House hunters leaving early

We’ve been hosting for a year with a Flexible cancellation policy. We’ve had 3 cancellations in that time and were able to rebook those nights. I chose the Flexible policy because I think it eliminates a barrier to booking. We were almost 100% full from March-November. I’m not really thinking about changing it BUT we have a new situation and I’m looking for suggestions on how to protect ourselves in the future.

Being in Seattle there is a constant stream of people moving here to work for tech companies and our location is excellent to accommodate them. Our current guest booked for 14 days while they looked for a new home. A week or so later she requested to extend to a total of 19 days. They checked-in, loved our Airbnb and quickly found a new home. Quicker than they expected and now want to check-out early. Other than adopting a strict cancellation policy does anyone have an option to protect us in this situation in the future?

A moderate cancellation policy. That is really the only other thing. You would at least get 50% of the nights they cancel. It is truly moderate, 50/50. We’ve always had the moderate and it hasn’t hurt our bookings. As a guest, a moderate policy is not a deterrent for me either.

The other thing you could do is set a maximum stay (7 days or something) so that you don’t get stuck with so many days when someone cancels. But a moderate policy will protect you the best and still make it a good risk to take a 7 or 14 + day booking.

FWIW, I just browsed Seattle listings and most had a moderate or strict policy, so IMO, there’s nothing about your market that forces a flexible policy. There’s no reason to attract guests that don’t know if they can commit to a booking or not? It’s worth it to consider a moderate policy.

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In our area we also have a lot of house hunters. In addition to a strict cancellation policy, we discount for longer stays. (Our cleaning fees pay for the house cleaners, not our time to inspect the house or any refillable amenities, so longer stays are less work for us and save us money in wine and shampoos etc.). If they leave early the discount tends to disappear, and they would end up owing the same. Note, we don’t do this on Airbnb, and I’m not sure if their payment procedures work discounting this way.

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You could offer the discount as a refund after their stay is completed.

Why not adopt a strict policy? I do not see the downside.


With a flexible cancellation policy you are not required to refund any money once they check in. The type of refund policy is not an issue.

If you do not want to allow cancellations it makes a difference. I see no upside to allowing guests to cancel as late as 24 hours and one minute before check in.


Some hosts are of the opinion that they don’t want guests to feel forced to stay because they can’t get a refund. Guests can’t get refunded so they arrive and claim the place isn’t clean or they saw a mouse or they just stay and leave a 4 star review.

As you know I’m in the camp of usually refunding if the guest doesn’t stay and hoping to rebook days. Based on posts here it seems that most hosts follow a policy of “I’ll refund only if I rebook the days.”

And on top of all that there is the extenuating circumstances refund that takes it out of the host’s hands completely.


RiverRockRetreat, I was responding to the original post that the guests had already checked in and where there for 2 days, then wanted to cancel. At that point it would just be up to the kindness of the host to let the guests modify their booking.

I’n my market I would often be able to rebook and so would probably modify the booking to allow me to clean and remarket.

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Yes, they would get a refund if they cancel days that they don’t want to stay. With the flexible policy:

If the guest arrives and decides to leave early, the nightly rate for the nights not spent 24 hours after cancellation are fully refunded.

Excellent. Thanks for correcting my understanding. That may have been an update to hosting guidelines I missed.

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I was under the same impression you were. Good to know.

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Under Flexible policy:
If the guest arrives and decides to leave early, the nightly rate for the nights not spent 24 hours after cancellation are fully refunded.

Good reminder for all of us / visual comparison of the different policies:

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Cancellations are going to happen. Sometimes you’ll be told several months in advance and other times it will be like the above situation and people will leave early without extenuating circumstances.

I’m certainly of this opinion:

I don’t want people staying here who would rather be elsewhere. Have contingency plans for cancellations - keep stays restricted to short periods of time - advertise your new availability on social media - use your contacts - and if all else fails and you still have a day or two that you can’t fill, see to maintenance and cleaning work that is probably long overdue.