I’ve been without a home since we gave up our apartment in January 2016.
Celine and I have a bag each, and we move from Airbnb to Airbnb.
We like to stay for at least a month in a given place to settle down and live like locals. Also, we don’t feel as productive hopping from one place to another every week. So 1 to 3 months in a defined location is what works best for us.
Sometimes, we know where we want to go. Other times, all we know is the type of apartment we want to book. We then book a place regardless of the location. That’s how we ended up living 2 months in Budapest.
The other day, a friend asked me what I was up to. I told him I was busy negotiating with Airbnb hosts. He replied saying: “What is there to negotiate?”
This is where most people make a mistake. Airbnb is a marketplace. A platform that brings hosts and guests together. That means you have direct access to the host’s inbox. Most people use that function to ask questions about the property, which is good. But few people use it to negotiate on the price.
This said, if you just accept the given price, you will be wasting hundreds of dollars. Even more so if it is for an extended stay (2 weeks +) or a booking that is off-season.
I’ve been getting discounts that range from 25% to 65% on long-term rentals (2 weeks +) over and over again. In the past few months, I’ve been able to reverse the selection and booking process entirely.
Instead of selecting a home based on the listed price, I now let hosts send me offers that align with my budget. I review each offer and only then I go ahead with the booking. Saving me thousands of dollars in the process. In fact, I’ve saved 4,500$ over the past 3 and half months negotiating with hosts.
Nowadays, if I plan a trip that is longer than a week, I will NOT book unless I’m getting a significant discount.
Having said that, how do you increase your chances to get a great deal on your next booking? Or, what the hell, how do you make sure you’ll get a hefty discount every time?
Asking for a simple discount won’t suffice. You’ll have to build leverage and wrap your offer in a package that will look irresistible to the host.
The following steps have helped me save thousands of dollars on accommodation costs.
Sometimes I’ve used my entire rental budget to stay in lavish condos I would normally not be able to afford.
Other times, I booked standard apartments and managed to save half of my rental budget for the month.
Either way, I’ve always managed to get a great deal.
Now let’s dive into the steps and tips that will help you get the same kind of deals.
1. Set up a detailed profile on Airbnb
Anytime you contact a host for a potential booking, they will head straight to your profile. Put yourself in their shoes. You’d want to know your future guest a little better too. Also, you’d definitely want to make sure that they would be a good fit.
Your profile is a great way for others to learn more about you before letting you in their homes.
A complete and descriptive profile makes your hosts feel you are reliable, authentic and trustworthy. Thus, increasing your chances for a discounted booking in the future.
This is why you want your profile to represent you as best as it can.
A great profile includes:
– At least one profile picture. 3 pictures, is what I consider ideal. Your profile picture should be crisp and clear and it should show your face. Your other pictures could shine a light on your hobbies and personality.
– Multiple verifications and a verified ID (here’s how you can set it up)
– A description of who you are and why you joined the Airbnb community. This is the best place for you to express your personality, interests and hobbies. Make it easy for hosts to like you. Add anything you think others should know about.
2. Make a selection among listings
To have better bargaining power, you’ll want to have options at hand. To start with, filter down listings where you would be willing to stay at.
Let’s imagine you want to book a place for one month. You already know the dates and you are willing to pay at most 1,000$.
In theory, there’s no limit to the range of listings you can select. In my experience, a 50% margin over your budget is a good upper limit for inquiries made 30 days or more in advance.
So if you can spend 1000$ on accommodation, bookmark listings that go all the way up to 1500$ a month.
But, if you are going to make an inquiry for a booking that will start within 3 days, you’ll have a MUCH better bargaining position. In this case, you can easily aim for listings that are twice as much as your budget.
Of course, you can use the same reasoning in reverse. Meaning, you can decide to offer 50% less than the listed price and save half of your rental budget for the month.
Tip: Keep in mind that most hosts will be willing to offer you a discount. But you should be ready to meet them in the middle. Also, you should take Airbnb charges into account when budgeting for your stay.
3. Contact hosts and make your offer
This is the most critical part. You’ll find plenty of Airbnb hosts tell you that a person asking for a discount is a “red flag”. Yet in reality, many of them will happily discount their price if it is in their favor too.
As mentioned earlier, few people ask for discounts. There are 2 reasons for this. It makes them feel uncomfortable (admit it). The fear of rejection gets the better of them. And, because they just don’t know why hosts would ever accept discounted offers.
Let’s first understand why hosts would consider discounting their price in the first place;
– They are getting started with Airbnb and they want to rack up positive reviews as soon as possible.
– They prefer to make a guaranteed amount of money through one guest rather than an undefined amount with multiple guests.
– They care more about the guest being a good fit (good reviews, trustworthiness etc.) rather than making more money.
– It is off-season and they are unsure about their potential earnings.
– You are not targeting a prime location where demand is consistently high and hosts are showered with new offers every day.
– You are offering to stay for a longer period of time. This makes maintenance (cleaning, guest relations etc.) much easier for them. They get reminded how much work it is to screen, welcome and maintain guests.
– You are offering to leave a thorough and honest review following your stay. Reviews are indispensable for hosts.
-You are being honest and polite and they want to their best to accommodate you at a more convenient price (yes, this happens too)
– You are flexible on the dates. Hosts might be willing to give you discounts for periods they know will be slower in terms of business.
Now, let’s look into how you will craft your message;
Here are some of the points you MUST include to make a good first impression and get closer to getting a deal.
– Refer to them by their first names. You don’t want to make it look like you’ve copy pasted a generic message and sent it to everyone.
– Tell them who you are, where you are from, what you do, what brings you to town and who you’ll be traveling with. A short description will do. Here the goal is for the host to get to know you a little better and get a feel of what it’d be like to host you. A personal and honest touch will go a long way. It will help you become more relatable.
Tip: If you have positive reviews on your profile from previous bookings, make sure to mention it. It’s a (good) sign that shows you know the drill and have a history of positive stays with past hosts.
– Reveal what you like about their listing and why you specifically picked it. You are showing appreciation towards their property. You are being open and honest about why you want to stay at their place. This shows you are a considerate person that values the host’s listing. This way, you won’t come off as offensive, and you’ll likely get a favorable answer back.
– Be completely honest and clear about how much you can spend. Don’t beat around the bush. Definitely, don’t go into details about why you think their listing is too expensive or why you can’t spend as much. They don’t care. They’ve put up a price, and you are offering them another one. That’s it.
Tip: Make a realistic offer. Asking for a price you know will not work, won’t help you get a better deal. At worst it’ll offend them and you won’t hear back from them. At best, they’ll firmly decline your offer, shutting down all future negotiation opportunities.
– Make a “time-bound” offer. This one is important. Don’t give them the chance to think it through over the next couple of weeks. Be specific. Tell them you will book your stay in the next [X] number of hours or days. This way you are showing them you are serious and that you WILL make a booking soon. The question is: Will you be booking their listing? Also, it forces them to come up with an answer sooner rather than later.
When faced with the opportunity of making a guaranteed, fair and decent amount of money now rather than an undefined amount sometime in the future, most will people will go for option 1.
Tip: For last minute bookings, tell them you will go straight ahead with the payment if they agree on your price. Generally speaking, if your offer is fair and if they are unsure about their potential earnings, they will try to meet your offer.
– Finish it off by thanking them. Let them you’ll be waiting to hear from them to make your choice among your alternatives. Be as subtle as you can while doing so. You’ve been polite and considerate so far, so you don’t want to look too pushy at this point. Just imply that you have other offers on the table. This will make it more likely to get a positive reply on time.
4. Review answers and make a counter offer
At this point, you should start getting favorable responses from various hosts. Usually, you’ll get one of the four following reactions;
- They will directly accept your offer. They’ll send you a discounted link from which you’ll be able to complete your booking. This is when you’ll think you should have offered an even lower price!
- They will happily knock off a good chunk of the rental price but they’ll expect you to make a little effort and meet them somewhere in the middle.
- They’ll counter you with a discounted offer that still exceeds your budget. While doing so, they’ll firmly inform you that that’s the best they are willing to do.
- They’ll outright decline your offer. Or you just won’t hear from them at all. If you follow the above-mentioned steps, this should almost never happen to you.
Here’s what to do in each case;
- You got what you wanted. Now you’ve got a solid alternative at hand. This increases your leverage when negotiating with other hosts.
Tip: The “pre-booking” phase is the best time to ask for an extra service. At this point, your host is looking forward to securing his/her next booking. They don’t want to lose the booking.
So they will be open to adding or negotiating additional services such as home cleaning and airport shuttle services.
- Express your gratitude for the offer they’ve made you. Let them know that their offer still exceeds your budget but you’d be willing to meet them in the middle.
Here, you are being appreciative of the discount they’ve given you. You also show them that you are willing to make a step forward to meet them in the middle by counter-offering them.
If you want to seal the deal ASAP you can work a different angle. Tell them you’ll go through the payment straight away if they accept your counter-offer.
Tip: Analyze the type and frequency of the answers you are getting from the hosts. If they message you multiple times throughout a short period of time, chances are, they are flexible on the price. Or for instance, if they are hesitant on their counter offer, they might just be testing to see whether you’d agree to pay a little more. Answers that go something along the line of: “I’m happy to give you a discount but what about [X]$” could be a sign of flexibility.
- If they know exactly how much they can discount, it’s because they’ve thought it through. You’d be amazed by the sheer number of people who do this as a business.If they are firm, that means you should drop it. Or else you’d be wasting everyone’s time.
Tip: Don’t try to slip your telephone number or “pay under the table” (off the platform). This will kill your credibility and will expose both of you to risks you don’t need to be taking.
- If they decline, thank them and move on. Your time is valuable and there are plenty of fishes around.
5. Book it!
This is your final step. You’ve now got great alternatives to choose from. Further negotiations will most likely not bear any significant results at this point. Also, after getting such good deals, you wouldn’t want someone else to book the listing.
Tip: Before booking, make sure to check the cancellation policy. This way you’ll know until when you cancel if your travel plans change.
Tip 2: Keep in touch with your host throughout your stay. Don’t forget that positive reviews will increase your chances for discounts in the future.
Do you have other tips that have worked for you? Let me know and we’ll add them to the list!
– Crafted in Bodrum, Turkey
– Video filmed in Budapest, Hungary