I went into this search completely blind, excited to find the perfect, most affordable housing option available for a 13-week period. I was new to travel nursing and looking forward to saving money while exploring the continental U.S. In my case, I accepted a nursing position in what I assumed to be the middle of nowhere Florida, so naturally I assumed there’d be a ton of cheap apartments available. Little did I know, I was actually moving to a highly desirable location due to its proximity to the University of Florida. My challenging journey towards finding the perfect housing was about to begin. Did I mention I was bringing two small cats and absolutely no furniture?
I packed up my car with the bare minimum, busting at the seams with two cats, a mountain bike, scrubs, some summer clothes, a box full of toiletries and a couple of towels. I put the rest of my stuff in a storage unit in Baltimore, 800 miles away from my Florida destination. Things like kitchenware, a vacuum, my comforter, pots and pans I left behind thinking, “I won’t need this, my furnished apartment will have everything.” Boy was I mistaken!
After driving for a couple of days down from Baltimore, Maryland to Gainesville, Florida I was ready to start my housing search. It was about a week until my assignment began and it was about to be the first of the month so I figured there would be a lot of openings. I didn’t know anyone in the area and I didn’t do too much research prior to moving down. I was blinded by the travel nursing bliss of beginning my adventure.
I spent three full days checking out apartment complexes trying to get a feel for the area and the going rate for rent. One place had a great floor plan and was affordable, but they only had a 12-month lease option and to break the lease they would charge two months full rent. Another place was close to work, but didn’t have the appropriate amenities, was not furnished and had an extremely high pet fee. A few other places did not have any availability till July 8the or August 1st.
After a long day of exploring pretty much the whole town of Gainesville I went home (my current Airbnb) and laid down in exhaustion. I realized that finding housing was going to be way more stressful than I anticipated. The worst part was it was probably going to be a lot more costly too. I was probably going to need to rent furniture (an extra $200 monthly) and I was going to need to buy a complete kitchen set. At the time, my recruiter had not given me too much information on Gainesville and I was directed to try extended stay hotels or Airbnbs. These options were a bit out of my budget at the time.
My first day of hunting I had only looked at apartment complexes. I was hoping I would get lucky in finding a one bedroom or studio that was affordable, furnished, pet-friendly and available. After my unsuccessful day of searching, I decided I needed to broaden my search a bit. I brought up the good, old Craigslist browser and restarted my hunt. I found availability with a few college kids trying to rent out a room in their house or apartment for the summer as their former roommate was off studying abroad in Spain and they needed a short fill-in. Another option was with four guys trying to fill a room in their house. The pictures posted online of the furnished room included a stained mattress, a pile of clothes, and a towel over the window, creating a makeshift curtain. Okay, so these last few options were furnished, looking for a short-term roommate, and had all the kitchen utensils, but was I ready to be back to college? How much was I willing to compromise for the short-term housing I needed that fit my budget?
The last option of the day was a room in this guy’s condominium. He worked from home full time and was “okay” with the idea that I had two cats, but he was afraid my cats may ruin his furniture. I can’t blame him, but “Yikes!” That could end in an awkward situation and put me out of a safe haven for housing. This was not the anxiety I was looking for while starting a new job in a new town where I didn’t have anyone to stay with if things went sour.
Living in my Airbnb for the past week was starting to feel like I was overstaying my welcome. My host, who stated, “My house, is your house” upon arrival was starting to nitpick my every move, “Could you make sure to throw this piece of trash in this bin, and this dish needs to go in this cabinet. Oh and make sure you keep your food on this side of the refrigerator.” Oy Vey!
I called my mom to vent my stresses. All she heard while we were talking was Craigslist. “Craigslist? You can’t use Craigslist to find housing! That website is extremely unsafe and you don’t know anything about the people posting ads.” I tried to reassure her that it was kind of the norm these days, but she was not having it. My vent session left me with more stress as my mom pointed out all the housing options she wanted for me.
There were a lot of other things I didn’t consider when starting this housing journey. For one, I would need to start a new utilities and internet contract in my name, but only for three months. There are penalties and premiums when you do short-term contracts. For instance, most 6-month leases charge a twenty percent premium. Starting an internet contract involves a start-up fee. Also, the pet fees everywhere were ridiculous, between 250 to 300 dollars!
I decided to sleep on it, take a breath, and step away from the search for a day. Okay, good advise, but I had already spent a decent amount of money staying in hotels and Airbnbs. I didn’t know how much longer I could last crammed in a small bedroom with my cats in hot Florida where my Airbnb host was starting to get annoyed with me and didn’t believe in air conditioning! I was desperate to find a space to call my own.
After four days of searching, I was sick of searching and in desperation put down a deposit on an apartment that seemed decent enough. I was mostly exhausted from my search and anxious to get settled in before my first day of work. Shortly after reserving my unfurnished apartment with no included utilities or internet, I received an email from my recruiter mentioning Furnished Finder.
She told me that many travel nurses used the site with a lot of success. I took a look through and was super amazed at how easy the website made the search. In a simple to use format, the website shows available listings by town. The site displays the date they are available, whether or not they are pet friendly, contact information, rent amount, and whether the space is a room or your own unit. The best parts about the listings are that they all offer short-term leases and furnished options. Which I can tell you from my search that these were the hardest boxes to check while looking at places. The listings are all affordable on a travel nurse budget and most of them include cable and internet. I also like that there are reviews on the site, so that you have an idea of how the previous guest liked the property. Furnished Finder even completes a background screen on every landlord so that you don’t have to worry about your mom yelling at you for using creepy craigslist.
I wish you good luck in your housing search. Remember, travel nursing is an extremely blissful, exhilarating opportunity, but don’t be blinded by the excitement like me... be smart. Furnished Finder is an excellent site that helps cut down on the stressful part of the moving so that you can spend more of your energy (and money) on adventures in your new area. Trust me, I searched several websites and met with multiple leasing agents, this site really helps cut down the “extra fees” and the “binding contracts” that many other facilities require.