6 Airbnb Hacks You Need to Know About

Michelle Radcliff
Handing house keys to renters

Getting ready for your next out-of-town trip? Before you book your next vacation rental, learn how some Airbnb hacks can bring in better deals and discounts while others can help you avoid common pitfalls.

1. Ban the Instant Booking Option

Although it might be tempting to use the Instant Booking feature on Airbnb for last-minute travel plans, resist the urge to do so. Not only are you committing to pay the full asking price for the listing, you don't get a feel for your host or the opportunity to ask questions before putting money down.

A good host will respond quickly to any questions or concerns you have about renting his or her property. Before starting your search for a rental property, make a list of the non-negotiable items you want or need, such as reliable Wi-Fi or in-home laundry facilities. Use the "more filters" button to come up with a list of properties that include the amenities you need.

Once you find a potential property, click the "Contact Host" button under the "about property" section of the listing. Confirm any of your non-negotiable items that couldn't be filtered or found in the property description such as the size of the bed or the Internet connection speed. If you come across a deal breaker, you can quickly move on to another listing without needing to cancel a booking or worry about a refund.

2. Consider the Risk of Last-Minute Discounts

It's reasonable to assume most Airbnb hosts would entertain the idea of giving a discounted rate for their vacation property rather than letting it sit empty on the weekend. However, it really depends on the type of host you're dealing with and how you approach the subject. A last-minute discount hack can work but should always be handled delicately and politely.

Pro Haggling Advice

negotiating with a host by phone

Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) host Kyle James, who also owns a discount shopping site called Rather-be-Shopping.com, is the kind of person who can't resist a good deal. James indicates he will happily grant the request of a last-minute discount to avoid the risk of letting the beach condo he manages sit empty.

James says the key to good price negotiations on Airbnb is timing and, in his experience, the best time to ask for a last-minute discount is within two weeks of your arrival date. Other key points of getting a discount include:

  • The amount: Start at 25% off the asking price and be willing to accept to 15 to 10%.
  • Alternative offers: If the owner is standing firm on a nightly rate, ask about possibly adding a free night if staying more than four nights or ask if the cleaning fee can be waived or reduced (in exchange for leaving the place spotless). Choose one alternative but not both.
  • Be polite: Don't come off as demanding or expecting a discount. Remember the magic words of "please" and "thank you."

Last-minute discounts are honored in about 60 to 70% of the inquiries made, according to James. Try to locate a minimum of three to five properties that would be a good fit for your travel plans to increase your odds of getting a discount.

Anti-Haggling Advice

By contrast, Airbnb host Erica Ho sees a last-minute haggler as a possible nuisance. Ho points out that successful hosts tend to have little problem booking their properties and if one sits empty for a weekend, they'll just make it up in another booking.

Host Paula Pant, who owns five Airbnb properties, indicates one of the biggest failures of guest negotiations is a lack of empathy for the host. While these hosts aren't particularly fond of negotiating discounted rates, they will entertain the idea if:

  • The proposal isn't purely self-serving: Don't just focus on how the discount benefits you as a guest. Point out how it can help the host as well.
  • You don't bombard them with other requests: Don't follow a discount inquiry by asking about free meals, what appliances are included or how far it is to point B.
  • A deal is made outside of the Airbnb platform: A host can help a guest save money by eliminating Airbnb's middleman fees. One way to do this is by booking a single night through the system and then the host can collect directly from the guest for subsequent nights after arrival.

While Airbnb will mask out personal contact information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers until a booking is confirmed, there are workarounds to disguise contact information in sentences.

You can also search for a host's contact information online. Google the host's name or company name if one is provided and find out as much as you can about the person you'll be dealing with.

3. Get a Sign Up Coupon

Airbnb members can invite their friends to join the Airbnb community with a coupon good for $35 off their first trip. If you don't know anyone who has signed up for Airbnb, you can still get the coupon using a handy tip from TripHackr travel expert Clint Johnston.

The coupon code is only valid for new sign-ups and must be redeemed on the first reservation, which must also total $75 or more. However, if you already have an Airbnb account, you can still cash in on this one-time discount offer by following Johnston's coupon hack:

  1. Sign up for a new Gmail account.
  2. Use your new Gmail address to create a new Airbnb account.
  3. Complete your new Airbnb profile and seek out your next vacation rental.

The $35 credit will automatically appear at checkout on any first-time reservation totaling $75 or more, so no need to worry about where or when to enter the coupon code. Do respect the fact that this is a single use discount, so please only use this workaround one time.

4. Arrange Hotel-Like Amenities

More time for sightseeing

Some of the biggest advantages of staying in a hotel are coming back each day to a clean room, fresh towels, and a magically made bed. While this might not be missed much on a weekend getaway, the deep cleaning needed in a rental home after a month's stay can put a real damper at the end of a fabulous vacation.

If you want a vacation from big cleaning jobs, ask the property host if a cleaning service is included. If not, ask your host to help you arrange a weekly service for cleaning. It's a small added expense that provides peace of mind on both sides - you'll have more time for sightseeing or just relaxing and your host will know the home is being properly maintained.

5. Be Very Careful with Wi-Fi

Wifi router

A fast and reliable Wi-Fi connection is likely to be on the non-negotiable list of many renters. However, you need to use caution when connecting to Wi-Fi networks in Airbnb rentals; use the same precautions as you would connecting to Wi-Fi at the airport or a coffee shop. According to computer security expert, Jeremy Galloway, an easy way for renters to encrypt and protect all of their connections is to use a virtual private network (VPN) service such as Freedome or TunnelBear.

Airbnb hosts who provide guests with physical access to their routers are also at risk of having their networks hacked. As a precaution, hosts should leave routers in a locked room or closet.

6. Crunch All the Numbers

Crunching the numbers with home budgeting

According to expert Dany Papineau, who shares the secrets of his stellar success as a host on his website Airbnb Secrets, Airbnb isn't always cheaper than booking a hotel room. Extra costs associated with an Airbnb rental may include:

  • Guest service fee: typically between 6 and 12 percent depending on the length of stay and number of guests
  • One time cleaning fee
  • Security deposit
  • Short-term taxes may also be charged in cities such as New York, San Francisco and Portland
  • VAT service fees are collected in countries that tax electronically supplied services

If you're looking for accommodations with the lowest price point in addition to the amenities you need when traveling, be sure to factor these extra costs in when comparing prices.

A Final Point to Remember

Don't let all your hard work of determining your needs, researching the appropriate properties and reaching out to hosts go down in flames by getting rejected as a guest. Build a robust profile on Airbnb complete with pictures, a bio and testimonials. Make sure your other social media profiles are up to par as well. The host you searched on Google is sure to do the same.

6 Airbnb Hacks You Need to Know About