Travel nursing is a great way to see the country and expand your professional skill set. However, many travel nurses report that finding housing in a new city is extremely stressful and overwhelming. In this travel nurse housing guide, we provide you with all the information you need to make the hunt for accommodations an easy one. We explore the housing options available to you, highlight ways that you can maximize your housing stipend and offer some best practices that should always be followed when looking for travel nurse housing.
An Overview of Travel Nurse Housing Options
When it comes to travel nurse housing options, your healthcare staffing agency will likely offer you one of two choices: agency-placed housing or a housing stipend.
With agency-placed housing, your healthcare staffing agency secures accommodations on your behalf. This means the agency assumes responsibility for finding a location, signing a rental agreement, paying the rent, etc. While this is a terrific option for first time travel nurses or for those who get easily overwhelmed, there are some associated drawbacks. For instance, with agency-placed housing you do not get a say in where (and sometimes with whom) you will be living. For this reason, most seasoned travel nurses prefer to receive a housing stipend.
Pros and Cons of Agency-Placed Housing
- Pro: You do not have to search for housing in an unfamiliar city.
- Pro: If something is wrong with the housing, it is your agency’s responsibility to correct it.
- Con: You do not get a say in where (and sometimes with whom) you will live.
A Housing Stipend
With a housing stipend, you will receive a payment (most often on your paycheck) that is meant to cover the cost of your temporary housing. This payment is provided as a tax-free, government-approved stipend. While the exact amount of the housing stipend will vary based on the contract and location, you will be allowed to pocket any money that is left over after the rent has been paid. Travel nurses that receive a housing stipend are free to live wherever (and with whomever) they choose. However, they are also 100% responsible for finding a location, signing a rental agreement, paying the rent, etc.
Pros and Cons of Housing Stipends
- Pro: You decided where and with whom you will live for the duration of your contract.
- Pro: You get to keep any money that is left over after you rent is paid.
- Con: It can be extremely stressful finding housing in a new city.
Due to the overwhelming popularity of housing stipends among our travel nurses, Premier Medical Staffing Services does not offer agency-placed housing.
Finding Your Own Travel Nurse Housing
Let’s say that you have decided that a housing stipend is the right choice for your next travel contract. What types of accommodations are available within your price range? What can you do to maximize your housing stipend and take home a little extra cash?
Below we explore the seven most popular travel nurse housing options. We also provide insight into how you can make every dollar count at each location.
Apartments, Condos or Houses
When you are looking for a true “home-away-from-home,” renting a furnished apartment, condo or house is the best way to go. Since you know that your lease will have a firm end date, it is best to secure lodgings through a website that specializes in connecting short-term renters with accommodations. Listed below are four popular websites that let you search for furnished properties based on location, price and amenities. Additionally, the listings on these sites include multiple pictures and previous tenant reviews, making it easier for you to find a quality place to stay.
Money Saving Tip: When you contact the property’s owner, be sure to let them know that you are a traveling healthcare professional that needs accommodations for “X” number of weeks. The property owner may be willing to negotiate a discounted rate since you are a professional that will be paying rent for an extended period (when compared with other tenants).
Extended Stay Hotels
Extended stay hotels offer the ultimate convenience when it comes to finding a furnished space for the duration of your contract. In addition to providing a plethora of amenities (e.g., regular housekeeping, fitness rooms, free wi-fi, continental breakfasts), they are notorious for offering discounted rates to healthcare travelers and those looking to book multiple-week stays. Listed below are three extended stay hotel chains that are frequently utilized by travel nurses on assignment:
Money Saving Tip: Search the internet for discounts and promo codes. When it is time to make your reservation, call the hotel directly. This gives you the opportunity to ask the booking agent if you are getting the best rate available. They can sometimes apply additional promotions that lower the cost of your nightly rate.
One travel nurse housing option that is rapidly growing in popularity is RV living. The housing stipend that you receive should be more than enough to cover the cost of a monthly payment (if you do not already own an RV outright) and any camp sight fees. RVs give you the luxury to organize and decorate the space according to your personal preferences. You can even bring family members, friends and/or pets along for the adventure. Best of all, when your contract is completed, there is no need to move out. Simply secure your belongings and start driving to your next destination.
Money Saving Tip: Do you know a friend or family member with an RV that just sits in their driveway? Have you checked out the online classified listings for gently used RVs? Before you pay full price for a brand-new vehicle, consider purchasing a used one in good condition.
Rooming with another nurse is a great way to maximize your travel nurse housing stipend. Chances are you will both be looking for a clean, quiet, affordable place to sleep when you are not at work. In addition to splitting the cost of housing, you will have the added benefit of a roommate that understands the rigors of the job and travel lifestyle. Facebook and LinkedIn both have multiple travel nursing groups where you can connect with other clinicians that might be looking to share housing. Here are four of the most popular groups:
- Travel Nurse Community (Facebook)
- Travel Nurse Network (Facebook)
- Travel Nurse Association (LinkedIn)
- Travel Nursing (LinkedIn)
Money Saving Tip: Find out if your nurse roommate would be comfortable splitting the cost of common household essentials (e.g., toilet paper, laundry detergent, coffee). Also be sure to buy generic brands, shop sales and clip coupons to stretch your dollars as far as possible.
If you do not mind sharing common areas with people that you do not know, a bedroom rental in a house or an apartment is a terrific way to go. Substantially cheaper than renting a place by yourself, this option gives you all the comforts of a “home” at a fraction of the price. There are several websites that connect property owners with those interested in renting a room, including AirBNB, Craigslist and Furnished Finder. Be sure to let the property owner know that you are a traveling healthcare professional for the same reasons mentioned when renting an apartment, house or condo.
Money Saving Tip: If you do not plan on spending a lot of time in your bedroom, consider renting a smaller room at a cheaper price. Since you will either be busy working or exploring your new surroundings, all you need is a clean and quiet place to crash when the day is done.
Friends or Family
Looking for accommodations “where everybody knows your name?” If you have friends or family that live in the area where you will be working, you can ask them for a deeply discounted place to stay. This is not only a great way to save money (and put a few bucks in their pocket), it is also a great way to reconnect and strengthen relations. Plus, there is a pretty good chance that your friends or family will give you the inside scoop on the area’s must-see attractions.
Money Saving Tip: Could your friends or family members use an extra set of hands around the house? Instead of paying rent with money, see if you loved ones would be interested in help with household chores or projects. This is an easy way to create a win-win scenario for both of you.
House sitting is the ultimate way to maximize your travel nurse housing stipend. Depending upon the agreement that you make with the homeowner, you will either live rent free or be paid a fee for your services. Since house-sitting gigs are contingent on a homeowner’s needs, you may need to line up several opportunities (or utilize the accommodation options previously mentioned) to cover the duration of your contract. Below are three of the most popular websites that match homeowners with house sitters:
Money Saving Tip: As a house sitter, you will still have out-of-pocket expenses for food and entertainment. You will also have access to a kitchen and living area. Plan to cook as many meals as you can at “home” and bring one of your hobbies along to keep yourself occupied.
Securing accommodations in an unknown city can be an overwhelming experience for the most seasoned travel nurse. There is so much information to process and you will want the assurance that you are getting exactly what you are paying for. Outlined below are five travel nurse housing best practices that you should follow to ensure a successful experience.
Search for Local Crime Rates – As a newcomer to an area, it can be difficult to discern where the “good” and “bad” parts of town are. That is why we strongly recommend using websites like MyLocalCrime to gain a better understanding of how safe or unsafe an area may be. A few minutes spent searching for this information can make all the difference in your travel experience.
Read the Reviews – The great thing about websites like AirBNB, Furnished Finder and VRBO is that they allow previous tenants to leave reviews about the property and the property’s owner. When searching for housing on these sites, be sure to take the time to read these reviews. Any listing that has more than one to two “bad” reviews recently should be avoided. If you decide to secure your housing through a website that does not offer this feature (e.g., Craigslist), do not be afraid to ask the landlord for a couple of references.
Look at the Pictures – A rental listing with no pictures is a serious red flag. Nearly everyone owns a cell phone that is equipped with a camera. There is no reason why the listing should not have multiple pictures highlighting the property’s furniture and fixtures. Additionally, do not hesitate to ask the property owner for a virtual tour via FaceTime or Skype. This is a great way to see the current condition of the property and meet your potential landlord.
Use Your Credit Card – When paying an application fee, security deposit, etc., always try to use your credit card. If you pay with a cashier’s check or a wire transfer and something goes wrong, you will be out that money. However, if you pay with your credit card, you can file a dispute with the card company and possibly reclaim those funds. You should NEVER pay any of your housing fees in cash.
Trust Your Instincts – Is something off about the way the property owner responds to your emails? Do they avoid answering your tough questions directly? Are they hard to get a hold of? When your gut is telling you that something is off, trust it. Unfortunately, we live in a society where people try to scam others. Do not let yourself be a victim. If something is too good to be true or just seems off, walk away. There are plenty of reputable property owners that will be happy to work with you.
While securing travel nurse housing can be an intimidating process the first couple of times, you promise that you will gain more confidence in yourself as you follow the suggestions outlined in this guide. If you would like to learn more about travel nursing with Premier Medical Staffing Services, fill out our short contact form below. One of our staffing experts will be in contact with you shortly.