My Secret for Getting the Best Airbnb Prices
I love Airbnb. I've used it over twenty-five times. Gone are the days of staying at boring hotels. With Airbnb you can live like a local in a unique house and neighborhood. However, Airbnb prices are rising. Significantly. Often they are more expensive than a hotel. However, I've come up with a technique that I've used to great success at making the cost more manageable.
Ethics of Airbnb: There are some well-researched claims that Airbnb harms local communities. Whatever your opinion on this I hope we all agree that as a guest it is your responsibility to be respectful to your surrounding neighbors and neighborhood. I lived next door to an Airbnb rental for a year and it was an empathizing experience. It really made me realize how annoying we (as Airbnb guests) can be.
Most people assume that the prices listed for an Airbnb are set in stone. However, as the saying goes "Everything is Negotiable." There is a system (albeit an opaque system) set up in Airbnb to allow you to negotiate a lower price with the Airbnb host. However, in order for success you must create a win-win scenario for you and the host. You must convince them that it is in their best interest (either financially, in reduced stress or for some other reason) to give you a discount.
Over my seven years of staying at Airbnbs I've developed three strategies to make this win-win happen.
Bookend Their Existing Reservations
Airbnb hosts don't make money on days their rental is vacant. Obvious, yeah? But it's a critical idea to remember when trying to negotiate a lower price with a host. For an Airbnb host to maximize their profits they must maximize their occupany rates.
We've all seen Airbnb calendars like the one below that have two-, three-, and four-day vacancy slots. Due to the inconvenient days of the week these vacancies are on it will be very hard to get them all booked. For example, look at June 25th through the 29th a Saturday to Wednesday. Sure, someone may come along and book two or three of those days. But it's unlikely someone will book all four days.
This is one way you can create a win-win situation. If you can approach an Airbnb host and tell them you are willing to fill all their vacancies during a specific span (in this case June 25th to the 29th) they will be much more likely to give you a discount. This is becasue they will still be making more money renting all four days at a discounted rate than they would renting two or three days at a full rate.
Be a Last-Minute Booker
Most guests reserve stays weeks in advance. A host knows that if it is Sunday and their next Airbnb booking isn't until Friday they are unlikely to get Monday to Friday booked. If you can travel at the last minute you can take advantage of this. Hosts know that some money is better than no money and are more willing to negotiate if they believe the rental will stay empty otherwise.
One reason a booking becomes available last-minute is because another guest cancels their stay. Most hosts have a strict cancellation policy. This means if a guest cancels their reservation the host will still keep most or all of the money even if the rental is empty. In a scenario like this a host is very incentivized to negotiate with you because they are essentially double booking the property and making twice the money.
You need to reassure the host that you are an easy-going, low-maintenance, low-drama guest. Already you are at a disadvantage because you are asking the host for a reduced rate which will make them think you are going to be overbearing.
The best way to show you would be a good guest is to have positive reviews from past Airbnb hosts. If you have no reviews (or worse, negative reviews) you will have a difficult time.
The second way you will be showing the host you are an easy guest is in the message you will be sending them requesting a discount (see example message below).
Sample Request Message
Below is an example of a message I sent an Airbnb host last year.
Typically she rented her Airbnb for $250 per day but I was able to get her to discount it to $175 thus saving me $600. All it took was a few minutes of my time.
I was able to do this by using all three strategies I've presented so far. First, the reservation dates I chose bookended her other guests reservations so she would have 100 percent occupancy. Second, it was a last-minute reservation. I sent Susan the discount request just a few days before the check-in date. Finally, I used my message to show my trustworthiness.
How to Request a Discount
- Go to the Airbnb page where you want to stay.
- Instead of clicking the Reserve button scroll towards the bottom of the page and click the Contact Host button.
- Make sure that the check-in and check-out dates on the contact page are filled out (the host will see this information when you send your message.)
- Find the section on the contact form labelled Still have questions? Message the Host. Send the host a message requesting a discount (see the previous section for an example).
- If they accept your offer or make an acceptable counteroffer then congratulations! If a host declines or gives you a counter offer that is more than you want to pay, then I would recommend finding another host.
Being an Airbnb host is tough work. Hosts generally don't like being asked for discounted rates so it's important to be kind when communicating with them.
- Don't message multiple hosts at the same time requesting a discount. Only message one host at a time.
- If a host declines your discount offer either thank them for their time or don't respond at all. Don't try to get in a fight with them.
- Don't lowball hosts. Using this technique correctly you will be able to get a 10 to 30 percent discount. You will not be able to use this technique to get a 90 percent discount. It won't work and you will just be wasting your time and theirs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much of a discount should I ask for?
I would advise asking for a discount of 15 to 25 percent. Any less and it isn't worth the effort. Any more and it will offend the host.
How often have you had success with this method?
I've used this technique over 15 times and have around a 50 percent success rate (for every two hosts I message I get one to agree on a discount).
Do you feel like you are taking advantage of Airbnb hosts?
Not especially, as long as I follow the guidelines I've set out above I feel I am making a fair offer. No one is forcing a host to accept my discount request and the fact that half the hosts I approach for a discount accept my request makes me think that generally I'm offering a fair deal.
Do you ever get negative responses from hosts?
Occasionally, but to be honest I completely understand where they are coming from. We are all humans and a lot of the time we act out based on our own emotions rather than our own financial interests. There will be situations where it would clearly be in a hosts best financial interest to accept your discount request but still they will decline.
If you receive a rude response from a host just thank them for their time and then move on. I've had a few cases where a host has declined my discount only to come crawling back days later as they realize that making some money is better than making no money.
Would this work with private rooms too?
I've only used this approach for entire places, however I don't see why it wouldn't work for private rooms.
Are you worried that hosts will leave you a bad review out of resentment?
To my knowledge I have all five-star reviews (Airbnb makes it difficult to check). How do I keep a five-star rating?
First there are the obvious things like leaving the place as I found it, good communication, not being loud, et cetera.
Secondly, and I think even more importantly though, is that on the last day of my Airbnb I will leave them a five-star review and then message them letting them know I enjoyed my stay so much that I just left them a five-star review. There is something about the human brain where if we know that one party is leaving a good review then we want to reciprocate.