Traveling Nurse Housing: A Comprehensive Guide
Travel nursing is a unique and rewarding career that offers the opportunity to explore new places, meet diverse people, and gain valuable professional experience. However, one of the most significant challenges that traveling nurses face is finding suitable housing in their assignment locations. This article provides an in-depth look at traveling nurse housing, exploring various options, costs, and resources to help traveling nurses find a home away from home.
Traveling Nurse Housing Options
Traveling nurses typically have two primary options for housing during their assignments: agency-provided housing or a housing stipend.
1. Agency-Provided Housing
In agency-provided housing, the travel nursing agency arranges and pays for the nurse's accommodation. This option is convenient as it relieves the nurse of the stress and time involved in finding housing. However, the choices are often limited, usually 2 to 3 options, and may not always meet the personal preferences or needs of the nurse.
2. Housing Stipend
Alternatively, a housing stipend is a predetermined amount of money provided by the agency to the nurse to cover housing costs. This option offers more flexibility and control over living conditions as the nurse can choose their accommodation. However, the stipend may not cover all housing-related expenses, and the nurse might have to pay out-of-pocket costs. On the other hand, if the nurse finds housing that costs less than the stipend, they can pocket the difference.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Housing
When deciding between agency-provided housing and a housing stipend, traveling nurses should consider several factors. These factors will help ensure that the chosen housing option meets their personal and professional needs.
1. Duration of Assignment
The length of the assignment can significantly influence the housing choice. For short-term assignments, agency-provided housing may be more convenient as it eliminates the need for a lengthy housing search. For longer assignments, a housing stipend might be more beneficial as it allows for more personalized housing choices that can make an extended stay more comfortable.
2. Cost of Living
The cost of living in the assignment location is another crucial factor. In areas with a high cost of living, the housing stipend might not cover all housing expenses, and the nurse may need to pay out-of-pocket costs. In such cases, agency-provided housing could be a more economical choice.
3. Personal Preferences and Lifestyle
Personal lifestyle and comfort preferences play a significant role in housing decisions. Some nurses might prefer a quiet, residential neighborhood, while others might want to live in a bustling city center. Some might need pet-friendly accommodations, while others might want amenities like a gym or pool. Understanding personal preferences can help nurses choose a housing option that best suits their lifestyle.
4. Flexibility and Control
The desire for flexibility and control over living conditions is another factor to consider. A housing stipend offers more control as the nurse can choose their accommodation. This option is ideal for nurses who have specific housing requirements or want the flexibility to choose their living conditions.
5. Proximity to Workplace
The distance from the housing to the workplace is a crucial factor to consider. Long commutes can add stress and fatigue, which can impact work performance and personal well-being. Whether choosing agency-provided housing or searching for housing with a stipend, proximity to the workplace should be a top consideration.
Housing Costs for Traveling Nurses
The cost of housing for traveling nurses can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the assignment location, the type of accommodation, and the housing option chosen.
The location of the assignment plays a significant role in determining housing costs. In areas with a high cost of living, such as major cities or popular tourist destinations, housing costs can be quite high. Conversely, in areas with a lower cost of living, housing can be more affordable.
Type of Accommodation
The type of accommodation chosen also influences the cost. A one-bedroom apartment will typically cost less than a two-bedroom apartment or a house. Similarly, accommodations with amenities like a gym, pool, or in-unit laundry might be more expensive than those without.
The housing option chosen can also impact the cost. With agency-provided housing, the agency covers the cost of the accommodation, so the nurse does not have to worry about housing costs. However, the nurse may have limited control over the type and location of the accommodation.
With a housing stipend, the nurse receives a predetermined amount of money to cover housing costs. The stipend is typically designed to provide adequate housing in the assignment area. However, if the nurse chooses an accommodation that costs more than the stipend, they will have to cover the difference. On the other hand, if the accommodation costs less than the stipend, the nurse can pocket the difference.
It's important to note that while the housing stipend can vary significantly from one assignment to another, it is generally designed to cover the cost of reasonable accommodation in the assignment area. Some regions may offer as low as $700 per month, while others may provide up to $5,000 per month.
Travel Nurse Housing Stipend
A housing stipend is a sum of money an agency provides to a travel nurse to cover the housing costs that the travel nurse incurs while working a travel assignment. This is also referred to as a “housing reimbursement”. Most travel nursing agencies offer a choice between company housing or the housing stipend, but not both. If you opt for the company housing, then the agency takes care of everything related to housing. If you choose the housing stipend, then you’ll be responsible for finding, securing, and paying for the housing.
Origin of the Housing Stipend
The concept of a housing stipend comes from the “General Services Administration” (GSA), a branch of the US Federal Government. The GSA establishes the “per diem rates” for federal employees, which are “the maximum allowances that federal employees are reimbursed for expenses incurred while on official travel.” The GSA defines three expense categories: housing, meals, and incidentals, and publishes different rates for different locations throughout the United States. The IRS applies the same GSA per diem rates to private sector employers and employees.
Funding the Housing Stipend
The money for the housing stipend, like all components of the travel nursing pay package, comes out of the bill rate, which is the hourly rate that the hospital agrees to pay the agency for an hour of the travel nurse’s work. It's important to note that the GSA rates are the maximum amounts that an employer can reimburse without the exchange of receipts. So, employers aren’t required to pay the maximum. Instead, they are required to pay the maximum or less.
Range of Housing Stipends
Travel nurse housing stipends can range from as low as $700 per month to as high as $5,000 per month, and they vary dramatically between regions. They also vary with bill rates. Housing stipends will almost always cover the cost of suitable housing in the area you are traveling to. In rare cases, the housing stipend is not enough to cover the cost of suitable housing.
Qualifying for the Housing Stipend
To qualify for the non-taxable housing stipend, you must meet the following requirements:
- You have a legitimate tax-home
- You are traveling away from that tax home for work
- You are incurring an expense for housing.
Mitigating Risks Associated with Housing Stipends
It's also important to note that if you sign a 3-month lease and your contract gets cancelled, then you could potentially lose a significant amount of money. Your name will be on the lease and you will be the responsible party. Therefore, it's often recommended to consider options like Extended Stay and other hotels, month-to-month apartment leases, or utilizing housing options like vacation rental services, share rentals, and sublets, which typically have more flexible terms and more reasonable prices.
Traveling Nurse Housing Sites for Finding Housing
Several resources can help traveling nurses find suitable housing. These include:
Airbnb is a popular choice for traveling nurses due to its wide range of housing options in locations worldwide. The platform verifies all hosts, ensuring a safe and reliable housing experience.
Furnished Finder is another platform designed specifically for travel healthcare professionals. It provides a range of furnished properties that cater to the unique needs and lifestyles of traveling nurses.
Apartments.com is an excellent resource for nurses looking for apartment-style living. The site also lists condos and townhouses, providing a variety of options to suit different preferences.
HouseStay offers fully furnished properties with utilities included, making it a convenient option for traveling nurses. All listings are available for 30 nights or more, making it suitable for typical travel nursing assignments.
Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) is another platform that offers short-term and long-term housing options, including houses, apartments, and condos.
HomeStay provides a unique housing experience where hosts rent out a space in their homes to travelers. This option is great for nurses looking to immerse themselves in the local culture.
Housing Tips for Traveling Nurses
Finding the right housing as a traveling nurse can be challenging, but with the right approach and resources, it can be a smooth process. Here are some tips to help traveling nurses navigate the housing search:
Begin your housing search as soon as you accept a travel nursing assignment. This will give you ample time to explore different options and find a place that suits your needs and budget.
Consider Your Needs
Think about what you need in a home. Do you want a quiet neighborhood? Do you need a pet-friendly place? Do you prefer a short commute? Identifying your needs will help you narrow down your options.
Research the Area
Before choosing housing, research the area. Look at the cost of living, safety, proximity to amenities, and commute to your assignment location. This will help you make an informed decision.
Use Trusted Platforms
Use trusted platforms like those mentioned above to find housing. These platforms verify hosts and properties, ensuring a safe and reliable housing experience.
Don't be afraid to negotiate the price, especially if you're renting directly from a landlord. Some landlords may be willing to lower the rent for long-term tenants.
Inspect the Property
If possible, inspect the property before moving in. Check for any damages and ensure everything is in working order. If you can't visit in person, ask for a virtual tour.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do travel nurses pay for their own housing?
The answer to this question depends on the housing option chosen by the travel nurse. If they opt for agency-provided housing, the agency covers the cost of the accommodation. However, if the nurse chooses a housing stipend, they receive a predetermined amount of money to cover housing costs. In this case, the nurse is responsible for finding and paying for their own housing. If the cost of the chosen accommodation exceeds the stipend, the nurse would need to cover the difference.
How much should I spend on housing as a travel nurse?
The amount a travel nurse should spend on housing varies based on several factors, including the housing stipend provided, the cost of living in the assignment location, and personal lifestyle and comfort preferences. Ideally, the housing cost should not exceed the housing stipend. However, it's important to consider other living costs and ensure that the chosen accommodation is affordable and comfortable.
How do travel nurses afford housing?
Travel nurses afford housing through the housing stipend provided by their agency or the salary they earn. The housing stipend is designed to cover the cost of reasonable accommodation in the assignment location. Some nurses may choose to find housing that costs less than the stipend, allowing them to pocket the difference. Additionally, travel nurses often earn higher salaries compared to staff nurses, which can help cover housing costs.
What type of housing do travel nurses look for?
The type of housing that travel nurses look for depends on their personal preferences and needs. Some may prefer apartment-style living, while others may want a house with a yard. Important factors to consider include the location of the housing (proximity to the assignment location, safety of the neighborhood), the amenities available (laundry, parking, internet), and whether the place is furnished. Many travel nurses prefer furnished places as it eliminates the need to transport furniture for each assignment.
Traveling nurse housing is a critical aspect of the travel nursing experience. Whether you choose agency-provided housing or a housing stipend, it's important to find a place where you feel comfortable and at home. With the right resources and approach, you can find the perfect home away from home during your travel nursing assignments.
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