Although most people use Airbnb to rent an apartment or spare room for a couple of days, it’s also possible to to rent apartments on a monthly basis through Airbnb. The rent is usually more expensive than if you were to rent privately (i.e. through Craigslist or its regional equivalent). However, if you need an apartment that already has internet and you don’t want to have to worry about paying electricity or water bills (and setting up a local bank account to pay these), it can be a fantastically straight-forward way to rent.
I’ve rented long-term through Airbnb in Lisbon, Lagos, and in cities outside of Portugal as well including Seville, Valencia, and Berlin. As a freelancer I need an apartment with internet, but getting broadband installed can be tricky if you’re staying somewhere for less than a year. In the past, I’ve also needed an apartment with parking and Airbnb makes it easy to find one of those.
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How to find monthly rentals on Airbnb
To find the monthly rates on Airbnb, go to Airbnb.com, enter the city you want to stay in, and the dates you want to stay there for. Once you enter more than twenty-eight days, Airbnb will automatically show you the monthly rates rather than the nightly rates.
I usually then filter as much as I can. For example: I will set my max monthly rate first of all. Secondly, I’ll list the things I absolutely need such as internet although I don’t tend to tick too much. Some property owners may have forgotten to tick something obvious, such as having a kitchen, and this may mean their property gets excluded. Usually, I’ll also see how many bedrooms I can get for my max amount as it’s always nice to have a bit more space.
Negotiating a cheaper price
If you’re staying for more than say two months, you’re in a position to negotiate a lower monthly price. Some people negotiate a monthly price if they’re staying for less than two months and I’ve heard of people that stay for a few weeks and negotiate for the monthly price. There’s no hard and fast rule. It’s up to you where you ask for a specific discount (e.g. 25% off or 50% off) or you’re a little shier and you simply ask if they’d discount you considering you’re staying so long.
Traditionally, in negotiating, you’re supposed to meet in the middle which means you should ask for a large discount. However, going in low can offend some people so this is a risky strategy. Not specifying a discount, however, can mean you don’t get offered much of a saving. It’s all quite complicated.
When asking for a discount, it’s worth mentioning the reasons you think you’re deserving of it. For example, are you staying longer than average (e.g. six months), are you coming during the low season, etc. Feel free to shop around as well, especially if you’re booking ahead and you can afford to.
If you’re planning on renting long-term through Airbnb, you will need to book ahead. The longer you leave it, the less likely there is for an apartment to be available for the entire time you need it.
It’s worth playing around with the dates, if you can afford to be flexible. August, for example, is a busy time for Europe and so many apartments will have bookings during the month of August. If you’re willing to start your stay a month later, you may end up with more options.
Note: if Airbnb is all booked up there are other sites out there like Owners Direct, Housetrip, VRBO, etc. Generally, I’ve found Airbnb is cheaper than the others, however, as you’re staying long-term you may be able to negotiate a good deal.
Paying in cash
Often, as part of the negotiation, the host will offer you a discount if you pay them in cash and don’t put it through Airbnb.
Note: once you start paying in cash, you don’t get receipts, you don’t have a contract, you don’t have Airbnb’s customer service team to get in contact with, and most importantly you lose your only real leverage: your review at the end of your stay. If you’re going to pay in cash, make sure the discount is significant enough to make the risk worthwhile.
Cancelling a long term Airbnb contract
There are two ways to get out of an Airbnb long-term contract.
Firstly, if the apartment is terrible, you can get out of the contract if you notify Airbnb within the first twenty-four hours of arriving at an apartment. This isn’t an ideal option as you’re not going to be able to find another long term Airbnb very easily. From experience, most of the problems tend to occur once you’re settled into your stay meaning if you ever end up cancelling an Airbnb it’ll be using the second option.
The second option is to change the dates of your stay (or cancel). I don’t recommend cancelling as it means that you have to leave the apartment but still pay for the next thirty days. Instead, change the dates of the stay so that it ends in thirty days time. You will still pay for the next thirty days, but you won’t have to leave the apartment. The homeowner also isn’t given an option of whether they can accept or decline they changes: they have to accept them.
Of course, all of these options assume you’re leaving because of a bad host or a crappy apartment. If you suddenly have to leave because of something else (for example health reasons or family problems), just get in touch with your host and explain the situation. You can also propose new dates, and the host has the option to accept them or not.
Other money-saving tips
Aside from using a discount code, if you’re signing up for the first time, here are some other ways you can save on your monthly Airbnb costs.
Use a cashback or rewards credit card
Some credit cards offer cashback or rewards such as airmiles when you use them. In the USA, airmile credit cards are quite common. Although airmiles exist in the UK and other countries, it’s nowhere near as lucrative as the USA.
There are other options such as cashback credit cards, which give you a percentage of your purchase back (up to a certain amount) or allow you to earn points for your supermarket loyalty card. Ryanair have a credit card that gives you a free flight. You just have to keep an eye on what’s available.
If the property looks like it’s run by a letting agency, I will often check to see if it’s on Booking.com or Hotels.com as it’s possible to get around 10% off a booking using a cashback website like topcashback.
Note: Wimdu (an Airbnb competitor) also offer cashback through topcashback. Currently, it’s around 6% which could be a nice saving depending on the monthly cost of your rental.
If you don’t need internet in your property (i.e. if you can survive with a 3g simcard and access to a local internet café), then it’ll be a lot cheaper to rent privately.
For students, Uniplaces is a useful website as is Easy Quarto. Uniplaces isn’t just for students, and it’s also used by many digital nomads and young professionals who need a medium-term place to rent.
It isn’t as popular as Airbnb, which means that many properties don’t have reviews from previous guests, but it’s always good to have options to hand.
If you’re just looking for a room, Couchsurfing.com is a good place to ask. Expatriates.com and Craigslist also both come up in Google. I’ve never used them, and have seen plenty of scams on both of them, but I’d still (warily) consider both of them in the future.