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Travel Nurse Housing: The Definitive Guide 2017

By Andrew Craig, RN | Housing

Jun 25

​It's no secret that housing is one of the most important decisions you'll make as a travel nurse.

Sarah and I have lived in hotels, resorts, furnished apartments, corporate housing, and even with family.

In this guide, I'm going to show you everything you need to know about travel nurse housing and how to tackle this enormous challenge even if you're a new travel nurse.

Don't have time to read the guide right now?

No problem. Let me send you a copy ​so you can read it when it's convenient for you. Just let me know where to send it (only takes 5 seconds).

Chapter 1:

Housing Basics


You might be wondering where to begin and how to get started in finding your travel nurse housing.

I understand. It's a complicated task to undertake your first time around.

It's definitely a good idea to have a general understanding of the basics of how travel nurse housing works.

How does travel nurse housing work?

As a travel nurse, you can expect three main options for your housing.

Your basic options include:

  • Find your own housing
  • Take the agency's housing
  • Live in an RV (recreational vehicle)

No matter what you choose, each decision will have both pros and cons. I'll be discussing ​each option in great detail throughout this guide.

Generally speaking, if you take the agency’s housing, they should do all the work finding and arranging housing for you. It should be a stress free process but you don’t get a housing stipend.

If you find your own housing, you’re in complete control of the process. It can be tricky depending on the location but you get a housing stipend from the company.

The major benefit of finding your own housing is banking left over housing stipend. This can be quite lucrative!

You could live in an RV but most new travel nurses don’t do that. It’s a huge financial commitment and lifestyle change.

Is travel nurse housing free?

Ultimately, no it's not free!

When a company advertises, "Free Housing" it's only part of the story. When I'm surfing Google, I'll see ads all the time that read:

(I blocked out the company. I didn't want you to think differently of a particular company because of my opinions.)

So, this is what "Free Housing" actually means:

Yes, the agency can provide you with housing BUT they aren't going to pay you a housing stipend as well. It doesn't work that way. You get one or the other but not both. 

Yes, it's very convenient to have them do all the legwork but there is a cost.

Ultimately, travel nurse housing is NOT free in the traditional sense.

Yes, you won't have to worry about housing but it costs the company to house you. Therefore, that cost trickles down to you in the form of a smaller check!

Chapter 2:

How to choose between agency housing versus finding your own


This part of the housing process has always been easy for Sarah and I.

We've always opted to find our own housing primarily to save money and have complete control. 

The truth is that it's not easy for some travelers to find good housing at a reasonable price particularly if they have pets, families, or unusual circumstances.

Our Housing Adventures

I think it'll help you understand this process if you learn about our housing situation. Our housing decisions are primarily based upon: 

  • We own a two door Honda Accord.
  • We don't own an RV.
  • We're unable to carry furniture with us.
  • We're unable to carry most of our belongings.
  • We can't carry significant kitchen supplies.
  • We have very limited space.

For those reasons, we rent fully furnished apartments in order to be comfortable and maintain a normal lifestyle.

We originally started in North Liberty, Iowa.

Life was pretty simple then. We were staff nurses at the University of Iowa. Sarah was charge on the Neurosurgery Step Down Unit and I worked on the Pulmonary Step Down Unit.

We didn't have to find housing every three months. We loved our apartment! We even had tolerable neighbors which is hard to find!

However, we decided to give this travel nursing adventure a shot! Here we are almost two years later.

We packed up our life in a couple of days and stored 99.9% of our belongings in a storage unit. 

Our stuff is actually still there! At any given moment we might have stuff in Iowa, Minnesota, and currently, in Madison, Wisconsin!

Crazy right?!​

We started our 1st assignment in Minneapolis, Minnesota

We worked at the University of Minnesota Fairview Hospital. We both worked on the Medical Step Down Unit.​

To save money, we decided to live with a family member about 1 hour from the hospital in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Imagine ​going from a 2-bedroom apartment to sharing a single bedroom and sharing a bathroom.

It was an adjustment but it's amazing how adaptable you can become in this life.

We ultimately moved our tax home and permanent address to Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Our 2nd assignment was in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

In Klamath Falls, we both worked the Medical Step Down Unit at Sky Lakes Medical Center. ​This hospital was critically short nurses so we were often floated.

We were fortunate enough to live on a resort for five months. We rented a fully furnished 3-bedroom, vacation townhouse. IT WAS FREAKIN' AWESOME!

The downside was the rent was $2,800 a month!

Safe and good quality housing in this area was extremely hard to find. We decided to really live it up for a few months by living on a resort about 10 miles away from the hospital. 

Our 3rd assignment is in Madison, Wisconsin

This is our current assignment that will likely end this October. We both work the Trauma Surgical Step Down Unit at the University of Wisconsin Hospital. ​

​When we first moved here, we tried a furnished, corporate apartment. The apartment was very dated! It smelled like "dead people" per Sarah. There was literally duct tape holding the fridge together!

The worst part was we were paying $1,800 per month!

We've actually moved down the road to a nicer, less expensive furnished apartment.

Now, we are paying $1,500 per month and it doesn't smell like rotting flesh!

Side note: I did that make up tutorial for Halloween one year! It turned out awesome!

What can you learn from our story?

Travel nurse housing can be a fun but a challenging process. You have to be very flexible sometimes.

You won't get want you want every time. Unless, you want to spend a TON of money.

I can tell you we spend a TON of money already and the housing is still barely average sometimes.

Short term, furnished housing is expensive 100% of the time. It's an unfortunate reality of the travel nursing life.

I think landlords and property managers recognize there are professionals in our situation. They capitalize on us because we have little choice. Where else would we live?

But, it's worth it to us. We love the adventure even if it comes with some problems. It wouldn't be much of an adventure if it didn't! If Bilbo Baggins can make it, we can too!

Research & pay package comparison: the best way to decide to take the housing stipend or not

Generally speaking, this is how I would decide to find my own housing or take the agency's housing.

Here's the process:

  • Always work with multiple companies
  • Get packages quoted with and without housing
  • Research the housing cost in your target area
  • Finally, determine if it's financially worth it

Always work with multiple companies

No matter what you've been told, it's always a good idea to work with multiple companies.

When you do, you get exposure to more offers and potentially better offers. You want to be open and honest with your recruiters about what you expect and what you need.

Make sure you get multiple pay packages to compare

When you work with multiple companies, you're going to get several pay packages quoted. This is a nice advantage to have. It gives you negotiation power.

While each company is slightly different, the package breakdown should be relatively the same. It's not unusual to see packages differ $100-200 per week from different companies.

​For instance, company A might quote you $1,550 per week in Iowa City but company B might quote you $1,375 per week in Iowa City.

This is not unusual but there should be a significant reason why one company is paying less. 

In this example, because Company B's offer is $175 less than Company A's offer, Company B should be providing you with an extra monetary benefit; such as, covering extra traveling expenses.

If there isn't an obvious benefit Company B is providing you, then they may be trying to make more money off of you.

If you notice these discrepancies, discuss that with Company and if they can give you better deal, great! If not, consider moving on!

A little about how I deal with sales people:

I used to sell Kirby Vacuum cleaners door to door well before I went to college. From those experiences, I learned people in sales can be extremely manipulative and sketchy. I also learned there is almost always a catch when you are offered anything for free. 

From my experiences, I am extremely skeptical and critical of anything coming out of a sales person's mouth.

While most recruiters are nice people, there are some out there to Get That Money! How can anyone truly know the difference being new to travel nursing?  The truth is you can't know, unfortunately, other than through experience or word of mouth.

The point is to protect yourself and your financial interests. I keep my distance to judge a recruiter's intentions until I've had time to gauge our relationship

Get packages quoted with and without housing stipends included

If you get your pay package quoted with and without the housing stipend, there will be a sizeable difference.

You'll likely see a $2,000-$4,000 difference per month depending on the assignment, time of year, and location.

Keep in mind housing stipends are based upon living expenses of the area. So, you'll get significantly less in the middle of Nebraska versus downtown Los Angeles.

Research the average cost of housing in your potential assignment area

When you do your research, look into an efficiency or 1-bedroom apartment to gauge cost. Agencies provide super basic housing usually. Doing this will give you an idea of what an agency would spend to house you.

I suspect most furnished apartments you're going to find are going to approximately cost $1,000-$2,000 per month. It may be vary depending on location. 

During your research, you're going to start to get an idea of whether it's worth it to take the housing or find your own. 

Plus, knowing the cost of housing in the area will give you more leverage during negotiations.

Determine if it's financially worth it to find your own housing or take the agency's housing?

Generally speaking, I believe it will be worth it to find your own. Even if you save only a few hundred bucks a months, it's worth it. Control and independence are some other really nice benefits too!

During your research and negotiations, you should have multiple pay packages to compare and an idea what the housing is going to cost you.

Now, you simply compare which is a better deal financially.

For example:

An Agency quotes you $2,800 per month for a housing stipend. The average cost to rent a furnished apartment (with all fees, deposits, and utilities) in your area is $2,000.

You could potentially save:

  • $800 per month
  • About $2,400 per 13 week per contract
  • Almost $10,000 per year! (now that's a lot of cheese curds)

Here's the bottom-line:

If the housing stipend is > cost of a furnished 1 bedroom apartment in your target area, then it may be financially worth it to find your own housing.

If the housing stipend is < cost of a furnished 1 bedroom apartment in your target area, then it may NOT be financially worth it to find your own housing.

Honestly, I will always take the housing stipend and find my own

I learned early on that taking the housing stipend can be quite lucrative. If it weren't for that sweet, ridiculously expensive resort we stayed at in Oregon, we would have definitely profited.

But, it can be quite lucrative if you find a cheap and reasonable housing situation.

Even though I recommend taking the housing stipend, there are industry experts that prefer company housing.

David Morrison, RN Expert Travel Nurse

​You are currently challenged with finding housing that is safe, affordable, furnished, available for your entire assignment (and any possible extensions), and you must be the person to secure the lease, pay any deposits, and deal with any unforeseen complications. I always advise that on a first assignment, the Travel Nurse take the company provided housing. In my opinion, housing is just too much with which to deal, for a first-time Travel Nurse.

David does the "Ask a Travel Nurse" column at travelnurseblogs.com. He is an expert travel nurse, blogger, and author of, "The Travel Nurse's Bible."​

Chapter 3:

Working with the Agency's Housing Department


A company's housing department is a great benefit and should be doing all the leg work for you.

After you give the coordinator your housing requests, all you should have to do is show up to the location, sign some basic paperwork, and enjoy a thoroughly cleaned, well maintained, and pleasant apartment or house.

Working with an agency's housing department:

My expectations

The coordinator needs to be helpful and accommodating to your individual needs

It's important to have an open and honest relationship with each team member of your agency; particularly, the coordinator and your recruiter.

You want these people on the same page so there are minimal surprises (and disappointing experiences).

Generally speaking, a coordinator should try to accommodate any of your needs so long they are within reason.

Don't expect MTV cribs style...

Keep the following in mind:

If a coordinator or company isn't willing to negotiate or take of your needs seriously, it's a huge red flag in my opinion. 

How do you think they are going to advocate for you, when you REALLY need them, if there's a problem on your assignment?

During negotiation, if I had a coordinator or recruiter not willing to accommodate my wife and I, I would sever that relationship immediately. Don't waste your time because it ends up leading to added stress or a loss of money.

There are plenty of good companies out there! Don't ignore your intuition and waste your time with crappy ones.

The coordinator should walk you through every part of the housing selection process

Once a location is determined, you should be getting housing ideas right away.

From there, you should get the details of the housing; such as, cost, location, contact information, etc. The coordinator should get you 3-5 housing ideas. If it's a small city, your options are going to be more limited.

Try not to blame the recruiter or housing department if it's slim pickings! It's not really their fault. 

The location should be convenient for you

If I was going to take the housing, I would demand being within 30 minutes or less.

You shouldn't have to mess around with crazy traffic after a 12 hour shift. It's dangerous and unnecessary! 

Though, our first assignment, Sarah and I drove almost 1 hour each way but that was downtown Minneapolis traffic. We also chose that housing location too. It wasn't our agency's housing.

Your housing should be private

Unless you're in the middle of Antartica or you're working a strike, you should always have private housing.

This wouldn't be negotiable for me if I were to take company housing. ​

Who wants to live with a complete stranger?

I've heard of people doing it but I'd be very hesitant for all the obvious reasons.

Your housing should be safe

Both physically secure and in a safe location.

I would be researching the area myself even if they guarantee it's good. It's their job to know the area but they can't know everything. It's responsible to find out for yourself. And, for your peace of mind!

The housing department should cover all fees, leases, credit checks, and deposits

If you take the agency's housing, nothing should be in your name. If anything was and our contract abruptly gets cancelled, we're responsible for the contract. It should NOT be your problem!

Don't sign anything that says you're financially responsible for a lease or housing contract. If they require that, negotiate that away or find a different company. ​

The housing should be completely in the company's name. You don't want any liability!

Some companies want you to pay a pet deposit but try to negotiate that to be covered in your contract.

Remember, you're the highly experienced professional! You're the money maker for them! You should have no problem getting them to cover the pet fee because you are valuable and worth the investment.

According to a Harris & Williams & Co Industry Report, healthcare staffing is worth 11.1 billions dollars! They can afford it!

Housing should be furnished with the basics

​Your housing needs to be furnished with the essentials. Make sure you discuss what furnished means to your company and get an exact list of what's inside.

A bare minimum furnished apartment should have basic living room and bed room furniture. Your kitchen should have appliances and kitchenware.

However, remember furnished means different things to different people and companies. I literally saw a furnished listing proudly mention, "a stove and a fridge" as an included​ item. You would think that a fridge and stove would be included in any furnished housing but that's not always the case!

The coordinator should be forthright with the details of the housing

​Your housing should be no mystery. You should be given all details and have all your questions answered.

When you come to your apartment, you should know how it looks, where's its at, details about the neighborhood, etc. I go into more detail below.

You put a lot of trust in these companies and you deserve to be taken care of.

During negotiation, it's wise to research the area your housing is in

It's the housing department's job to place you in a safe and welcoming area. However, they can only do so much from the confines of a cubicle.

You have to take some responsibility for your housing even if you've decided to take their housing. ​

But, doing your own research and not 100% relying on the company to do all your housing research, will serve you very well.

If nothing else, doing your own research helps prevent serious problems that other nurses have faced. For instance, accepting housing in super unsafe areas unbeknownst to them or living in a house that looks like a meth house from the zombie apocalypse.

​I don't know if the example below could have been prevented. It's hard to say.

Here's an example of a bad housing experience from a travel nurse:

During your research, here are some housing details to look into:

  • Name of housing
  • Location
  • Property management contact information
  • How soon can you move in
  • When do you have to move out 
  • Local crime data
  • Distance from the hospital
  • Traffic patterns (with and without rush hour)
  • Local amenities
  • Shopping
  • Grocery stores near by

Chapter 4:

Housing Negotiation


I really like negotiating but it is often an uncomfortable and challenging clash between two opposing forces. You and the agency...

Two opposing forces with the same goal of making more money!

You should know that you are a valuable resource and you should pleasantly yet firmly negotiate your pay and housing packages.

What to negotiate in your housing contract

When you begin negotiations, you should:

  • ​Be immediately upfront and honest about your needs and expectations
  • Know what you're willing to negotiate (the negotiables)
  • Know what you're NOT will to negotiate (the deal breakers)

Doing so will save you and the agency a lot of time and frustration. It's good practice to frank and upfront about your needs.

Be firm during negotiation but leave a little room for flexibility

In order to have a good relationship with your agency, it's a good idea to open and flexible to their offers and ideas.

You won't get very far being excessively rigid. Though, I can tell you that I don't do gimmicky sales garbage. If I get a hint of that crap, I move on. I don't have time for fancy promises of living the good life and super cool adventures.

But, it has served me well by being open to new ideas, relationships, and negotiations even if I was initially hesitant. At least, hear them out even if you don't want to.

Aspects of your housing that are generally up for negotiation

  • Furnishings
  • Apartment floor
  • Pets
  • Bed size
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Apartment style
  • Location
  • Roommate
  • Commute
  • Cable & Internet

Bottom-line:

Have your mental lists in place. Know what you're willing to settle on and stick to your deal breakers.

Negotiation is about give and take. It's good to be flexible but sometimes you just need to be firm.

What does furnished actually mean?

During your negotiations, it's important to clarify what furnished actually means to your company.

For example:

Our furnished town house in Oregon was freaking awesome! It literally had everything. We baked a 3-tiered white chocolate cake with all the kitchenware. Now that's furnished!

Our furnished apartment in Madison barely has enough dishes for us to do basic cooking.

You see the difference? Always clarify what's going to be in your so-called furnished apartment. You don't want to be surprised without a stove after driving 1,500 miles away to a new assignment.

Appropriately furnished housing should include:

  • Kitchen: table, chairs, utensils, microwave, stove, eating & cooking ware
  • Living room: couch, chair, table, lamps, and TV
  • Bedroom: comfortable bed, night stand, lamp, and basic dresser
  • Washer/Dryer (preferably in the unit)
  • Reasonable Parking & walking distance
  • Air conditioner & heater
  • Internet (non-negotiable for us)
  • Utilities (should be completely covered in the cost of rent)

Apartment qualities that aren't expected but nice to have:

  • Fitness Center
  • Pool/Hot tub
  • Washer/Dryer in the unit
  • A second bedroom for visitors
  • Cable

Chapter 5:

Traveling with Family & Pets


Traveling with your family and pets would make the experience much more rewarding.

I couldn't imagine travel nursing without Sarah.

Pets tend to complicate things but most travelers I've met have them. ​It's doable.

Traveling with Family

As you probably know, I have only traveled with Sarah. I know new travelers wonder about bringing boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, and kids.

The truth is my experience is only with Sarah. We don't have kids or a pet.

However, I've met a few families where the wife was the travel nurse and the dad stayed at home taking care of kids. I've met another nurse who's boyfriend picked up local jobs every time they moved.

It works and it's doable but it may be challenging depending on your circumstances. You may have to negotiate special housing depending on the size of your family. A good recruiter should be able to help with that no problem.

However, I can't imagine travel nursing without Sarah.

I say bring your family along if you're able. Your experience will be that much better with them.

Traveling with Pets

​Many of the travelers I've met have pets. Sarah and I don't have any unfortunately.

While housing is doable with a pet, having one adds one more layer of complexity. That's the reason why we haven't gotten a pet so far.

Right now, we can find housing with almost no difficulty.

Having an animal can complicate things sometimes.

You may have to pay a pet deposit but make sure to get that negotiated into your contract.

Worse case scenario is that you'll either be forced to leave your pet at home for an assignment or have to turn an assignment down.

Chapter 6:

Using Agency Housing


Congratulations! You're well on your way to your assignment.

Choosing to use an agency's housing is often a very easy and straightforward process making your assignment easier to transition into.

Benefits of Agency Housing

Sarah and I have always found our own housing but there are many benefits of using the agency's. There's nothing wrong with doing that. I suspect you'll be taken care of very nicely!

The surprising benefits of taking the agency's housing:

  • Easy and convenient
  • Agency does 99% of the work
  • Comes furnished
  • Agency pay utilities & does all the major paperwork
  • Don't have worry about availability
  • Agency furnishes the apartment
  • No credit checks & no money upfront

Challenges of Agency Housing

These are some of the reasons why Sarah and I don't take the agency's housing:

  • Little control over what you get
  • Little control over location
  • Short notice for your move in date
  • Possibility of dirty and unsafe housing
  • You don't get a housing stipend
  • Roommates

Our main reasons are we like to save the extra housing stipend money and we like having complete control over our housing selection.

Will the agency pay for my housing?

Generally speaking, yes they will, within reason.

You should be getting a standard, furnished efficiency or one bedroom. If want something fancier, they could definitely do that but it will ultimately come out of your check.

What type of housing does an agency provide?

You should know I've never taken agency housing.

However, over the past 2 years, I've talked to several agencies and travelers about what to expect. ​

Generally, you will receive a basic, one-bedroom apartment with simple furnishings. You may or may not have a roommate but that's negotiable I'm sure. You may end up in a studio or efficiency but how much room does one person actually need?

I wouldn't expect fancy but I wouldn't expect a crappy college dorm room either.

Do you have a choice where your housing is?

The agency will give you a few different options based upon your needs and the location. That's why it's important to be upfront and honest from the beginning. The agency will be able to take care of your needs easier that way. 

Which agency is able to provide the best travel nurse housing?

Honestly, when you find out, let me know. The truth is no one is able to answer that question truthfully because everyone has their own opinion.

Your best bet is to shop around and find 3-5 companies you like.

Compare packages and negotiate good deals for yourself.

So this picture is in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We were fortunate enough to go on a Mediterranean family cruise and we ended up kayaking at this very location. It was AMAZING!

Chapter 7:

Understanding Housing Stipends


Are you thinking about finding your own housing?

That's what Sarah and I prefer!

Before I started travel nursing, I had no idea what a housing stipend even was.

Now, it's an important part of the pay package, negotiation process. ​

What is a travel nurse stipend?

The housing stipend is the tax free money the agency gives you to pay for your housing. You receive a housing stipend if you have chose to find your own housing.

Other names for housing stipend include:

  • Housing allowance
  • Housing per diem
  • Tax advantage plan
  • Per diem
  • Housing subsidy
  • Tax free stipends
  • housing advantage plan

It's confusing but they all mean the same thing.

I suspect companies use these fancier words like ​Tax Advantage Plan because is sounds way sexier and more marketable than plain ole' per diem.

How does the housing stipend work?

​The short answer is:

Because you are a traveling professional, the federal government has determined that companies are allowed to pay you tax free money to recuperate your double expenses. Expenses you have at your tax home and expenses you have at assignment location.

The money comes in the form of housing stipends that is usually paid out each week by your agency. The amount is based upon the assignment but mainly on the location.

Large cities and higher living expenses = large housing stipends

Small cities and low living expenses = smaller housing stipends

Why is having a tax home important?

A tax home is what allows you to take tax free money. By having a tax home & duplicated expenses in that tax home, the federal government gives the company/agency permission to give you tax free money.

If you don't have a tax home and you take tax free money, you could be liable for back taxes later in life if you are audited.

Uncle Sam always wants his cut! ​

Benefits of taking the housing stipend to find your own housing

  • Financially come out ahead
  • Complete control of your housing
  • Control all your furnishings and amenities 
  • Control over location 
  • More time to settle in to new location 

Challenges of taking the housing stipend to find your own housing

  • Hard to find short term, furnishing housing
  • Hard to find short term, month-to-month leases
  • Short-term, month-to-month leases are more expensive
  • Some locations can be hard to find decent housing
  • Hard to find companies that supply furniture
  • Out of date ads and information about apartments online: Hard to research
  • Lack of availability in smaller towns
  • Management staff that don't contact you after inquiries
  • Find a place that's worthwhile with your housing stipend
  • Risk of contract being cancelled & you've signed a lease
  • Must have enough money save to pay deposit, fees, and 1st month rent.
  • Unsafe housing locations
  • Some places require a background and/or credit check
  • Can be more expensive than taking the agency's housing in the long run

How much will my housing stipend be?

​It's hard to say how much your stipend will be because it varies on so many factors; such as, assignment, time of year, location, and company.

You will get more in crisis rate situations and larger cities versus smaller cities.

You can look up GSA Per Diem rates to get an idea of what to expect

Check out the GSA website here. The amount per day you can get will vary on time of year and location.

All you have to do is enter the city and state.

Generally speaking, a housing stipend might be $2,000-$4,000 per month. Again, larger cities are going to get you the higher housing stipends. It'll be more expensive to live there too!

Is a housing stipend free?

A company may make it seem like free money but you are earning it. You are entitled to this money because you are a traveling professional in the eyes of the government.

Again, so long as you have a tax home!

You're earning it by traveling all over the country. Even though that can be adventurous, it is a sacrifice because you miss out on family, friends, events, and important family dates. 

You're also getting tax free money because you should have a tax home in place thus you are repeating expenses. You are getting reimbursed through housing stipends because; according to the IRS, you are paying for rent on your assignment and paying for housing back at your tax home. ​

Is taking the housing stipend and finding your own housing worth it?

Absolutely!

There's lots of good reasons but the main reason for us was financial. When you find a great housing deal, you can really bank that extra money leftover from the stipend.

I really like having complete control over my housing, location, and amenities. I don't want to rely on an agency and take the chance of having super crappy housing.

Search the travel nurse housing groups on facebook. You can read about plenty of horror stories there.

There are several potential risks and challenges associated with finding your own housing. I still believe finding your own is the best way to go.

That's how Sarah and I have done it our entire travel nurse adventure. For the most part, it has worked out nicely for us.

Chapter 8:

How to negotiate your housing stipend


You are extremely valuable as a travel nurse.

You're an important part of a BILLION dollar industry.

You shouldn't settle for anything less than you're worth and always negotiate packages to benefit you! 

Tips to help you get started negotiating your housing stipend

As I previously mentioned, I sold Kirby vacuum cleaners door-to-door. That is probably one of the hardest types of sales jobs out there. Knocking on someone's door, convincing them to let a complete stranger in, and selling a vacuum cleaner system priced over $2,000!

In retrospect, I actually learned quite that really has served me well during contract negotiations with agencies. 

Don't feel pressured by recruiters into something you don't want to do

Recruiters are people and most are super nice. But, they are also driven by numbers and sales.

They likely make a sizeable commission on each travel nurse contract. There is a substantial profit motive for you to sign your contracts!

They may try to push you to sign quickly because the contract, supposedly, will go away. Don't ever sign a contract rushed because it's asking for trouble and regret. There are always more contracts to be had!

Hold out as long as you can before accepting an offer​. You want to reflect and compare multiple packages before you sign anything.

Never accept the first offer even if they say, "this is the best I can do."

Always ask for more money! If they offer $1,550, counter offer for $1,800 and meet in the middle. You may feel bad or feel like your being offensive or you're going to hurt their feelings. Don't feel bad. Negotiations are ruthless and cut throat sometimes!

Recruiters will tell you this is super, duper highest pay package that they can offer. No one can top it! Some might says they had to get approval from their supervisor to even offer it to you. This is the oldest line in the sales manual.

This tactic is meant to make you feel like they are advocating for you. As if they are stand up to the big-bad-boss for you. First of all, they are extremely aware of what they can and can't offer you because they know the bill rate.

Bottomline: Stick to your guns! Negotiate. Don't fall for crap! You're worth it!

Post your package offers to travel nurse facebook groups

When you're just starting out, you won't have any idea what's a good offer or not. Post it online and you'll receive 20-30 comments about it. ​

Here's an example. I see this all the time on Gypsy Nurse​:

You'll get plenty of input about your package. Your responses will be something like, "Take it! OR I wouldn't take it! OR Run for the hills!"

Chapter 9:

Finding your own housing


This can quite an undertaking your first time but it definitely gets easier.

It's not a huge deal for us anymore. We can find housing in a couple of days usually.

What does the typical travel nurse need for housing?

Congratulations on finding your own housing. Sarah and I love it!

It's tough to know exactly what you need especially when you're new at finding your own housing.

  • Are a simple person that is okay with living in a basic apartment with average furnishings?
  • Are you a person that likes the extras that needs a fully furnished, more fancy apartment? 
  • Maybe you're somewhere in middle: Okay with simple but have some specific needs. 

What does the average traveler situation look like?

Travelers are often single, who travel alone carrying all their stuff in their car. They don't carry furniture or significant kitchen supplies. They typically have an average sized car or a small truck/suv. Room is limited usually.

With the average traveler in mind, this is some of the things in housing you should look for: ​

  • Private, one-bedroom
  • Furniture (furnished, craigslist, goodwill, blowup)
  • Utilities included in the price
  • Internet (a must, cable either way)
  • Month-to-month, no lease, no deposit
  • Basic kitchen wares
  • Close commute
  • Never need to put a large amount of money down prior to seeing it
  • Decent parking
  • Laundry available (preferably in the apartment)

My expectation is that if we are going to spend a TON of money, the apartment must meet those guidelines. Most of it is non-negotiable for Sarah and I. I feel like that is bare bones housing but you may have other needs that aren't on that list.

Chapter 10:

Housing Options


I know it's a little overwhelming but you have many housing options to choose from.

We've done all kinds of housing over the past two years and for the most part have been pretty happy.

No housing is without issues but, overall, you'll be able to find good housing that you are happy with.


What Sarah and I have lived in

We've lived in all kinds of housing in the past couple years of travel nursing:

  • Sarah's family's house
  • Resort townhouse
  • Resort hotel
  • Furnished corporate housing
  • Furnished, standard apartment

You have many housing options at your disposal

  • Private Home (basement or private room)
  • Standard Apartment
  • Corporate Housing
  • Condominimium
  • House
  • Hotels
  • Finding a roommate
  • Living in an RV
  • Live with friends/family
  • House Sitting

Private Homes

In a someone's home, you'll find either basements or a room somewhere in the house. Honestly, this isn't for me because I'm alittle too paranoid as it is.

Maybe it's too many scary movies over the years.

I can' share a space with people I don't know. I don't think Sarah would like to either.

However, I've met travelers that swear by it. That's all the do and they really BANK the housing stipend because it's usually very cheap furnished living.

Apartment

An apartment can be furnished or unfurnished. Furnished is going to be more expensive but unfurnished ban be more challenging. You'll need find your own furniture. Most locations have lots of options.

I have heard of nurses carrying their own blow up furniture. I'm too big for being comfortable on blow up furniture but that could be a viable option for some nurses.

Keep in mind:

Furnished Apartments = more expensive

Unfurnished Apartments = less expensive

House

You have many options here. You could live in a standard house, vacation rental, condominium, or a town house.

In Oregon, we loved our townhouse. As you know, it was a small fortune though.

I wouldn't do a house unless you have a large family or you're a traveling group. It's way too expensive unless you're in the middle of nowhere. In that case, everything is cheap! ​

Corporate Housing

Corporate housing is very similar to your standard, furnished apartment. It just has a different name.

In our brief experience, corporate housing is an average living situation. Our bed was okay, the furniture very old, and the kitchen was from the 1960's.

This is the type of flexibility you must develop in order to cope with the housing you're going to experience. Most of the time, it'll be average.

We had duct tape holding our refriderator together at our last corporate housing. You can make it work though!

Hotels

You've got your standard hotel and the exte​nded stay hotels.

There's no huge difference other than extended stay hotels will have a small kitchen dinnette. You'll get a super small fridge, a microwave, and maybe a stove.

We actually lived in a hotel in Oregon for two weeks before we got the town house. That wasn't too bad. I bought a pressure cooker to cool real meals instead of microwaving everything!

Our hallway ended up smelling like roast most of the time. They never could figure out where it was coming from. I wonder how that happened!

You can also save some money by negotiating prices in extend stay hotels!

Always talk to the manager directly for unlisted deals they may do for long term customers. You could end up saving a bunch of money.

Find a roommate and share housing

This is a great way to stretch the housing stipend alittle farther.

Honestly, this style of traveling isn't for me. Like I previously mentioned, I'm a little too paranoid to live with other people.

Plus, I'm not the tidiest person in the world.

My wife jokingly says, "You're still in training." I don't want to live with anyone else as I still have my own tidiness issues to deal with.

I suspect Sarah wouldn't like to live with strangers either! ​

However, there are plenty of travelers that do this. Some have no choice if the location is super scarce in the housing department. ​

Living in an RV

Honestly, this is my dream!

I'm still trying to convince my wife to convert to this lifestyle.

My rationale?

You're going to spend the money one way or another. Why not invest into something you own?

Though, there is a significant learning curve and lifestyle change.

But, it would be super fun and adventurous!

There are so many great benefits to living in an RV

  • Freedom
  • Save some money
  • No apartment BS
  • Ownership
  • Adventure
  • No significant packing/unpacking
  • Very mobile

Pretty please Sarah! Come on! Let's do this! 🙂

Live with Family

What a great way to save money!

We lived with Sarah's sister for six months. It was an adjustment but well worth the cost savings.

You can bank some serious housing stipend this way especially if you have family near a major metropolitan area.

House Sitting

This type of housing never dawned on me until I started doing research on travel nurse housing.

It makes perfect sense. You're doing a service to the homeowners. You get a furnished house while reaping the furnished benefits. ​

How to find the best travel nurse housing

The truth is there is not best way or right way.

Be aware of your needs and what you're willing to be flexible on. Make sure you always negotiate the cost. I never accept the first offer from a recruiter or a property manager.

You'll save money that way!

Chapter 11:

You've arrived: now what?


You've done it!

You've arrived at your new travel nurse housing. This is super exciting!

Whether you have found your own or took the agency's housing, the process upon your arrival is about the same.

What to do right away

Make sure you intially check out your housing with the property manager

Before you left, you should have worked out a move in date with your landlord. Make sure you have all the important numbers saved; such as, the landlord, maintenance, or the main office.

Having the landlord present during the the date you move in is an extra layer of insurance for yourself. They are less likely to blame any damages on you if you point them out in their presence from day one!

Make sure all your utilities are working

Light switches, garbage disposal, toilet flushes, drains actually draining.

Our current apartment, many of the lights don't work, the garbage disposal is questionable, and the drains aren't doing the one job they are intended for.

We're living with it for now though. It's tolerable. ​

Get an inventory list of everything in the apartment

Document the condition of literally---everything!

You don't want to be charged random fees for alleged damages you allegedly caused. Some landlords look for any excuse to keep a deposit! ​

Take a TON of pictures and note the condition of anything that is broken or worn. I took over 100 pictures of our latest apartment. If they don't have an apartment condition form, e-mail them a list of everything you found.

You want a vivid record just like our nursing documentation.

Determine if there is a set maximum usage of utilities

We've never encountered this in our travels. However, there are places that do max out your utility usage. Review the lease and discuss it with your property manager.

If it seems sketchy, don't ignore your intuition!

Does it seem unsafe? Did the landlord give you the wrong impression? Does it seem like a scam, sketchy, or a trashy place? Maybe it's time to find another location. Stay in a hotel for a few days then find something better. Don't settle or live somewhere the jeopardizes your safety.

If things check out, review and sign the paperwork

Congratulations! You've moved into your travel nurse housing! 🙂

Chapter 12:

How to handle housing problems


Honestly, we've encountered problems at every housing location we've lived.

Most of the time, it's a maintenance issue that we handle with the property manager.

Unfortunately, under rare circumstances, your housing can be so unbearable or unlivable, you simply need to leave and arrange new housing.

Determine if the problem is an agency issue or a property management issue

Housing problems are inevitable. We even had problems in our sweet vacation home in Oregon. Most of the time, it's not a big deal.

Is your housing problem a property management issue?

For instance, a leaky sink or a sink that doesn't drain. Maybe you have loud neighbors? Maybe your elevator smells funky? All of which can and should be handled by your apartment's maintenance.

Your recruiter can't do too much about maintenance issues or other problems that are meant for the property management team.

Is your housing problem an agency issue?

For instance, you were place in really unsafe area or the housing itself is completely unlivable. The furnishings are crappy, dirty, or pose a health/safety hazard.

It's time to contact the agency and make other arrangements.

What should I do if something breaks in my apartment?

The solution is usually pretty straight forward. If it's a maintenance issue, contact your property manager and schedule an appointment.

If it's a cleanliness, safety, or satisfaction issue, I would contact your recruiter and your housing coordinator. They will help you remedy the problem by either fixing it and/or relocating you to better housing.

What if the agency won't fix the housing problem?

Fortunately, I've never dealt with this issue before. It's situations like this that make me thankful for not relying agency housing and being independent.

David Morrison, RN, author of The Travel Nurse Bible, recommends:

David Morrison, RN Expert Travel Nurse

Raise hell, give them a chance to make it right, and then choose where you go from there. If an apartment is in your contract, then likely, technically (or more precisely, legally), they have breached the contract (if it was in your contract, you can even point this out to them). I cannot give legal advice as I am not a lawyer, but this in itself could provide a way for you to walk on the contract. If they do not remedy the situation, at least you know which company to avoid in the future.

It certainly is no easy thing to walk away from a contract. You will need to fully understand the ramifications of doing so (it should be spelled out in your contract). If you cannot find clear indication of any fees or penalties (contract legalese that may allow a company to charge you money for canceling a contract), then you need to remember that in most states, I believe you are legally entitled to be paid for any worked hours. If they start wanting to withhold money, you might have to get an attorney involved.

David does the "Ask a Travel Nurse" column at Travel Nurse Blogs. He is an expert travel nurse, blogger, and author of, "The Travel Nurse Bible."​

What if I my housing is really crappy and I don't want to live there?

It depends on the situation.

If you don't like it because it's rundown but livable, the agency may not do anything. You're likely stuck with it for the remainder of your assignment.

If it's legitimately unlivable, dirty, unsanitary, and or unsafe, your company should immediately rectify the situation. Ideally, they'll cover the cost of a hotel in the area and find you something new immediately!

Chapter 13:

Housing Facebook Groups


I have joined and use these groups on a regular basis.

You'll be able to find support and a ton of housing resources on these groups.

Travel Nurse Housing---The Gypsy Nurse

This Facebook group is provided by Gypsy Nurse. It's probably the most well known travel nursing brand and provider of travel nursing content out there. It's fantastic resource!

www.facebook.com/groups/travelnursehousing

This group is brought to you courtesy of www.thegypsynurse.com. The travel nurse housing group was created to give those that are friends of The Gypsy Nurse a place to go to post housing needs and housing availability. This is an open group and anyone is welcome to join, invite others, and post.

Disclaimer: Group Members---please note: the housing opportunities in this group are not owned or managed by The Gypsy Nurse. The Gypsy Nurse is not responsible for any housing-related agreements or issues between those seeking housing and those offering housing.

Any housing arrangements, communication, or action between parties in this group are entered into at the risk of those parties and The Gypsy Nurse is not responsible for any aspect of those arrangements, communication, or action.

Group Description

Gypsy Soul Travel Housing Options

Housing group created by Katy Blythe.

www.facebook.com/groups/153464981771962

This group is to help travel nurses find housing options while on assignment. Please post if you have a room, a home, or an RV space available that you rent short term to travel nurses. Please post location and monthly price. Please be sure and put the state and any large cities that you are close to so it is easily searchable. I have not reviewed the ads on this page and make no claim that they are valid. Please use caution.

Group Description

Travel Nursing: Places/Rooms For Rent

​Travel nurse housing group created by Rachel Shafer, BSN. Sarah is an extremely experienced nurse who is also recruiter for RNnetwork.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/414305935358576

This page for travel nurses and tech to share information about places to rent while on assignment or to find roommates! Travel agencies can not rent out rooms. Looking for a travel roommate? Taking the housing allowance but do not know where to go? Renting out your space to a travel nurse? Share here! Please post city, state, price, details, and contact info under the correct state files tab. Please remove post if housing has been filled.

Group Description

Travel Nurse Housing by Furnished Finder

Travel nurse housing group established by Brian Payne

www.facebook.com/groups/furnishedfinder.travelnursehousing

This group is an established and highly-valued resource by travel nurses and medical staffing companies who need short-term housing. It's sponsor, Furnished Finder, is always free to travelers, and never charges their properties commissions!

Group Description

Travel Nurse Advocates-Housing Options

Travel nurse housing group created by Robert Kiefer.

www.facebook.com/groups/717623718392632

Travel Nurse Advocates introduces our Housing Options group, proudly sponsored by Travel Housing Pro. Any individual group member or Travel Housing Pro may post housing options they have available.​

Group Description

Chapter 14:

How to use Google for housing research


I use google for nearly everything nowadays!

Google makes it super easy to find the housing you are looking for.

Using google & housing search terms

Here are some search terms you can use to find and research your housing:

  • "Property" reviews
  • "Property" ratings
  • "Property" Photos
  • Apartments in "City"
  • Rentals in "City"
  • Apartment for rent in "City"
  • 1 bed room apartment "City"
  • Pet friendly apartments in "City"
  • Apartments near "Hospital Name"
  • Apartments near "Bus/Train Station"
  • Apartments near "University Hospital You're working at"

Some other housing search terms to consider:

  • Corporate Housing
  • Short-term rental
  • Extended stay hotel
  • Corporate housing
  • Short term, furnished housing
  • Bed and Breakfast
  • Looking for roommate in "City"

​Local newspaper websites can also be a great resource for finding an apartment or roommate.

Chapter 15:

How to create a travel nurse housing ad


Have some time on your hands?

Let the property owners come to you by creating a travel nurse ad on housing websites.

It's a clever way to find housing without working too hard to find a place.

What to include in your travel nurse housing ad

​Some travelers will create an ad on housing websites and let the homeowners come to them. It's a clever and super convenient way to find housing.

Example ads other travel nurses have created:

Create your travel nurse housing resume

  • ​Dates you need housing
  • Possibility of extension?
  • Describe your situation
  • Describe your needs and housing preferences
  • Describe your assignment location and length of time you'll need housing
  • Your typical schedule (i.e shifts you work)

Find a housing website and post your ad

  • Craigslist
  • Facebook
  • Local Newspapers

Wait for responses

I suspect it won't take too long though I've never needed to try out this method. We've been fortunate enough to find housing without too much effort.

Chapter 16:

How to avoid a housing scam


Unfortunately, housing scams are a reality that travel nurses need to be aware of!

Below are some tips to help your housing research and experience be safer from scam artists and thieves.

Housing scams are extremely common. Protect yourself and trust your instincts!

Just so you know, I've read travel nurses have even encountered these housing scams. It's not ​super common but I want you to be safe and informed!

Keep on the look out for these signs of a potential housing scam

  • Landlord unwilling to give you pictures of the property
  • Landlord unwilling to show property until you make a deposit of some kind
  • Landlord unwilling to show apartment until you do a free credit check
  • The price seems too good to be true
  • The situation in general seems too good to be true
  • The landlord is overly pushy
  • The landlord wants to just do cash and under the table. No receipts
  • Requiring bank account information
  • Requiring you wire money before showing
  • Requiring excessive personal information; such as, birth date, social security number, etc via e-mail
  • Landlord not interested in any type of screening (i.e. no lease, no background check, etc)
  • No working telephone number

Examples of housing scams:

These are a few examples that should help you avoid housing scams. Thieves are clever so this may not be all of them.

Hopefully this helps! Stay safe out there!

Chapter 17:

Housing Websites


There are a TON of housing providers out there.

Honestly, Sarah and have only used Craigslist to find our housing.

I've heard about these other sites through other travel nurse experiences.

My e-mail outreach on the behalf of travel nurses

I've heard of most of these housing providers but never personally tried them out. It's not my style to recommend something without having any experience with it.

However, I thought, "What if I e-mail each of these websites and ask them pertinent questions about travel nurse housing?"

On June 16, 2017, I decided to send an e-mail to each one of these housing providers to gather more information for travel nurses seeking housing.

Here's what my e-mail had to say:

My name is Andrew Craig. I'm a registered nurse. My specialty is travel nursing. Most people don't know we exist but there are thousands of us around the country.

Housing is one of the most challenging aspects in my industry. The reason is because we move every 3-6 months but some move more frequently than that!

Hence, why I'm contacting you today. I have a small blog at AndrewCraigRN.com/blog meant to help new travel nurses.

I'm writing about good housing websites and resources that travel nurses could potentially use in their travels.

After looking over your website, I have a few questions specific to travel nursing needs.

I would really appreciate a few minutes of your time.

Generally, how would a travel nurse book housing through your website?

I'm it varies quite a bit. However, what is the average cost per month we would expect to pay?

Travel nurse contracts are typically 13 weeks. Is that time frame feasible for your housing?

Do you require leases, deposits, background checks, or credit checks?

How do you ensure the housing is in a safe location?

Are we allowed to bring pets?

What does a travel nurse do if there's a problem with the housing or they aren't satisfied?

Any other advice or suggestions you'd give to travel nurses or travel professsionals?

Do you mind if I link to your website and use your e-mail responses to answer my reader's questions in a housing blog post?

Email from Andrew Craig, RN

Some responses were actually quite surprising (not in a good way)

Most of these housing providers have either not responded to my questions, didn't answer them at all, or were extremely slow at responding!

It's actually quite shocking. I assumed that these housing websites would be on it with customer service but that's not always the case.

At the present time, I haven't heard back from all the housing websites yet. I'll report back once I have more information!

Acknowledgements

Flaticon​

Thank you for allowing me to use flaticon packs: business 52, social media icons, pets, and the landscapes collection published under the "Flaticon Basic License"

Stock Images

Thank you Pixabay and Pexels for letting me use so my stock images for this post. I love their pictures! ​

Pixabay Stock Image License here​

Pexels Stock Image License here​

Disclaimer

I'm am NOT a financial advisor nor a tax advisor. I am not responsible for your tax or financial decisions. This post is simply a reflection of my own personal experiences. You need to consult your accountant if you have tax or financial questions or decisions to make. Don't play guesswork with your taxes. Uncle Sam and the IRS will always get their cut one way or another. Don't screw around with this stuff. 

About the Author

Andrew Craig has a BSN and is currently working on his MSN of Nursing Informatics. He received his ADN from Black Hawk Community College then went online to study at Western Governor's University. He tutored nursing and science classes in college. He has worked in long term care, progressive care, and is currently a travel nurse with his wife Sarah. Sarah is also a nurse. They both enjoy traveling together but love to chill and watch Netflix as well.

Leave a Comment:

(2) comments

Hellen Gable a few months ago

Thank you so much, Andrew, for putting this together! Though I’m not a traveling nurse, we have a dear friend who is & this gave us the idea to refurbish our master bedroom for an en-suite location. We live in the country not too far outside of Charleston, SC (about 15-30 minutes out from Medical University of South Carolina – depending on traffic, of course). We are planning on having it available by the end of August/early September at the latest.

We truly hope to have an ideal ‘home-away-from-home’ for a hard working professional such as yourself (and your wife) so that there’s no stress in finding, acquiring and living away from your ‘tax’ home…

If you have any additional advice, tips, etc. for me – PLEASE let me know! Thank you again & be blessed,
Hellen

Reply
    Andrew Craig, RN a few months ago

    Thanks for stopping by! I really appreciate it. Honestly, I don’t know a lot about starting up travel nurse housing. But, I would recommend joining Facebook groups about this topic. You’ll find a lot of support there! Good luck!

    Reply
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