Published Apr 22, 2014
I am currently in talks with a travel nurse agency and am hoping to start my first travel assignment in late May/early June. My recruiter keeps pushing the housing stipend over taking the company housing. The company housing appeals to me because I won't have to worry about rent and major utilities, as well as renting/buying/lugging around all of my furniture and housewares. I understand that with the housing stipend, I would be taking home almost twice as much money, but the added pay seems like less than what I would be spending on rent and utilities, especially for the area I am looking to work in. My recruiter says most travel nurses take the housing stipend. I want a one bedroom place and no roommates, as I would be working night shift and sleeping odd hours. Can any experienced travel nurses give me some insight on this? Is my recruiter pushing the housing stipend because they save money this way, or is that really the better option to choose?
It takes a lot of work to find housing, lease it on a short-term basis, rent furniture, and obtain all the utilities. Plus endless customer service issues with travelers: "My lampshades are hideous, can you change them out?" Even more than the work involved, there is always a certain amount of risk if the assignment doesn't complete for any reason. Having the traveler take a housing stipend transfers all the risk involved to the traveler. So yes, the agency saves money by not providing housing.
The flip side is that if they provide an adequate housing stipend, you can almost always save a good portion of it. Tax free, it adds up over a year of traveling. Yes, it is a huge amount of hassle to find your own housing (I often get a house share so no furnishings or utility hookup needed) and some risk depending on the rental terms. But you can often do better on the ground than the agency can do from a distance in finding something that really fits your needs.
It is a personal choice either way. Go with what you want. It might be smart to take their housing for your first assignment. Then you will have a better feel for your options after that. It is certainly luxurious to show up and be handed a key by the property manager!
Post a detailed ad on craigslist in the "looking for housing" section and you'll be surprised how many people will reach out to you. I have found housing quickly and easily this way and I travel with 2 dogs!
The assignment I am on now I decided to take the stipend. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to find housing--we were on our way driving from Naples, FL to Tucson, AZ when I started looking! I was able to find multiple places that are furnished and all utilities are included. I ended up finding a corporate apartment that is fully furnished, even includes basic cable and WiFi, which were both already installed. I am not saving as much as I would like, but for the next assignment I will have more time to look. Since it's your first assignment, you may want to take their housing until you get the hang of it. Just remember one helpful thing to do since you are going somewhere that you don't know the area-- call the local police department and see how safe the area is.
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