Travel Nurse Housing: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Safe and Affordable Short-Term Housing

As you prepare for your travel nurse adventure, securing safe and affordable housing is essential to a successful assignment. Short-term leases for temporary placement can pose challenges for new and experienced travel nurses seeking suitable accommodation. Specialties Travel Knowledge

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Travel Nurse Housing: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Safe and Affordable Short-Term Housing

As you prepare for your travel nurse adventure, securing safe and affordable housing is essential to a successful assignment. Short-term leases for temporary placement can pose challenges for new and experienced travel nurses seeking suitable accommodation. Fear not! With the right approach and preparation, you can find a comfortable and safe living space that meets your needs as a healthcare professional. 
 
This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about finding temporary housing as a travel nurse, including whether healthcare staffing agencies provide temporary housing, how housing stipends work, amenities to look for, the best websites to use, and personal insights from an experienced traveler. 

How to Find Housing as a Travel Nurse 

Personal preference plays an important role in finding temporary housing. Your first decision is whether you want to utilize the healthcare staffing agency housing or take the entire GSA (General Services Administration) housing stipend to pay for a rental out of pocket. Of course, you will only need to make this decision if the agency you are working with offers company housing. 

Having the ability to accommodate your lifestyle and preferences, many travel nurses choose to find short-term rental leases independently. 

You can find travel nurse housing through various resources. Among these are websites specializing in short-term lease rentals, searching for extended-stay hotels, finding rentals through networking, and vacation rentals. Some travel nurses even choose to buy themselves an RV or camper! 

Do Agencies Provide Housing?

The simple answer is yes. Most healthcare staffing agencies provide a temporary housing option to travel nurses. Some companies, like Nomad Health, do not offer a company housing option but provide the GSA stipend for travel nurses to acquire short-term housing independently. 

When choosing the fully paid company housing option, you are allowing the healthcare staffing agency to decide your home's location, cost, and amenities of your short-term home. Furthermore, company housing options do not necessarily include utilities, tv, or wi-fi, leaving you responsible for payments and connection services. 

Before choosing company housing, consider that you will not receive any amount of the GSA-based housing stipend in your weekly pay package, which means potentially missing out on some savings if you can find a home and furnishings at a cost lower than the provided stipend. Luckily there are many fully furnished options at reasonable rates for travel nurses. 

The bonus to company housing is moving into a clean, fully furnished home. No need to think about or stress about where you will stay because it is handled!  

How do Stipends Work?

Per diem rates, or stipends, are fixed allowances for lodging, meals, and incidental costs acquired when you travel away from your tax home for work. Stipend rates provide a standardized way of reimbursing traveling professionals for travel expenses without needing detailed receipts and expense reports. These rates will vary dependent on the location you plan to take a travel nurse job and are updated every October. 

The three parties responsible for calculating the federal government travel stipend rates are the following:

Travel nurse pay includes hourly pay calculated into a weekly total and non-taxable income. Non-taxable income is broken into Per Diem Meals and Housing Stipend, and your healthcare staffing agency should provide you with the calculation for the weekly total for each stipend. For example: 

Per Diem Meal $59 x 7 days = $413 
Housing Stipend $98 x 7 days = $686

When analyzing your travel RN contract for housing stipend rate, you can use the above resources to verify that you receive the federally calculated stipend. 

You can also use pay package stipend rates to evaluate if you will financially benefit from the stipend option for travel nurse housing by comparing that rate to the cost of rent in the area you will be traveling to. 

Amenities You'll Want to Look For 

While being flexible and open-minded when traveling is essential, you should consider some non-negotiable amenities when looking for housing. 

  • AC/heat for comfort. 
  • Refrigerator for food storage. 
  • Washer and Dryer to avoid the laundromat.
  • Stove or hotplate for cooking. 
  • Microwave for quick meals.  
  • Internet for convenience and entertainment 
  • Clean, comfortable furniture for rest after work.  

While some travelers prefer to forego specific amenities, as I get older, I find comfort in having a bit of home with me wherever I am. Watching Netflix while cooking dinner and doing laundry is a luxury I appreciate, especially after a long 12-hour shift.  

Personal Preferences 

  • Quiet, especially for night shift travel nurses. Make sure you ask about noise levels before booking. 
  • Yard if traveling with a pet. It's not always possible, but it can be a game-changer. 

Some essential items, such as a coffee maker and blackout curtains, should be included in this list; I tend to travel with these items if they are unavailable in my travel nurse housing. If you don't have space to travel with some of the smaller amenities, consider purchasing affordable, good-quality extras from thrift stores like Goodwill to save money and space on your travel adventure. 

Ultimately, the amenities you choose will depend on your lifestyle preferences, what type of travel nurse housing you select, and the method and distance of traveling to get to your travel nurse job location. 

For other ideas and considerations from travel nurses, check out Travel Nurse Housing Wishlist.

Best Websites for Travel Nursing Housing 

Travel Nurse Housing – Furnished Finder

Leading the travel nurse housing industry, Furnished Finder is an easy and affordable travel nurse housing option. 

Pros

  1. A variety of 150,000 different temporary housing options available nationwide. 
  2. Fully furnished homes include almost everything you need for a comfortable stay. 
  3. No commission or booking fees; make renting affordable. 
  4. Safety. Property owners undergo background checks.
  5. Direct contact with the landlord allows for negotiating.

Cons

  1. Working directly with an unknown landlord can bring trials and tribulations. 
  2. Scams are possible, remain cautious and follow these guidelines.

Homestay

An excellent option for travel nurses seeking an opportunity to stay in a local host's home. Offering travel nurses an affordable and comfortable housing option with a private bedroom and shared living spaces.

Pros

  1. Cheap short-term housing option. 
  2. Immersive cultural experience. 
  3. Potential to make new friends and curb loneliness.
  4. Unforeseeable perks; some hosts love bringing travel nurses into their homes and will treat you as family. Some travel nurses I have worked with loved this option as their host would include them in family dinners. 

Cons

  1. Lack of privacy. Sharing a home with someone can be challenging if you prefer privacy. 
  2. Limited availability. Homestay is only available in locations where hosts take people into their homes. 
  3. Compatibility with your host can be unpredictable. Some travel nurses who chose this option felt uncomfortable due to their hosts' words and actions. 

Extended Stay America

Hotel chain with over 600 locations in the United States, popular with some travel nurses for its flexibility, price, and amenities.  

Pros

  1. Cost-effective, affordable weekly and monthly long-term accommodation rates. 
  2. Free Wi-fi, TVs, onsite laundry, kitchenette, and sometimes a gym are typical amenities. 
  3. Pet-friendly accommodations. 
  4. Weekly housekeeping services.
  5. Free continental grab-and-go breakfasts. 

Cons

  1. Noise can become an issue at a hotel, especially for a night-shift travel nurse. 
  2. Limited space compared to traditional rentals.  
  3. Inconsistent quality dependent upon location. 
  4. Only sometimes available in rural areas. 

Airbnb 

An online vacation rental platform providing comfortable short-term rental accommodations nationwide. 

Pros

  1. Short-term leasing options all over the country. 
  2. A wide variety of rental options – private rooms, apartments, condos, and houses. 
  3. Additional amenities often enhance travel nurses' overall experience. 
  4. Hosts are encouraged to interact with guests, which opens the possibility of making new friends. 

Cons

  1. Expensive guest service fees increase the overall cost, making this option expensive. 
  2. Risk of last-minute cancellations by the host. 
  3. Total rent paid up-front, leaving you at risk of losing your rent money if your contract gets canceled or you have an emergency. 
  4. Risk of unexpected issues – maintenance, privacy, and more, depending on your host. 
  5. Risk of safety problems when staying in someone's private residence. 

Craigslist

Offers various temporary housing options for travel nurses nationwide, but the risk of encountering fraudulent or scam postings is higher than other options. Taking safety precautions when choosing Craigslist for a short-term lease is essential. 

Pros

  1. Wide selection of travel nurse housing options.
  2. Affordable prices and ability to negotiate the short-term lease price.
  3. Month-to-month and short-term leases available. 

Cons

  1. Fraudulent listings and scams – housing options through craigslist are not screened. 
  2. Safety considerations when meeting prospective landlords. 
  3. Only sometimes furnished. 

Other Short-term Housing Options 

Every housing option has pros and cons, and it is up to you, the travel nurse, to research and find the best place for you and your needs. Here are some more housing options you can investigate. 

  1. House Stay
  2. Transplant Housing
  3. Short Term Housing
  4. Apartment Finder
  5. VRBO

Alternative Travel Nurse Housing Options 

  1. Network – facebook, travel nurse blogs, and communities. 

    Many travel nurses communicate through online forums, and if you are starting to look for travel nurse housing, you can share online with various travel nurse groups to see if anyone has stayed or is staying where you are planning to take your travel nurse assignment.  

    Often nurses will have recommendations for fellow travel nurses, and sometimes the opportunity to take over their lease arises – if the timing works. Remember to take precautions because scams are all over the internet, and some people will attempt to take advantage of travel nurses posting in online groups. 

  2. RV or Camper

    Some travel nurses choose to ditch renting a place for every assignment and buy an RV to move from location to location. You should consider the cost of campgrounds and hookups you will incur at each location – assuming spots are available at each place you go. Some hospitals and healthcare facilities even offer RV hookups for travel nurses. According to travel tax, RV's are equivalent to renting a home when working as a travel nurse. It is important to be aware of and understand the tax laws for this option, and when in doubt, seek the advice of a professional accountant. 

My Experience with Travel Nurse Housing 

There is no way to control every situation, especially when traveling, so I advise going with the flow while remaining skeptical of every situation. No matter what source I use to obtain temporary housing, I take the approach that there is and always will be the possibility of scams or fraud.  

For me, healthcare staffing agency housing is never an option. Not only because I have a large dog but because I know they are getting cheap housing and pocketing the extra, so putting in some research and leg work when choosing my housing is worth it. 

Due to expensive booking and cleaning fees increasing the overall cost, vacation rentals like Airbnb and VRBO never reach my list of potential short-term housing options. 

When using Craigslist, I advise never providing a deposit until you have met with and walked through your prospective temporary home – this eliminates scams and renting unlivable homes. You can rent a cheap hotel and get to your assignment location a week early to make accommodations, plus this gives you some free time to explore the new city. Craigslist is a great affordable option, and I was able to pocket half of my housing stipend in an expensive city.

During my last travel nurse assignment, I used Furnished Finder. The process is easy; you are directly connected with the property owner renting their home. Fortunately, I had a decent landlord with whom I could communicate easily. 

She requested all rent to be paid in cash, which I found weird, but to cover myself for taxes, my travel nurse friend and I ensured that she signed a receipt with each payment. I prefer privacy and personal space, so I wasn't a huge fan that we lived on the same property, in a different house, because this allowed the landlord to show up on our doorstep randomly. 

I have learned a lot through my travel nurse experiences, and these are the few that I felt were important to share with others. 

If you have any questions not addressed in this article, feel free to ask in the comments below, and I will answer them to the best of my ability. 

Resources

  1. Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO) Per Diem (2023, February 27). U.S. General Service Administration (GSA) CONUS Per Diem Rates
  2. Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO)  OCONUS Per Diem Rates 
  3. Department of State (DoS) International Per Diem Rates 
(Editorial Team / Admin)

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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