Secrets to Finding the Perfect Airbnb at the Best Price


Relaxing by the pool at an Airbnb. Yobro10/DepositPhotos.com

Airbnb is a great way to find unique accommodations when you travel. You can find a wide range of places to stay all over the world, from a castle in Scotland to a treehouse in the Swiss Alps. 

Finding the perfect Airbnb rental at the best price is not always easy.  Airbnb prices can range from great deals to ridiculously overpriced.  Unfortunately, rental costs do not always correlate with property quality.

Airbnb is a large corporation but the properties are usually owned and run by individuals.  This means the quality of each listing can vary greatly.  You may encounter dirty houses, kitchens without cookware, and unresponsive hosts.  It pays to know the best tips for sorting through the many listings.  

While each person or family will have different budgets and needs, there are some key tips that every traveler can use to find the best Airbnb.  In this article, I’ll also share my strategy for discovering the best Airbnbs at the best prices.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to constitute professional advice. You should obtain professional advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. Deskless Nomad makes no representations, warranties, or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete, or up to date. Please see the full Deskless Nomad Disclaimer

STEP-BY-STEP STRATEGY FOR FINDING THE PERFECT AIRBNB

1. Choose your vacation destination (or ask for inspiration)

If you know you want to be in one city or area then you should start by entering the location.  

If you don’t have a specific location in mind then try the “I’m flexible” option.  This will give you suggestions for properties around the world.  It’s fun to explore so give it a try for inspiration!

Where to add ”I’m flexible.” Courtesy of Airbnb.

2. Select your vacation rental dates

For the best Airbnb deals:

Book 6-12 months in advance

Unlike cookie-cutter hotel rooms, each Airbnb is a one-of-a-kind property.  The best ones, and often the best deals, will be booked far in advance.  Most hosts allow travelers to book 6 months to a year in advance.  Start looking for your next Airbnb 6-12 months in advance of your trip.

Stay longer

Staying 7 nights rather than 6 (or 28 nights rather than 27) will often automatically trigger long-term discounts.

Or book less than 7 days before your trip

Airbnb hosts often lower their prices during the week before they have a block of available nights.  For last-minute stays you can also contact the host to see if they will offer a discount.  This will be to their advantage since the property would otherwise go unrented for that time period.

Sign up for the FREE Sponstayneous weekly newsletters

Each week Sponstayneous.com sends out curated lists of over 150 last-minute Airbnb deals in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean.  They have versions of their newsletters for week-long and weekend stays. 

Traditional Greek house. Photocreo/Depositphotos.com

3. Research the neighborhood for your Airbnb stay

Once you have chosen your destination, determine what neighborhood or area you want to find an Airbnb rental.  This choice can be highly individual and depend on what you plan to do during your stay. 

Here is what I look for in the neighborhood:

Proximity to public transportation

Decide if you want your Airbnb rental to be close to public transportation. If you don’t have a car this will make it easier to get around and explore the area.  

Distance from attractions

A central location for your vacation rental is important if you want to be close to restaurants and main attractions.  Consider the travel distance to where you will be spending most of your time.  You’ll be happier if you spend less time driving, sitting in a taxi, or on the subway.  

On the other hand, tourist areas may feel more congested, have more expensive tourist-trap type restaurants, and may not offer the true experience of living like a local.

Parks and green space

I find neighborhoods with parks and green spaces to be more pleasant to walk around in.  If you enjoy jogging you’ll appreciate a nearby park.

In European cities, I also look for areas where people tend to promenade in the evenings.  In many cultures, families will go out for walks after dinner and these areas often have great shops and restaurants.

Access to groceries

One of the best benefits of Airbnbs is the ability to save money by cooking your own food.  Easy access to a grocery store is essential for us.  When we stay in more rural areas I try to make sure there is a large grocery store within 30 minutes.

I also like to think about access to the local farmer’s market.  This is not essential but getting fruits and vegetables at the weekly farmer’s market is a great way to experience a location like a local.

Safety

When you are unfamiliar with a city it can be difficult to determine if an area is safe.  I recommend doing a google search for “safe neighborhoods in…” and “dangerous neighborhoods in…” before choosing a location.

For the best Airbnb deals:

Do a google search for the best neighborhoods at your destination.  Then look at Airbnb listings just outside of those neighborhoods.  They are likely to be less expensive. 

4. Decide if you are taking your pet

If you are taking your pet, make sure to indicate this in the section where you enter the number of guests.  Keep in mind that some hosts will charge pet fees or additional cleaning deposits.

Where to add pets. Courtesy of Airbnb

5. Select if you want a whole place to yourself or just a room

People new to Airbnb often overlook this filter since it differs from what you find on most hotel booking sites.  Your choices are: 

  • Entire place
  • Private room with shared common spaces
  • Hotel room (some hotels are now listing on Airbnb)
  • Shared room (think hostel)

6. Filter for Airbnb unique stays and property type

This is one of the coolest parts of searching for an Airbnb.  Are you interested in a unique stay?  Try using the filter option for glamping, farmland, nature stay, and others.  Or choose a cave, earth house, or tipi.  Make your trip special and find something exciting!

Being flexible in your location will reveal more unique Airbnb options.  Try the “I’m flexible” option to see suggestions and then add in your dates. 

You can also try doing a google search for unique Airbnbs in your desired location.  Many travel magazines and blogs will have articles with lists of unique properties and vacation rentals.

7. Determine your vacation rental budget

Airbnb prices can range from great deals to shockingly overpriced.  Decide how much you want to spend per night.  Use the price range slider to filter properties to your budget.  To help you determine a mid-range, Airbnb gives an average nightly price for the area.

Here is the average nightly price for Paris:  

Where to find average nightly price. Courtesy of Airbnb

Don’t trust the initial nightly rate, especially if you haven’t entered specific dates.  The rate you will be charged may be much higher.   Airbnb hosts will often charge higher rates for high seasons, weekends, and special events.  The initial rate does not include the service, cleaning, taxes, and other fees that are added after you click on a listing.

You will see your true rate only once you have clicked on the property and entered specific dates.

8. Think about what makes a perfect Airbnb rental

Airbnb has more than 6 million listings around the world so it is no surprise that there is a huge range in quality.  Airbnb relies heavily on guest reviews to communicate “good” places to future guests.  They do have a label called “Airbnb plus” for properties that are reviewed by Airbnb staff.

While determining what makes a good Airbnb can be highly individual, I’ll share with you my criteria on what a perfect Airbnb should have.  

  1. Cleanliness. Airbnb introduced new robust cleaning and safety protocols during the pandemic called the Airbnb Enhanced Cleaning Initiative.  Properties in this directory undergo an additional certification process.  You can also get an idea of a property’s cleanliness from the guest reviews.
  2. Uncluttered. Some people on Airbnb rent out homes they actually live in, whether full or part-time.  I try to never choose an Airbnb that looks like someone’s lived-in home with a lot of personal stuff. Too much stuff is both aesthetically unpleasant and a liability.  You don’t want to stress about moving someone else’s stuff to make room for your own or accidentally breaking something.
  3. Modern kitchen and bathroom. Recently renovated kitchens and bathrooms are less likely to have plumbing problems and more likely to have working disposals, dishwashers, and even some perks like filtered water.  
  4. Equipped kitchen. I make sure the listing says it comes with “cooking basics.” Some Airbnb listings will appear to have a kitchen but won’t provide cookware.
  5. Washing machine and dryer. This is a must if you are traveling long-term.  Washing clothes in the Airbnb saves time and money rather than taking your clothes to a laundromat.
  6. Comfortable lounge area. Even if I plan to spend most of my days exploring an area I want to make sure I have a comfortable living room or lounge area to return to.  This often means a large comfortable couch where all of my travel group can comfortably sit and relax.
  7. Outdoor space like a patio or yard. We love eating meals outdoors and sitting outside to read or sunbathe while traveling. An outdoor space with a table and chairs is ideal but even better if there is a chaise lounge or other outdoor furniture. 
  8. Natural light. If we are renting an apartment in a city I try to choose one with a balcony and lots of natural light.
  9. A great host. I take a second look at Airbnb Superhost properties.  To be listed as a Superhost, a host has to have hosted at least 10 guests, have an average rating of 4.8 or higher, a 90% response rate when guests contact them, and a less than 1% cancellation rate.  However, just because someone is a super host, doesn’t mean the Airbnb rental is of high quality.  But it does generally means the host is good.  You can filter your search to only show Superhosts.   
  10. Airbnb Plus properties. If you want to be sure to find a quality place, try filtering for Airbnb Plus Homes.  Airbnb inspects and verifies that these vacation rentals are of the highest quality and meet specific quality and comfort standards.  They generally have better decor, ratings, reviews, and amenities.
  11. Airbnb Luxe properties. Airbnb Luxe properties are luxury vacation rentals of the highest quality.  They are generally out of my price range but are lovely to look at and dream.
Filters for Superhost, Airbnb Plus, and Airbnb Luxe. Courtesy of Airbnb.

9. Filter for your wish list amenities

Decide which amenities are essential and which amenities are on your wish list.  Add all of the amenities on your wish list in the beginning. If you don’t find the perfect property within your price range then begin eliminating non-essential amenities to increase the available listings.

Important amenities to consider for your vacation rental:

  • Pool, hot tub/jacuzzi, beach, or lake access
  • Air conditioning or heating
  • Self check-in
  • Outdoor space with patio furniture
  • Coffee maker and tea kettle
  • Laptop friendly workspace area
  • Wifi, especially if you are working remotely.  You can message a host and ask them to verify the wifi speed.  They can do this within the Airbnb app itself.
  • Fully equipped kitchen.  If you need a kitchen, make sure it also lists “cooking basics” which includes cookware and not just a kitchen, “a space where guests can cook.”
  • Washing machine
  • Parking (off-street or on-street, paid or free)
  • An elevator if the property is not on the ground floor
  • Electric vehicle charger. In a press release on February 16, 2022, Airbnb announced that over 850,000 hosts now offer electric vehicle charging.  If you are renting an EV vehicle or traveling with your EV vehicle you’ll want to make sure the property has a charger or lists one nearby. To find a property with an EV charger click “more filters” and scroll down to the “amenities” section.

For the best Airbnb deals:

Try a search with as few amenity filters as possible.  This will give you listings that are less popular.  Those hosts are often contacted less frequently.  Then learn how to ask a host for a discount on Airbnb.

House looking out at Victoria Beach, California. Appalachianview/Depositphotos.com

10. Read through the listing descriptions

Review the total price

As you start to click through the individual listings, make sure to review the total price which includes all additional fees.  The true total price won’t be revealed until you click on each individual booking.  The prices listed on the initial search page can be deceptive since fees can quickly add up.  

Make sure that the Airbnb listing descriptions line up with the photos

The photos may have a picture of things like a pool table or dishwasher but the description doesn’t match.  If this is important to you, send a message to the host to clarify what is actually available. 

11. Look through all of the pictures

Don’t be turned off if the photos are poor quality.  Amateur photos are common with newer listings.  They may actually indicate you can get the listing before the host raises the rates.  Hosts often increase the nightly rate after posting professional photographs that make the property look better.

Beware that some professional photographs may be misleading, making rooms look bigger than they are.

Red flags:

  • There are only one or two photos of the inside of the property.  Make sure you see photos of the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, and main living area. 
  • If the host has multiple properties and the photos are identical on the listings.
  • The property looks like someone’s lived-in home and there is a lot of clutter.

For the best Airbnb deals:

Do a reverse image search of the listing photos on google.  The property may be offered cheaper through the direct booking site if it is a hostel, hotel, or managed by a property manager.  It may also be listed at a lower price on another site like Vrbo or booking.com.

Or you may find that the (too good to be true) photos have been scrubbed from another site and the Airbnb listing is actually a scam.  Learn more tips on how to avoid scams here.

12. Look at the Airbnb property location on a map

Reviewing the property location will help you see how close it is to attractions.  If they list an address, type it into google maps and use Google Street View to take a tour of the area.  Do the same with Google Earth to get a lay of the land.  If they don’t give a specific address you can still search the general area on google maps.

13. Read the House Rules

I always pause if the host lists a lot of rules.  Excessive rules may be due to condo regulations or the neighborhood HOA, but often it means it may not be a great fit.  You definitely don’t want to be stressed out about trying to follow a zillion rules on your vacation.

Occasionally excessive rules will indicate that Airbnbs aren’t actually allowed at the property due to the neighborhood or HOA restrictions.  The host may be trying to limit guest activities or noise to keep from being discovered. 

14. Read the cancellation policy

Pay close attention to the cancellation policies and make sure you are comfortable with the terms.

Each Airbnb host chooses from one of 6 tiers of cancellation policies.  You can review the cancellation policy options available to Airbnb hosts here.  There is a separate policy for longer stays.

You can also filter properties and only show stays that offer free cancellation.

Filter for listings with free cancellation. Courtesy of Airbnb.

15. Read the reviews

Read the most recent 30-40 reviews.  It sounds like a lot but many reviews will be unhelpful and you’ll just skip over them.  

Look for these reviews:

  • Reviews that talk about communicating with the host. These will give you clues about whether or not the host is responsive and promptly takes care of issues with the property.
  • Reviews from the same month you will be traveling during the prior year. Summer heat can be brutal if the air conditioner doesn’t work.  The same goes for poor heating in winter.
  • Reviews that have information about things you can’t see in the photos.  Many reviews will have helpful information like “You can’t really see the beach from the balcony” or “the restaurant next door is really loud until 11 pm.”  
  • Don’t bother with reviews that are older than 6 months.  The host may have changed something since then.

While opinions will always vary, you may find some details in reviews that are deal breakers for you.  Of course, you’ll want to be fair and consider what is motivating guests who leave negative reviews.  Their circumstances may not apply to you.   

For the best Airbnb deals:  

Check out new properties for Airbnb discounts.  To encourage would-be travelers, Airbnb gives the option for hosts to discount the first 3 bookings of a new property up to 20%.  After the first 3 bookings, the nightly price goes up.  

Booking a new listing can be a little riskier since there won’t be reviews to judge the property and host.  Sometimes new listings are added by hosts who have multiple properties. You can read the reviews of their other properties to learn more about the hosts.

16. Look at the availability calendar

Once you find a property that looks perfect, take a look at the availability calendar.  If there are a lot of bookings it will give you an idea of how urgently you need to make your decision. 

A property is labeled as a “rare find” indicates it is usually booked.  It doesn’t always mean it is a better quality property or a better deal.  Sometimes there are just fewer Airbnb options in an area and less competition.  I’ve seen plenty of “rare finds” that didn’t appear to be anything special.

For the best Airbnb deals:

A property with lower occupancy, especially during the off-peak season, may indicate you will have more success negotiating an Airbnb discount.

17. Adjust your trip dates

If you are having trouble finding the right place, try adjusting your trip dates.  You may have been off by a day or two to snag the perfect vacation home.  Some listings also have minimum stays that can be as long as a week.

For the best Airbnb deals: 

Try adding extra days to your trip to qualify for a weekly or monthly discount.  Airbnb allows hosts to automatically offer Airbnb discounts on long stays.

18. Make a favorites list

Once you have an account with Airbnb, you can make lists in the app to keep track of your favorite properties.  This is especially useful if you tend to return to the same area.  

If you have just started your research process and don’t plan to commit to a place today, tag your favorite properties so you can return to them at a later date.

19. Message the hosts of your favorite Airbnb listings

Once you have found a place that fits your needs, send the host a message introducing yourself.  If you have any remaining questions not answered in the listing, include these in your message.  

You’ll definitely want to message the host before booking if the listing has a strict cancellation.  You don’t want to find out the host is non-responsive after handing over your non-refundable payment.  Make sure you will be happy with your choice.

After the host responds you can consider asking for a discount if you think that your reservation would also be beneficial to the host. 

Conditions in which you are more likely to successfully negotiate a discount include:

  • You are booking in low season
  • The vacation home has an extended period of low occupancy
  • You are booking a longer stay
  • You are booking last minute and the property would otherwise remain empty.
  • While demand is still low as travel slowly gets back to pre-pandemic levels

You may also be interested in my article on How to Ask an Airbnb Host for a Discount.

20. If you are a long-term traveler or digital nomad, keep a spreadsheet of all of your vacation rental bookings

If you are traveling long term and staying at multiple vacation rentals, keep a spreadsheet of your bookings with corresponding cancellation policies and deadlines.  I also include the next date my credit card will be charged (30 days after the check-in day).

Long-term travelers may be interested in my Ultimate Guide to Renting An Airbnb Long-Term.


I hope you enjoyed learning my strategies for finding the perfect Airbnb.  Before you book your next Airbnb, consider reading my article on tips, tricks, and travel hacks to save money on your next Airbnb vacation rental.  

Jamie Dubois

I am a freelance writer, wanderer, kayaker, rock climber, and adventurer exploring the world on my own terms.

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