I vividly remember when I had just moved to Brazil and spent the first week or so walking around different buildings and asking the doormen in my broken Portuguese whether there were any vacancies.
Ah, the good old days.
Airbnb fixed that annoying problem for the most part. I’ve used it exclusively for booking short-term stays as well as long-term stays ranging anywhere from a weekend to several months all over the world.
One problem with Airbnb is that since it’s so widely accessible, the prices of the listings are typically higher than one can get by going straight to the owner or by booking through local sites. Plus, there’s the hefty Airbnb commission on top of that’s usually passed over to you.
The flip side is that because the prices on Airbnb are so inflated, that means there’s a lot of room discounts, especially for longer stays.
Here’s how you negotiate an even bigger Airbnb discount.
Contact the owner
Don’t book the accommodation from the get-go. First, contact the owner and ask them if the accommodation is available for a week on your desired dates.
If the owner responds to the affirmative, follow up by asking if they’re willing to give you a discount for a week’s stay.
Mention that you have an impeccable profile with excellent reviews and that there was never a problem with any of your previous stays (your profile should have great reviews from other hosts).
At this point, the owner can send you something that’s called a “Special offer.” This will include a special price for the specific dates you asked for. Once he sends you the special offer, the dates you selected become unavailable to others and you have 24 hours to accept this offer before the apartment goes back on the market.
Ask for an even bigger discount
It doesn’t really matter what kind of discount you received. But if the owner is comfortable offering you a small (10-15%) discount for a week-long stay, he or she should be able to offer you a higher discount for a longer stay.
Wait until the next day before replying and then send them another message. Tell them that circumstances have changed and that you’ll be able to stay up to a month (or longer). See if you’re willing to give you an even better discount for a month stay.
A month may not be a long time, but in Airbnb world, it’s indeed a very long time. You should typically expect to receive a minimum of 25% discount for a month-long stay.
Again, stress that you have an impeccable record and that there’s not going to be any problems in the apartment.
There are several issues with the strategy outlined above. First of all, you need to make sure you like the apartment in order to stay there an entire month. Sometimes it’s hard to book an apartment for an entire month sight unseen.
In that case, what I typically do is reserve for a week using normal rates (or with a slight discount). After I had a chance to live in the apartment for a week or so, I then ask for a special discount for an entire month.
At this point, the owner knows me, they know that I’m legit, and they know that I’m not going to trash the apartment. Thus, they’re going to be more open to giving me a discount.
Paying in cash
Airbnb charges a hefty fee for its service (12%). However, as soon as you book the apartment, you can access the owner directly and, if you’d like, negotiate rent in cash for future bookings.
First, doing this is against Airbnb’s terms. Moreover, I wouldn’t generally recommend doing it because once the apartment owner receives your money, they can do whatever they want, including evicting you from the apartment, especially in countries where the laws aren’t exactly strong like in Eastern Europe or even parts in Latin America.
Even with the discount, I would still pay through the Airbnb system for the peace of mind of knowing that at least you have some recourse if things don’t go according to plans.
Booking for longer than one month
If the owner isn’t flexible in giving you a discount, there’s the option of booking for stays longer than a month. That could be anywhere from 1.5 months (6 weeks) to 2 months or so.
Of course, this is provided that you’ve seen the apartment first and you’re comfortable staying there for a longer period of time.
However, if that’s not an option, only book for longer stays sight unseen if the apartment has many reviews and all of them are positive.
Examples of discounts I’ve received
In Ukraine, I inquired about a nice apartment that was listed for $25 per day. That comes out to roughly $750 per month for the apartment. I asked for a special rate for the month and the owner immediately quoted me a rate of $20/day ($600/month). I eventually talked him down to $500/mo.
In Odessa, during the high season, I was able to negotiate an apartment that was listed for $700/mo down to $550/mo by mentioned that I’m ready to book it for an entire month. The owner knew they would get all the money upfront so they readily agreed.
When I spent a week in Bangkok last year, I was able to negotiate a daily rate of $35 down to $25, giving me a savings of $70. Not much, but every buck adds up.
Basically, I always try to negotiate everywhere I stay.
Airbnb is certainly far from the cheapest way to book long-term accommodation. But because it’s so widespread pretty much around the world, you’d foolish to ignore it completely.
If there’s one point that I want to drive home, is the fact that you should always ask for a discount when booking on Airbnb. Even if you feel the price being offered is already justifiable. It’s in the owner’s best interest to rent out the whole thing for a month to a great tenant with great reviews because that means they’ll get money upfront and don’t need to check-in, clean up and then check-out many tenants over the period of the month.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to haggle a bit for a lower discount if you feel the discount (special offer) you received isn’t exactly fair for the period of time you’re proposing.