I spend a lot of my time in Airbnb apartments, so saving money on each rentals adds up for me. I’ve discussed tips to save money on Airbnb before including:

  1. Right now, if you sign up for Airbnb through my referral link, you’ll get $27 off your first stay, and I’ll get $27 off my next stay. Feel free to leave your referral link in the comments.
  2. Consummating the deal off of Airbnb to avoid 12%+ fees.
  3. Negotiating a lower price with the host.

In this post, I’ll share the exact message that I send to get the lowest price possible.

Timing of the Message

I send the following message as close to my intended stay as possible. This aligns with my goal of getting an adequate apartment in a great location (defined by where I want to spend my time in the area) for a great price. If your goal, instead, is to get the one perfect apartment, book as far in advance as possible.

For the last four Airbnb stays, I have emailed hosts three weeks, two weeks, four days, and one day before arrival. For my next two stays, I will email hosts two days in advance. I think 1-3 days before arrival is a sweet spot when the host is getting very nervous his apartment will be unoccupied (earning $0), but you still have time to get responses and make a decision.

How Many Messages to Send

I make my search, like the sample search below for an upcoming week in Sarajevo. Then I apply my filters. I only want to stay in an “Entire home/apt,” and I require internet. The rest is negotiable.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 10.21.40 PMThen I apply a map filter, so I only see properties in the part of town where I want to be.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 10.22.28 PM

Then I slide the price range to only show me the cheaper half of the available places.
Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 10.21.52 PMUsually a few days in advance, I am not left with many choices. In Sarajevo, four days from now, in the part of the map I checked, there are 24 listings left.
Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 10.22.44 PM

I probably only want to message 10-15 hosts, so at this point I can make the map smaller until I get down to 10-15.

Then I open each apartment listing, and scroll down to click Contact Host.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 8.41.24 AMThat’s right–I don’t bother looking at photos, reviews, or descriptions. There is time for that later if the owner comes down on price.

The Message

Here’s exactly what I sent to my host in Dubrovnik whose apartment was listed at 798 euros ($882) for a week.

Aloha,

I am a Hawaiian guy who is traveling for four months po bivšoj Jugoslaviji to learn hrvatski.

I will be in Dubrovnik one week, starting tomorrow (5 July) when my bus arrives around 18:30. Your place caught my eye since it’s in the old town.

Would you be willing to go 450 euros from 5 to 12 July since it’s last minute? If so, send me an offer, so I can accept it. 🙂 I’m a good guest: quiet, no smoking, clean.

Scott

Let’s break down why I wrote what I wrote:

First, it’s short and to the point. As someone who gets a lot of emails, I appreciate that, and I know she will.

Second, I state the exact reason I’m asking for a discount: it’s the last minute and her place is vacant.

Third, I tried to appear likable. Airbnb owners are people, and they are more likely to give you a discount if you seem likable, especially if they have to interact with you at check in. Everyone likes Hawaii, and everyone likes someone trying to learn their language, so I played that up in one sentence:

Aloha,

I am a Hawaiian guy who is traveling for four months po bivšoj Jugoslaviji [Scott: through ex-Yugoslavia] to learn hrvatski [Scott: Croatian].

Fourth, I gave the exact dates and even the time I’d arrive, to minimize follow up emails and make accepting me seem easy. I’m offering her an easy 450 euros, which might feel very different to her than having to offer me a 40% discount while going through huge hassles, even though both are the same amount of money.

Fifth, I play up that I’m a good and easy guest (“quiet, no smoking, clean”). Sometimes I point to my good feedback from hosts instead.

Sixth, I offer an exact amount. I usually offer about 60% of the quoted price.

Finally, I tell them what action to take: “send me an offer.” An offer is a price that is immediately bookable and valid for 24 hours. My goal is to collect several of these and then look through them.

I always send small variations of this message to all available hosts and wait. Some hosts reply within minutes. I usually wait a few hours until I have several options.

Further Negotiation/Picking a Place

Sometimes, I get an immediate offer that meets my requested price or is close. That’s how it went with my hostess in Prague.Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 10.42.09 PMSometimes I get a response like this, like I did from my hostess in Dubrovnik.

Aloha Scott,

Thank you for your request 🙂

I would be very happy to have you in my apt and would be able to correct the price, but going down for 200€ is little bit to much cos I have a lot of requests for next weekend.

What can I offer to you is a great price for your last minute reservation: 5-12 July for 570€ and help you finding other places to stay during your stay in Croatia.

I’ve highlighted the part that makes her look weak to me. At the last minute, there is always a buyers’ market because buyers have many options and any owner who doesn’t fill these dates gets nothing for his apartment. Sometimes owners bluff that they actually have other offers, but those protestations are laughable because you can be sure that if an owner has a better offer than yours, it already would have been accepted.

If I get a response like this, I’ll either double down on my original offer or come up a bit. In this case, I came up 50 euros for the week, but included another option I had to make me look even stronger:

If you have someone offering more you should take it. Otherwise I can go up to 500, but above that and I’ll just use hotel points for a free room at a hotel.

She immediately sent an offer that came to 480 euros ($530) including fees for the week, which was 40% off the listed price.

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 10.47.07 PM

Once I have several offers pending for me, I have 24 hours to accept any of them. Only then, do I really take a look at each property. I inspect photos; I compare locations; I read reviews for subtext. Once I find the best value, I book one, and Airbnb emails the rest saying I have chosen a different property.

Bottom Line

If your goal is value on Airbnb, wait until a few days before you arrive in a city to message 10-15 hosts asking them to send you a pre-approved offer with a big discount. Once you have a few offers, negotiate further or select the best value and book.

Right now, if you sign up for Airbnb through my referral link, you’ll get $27 off your first stay, and I’ll get $27 off my next stay. Feel free to leave your referral link in the comments.

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