The One Thing Airbnb Hosts Wish You Wouldn’t Do

updated May 24, 2019
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Imagine this scenario: You’ve decided to skip town for a last-minute weekend getaway and you’re scrolling though dreamy Airbnb listings when you see one that’s perfect. It’s a gorgeous apartment with five-star reviews that you can totally see yourself lounging around, and the location couldn’t be better. Alas, it’s beyond budget.

But it’s available for your dates and it can never hurt to try, right? It’s not the high season, you reason, and it’s not like it’s costing them anything to stay here. They’ll probably just be happy for any income!

Ping! Back comes the response. You’ve been declined. That’s because you broke the number-one unwritten rule of Airbnb bookings: Asking for a discount.

I say this as someone who has been hosting guests in my home for 10 years (since before Airbnb). I can’t speak for all hosts, of course, but most of those I hear from are with me.

I asked for feedback on discount requests in private online groups for hosts and the topic definitely struck a nerve. The responses came fast and furious, with nearly everyone (in particular those of us who share our homes, as opposed to renting out investment properties) agreeing: No way.

Here’s why — and what we wish travelers knew.

5 Things Airbnb Hosts Wish Guests Knew

1. Hosting isn’t free.

There’s our mortgage or rent, for one. We’ve got to pay for this place (and insurance and utilities). There’s also the cleaning company, or our time spent getting the place five-star ready. (And let me tell you, we obsess over our cleanliness ratings! One time a guest dinged me down to three stars because of a speck on a cutting board. The speck was residue from the price tag that resisted all scrubbing.)

There’s the fridge and pantry to be stocked with breakfast goodies and snacks, the laundry — oh, the never-ending laundry — and the niceties like fresh flowers and pretty lotions and courtesies like make-up wipes so we don’t have to replace our linens so often.

Asking me to discount makes me feel as if you are not going to respect my home because you have already told me the price I’m asking is not worth it. Should I remove the snacks, the coffee, the beach furniture, the bicycles to make it more affordable for you? Perhaps I should turn off the air conditioning between eight and five to save that extra money that it cost me to run it at your comfort.

– T. in Florida

Of course there’s tax, and not only income tax, but also any manner of municipal taxes. We also pay Airbnb a cut of the booking and, on top of that, some cities require permits, too. I paid nearly a thousand dollars and had to make my case at a public hearing just to make my listing legit in my town.

And we haven’t even talked about our time spent working with you; the best hosts essentially act as concierges and we put a lot of time into your stay.

2. This is how many of us make ends meet.

We take all of the above into consideration, and come up with the lowest possible price we can offer and still make it worth our time. Because yes, while many of us do this because we love meeting fellow travelers — and I myself can get carried away by the fun side and fail to remember this is a crucial part of my living — at the end of the day this is how we make ends meet. My husband and I couldn’t take care of the glorious old Victorian we live in if it weren’t for Airbnb.

When a potential guest asks for a discount it is a safe bet that they will expect more than is realistic for the entire stay. The discount shoppers treat us more as an enterprise rather than a home sharer, and I don’t care for the difference in attitude.

– Fran in South Carolina

The price you see is the price we need to make this work. Otherwise it’s a heck of a lot easier to just hang out by ourselves in the house and skip the mountains of laundry. Bottom line: Our bottom line may end up being half that price you see.

3. We’ve already factored in the off-season and long-term stays.

You’re right: Prices ought to be lower in the off season or if you’re saving the host the expense and trouble of turning the place over several times. And that’s factored in for most of us.

Airbnb’s smart pricing tool automatically adjusts prices daily to account for seasonal fluctuations, demand, and more. When our price is higher than their computer thinks it should be, it shows up in red on our pricing calendar to alert us. Trust me — we know if it’s the low season and we’ve accounted for it.

It is different dealing with an owner (who has pride of place and puts work into the listing almost daily), than an employee operator [at a hotel] who probably has printed guidelines as to what to do if there is a request.

– Marie in Minnesota

Also built in to Airbnb’s pricing tool is a long-term-stay discount. The site suggests hefty breaks for stays of a week-plus or month-plus. If we want to offer those discounts (and I sure do!), you’ll see those prices.

4. Hosting is a leap of faith.

When someone ignores the option to filter for their price range and asks for special treatment, they may as well have a BEWARE sign plastered across their profile photo. This is our home they’re staying in, and we’re all taking a leap of faith. If they can’t follow the first and most basic step in the process, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the experience.

I always find it perplexing when a potential guest asks for a discount … why are you looking at rentals outside of your budget? Also, this is a red flag that signals to me a guest is going to be high maintenance. This isn’t a street market in Asia where bargaining is expected. Just stop asking for deals already!

– Kristin in Nashville

5. We live in fear of the bad review.

As hosts, we live in fear of the bad review and will go to great lengths to avoid one. That can include declining guests we think will not be satisfied. (Complain about that speck on the cutting board, on the other hand, and we will run as fast as we can.)

Every time I have given discounts I regret it. Those asking for discounts are messier, leave snarky reviews, and seem entitled.

– Jen in Louisville, Kentucky

3 Things AirBnB Hosts Wish You Would Do

Lest we all sound like a bunch of cranky hosts, let me assure you: By and large we love our guests. Most of us (I know I do, as do the fabulous hosts I’ve had the pleasure of staying with) enjoy nothing more than delighting our guests and helping them have the best possible experience. It all starts when we get off on the right foot with that first inquiry. Here are a few ways to make sure that happens.

1. Start a conversation.

Remember we’re all just people here, and part of the whole idea behind Airbnb is human connection. Transactional stays are for hotels. Start a conversation in your booking request. Compliment our home or city. Share something about yourself and your plans.

2. Leave thoughtful reviews for all your hosts.

Believe you me, we look just as closely at reviews you leave for other hosts as we do the reviews hosts leave for you. If you take the time to write a helpful review everywhere you stay, we will welcome you with open arms.

3. Show that you’ve read the description.

Asking if we have wifi when it says so on our listing is a sign you might not have read the house rules either.

I avoid guests who ask for discounts because I’m afraid they are under the impression that things are up for negotiation, including my house rules. I have house rules for good reasons: safety, community happiness, our hosting sanity.

– A host in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Are you an Airbnb host? Do you agree about discounts?