Definitive guide to finding the perfect apartment on Airbnb


Intro — What is Airbnb?

Airbnb is an innovative site on which anyone can rent their own home, room or bed. I have started to use it in 2011 to find more cheap alternatives to hotels without having to use hostels. On Airbnb you can easily find places with sizes equal or more as hotel suites, but at a fraction of the price.

The goal of this guide

To maximize our happiness that comes from our apartment selection for our next trip. In my case, happiness depends on the following variables:

  1. Price
  2. Position
  3. Decor/style

The 6 steps to the perfect apartment

Step 1 — Search

Fill in the date, so Airbnb will return houses with availability.

Please fill in the exact number of people, because many hosts change price based on how many people will come.

Pro Tip: if you plan to stay for multiple months, do a 2nd search without dates. Sometimes really nice places have only a single weekend booked in the middle of the range that I want to stay, and I can just go on a trip somewhere nearby during that time, but then live in a flat I wouldn’t have found had I just searched by my dates. (Thanks @gregg for the suggestion)

Step 2 — Search results

If you already know pretty much where you want to be, zoom and move the map to your preferred area. I prefer to include also some neighbouring areas, not to lose any good deals.

Select room type:

  • Entire Place: all the apartment for you. There will not be other people while you are there.
  • Private Room: One room for you. But there will be other people in the apartment.
  • Shared Room: Share the room with other people.

Position yourself on the map on the area that interests you.

Step 3 — Spam those you like

My suggestion is to contact people with a message, not just to send them a request to book. I find it more personal and human. In the end, you are going to someone’s home, you’re not buying a book on Amazon.

To avoid SPAM, Airbnb has put the chat button at the end of the detail page of the room/house. The button can be found in the section “About the Host”, and it’s this:

As for the message, be the shortest possible, but include the following 5 things:

  1. Give a mini appreciation about the apartment/room;
  2. Explain the reasons for your visit;
  3. Re-write the dates when you want to go;
  4. Ask if the room is available;
  5. Enter the name of the person: it’s a small thing, but makes the host feel like he’s not just one of many that you have contacted.

Here’s an example:

Step 4 — Organized those who answer on Excel

Usually within 24 hours we will get an answer to almost all of those who have availability. You will receive 3 types of responses:

  • Pre-approved: it means that you can enter your credit card number to complete the reservation.

How to read a quote: the price that receives those hosts is first (564€ in the example). Airbnb in addition makes you pay the service fee (€ 85 in the example). Sometimes also shows a cleaning fee: a fixed price that whoever hosts required to clean the room, sheets etc (not present in the example). In essence, what you paid when you reserve differs from that which receives who hosts: keep this in mind when you negotiate the price.

  • Not available: This means that the apartment is not available.
  • None of the above: in this case we have only responded but there still have given approval to book.

If cases of pre-approved and none of the above, begin to collect data in an Excel spreadsheet. I prefer Google Sheets. Here’s how I do:

As you can see I wrote down:

  • Name
  • Web address of the room
  • Total price
  • Location within the city: in the example I put the name of the area, but it can also help you to put some numbers from 1 to 3 depending on proximity to the point where you want to go.
  • Acceptable decor
  • Miscellaneous notes

Step 5-ALWAYS ask for a discount

After the host responds, always ask for a discount. Be polite in doing it, but not too much, otherwise you will be ineffective. Here’s an example:

Please, always ask it. Even though the price is within your budget. You could still use that money for an extra restaurant! In any case, in my experience, 90% of the users will be happy to give you a discount.

When you receive the discount remember to update the price on the Excel sheet. The user must send you a Special Offer. You will see it in the conversation. Here’s an example:

When you receive all the discount offers take a look at the Excel sheet and choose the place that attracts you more. (If you are optimisation maniacs, assigned a score for each variable — price, location and decor—and sum the scores)

Step 6 — Complete the booking

Press the red button inside the “Book It” message, enter your credit card details and confirm.

Now, there are two cases:

  1. If you are already pre-approved States, your reservation will be confirmed automatically.

2. If you are not pre-approved, Airbnb will prompt the user, who must confirm it. Once he confirms, the reservation will be confirmed.

Important Note: Airbnb takes the money from your credit card at the time you send the request. If the request is rejected, the money will come back. If the request is accepted, the money will remain to Airbnb until 24 hours after you enter the apartment, to ensure that there are not scams. So: never, and I repeat, never try to pay outside of Airbnb because you will be victim of a fraud in 99% of the cases. The worst case which can happen, is that you arrive in the city and the House was fake. In this case Airbnb will give you the money back and help you to find another accommodation.

Step 6 — things to do immediately after booking

Do these things immediately after confirming the house:

  1. Add to your phone book the contact for the user.
  2. Let him know on Whatsapp who you are, when you check in and when you will check out. Example:

3. be sure you understand exactly where is the apartment and how to get there without any doubt. Things to check: address, timetables (trains/airport bus, taxi, public transport). Most likely you will not have access to the internet after landing.

Bon Voyage

If you followed this guide to the letter I’m sure you will have a pleasant experience.

I am subscribed to Airbnb since 2011 and after every trip that I want to use it more and more.

If you have any questions, tweet me at @nicolasegosum.

Have a safe trip,
Nicolas :)