But not the traditional type of homeless you’re thinking of. I don’t have a permanent address because I live in Airbnbs 365 days per year.
I come from the days before the Airbnb you know today. I started working at Airbnb in 2013. I remember having a package delivered to the headquarters in San Francisco and the person on the phone in response to my delivery address would say “Air-what!?!” Heck, I remember countless conversations with residents of San Francisco, the headquarters of Airbnb, who had no idea about the company even when it was valued at over $10 billion and 7 years old.
In the 8 years that have passed since I first heard of Airbnb, I’ve become the world’s best at everything Airbnb. I:
While I love Airbnb, one of the downsides is that renting on a short-term basis like this is expensive. Don’t fret. I have some strategies to save your dollars on your next Airbnb rental.
This 1,500+ night Airbnb guest reveals how to find deals on Airbnb. Click To Tweet
For me, it’s all about the experience. From communicating with the host before making a reservation to the check-in process to the neighborhood, you are sure to add to the uniqueness, for better or worse, of your vacation rather than staying in a manufactured experience of a hotel.
If you have a bad experience, well, you have a funny story with your friend, family, or significant other. Congratulations, you guys have a stronger bond because of a shitty Airbnb experience.
The neighborhood can make or break your vacation.
While in some cities, you are going to book an Airbnb in the same district as you would have booked a hotel (ie cities with one central district), there are other cities where you have at least a few very desirable areas to explore, but the hotels will be concentrated in the most touristy area.
For example, in Moscow, Russia there are at least six really prime neighborhoods (Tverskaya, Arbat, Patriarch’s Pond, Yakimanka, Kitay-Gorod, and Khamovniki). Airbnb allows you to have a more authentic experience by staying in a non-touristy neighborhood. This also means prices for commodities will be cheaper (laundry, groceries, haircut, etc.).
Airbnb is cheaper. While hotels don’t prefer weekly or monthly stays, an Airbnb host does. The longer you stay, the cheaper it gets per night. It’s not uncommon to reserve an entire home Airbnb for cheaper than a private room at a hostel for a month.
Hotels prefer weekly/monthly stays while hotels don't. Save up to 60% Click To Tweet
If you’re a cook, then Airbnb is your only option. Hostel kitchens make you sick and hotels don’t have kitchens.
Once I stayed in a 5-star hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia for a week as Airbnb was not allowed on my tourist visa. I booked this particular 5-star hotel because I saw a kitchen in the photos. Well, it had a kitchen, but the drawers were empty. When I asked for cookware, they brought a pan, a fork, and a plate. I paid $20 for a wine opener. Eh, buh-bye hotels. They’re not for me.
There are fewer rules and more privacy. I remember once having trouble bringing my friend to my hotel while in Can Tho, Vietnam at 6pm in the evening. No guests allowed!
You get more space, oftentimes, much more. Right now I’m staying at an Airbnb in Kiev, Ukraine and it’s gigantic: full kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, two hallways, and two balconies.
Likely you will be in contact directly with the owner of the property instead of an employee of the hotel or hostel. When you deal directly with the decision-maker, everything is more efficient and there’s more room for negotiation. Almost always I stay after check-out for no added cost or hassle.
Book in advance. This sounds obvious, but if you have the convenience to book 3+ months in advance, you are more likely to find a great deal as many new Airbnb hosts don’t know what they’re doing with pricing and the best deals will be booked up first. If you’re one of the first reservations before the hosts understand they’re undercharging, you’ll secure yourself a nice discounted Airbnb for little extra work than some planning ahead.
Book within 7-10 days before your reservation. Airbnb hosts lower their prices when they have availability within the next 10 days. If you can wait until just a few days before arrival, you’ll score deals up to 50% discount. However, this strategy comes with a big caveat. First, you cannot be picky with regards to location. Second, if you’re traveling to a popular city in a popular month (or for a popular event), you may not find any worthy Airbnbs available.
Airbnb hosts lower prices by up to 40% if they have availability within the next 7 days. Click To Tweet
Use as few filters as possible. I only ever use the following filters: dates, number of guests, type of place (ie bedroom or entire home), and price. Once you start selecting additional filters, you’re assuming that all the Airbnb hosts who have the amenities you’re selecting for have selected them in the Airbnb system. I can tell you from first-hand experience this is not true. Even something as simple as the number of beds, many hosts select fewer beds than are actually available. By not selecting additional filters, you will be contacting some hosts who are being contacted less because they’re not being shown to guests who’ve added the additional filter.
Consider poorly reviewed Airbnbs. Read the reviews and understand what the guest is reviewing. Sometimes they didn’t get along with the host, but the property is fine. These hosts are more likely to give you an additional discount.
For example, take this Airbnb listing in Los Angeles. The place only has 4-stars. This is worse than it seems. It puts the listing in the bottom 10% of all Airbnb listings. However, when you read the reviews, it’s clear they come from when the place was managed by a property management company who didn’t know what they were doing.
Consider the neighborhood. Do a search online for ‘best neighborhoods [city]’ to find the premium neighborhoods. Then, search on Airbnb for listings just outside of the desirable area. If you’re willing to walk 20-minutes to the central area, it can save you up to 40%. This also has a caveat.
Be sure to note the topography of the area. A 20-minute walk on a flat surface turns into a workout if there’s a hill.
Search your destination city on google and click the hamburger menu bar in the upper-left corner:
Then click ‘Terrain’:
If you see even one of these lines (marked by the arrow), be afraid. Parque Lleras is a very popular neighborhood. I decided to stay about a 15-minute walk from the main area (marked by the star). In this case, that one line represents an elevation of almost 500 feet (150 meters).
Go to page 17 of search results. Any search on Airbnb can return up to 17 pages of results. Just like on Google, that 17th page is hardly ever visited. These hosts are more eager to accept a booking. Use my custom message below to maximize your chance of getting a discount as hosts don’t like when you ask directly for a discount.
Go to page 17 of the Airbnb search results to find real bargains. Click To Tweet
Go for a new Airbnb listing. New listings want to get bookings and often offer a discount or extend a special discount. You can easily identify one by looking for this ‘New’ logo within the search results.
Go for a week or month discount. I find that weekly discounts are in the 10-20% range, but monthly discounts can be as high as 60%. Some hosts really value longer stays due to personal preference or city regulations. If you can extend your vacation, the costs may be offset by the savings on your accommodation.
Don’t overvalue Superhost designation. Less than 3% of Airbnb hosts are awarded the Superhost designation. A Superhost is an Airbnb host who has completed a minimum number of successful reservations with a 5-star review rating and no cancellations. While you’re more likely a hassle-free accommodation with a Superhost, there are plenty of fine hosts without this designation at a discounted rate.
I have developed a specific message I send to hosts which introduces myself as the perfect hassle-free guest while indirectly asking for a discount.
The idea is to make yourself seem like their ideal guest. These guests are rare and worth a discount.
Hi, I’m a prior Airbnb employee and experienced Airbnb guest with 1,100+ nights on Airbnb, a Superhost, non-smoker, and author of “Optimize YOUR Airbnb”. I’m reaching out to my top 3 Airbnbs in the area and will choose based on our conversation. If you look at my profile, I think you’ll see I’m an easy guest with a long history of giving 5-star reviews. If you can be flexible with your price, I would be grateful.
Update for your positive guest attributes. If you’re a new Airbnb guest maybe you will say ‘5 successful reservations’ instead of ‘prior Airbnb employee’ or ‘800+ nights on Airbnb’. If you’re a new profile, you will also want to include the reason for your trip.
However, keep your message as short as possible.
Send this message to the Airbnb host to indirectly ask for a discount. Click To Tweet
Want to see how it works in a real situation? As you can see this listing was 6,629 BRL for a month before the host sent me a special offer at 4,400 BRL. That’s a discount of 2,200BRL or $537 all with a single message! Donation button up top 😀
Alternatively, you can ask more directly for a discount. When going this route, the main key is to make it easy for the host and calculate your specific offer in the local currency so they don’t have to think or do the math and can just send you a special offer.
The first step after inputting dates and getting the final price is to subtract out the service fee as the host does not see this number. For example, if the price you see is $3,250 ($100×30 nights + $50 cleaning fee + $200 service fee), the host is seeing $3,050 ($3,250 – $200). Next, convert to the local currency. Finally, I suggest you start with a 30% discount and make your offer a nice round number.
You can use this in your message: “I’m on a bit of a budget, would you be able to offer those dates for 35m VND? I’m a great guest! Please check my reviews.”
Here’s that option in action, except I asked for an 80% discount as this reservation was during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Notice my final message. As is true for anything related to negotiation/persuasion, never let the other party think you’re pulling one over on them. If I acted super excited and asked for a special offer immediately, this may have made the host think twice about the discount. Instead, I played it cool, especially because no special offer had been sent, and told him that I’d reply after speaking with my friend (as if! I was celebrating behind the computer screen with my friend as soon as he sent this reply).
Regardless of getting denied a discount, I’d still ask the host to add in complimentary mid-stay cleanings if you’re reservation is greater than 10 days: “Can you provide weekly cleanings since it’s a longer stay?”
This is actually harder than it seems. But there are ways to filter out Airbnbs that will not meet your expectations even when they are without reviews. Said differently, the best way to guarantee a positive experience is to book a listing with at least five reviews.
First, check for very short reviews. Many short reviews mean the place was average, at best. If you don’t see the occasionally lengthy review from a very satisfied prior guest, that’s a red flag.
Avoid crappy Airbnbs: short guest reviews = neutral or negative experience Click To Tweet
Second, look at the review ratings. There are six categories. Anything below a 4.7 puts the listing in the lower 50% of all listings. The below may not seem to bad, but in reality, it’s one of the crappiest Airbnb’s and at risk for being temporarily suspended.
Third and most subjective, read between the photos. Are they shot with a wide-angle lens? Do they seem overly bright or optimized? Does the décor seem old? Can you see what’s outside the windows? (See this penthouse on Airbnb, I wonder what’s outside those windows) A good photo editor can make an average looking room look above average.
Fourth, check out the host profile. Have they done the bare minimum or have they went above and beyond to fill in their profile? The following profile is a great example of a host who did the bare minimum and would be a red flag if I was considering their listing.
They didn’t write any text and didn’t even take the time to upload a proper photo. Surprise, surprise if you look towards the bottom you’ll see the only reservation they accepted was canceled.
Lastly, ask about the specific location. I use the following at the end of my message: One question: can you tell me the exact location of your home?
The host has the ability to move the map location anywhere they want. Literally, anywhere. It’s happened to me more than once that I book a place and it’s an additional 10 minutes walk from where I wanted.
When you ask, the host does not have to give you the address. In fact, if they did Airbnb would block it out. Tell them to give you the cross streets or a nearby hotel, café, restaurant, etc. How the host responds to this will also give you an indication of the type of host they are. Any pushback, move on.
Airbnb hosts can put the location of their Airbnb anywhere. Literally, anywhere. Be sure to ask for exact location. Click To Tweet
I recommend you taking a bunch of photos and a video of the place upon check-in (and check-out). You also need to communicate with the host about anything that doesn’t seem right. For example, while in Moscow, the stovetop was not functioning properly. I should have told the host about this right away so that when it broke a few days later, I was better protected from claims of misuse.
In fact, Airbnb recommends the guest always contact the host first to allow them the opportunity to fix the issue. If they’re unable or unwilling to fix it (or unresponsive), you can create a claim in the resolution center. You can access it through the trip details or the message thread. Sometimes you need to look for a button that says ‘request money’.
According to Airbnb’s website, situations that are generally eligible for a full refund fall under three categories: You weren’t able to access your rental, the listing is a misrepresentation of the actual property or the listing isn’t clean (or is unsafe).
Never cancel the reservation. After the reservation has started this never is a good idea unless you don’t care about any kind of refund.
Now, if your Airbnb is news-worthy terrible, you can approach Elliott Advocacy who helps consumers through their non-profit organization and they’re successfully resolved more than one Airbnb issue.
A reverse image search looks for the selected image on other websites. You can use this to read more reviews on other booking platforms and to find the personal website to book directly with the host, potentially saving some extra money on fees and taxes. In rare cases, this will alert you to a fraudulent listing as it will be listed on many unrelated websites to short-term rentals.
Right-click the image and click either ‘copy image address’ (chrome and safari) or ‘copy image location’ (firefox). Then go to TinEye and paste the URL to perform a reverse image search. If nothing comes up, the image is unique to Airbnb.
Perform a reverse image search to find fraud Airbnb listings or to book direct. Click To Tweet
Amenities. Specifically, ask about any amenities that are important to you. For me, kitchen amenities are important and hardly ever known. I ask the host if they have a fully equipped kitchen as I cook my meals. Sometimes I’ll tell them what things I expect to have. Most hosts are willing to purchase what they don’t have. Maybe you ask if the host provides beach towels and chairs if nearby a beach. Or bikes, if you’re in a bikeable neighborhood.
Sunlight. A balcony is great. But a balcony with direct sunlight is better. If you’re staying in a big city like New York, you might open your window to see a brick wall three feet away in which case you’ll receive zero direct sunlight the entire day. Great for sleeping in and depression.
Cancellation policy. While you never expect to cancel, if you’re deciding between two listings and one has a flexible (free cancellation within 24-hours) and the other has strict (free cancellation within 7 days) you might go with flexible Airbnb listing. Also, a host who uses a flexible cancellation policy knows they have the best listing which will get rebooked in the unlikely event of a guest cancellation.
Document everything. While Airbnb is known to favor the guest over the host when it comes to claims of damage, this is still a worthy protective measure. You don’t want to be on the hook for something that you shouldn’t be. Upon entering the Airbnb, take a short video of all the rooms. While staying, communicate any issues, no matter how small with the host.
While I was staying in Moscow, I noticed the electric stovetop was not working properly eventually breaking midway through my reservation. I did not communicate the oddly functioning stovetop to my host so when I told him that it broke, he obviously thought I misused it.
Both Delta and British Airways give you extra points for Airbnb stays in addition to the credit card points you can get as many different cards give you 2-5x points on Airbnb. All you have to do is enter your details on the site and then it forwards you to Airbnb. You can only do one or the other.
Delta Airlines as part of SkyTeam – Gives you 1x delta point per stay, but many times they do 3x promotions, and also do promotions for hosting (like 20k points for your first hosting).
British Airways as part of Oneworld – Currently gives you a whopping 3x avios per dollar/euro in addition to the credit card points you’d normally get.
Other offers – Chase, Amex, and some other credit card companies frequently offer 5-10% back on Airbnb if you add the promotions to your card. You can stack these offers on top of 3x british airways points AND the points you’d get from your credit card as normal.
There are deals to be discovered on Airbnb with a little bit of research. A strong guest profile does increase your chance of an accepted reservation and a discount. Be sure to fill in everything and confirmed your ID by going to www.Airbnb.com/Verify before sending any requests.
What is the biggest discount you received from Airbnb? What was your strategy to obtain this killer Airbnb deal?