Rights & Money

What to Know Before Booking With Airbnb

If you’re not careful, the total cost could be much more than you expect

If you’re hoping to save money while travelling, Airbnb might be a good option for you. Airbnb allows homeowners and some tenants to rent out their homes, apartments, or rooms to travellers for short stays or for months at a time. But if you’re thinking of booking and it’s your first time, you should know about the many hidden costs involved in using the service.

Airbnbs are appealing because they provide a less expensive alternative to hotels. However, after you include additional service charges from hosts, Airbnb, and possibly local governments, the cost can jump substantially—and even double.

These charges can include cleaning fees charged by hosts, taxes to municipal governments, or security deposits costing anywhere from $100 to $5,000. Some hosts may add an extra fee for each additional guest. And Airbnb always charges a service fee that can be as much as 13% of the total of nightly rate plus other fees.

It’s important to examine Airbnb’s cancellation policies before confirming a reservation. If you’re booking your next get-away at the last minute, it can be tempting to reserve a room as soon as possible so that you don’t lose it to another guest. Ads stress that “you won’t be charged yet” when you book, and many say you can receive a full refund if you cancel within 48 hours. But when you read the fine print, you’ll find that cancellation policies for the same unit can vary widely depending on the length of your reservation. For example, if you cancel a booking for anything reserved for 28 days or longer, regardless of when you decide to cancel, you’ll still be required to pay the full price of the first month.

You should also know that hosts can set their own cancellation policies, and some are less lenient than others. Hosts who choose to apply a “strict” cancellation policy, for example, will provide a full refund within 48 hours of cancelling only if you cancel 14 days or more before your booking date. Under the same policy, if you cancel up to seven days prior to your booking date, you’ll receive only a 50% refund. And if you cancel less than seven days before, you receive no refund. That can leave you out hundreds of dollars should something unforeseen cause you to cancel your trip.

Photo: iStock/volcjoks.