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One of the (very few) bright spots of the pandemic is the precipitous fall of rents in big cities—places where rents were once thought to be on a never-ending trajectory to the moon!
But with tourism shut off, office workers logging in from home, and zero immigration, vacancies have skyrocketed, and rents have plummeted.
Well, you know what that means. Time to take advantage!
You may have noticed that we, at Millennial Revolution, are a tad rebellious. So, when covid-19 sparked a mass exodus from the major cities to the suburbs and cottage country, we went in the opposite direction.
As Warren Buffet likes to say: “be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy”.
By being greedy while everyone was fleeing we managed to average $1641/month in rent in a city that normally averages $2300/month.
And not only that, by being trustworthy tenants, we’ve also secured great landlord references and multiple offers to return to previous sublets/Airbnbs to boot.
Here are some tips and tricks we used to find rental deals:
We’ve been living off Airbnb on a month-to-month basis, and as a result have been able to jump on some crazy good deals, including this 1+1 bedroom condo in Toronto for $1185.82 CAD($926 USD)/month:
But before I go on, let me mention some downsides to Airbnb, so you don’t get blindsided. The two biggest downsides we’ve found, having lived off of Airbnb for the past five years are:
1) Host Cancellations
Sometimes hosts cancel on you because their situation changes, or they get sick and they need to stay at their place. This leaves you in the lurch, scrambling to find an alternative, sometimes a week before check-in. If it’s close to your check-in date (a week or less), Airbnb will give you a credit worth 10% of the original booking to cover the inconvenience. However, we’ve never had problems finding a replacement and in the past 5 years, and in the 100s of Airbnb’s we’ve stayed in we’ve only had to do find alternatives a grand total of 4 times.
2) Lack of cooking utensils/household items
The other downside is that there may be household items that are missing, like kitchen condiments, cleaning supplies, or a limited number of pots or utensils. This may be avoided if you look for a place where the host lives there part time, but it’s a crap shoot.
For us the pros of having a place, with laundry and kitchen, all utilities and wifi included, that feels more like a home rather than a hotel, plus the safety factor of Airbnb holding your money in escrow, and the convenience of having a fully furnished rental outweigh the cons.
So, if you’re okay with those drawbacks, here’s how you go about finding the best deals on Airbnb:
1. Look for Lack of Camera Skills
I love hosts who can’t take good pictures, either because of a lack of skill or impatience. Why? Because that’s how you find gems that other people miss.
The place could be a nice unit in a good area, but the host doesn’t know how to show the place in the best light. Or they’re simply busy or new to Airbnb and haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.
If you see that place looks decent (good layout) but has weird camera angels (picture not rotated, bad lighting, has some clutter), research more to see if it’s a good area and use Google Maps to find the building.
Airbnb doesn’t give you the address until you book, but you can in touch with the host with the “contact host” button.
Send them a message and tell them you’re interested in their place but want to scout out the transportation options nearby. Ask them about the closest intersection and use that info plus the description of the place to find the house or building on google maps.
This will tell you whether the place is a dump or whether it’s actually a nice new building, but the host just isn’t great at taking photos. The bad aesthetics will scare off other potential guests and let you find diamonds in the rough.
Conversely, you can also use this strategy to weed out places that look nice in the picture, but is in a bad area or a crappy building.
2. Get Weekly and Monthly Rates Rather than Daily
Most Airbnb hosts give weekly and monthly discounts of 25% or more. This is why it’s cheaper to book for an entire month (at least 28 days, sometimes 30) even if you only need the place for 3 weeks. Or booking for 7 days even if you only need it for 5 or 6. Take advantage of these longer-term rates and simply check-out early if you need to.
Here’s an example of a place that costs $2365 for 21 nights but only $1858 for 28 nights due to the 40% off monthly discount:
March 1- 22:
March 1- 29:
3. Don’t Let “No Reviews” Scare you
Don’t let places with no reviews scare you. When we first started out on Airbnb, we nervously excluded those places. That was a big mistake.
We later found out hosts who are new to Airbnb, actually try harder and are more eager to please. They are also more open to give you a discount in order to get that first good review. Plus, you also have less competition, because other people may not want to take the risk of a place with no reviews.
And in the event that it doesn’t work out, you can always reach out to Airbnb support to switch places. In the past 5 years, we only had to do this once and Airbnb gave us a refund and we used it to find a new place.
In our experience, the places with no reviews work out more often than not and new hosts work harder to gain your trust.
4. Price Match with Other Sites
Once you find an Airbnb that you like, see if the same place is listed on other sites like:
I saved $200 when I found our Taiwanese Airbnb on agoda.com. And recently, I found a 3 bed 2 bath cottage with hot tub and sauna that was listed for $2300/week on Airbnb, but only $1600/week on VRBO, and then $950/week on the owner’s website.
I reached out to the Airbnb host and asked them to match the price on their website and they agreed. Sadly, I ended up having to cancel it due to the pandemic but luckily, they had a flexible cancellation policy, so I got my 100% of my money back 2 weeks before check-in date. That’s why it’s a good idea to always check the listing’s cancellation policy (flexible, moderate, strict, long term) before booking. For long term, the first 30 days isn’t refundable, so if want to go month-to-month, it’s not refundable. However, Airbnb has an extenuating circumstances policy which is helpful if you or a loved one gets sick and can’t go. When we had to cancel our Australia Airbnb booking after we found out about Wanderer’s dad’s cancer diagnosis, Airbnb refunded us.
5. Offer to Book for Longer
If you want to get a discount from the host, reach out via the “contact host” button and offer to book for longer. I found a 4-bedroom Airbnb in Portugal listed for $4800/month that I negotiate down to $3400/month by offering to stay for 2 months or more. I also mentioned that my friends who were coming with me, are all in our mid to late 30s with high Airbnb reviews. Airbnb hosts love it when you can show you’re responsible adults and professionals who won’t leave footprints on their ceiling, smoke weed in their home, or throw all their cutlery out and steal their TV (true story).
If you find a host with holes in their calendar (eg. You want March 1 to March 30, and their calendar is free until April 6), likely they won’t have an easy time filling out that gap in between. Here’s where you ride in and save the day by offering their price but for a longer stay. For example. If you want to pay only $1500/month, but their listing is $1700/month, ask them if they’re willing to let you stay for 34 days instead of 30. This gives brings the average daily cost down to $1700/34= 50, which is $1500 for 30 days. This won’t be helpful for everyone but if you’re nomadic like us and can move around easily, this reduces the days and cost of your next Airbnb.
If they have trouble figuring out how to update the cost in the Airbnb app (it can get a bit confusing to calculate since the monthly discount wouldn’t apply to your extra days, extra Airbnb fees etc), you can pay their price up front, then use the “Request Money” function in the Resolution Center to have them give you a refund. I did this with a host recently when I asked whether he would accept $1600/month for 30 days instead of $1700. He came back with $1700 for 34 days since he had no guests after me. That ended up working out even better because it worked out to be only $50/day, or $1500/month. I then booked for 34 days for $1927 and he refunded me $227 on the day I checked in. Going forward, I only booked for 28 days instead of 30 days for Airbnbs in the following months.
6. Flaunt Your Reviews
Trust is the currency on Airbnb and great reviews are worth their weight in gold.
If you’re just starting out with Airbnb, you may not have as much negotiating power as other experienced guests. That’s ok. You’ll build up your reviews overtime. Some places have “instant book”, where you don’t need the host’s approval and it will automatically approve you. Once you have a handful of great reviews under your belt, you can up your Airbnb game.
Having lived all over the world in the past 5 years, our 111 positive reviews gives us instant pre-approvals from hosts all the time. If you’re negotiating with a host, mention your great reviews to give them peace of mind. If you’re in the 30+ age bracket that helps too. Airbnb is one of the few places where agism works in your favour. Older = more trustworthy.
7. Find Last Minute Deals
Depending on how popular the city is, you might be able to score a last-minute deal. Hosts don’t want the place to sit empty so they’ll take what they can last minute. This won’t work for popular places though, so during high season, book as early as you can (at least a month in advance, maybe two). But in low season, contact the host, mention your great reviews, and ask for a last-minute discount. Offer to book for longer if you can and mention other places that are comparable, but you prefer their place if they can give you a discount.
If you want to book for a longer period of time (3-6 months), you can also check out Facebook marketplace, Kijiji, or craigslist for sublets. However, since there’s no 3rd party to handle payment, you could be the victim of rental scams, so I would only use those platforms if you’re in the city already and can vet the place and landlord by actually going there. Airbnb takes away the risk and hassle so you can book places ahead of time even if you’re not in the city. If we want to book places for 3 months (like in Thailand for example), we’ll get an Airbnb for the first month to avoid getting scammed, and then scout out options on the ground for the remaining months.
Okay, this article turned out to be way longer than I thought, so I’ll be splitting into parts 1 and part 2. Next time, I’ll tell you the strategy I used to extend my current sublet and save $300/month.
Want to try Airbnb? Get up to $75 CAD/$60 USD off on your first stay with our referral link.
What do you think? Do you have any tips and tricks you used to negotiate a lower rent?
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