Is it normal for airbnb pricing to go up after I book?
July 25, 2017 10:53 AM   Subscribe

I used airbnb for the first time in February. Stayed in a guy's house in Joshua Tree. It was awesome. The next two times the rate jumped after I booked a place. My questions are: is this normal, and is there any way to avoid it? Sorry if my questions are beginnery, I'm still new to airbnbing. My specific details are below.

Time 1: In March I wanted to go to Bend, OR. I booked an airbnb place. The guy wrote me back and said that the rate was higher because the price on the website didn't reflect city taxes. I cancelled and went to a hotel.

Time 2, right now: I'm planning a trip to an event in a small town in September 2018, so housing is tight. I booked a place (a spot in a person's house), but then an hour or two later I got an email saying the rate was wrong (maybe due to the event?) and I need to pay $200 more ($50 per night extra—an increase of roughly 60%).

Since housing is tight, and my friends and I don't have a lot of money, going to a hotel isn't an option this time. What is confusing is I got an email from airbnb saying, about my host's request for $200: "If you choose to decline, your reservation will remain unchanged."

Does this mean that I don't need to pay? Will my host find some other way to cancel if I say no?

Thanks for your help!
posted by middlethird to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've airbnb'd a lot, and this is new to me.

I've seen the "rate" "change" when I'm on the site, but only in the sense that when I am initially looking at the list of options, I'll see a place that's advertised for $75 a night, and then click on the site for more detail and see that it's actually breaking down as "it's actaully $70 a night for the rate, but then there's fees that if we split it up over the course of your stay that's an extra $5 per night" or something like that. But I've never tried to make a reservation and had the host email be back all "well, actually it's way more" like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:57 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would actually report it when a host does this. I'm pretty sure it violates airbnb rules.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:01 AM on July 25, 2017 [50 favorites]

Best answer: This sounds sketchy as hell and I would A) report it to AirBNB and 2) get a different / backup place.
posted by Etrigan at 11:02 AM on July 25, 2017 [27 favorites]

Seconding that this sounds sketchy. Hosts may do that if there's some big event and they can change their rates, but they should do that *before* you book, not after. I've never had that happen to me before and I use it often. I would ask Airbnb support as well.
posted by buttonedup at 11:08 AM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: AirBNB's FAQ says the tax thing may be legit (though it needs to be explained up front on the listing page). However, raising rates after you've already booked is not legit, and you can dispute it through AirBNB.

On that second situation, where the host is just trying to raise the rates on you, AirBNB's community support site says about a similar situation: not cancel. This host is trying to strong-arm you. You won't receive your Airbnb service fees back if you cancel. I would again tell the host that you will NOT cancel and since SHE wants to cancel the booking, SHE needs to do it from her end. OR she can, obviously, keep the booking as-is...if you just want to be done with the situation, you can Contact Airbnb and they will review your messages and mostly likely cancel on the host's behalf and you will get a full refund.
posted by ourobouros at 11:10 AM on July 25, 2017 [24 favorites]

This absolutely violates airbnb rules--you are supposed to only pay at the rate you were quoted when you booked. When booking with airbnb you're supposed to keep all transactions within airbnb, so I would be sketched out if a host wanted you to hand over extra $$ separately.

"If you choose to decline, your reservation will remain unchanged" means that you don't need to pay, but you may end up on bad terms with the host and it could turn into a tricky situation. I've airbnb-ed a lot and never had to pay extra, only the rate quoted when I booked. I'd wouldn't want to stay with someone who would spring that on me. You could report/call airbnb, they should advise you.
posted by sprezzy at 11:11 AM on July 25, 2017

Oh yeah, as ourobouros says the tax thing can be legit, but it should be stated right on the listing. I've seen the tax notice many times and just factored that into the cost I'd have to pay.
posted by sprezzy at 11:13 AM on July 25, 2017

Response by poster: Just a clarification that the request for the extra $200 is coming through the airbnb site. (Ie, this isn't a personal ask from the host's email or anything like that.) The full email from is

"Sherri wants to change your reservation...
You will be charged an additional: $202.07.
If you accept Sherri’s request, we’ll immediately update your reservation.
If you choose to decline, your reservation will remain unchanged."

Thanks for your answers so far, they're making me feel better!
posted by middlethird at 11:14 AM on July 25, 2017

Best answer: In that case I'd still be inclined to decline because that's kind of crummy--you booked based on the rate you saw. I believe they can't do anything about actually getting more money out of you, but it might make things with the host a bit frosty.
posted by sprezzy at 11:18 AM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, I would absolutely decline that additional charge - and if they cancel your reservation after you decline I would reach out to AirBnB support. Moreover, as a fellow AirBnB user I would want to know about this sort of thing - so unless when you stay with this person they have an amazingly convincing reason as to why they did this (and why it was completely a one-off, one time only thing), I also hope that you'll mention it, factually and unemotionally, in your post-stay review.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:28 AM on July 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The owner is trying to extract more $$ out of the reservation because demand is high due to the event in town. If housing really is tight, I would check what your options are for hotels/other airbnbs for that time period - the crappy thing for you is, if you refuse this rate hike (which is absolutely shitty and opportunistic on the owner's part), the owner can then simply cancel the whole reservation, opening the room up to take someone else at the higher rate and leaving you high and dry. BS like this is why I stopped using Airbnb for any event/stay where there is high demand for that period.

Oh, and the added shitty thing is, if the owner does cancel on you at the last minute, you can't leave a review on the site saying that the owner screwed you over - Airbnb won't let you review properties/owners if you didn't stay with them. Another shitty practice where Airbnb is hiding how little protection Airbnb provides for guests in what are really very common circumstances for people looking to book rooms (that is, high demand time periods due to popular events that bring a lot of people in from out of town).
posted by aiglet at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi all, I declined the request for $200, so we'll see if the host cancels on me. Thanks for your help!
posted by middlethird at 12:28 PM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

You've received pretty good answers on this. As an AirBnB host, the only time I've had something like this come up is when someone tried to book a night almost a year in advance. We change rates seasonally, and I hadn't updated the prices for the upcoming year. It was back when I had instant-book turned on, so I contacted the guest immediately, told him what was up, and ended up cancelling the reservation on my end. That resulted in penalties on my end, both in terms of a fine and a decreased search ranking for a year.

aiglet's claim that if the host cancels on you they can relet the same space to someone else for the same dates is not accurate. One of the penalties of cancelling a reservation is getting those dates blocked off your calendar. I suppose the host could setup a new listing for the same space, but then they would lose past reviews etc.

As others have said, sometimes the price you see when you're searching isn't the final price once you punch in dates etc. As a renter, if someone is on the hook for city/state taxes and hasn't figured that into their booking price, in my mind that's their problem and not mine. That's becoming less of an issue though; at least in my area AirBnB is now collecting sales tax and remitting it directly to the state.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:44 PM on July 25, 2017

That may be craven_morhead, but I've been in airbnb's that are cross-listed on platforms like VRBO. Nothing to stop an owner from canceling on airbnb then picking up another guest for that same time period through another platform. Which, I might add, is arguably beyond airbnb's control, but is also why Airbnb should absolutely permit reviews from the time of an accepted booking - so users can screen out hosts that use shady and deceptive practices like e.g. trying to extract extra fees, canceling without explanation.
posted by aiglet at 2:30 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

if the owner does cancel on you at the last minute, you can't leave a review on the site saying that the owner screwed you over

True, but I have seen reviews that state "The owner cancelled this reservation X days before it started." or something similar. They are italicized and are like system generated reviews.
posted by soelo at 2:51 PM on July 25, 2017

Out on a limb here: Airbnb has a 'smart-pricing' setting for hosts. It means that in periods of high demand, the price changes accordingly. Like my minimum charge for a night is $100, plus cleaning, but at peak periods it can be anything up to $306 a night.
This is not to say that your situation is this demand surge mechanism (and anyway, when you put in your dates and the price is shown, it shouldn't change after booking,) but it would explain differences in prices if you looked for accommodation in different demand periods.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:34 PM on July 25, 2017

I've seen it go up in the process of searching, e.g. I plug in date + location and on the list I see a few places that I like between $100-150. I click on them and go back to the one for $100. Suddenly the price - before fees etc - is $125. This happens often enough that something has to be happening on AirBnB's end, as in "since you liked this place enough to look at it a few times, we'll charge more than we told you at first."
posted by AFABulous at 6:34 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Final update! Host cancelled, then airbnb asked me if I wanted to talk about my case. I said it was disappointing to be cancelled upon. Then I got a message from airbnb saying the host "recently mispriced her listing for dates with higher demands" and they write "We apologize for this and we will make sure that proper actions will be taken regarding the matter."

So maybe that means future potential guests might be warned?
posted by middlethird at 11:29 PM on July 27, 2017

I wouldn't bet that future guests will be warned; I expect host will get hit with a fine, plus get those dates blocked off, plus drop in search rankings. Still a crappy thing to do.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:36 AM on July 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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