying a smart lock is just one part of the puzzle. Using a messaging tool like Hospitable, which enables you to set up a friendly and efficient messaging flow, makes the system even more effective.

It seamlessly includes smart locks into your overall professional service and welcome, and pleases guests as well as saving you time, hassle, and money as a host.

With all that time and headspace saved, you can remember why you became a host in the first place: To make good money while offering travelers a great stay, and—if you want—to expand to even greater heights. 

Smart locks are just the start.

Airbnb check-in instructions

Airbnb Check-in Instructions: Tips on How to Delight Your Guests

Your guests’ check-in sets the tone for their entire stay. If this process is stress-free and smooth, it can help lead to positive reviews. Find out how to create check-in instructions for your short-term rental and make the check-in process smooth for you and your guests.

Airbnb self-check-in

Airbnb Self-Check-In: No More Waiting for Your Guests’ Arrival

Providing your Airbnb guests with a great experience from start to finish is essential, so first of all, you should ensure a smooth check-in process. The best solution is to offer them self-check-in when guests can access your property using a key lockbox, smart lock, or keypad. Let’s see how to set up the self-check-in process.

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