How does travel nursing housing work?
Our friend, and Kamana user, Katie Fitts brings her travel nursing wisdom and writing skills to tackle a long standing question in the world of travel healthcare: What do I do about housing as a travel nurse? The options are vast, but your decisions are crucial in directing your experience and financial success as a traveler. We pulled some highlights from her recent blog on travel nurse housing. Get the full scoop here!
To find your own housing or let the company find your housing?
First things first, there are two options for where to start as far as travel nurse housing goes. You can take company provided housing or take the housing stipend and find your own housing. I say two options lightly, as only SOME travel nurse companies will find housing for you. So make sure you research your companies before assuming this a given with each company. Let’s first take a look what exactly a housing stipend is all about.
Travel Nurse Housing Stipend
Hospitals and facilities pay a pretty penny for travel nurses. Part of this high “bill rate” as they call it includes both a housing and meals allowance that compensates the nurse for the housing and meals needed while on assignment. The assumption is that you are duplicating expenses maintaining a “tax home“.
Tax homes can get pretty complicated and for detailed information it is always best to consult a tax professional. However, in a nutshell it means you have claimed a residence somewhere where you regularly pay rent/mortgage. For example, I own my home in Charleston, SC. I pay mortgage and property taxes and visit it several times year. It doesn’t have to be owning your own home though, it could be as simple as renting a room somewhere where you are home based which is what I did when I started travel nursing. As you are maintaining this “tax home”, the housing stipend is a TAX FREE subsidy (assuming you have claimed a tax home). If you do not have a tax home, the stipend is taxed (and we all know that’s a bummer!).
Now that you know what the stipend is about, let’s compare the two options!
Company travel nurse housing
So option #1, you can choose to go with a travel nurse company that has the option for company provided housing. To name a few, TNAA, Medical Solutions, and American Traveler. Of note, some companies like to draw you in and advertise this as “free paid housing”. While that sounds nice, that’s not exactly true…as they say there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
In choosing to have company provided housing, you forego aforementioned housing stipend. The facility’s bill rate includes that housing allowance which is paid to the travel nurse company and then on to you. So by not accepting the housing stipend the company takes that money and pays for your housing. The housing could be much cheaper but you would be none the wiser and thus essentially leaving money on the table!
It may seem nice when you aren’t ponying up the money every month to pay for your housing, but just remember that it’s still YOUR money technically with which they are paying the housing.
You still receive a meals stipend (untaxed if you maintain a tax home) but is usually minimal when compared to the housing stipend. (Confused? Check out my post on pay breakdown!)
Pros of Company Provided Travel Nurse Housing
However, there are definitely some pros for company provided travel nurse housing! Number 1, is it is a lot less stress and time consuming. Finding a place to live that is within a reasonable distance to work (when you don’t know the area!) that is priced right and acceptable condition within a limited time is quite stressful. I would say that finding housing is usually my top stressor in travel nursing aside from securing the job. Company provided housing takes all of that out of the picture…some even are pet friendly!
I actually highly recommend this as a first time travel nurse. There is a lot to learn as a travel nurse and a lot of hoops to jump through for your assignment (particularly for first timers or if you are working with a new company…more on that later). So I would definitely consider this as a first timer and perhaps even beyond that if you like it enough!
I did this for my first assignment and totally lucked out! Lived in a mother in law suite next to the most adorable New Hampshire family that I still remain dear friends with and visited as recently as a few months ago!
Cons of Company Provided Travel Nurse Housing
But as in anything, there are some cons as well…
- You don’t really get a hand in the decisions where you will stay the next 3 months
Finding your Own Travel Nurse Housing
Option #2 is you take the housing stipend and find your own housing. I believe the majority of travel nurses end up finding their own housing. It is definitely a lot easier than it used to be to find temporary housing, even compared from a few years ago in 2014 when I first started travel nursing. There are now oodles of resources!
The trick of finding your own housing is finding a fairly cheap place to live so that you can pocket the rest of the housing stipend and fund your amazing adventures you will have!
Although there are a lot of resources nowadays, it definitely can still be stressful. You have to find the right location, price, accommodations, pet friendliness, etc. If you are looking for shared housing, you also have to make sure the roommate situation will work. And most of the time you are doing this on the fly with only a few weeks notice. Not only that but you have to trust that the photos online are an accurate representation of the place as you are not likely to be able to go across the country and look at these places. Phew!
As I mentioned, this is definitely one of the most stressful parts of travel nursing. But it can also be a little fun! Sometimes you can find some pretty amazing places and if you have the money, splurge for a great place!!
Pros of Finding Your Own Housing While Travel Nursing
I have lived all kinds of different places in my travel nurse career. Some private housing, some shared spaces. All of my experiences have actually been good! Just travel with an open mind and remember you are there only for a short time.
The picture at the top of this post is where I stayed in Florida when I splurged for a beach side high rise condo. It was one of my most favorite places I have stayed! The decor inside was a little 1980ish and the furniture was a little dilapidated, but I was right on the beach and had a gym and a pool!
It took some serious searching to find the place and some negotiation with the landlord, but it worked out! Nothing like being a few steps away from the beach. So as I said, it can be a little fun and every now and then definitely splurge for a sweet place to stay!
Cons of Finding Your Own Housing While Travel Nursing
As I mentioned before, there are cons when it comes to find your own housing. Probably the biggest con is the time and stress involved in finding housing. There are lots of resources these days (which we will go over shortly) for finding housing, but that can definitely make it overwhelming. My advice: STAY ORGANIZED.
By staying organized, I mean be sure to write down name, phone numbers, place description, post link, etc in an easily accessible location. It can be easy to lose track of everything once you start getting inundated with housing options.
Key takeaways for travel nurse housing…
Overwhelmed yet? It certainly can be overwhelming! Here’s a few key takeaways…
- If you are newbie travel nurse, I recommend taking company housing for the first time until you get the hang of being a travel nurse.
- Stay organized in your search, have a budget for what you want to spend on housing and stick to it.
- Beware of Craigslist! If it is too good to be true, it most likely is, don’t pay any money ahead of time you can’t readily get back (this applies to any housing platform)
- It is ok to try to negotiate every now and then, but be respectful and kind.
- Have fun and splurge on housing every once in awhile if you can swing in!
Author Bio: Katie Fitts
Travel nurse by day, travel blogger by choice. Chaser of adventure and love! Native to Charleston, SC but has travelled extensively over the US and internationally. Passion for people, culture, and nature’s beauty.
Check her blog Whispers of the Wando to learn more on navigating the complexities of travel nurse housing, and many other important topics. Follow Katie’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram as continues to travel the world!