We ask, what are the pros and cons of using a smart lock or rental lock box for your property and how do you choose the best one for you?
Technology has come a long way since the days of hiding your front door key in a fake rock, under the doormat or in a flower pot. The market is now awash with rental lock boxes and smart locks to suit every property up and down the country.
With a high guest turnover rate and cleaners coming in and out all the time, security is paramount when it comes to vacation rentals. With the right lock, you can give yourself and your guests peace of mind.
In this article, we will be discussing both the traditional lock box and smart locks.
When deciding which kind of lock to buy, you need to figure out if you want to take a smart approach or if you’d rather go down the traditional key-in-hand route.
The location of your property should also play a part in your decision-making. Weather (extremely low or high temperatures) and other environmental conditions like salt and snow can affect the effectiveness of your lock.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of a rental lock box and smart locks.
One of the most obvious benefits of installing a lock box at your vacation rental is that it will save both you and your guests time, as you do not need to be present when they arrive or leave. Guests can self-check-in anytime, whether it’s 1 pm or 1 am.
If you do allow self-check-in, remember that there is a difference between being intrusive and absent. Make sure you are easily contactable even if your guests are checking in themselves.
If your short-term rentals are located out of state or you have a busy schedule, having to travel every time a new guest checks in or out can throw a spanner in the works. Self-operational smart locks mean that you don’t even need to be in the same country for your guests to check in.
The code on a smart lock or lock box can be easily rekeyed for new tenants. In a long-term rental, where you might be legally obligated to rekey the locks between tenancies, changing the locks may be inevitable. However, this is simply not time or money efficient for vacation rentals. Smart locks enable you to update the code wherever you are and whatever the time.
How many times have you had a call from a guest saying that they’ve lost their key and have no idea where it is? As a lock box or a smart lock is attached to the door (or very nearby), there is no way to lose it. This removes any of the stress that may come with a lost or misplaced key.
In the same way that a smart lock does not require you to be present every time a guest comes and goes, it also allows cleaners or landscapers, for example, to enter themselves without you being present.
Whether you decide to use a more traditional lock box or a smart lock, they are not immune to breakage. This could be caused by guest negligence or wear and tear. Depending on the material of your lock, it may be broken.
Some locks are susceptible to extreme weather conditions. For example, if doors are not properly aligned, they can swell in the summer, affecting the locking mechanism. Likewise, if your property is near the sea, the salt can affect the rental lock box.
Depending on what kind of lock you buy, it may be wifi, Bluetooth or battery dependent. This means that if the wifi or Bluetooth is unreliable or the batteries die, you could have issues with the functionality of the lock. This can put additional stress on your guests if they are unable to access your rental (especially if you are not present).
Changing all of the locks on your doors can be expensive if you are paying a contractor, not to mention the initial cost of the lock in the first place. Each lock could set you back around the $300 mark. Nonetheless, when you consider the cost of changing the locks or cutting new keys regularly (instead of updating the code online for free), it’s a good investment.
Think of a lock box as a mini safe for your keys. The benefit is that you don’t need to install a whole new lock with a deadbolt, so it can be installed on any door. While tested to withstand extreme weather and wear and tear, you should still install your lock box in an appropriate place where it will not be exposed unnecessarily.
The first lock box on our list has an impressive 10000 combination code options available and is rust-proof, waterproof and corrosion resistant, making it a great option for vacation homes that are subject to weather extremes.
As the name suggests, the Iron Lock XXL lock box is large enough to fit more than one key and also protects them from being damaged by drills, hammers, saws, or other means.
While this is the most expensive lock box on this list, it’s for good reason. As well as syncing with Airbnb, the unique design means that this lock box can be attached to latches, doorknobs or handles, or the wall. One thing to note is that while codes can be changed remotely, you need to be within Bluetooth range to check who has used the lock.
If you are looking for something a little more advanced than a more traditional key lock box, there are plenty of smart locks on the market that will help you manage guest changeover with ease.
Widely considered the best of the best in the industry, the Schlage Encode lock allows you to set codes, dates, and times remotely. There are a few colors and two styles you can choose from, the Camelot or the Century, so you can match your property.
If there is an Alexa device in your vacation rental, you also add voice control to your lock.
Most of the locks in the Yale Assure range give you the option to use a physical key, which is handy in case of connectivity issues. When creating codes for yourself, your team or your guests, you can choose from permanent, scheduled or temporary access and revoke it whenever you need to.
When paired with Nest, you can also control the thermostat too.
Price: $270 – $309
The MojoLock G3 Smartlock is the cheapest smart lock on this list, yet is simple and intuitive to use. It has been rated to work in both hot and cold climates and is tested to withstand temperatures ranging from -31ºF to 140ºF. MojoLock also offers a physical lock box that holds keys, if you wanted to go down that route instead.
The Kwikset 99390-001 allows you to create up to 250 unique user codes for guests that you can easily disable from the app. Most Kwikset smart locks retain their traditional keyway, as a backup option to unlock the door.
It can also be paired with Alexa.
The August smart lock is unique in that it is installed inside your door, utilizing your existing deadbolt. Your guests will just need to be granted access. You can set access for the exact stay period (down to the minute) and integrate with Airbnb, making it a great option for a vacation rental lock.
It also works with your original key so you don’t need to worry if it stops working for some reason.
Price: $149 – $230
Igloohome has a whole range of smart locks that are suitable for all kinds of doors (wooden, glass, etc.) as well as metal gates. Their lock boxes are also tested to withstand dust and light rain. As well as this, their Deadbolt 2S Digital Smart Lock has Airbnb syncing capabilities, meaning PIN codes are automatically generated and sent to guests, at no extra charge.
Price: $170 – $200
Although most smart locks are user-friendly and intuitive to use, there is a way to level up your smart lock management. Enter RemoteLock software, which allows you to control the locks across your short-term rental portfolio, regardless of whether they are all from the same brand or not. Instead of swapping all of your Yale locks for Schlage or all of your Kwikset for Igloohome, you can keep them all.
The software will help you create self-expiring codes that are only active for the duration of the guest’s stay. You can also set it up so it sends the code through your booking platform, whether that’s Airbnb, Guesty or something else.
Furthermore, you can set up notifications for when your batteries are low or locks are offline, giving you extra insights into your vacation rental security.
As well as considering smart locks or rental lock boxes for your vacation property, it is also worth considering additional security measures to make your guests’ stay as relaxing as possible. Utilize security cameras where necessary (make sure you mention these in your listing) as well as smart doorbells.
If you’re using an STR listing platform like Airbnb or VRBO, keep communications within the official channels. Should there be a dispute down the line, you will be able to easily reference your communications.
Smart hubs like Z-Wave allow you to connect all of your smart appliances and devices, from locks and cameras to thermostats and alarm panels. This streamlines your short-term rental management further, as you can control everything from a single platform.
It goes without saying that even if you have a smart lock installed on your front door or a lock box with a key inside, you should retain backup keys where possible, as well as keys for other doors or entrances (e.g. back door, side door or garage). A spare key can be a lifesaver when a smart lock fails.
Installing the right rental lock box or smart lock is an easy way to streamline your short-term rental management, allowing you to focus your time on other things. With purpose-built software, you can manage them straight from your smartphone, wherever you are in the world.