1. Utilize the Free Travel Nurse Housing Resource
Travel Nurse Housing is the housing website that I go to first because they have the most housing options, it’s free to use, and was built specifically for travel nurses and other traveling healthcare professionals like me. You can search the Travel Nurse Housing map here. One thing I like is that regardless where you secure your housing from– Airbnb, Craigslist, Travel Nurse Housing, VRBO, Furnished Finder, Trulia, Sublet.com, etc...the folks at Travel Nurse Housing will run a free owner verification report for you. Just email them with your information and the address of the place you’re considering.
2. Search for local crime rates using the address or zip code
Regardless of where you go, there is going to be some crime. Unfortunately, it’s just the society we live in. However, there are always good areas of town, not-so-great area, and downright sketchy areas of town to avoid. As a newcomer, it can be hard to know before arrival, so you need to use all the resources you have available to you. I use websites like www.crimereports.com and www.mylocalcrime.com to help gain a better understanding of area and how safe or unsafe it may be.
Some also check sites like Zillow or Redfin to see where the lowest priced housing is in that particular city. It may not be a fool-proof way to protect yourself when you travel, but it works 9 times out of 10. Just stay away from the lowest priced areas.
3. Look for several positive reviews and/or references from previous renters
Sites like Airbnb, Travel Nurse Housing, VRBO, Furnished Finder, and HomeAway are great because you can instantly see reviews from previous guests. You know that if an Airbnb host has “Superhost” status, you’re in good hands. Likewise, you’ll see many property owners on Travel Nurse Housing & Furnished Finder with the “Verified Owner” status. You can also look for reviews on apartment complexes with a simple Google search. What about when you find a place on Craigslist or some other avenue without reviews? It’s 100% OK to ask for references from previous tenants.
4. Avoid wire transfers and paying with a cashier’s check
For financial security, try to always use a credit card for security deposits, application fees, etc, to better protect your money. Worst case scenario, you can file a dispute with the card company. If something goes wrong with a wire transfer or cashier’s check, you’re out all that money. Many apartment complexes will allow you apply and pay rent online as well.
5. You’re smarter than they are...Go with your instincts.
And don’t underestimate your gut. If the pictures look amazing, yet the place seems a little too underpriced, don’t even bother. Literally, there are scams everywhere, but after a while you can learn the difference between a legitimate landlord and a scammer immediately.
When they say they’re out of town for a sabbatical, mission, school or whatever...be careful. It’s a big red flag. If you’re suddenly contacted by someone you’re not familiar with or see multiple names in writing on some paperwork...it’s a big red flag. Think of yourself like an investigator - when things just don’t add up or seem to make sense with their story, or they seem a little too focused on getting a deposit from you, it’s a big red flag.
Do this: Right click and save one of the images they’re using in their ad. Then to search ‘Google Image Search’ and upload the image you just downloaded in the google search bar. They’ll be able to tell you if it’s being used elsewhere online.
6. No pictures mean no go.
Even if you aren’t a professional photographer, nearly every cell phone contains a camera. A rental listing with no pictures is a RED FLAG. Why wouldn’t they want you to see what the unit looks like? Make sure there are pictures of the exterior as well as the interior. Match outside picture of unit provided with google earth image when entering the address into google to help ensure that the listing is real.
7. Utilize the community...people want to help you!
First of all, if you’re not a member of a travel nurse housing facebook group, you should join one so you can connect with other travelers. Travel Nurse Housing by Furnished Finder and Gypsy Soul Travel Nurse Housing. There are plenty to join, but these are a good place to start as they have the most users.
Post questions like, “Are there any areas I should avoid when looking for housing in [city]?”, “Would anyone mind taking a look at the location of this furnished apartment I found?”, “Where have previous travel nurses rented and had a good experience?”, “Does the hospital offer any housing for travel nurses?”, “Does anyone on staff have any rooms or apartments they are renting out?”
People in the healthcare industry are generally very helpful people. Past directors have always been more than willing to look at the listing on a map to give me feedback about the area.
8. Ask to see the property!
It’s not out of the question to rent sight-unseen by any means, but you just have to use all the resources you have at your disposal to ensure that the person you’re speaking with is actually the owner of the property. There are landlords that require a small deposit to hold the property, and there are others that don’t. You just have to do your research to find the right property. That said, it’s always best to meet the landlord and view the property first when possible. If someone is unwilling to show you the place, or keep coming up with excuses why they can not, it’s a big red flag.
9. As an added tip for financial security, do your best to rent month-to-month or have a 30-day lease cancellation clause in the event of assignment cancellation.
As with anything, there is an inherent risk of early cancellation in travel therapy. In areas with a higher cost-of-living, it can be worthwhile to spend a little extra each month to secure a month-to-month lease just in case you receive an early out. While this is not always possible, it is important to have this discussion with your new landlord, so you know what the financial consequences would be if the worst case scenario were to occur.