Understanding Affordable Housing for Travel Nurses

One of the easiest ways to spark a heated discussion with a travel nurse is to bring up the topic of housing stipends and what they “should” be able to afford when working away from home. The general assumption tends to be that travel nurses are living a luxurious life where they make a high salary, are afforded a generous housing stipend, and are also able to easily pay for fancy vacations or extended periods of time off in between work.

Posted by Alex McCoy on January 16, 2020

 

One of the easiest ways to spark a heated discussion with a travel nurse is to bring up the topic of housing stipends and what they “should” be able to afford when working away from home. The general assumption tends to be that travel nurses are living a luxurious life where they make a high salary, are afforded a generous housing stipend, and are also able to easily pay for fancy vacations or extended periods of time off in between work.

 

While parts of this assumption can be true, the reality is that most travel nurses are not living the entire lifestyle listed above, but rather a mix based on their priorities. Some travelers are willing to rent a room to save money on housing, others rarely take time off and are instead focused on saving or paying down debt, or they splurge a little on housing to feel more comfortable at each assignment.

 

 

Regardless of each traveler’s individual choice, the misunderstandings that often arise between potential landlords and travel nurses are often a result of lack of knowledge regarding what goes on behind the scenes with pay packages and expenses back home. Travel nursing as a whole is a complicated process to understand, and for landlords who are not working as travelers themselves it is understandable that they really have no idea how much a traveler can truly afford to pay while working out of town. 

Instead of getting defensive or rude to landlords posting housing with prices that seem exorbitant, the more productive approach is to attempt to educate them on how the process works on the traveler’s end. There are a lot of moving parts that go into a travel nurse’s budget and they are rarely broken down in a way that is easy to understand. This can help establish realistic expectations for both landlords and travel nurses alike and help streamline the process of matching an ideal tenant with the ideal living situation. 

The Pay Package

The ultimate determining factor for what a travel nurse can afford to pay at each assignment is how much they will be taking home at said location. The amount a traveler makes is based on what each facility is willing to pay, which may not directly reflect the cost of living in the area. Pay can vary widely at each location, and may even increase or drop based on the time of year. 
In their most basic form, pay packages are broken down into taxed and non taxed money. The breakdown may be slightly different with each company, but the maximum amount that can be received as a non taxed housing stipend is determined by government tax guidelines. The majority of the time, however, the rates paid by the hospital are not high enough to meet the government max for short term housing stipends.

 

A great tip for landlords trying to decide how to price housing for travel nurses would be to research typical pay packages in the area where their property is located. Also, most travel nurses seem to use Furnished Finder for their housing, so you can search the map to compare your property to others in your area who are also renting to traveling nurses. Furnished Finder also owns and operates www.travelnursehousing.com

On average, as a rule of thumb, many travel nurses try to pay around one week’s worth of income for short term housing (where some may even try to spend less if they are willing to simply rent a room or share a place with another traveler. Landlords can also type in your city and state into the Travel Nurse Demand Tool to determine the demand in your area.

Tax Homes

One reason travel nurses may be keen to keep housing costs lower on assignment is that they maintain a tax home in an area that has a higher cost of living. 

The actual definition of a tax home and more information on the legalities can be found on TravelTax.com. The basic breakdown is this: in order to receive tax free money while traveling, a travel nurse must also pay rent and maintain a home of some sort in a permanent location that is not in the area where they are working. This means paying two rent payments or paying a house payment at home while also paying rent on assignment. 

Although travel nursing pay often looks extremely inflated next to what a regular staff nurse would make in a certain area, a good chunk of that pay is being used to pay expenses back home. The “extra” money built in to stipends is meant to assist in paying duplicate expenses and doesn’t necessarily indicate that a travel nurse can afford a luxurious spot on assignment.

Other Costs of Travel Nursing

In addition to the cost of maintaining a tax home, travelers have other expenses that permanent staff and landlords might not fully understand. These can include the cost of travel between assignment, uniform expenses, and increased individual healthcare expenses.

While each travel company typically allots a travel stipend at the beginning and possibly the end of each assignment, these don’t usually cover the full expense to move from one location to the next. The money allotted by agencies to cover gas and hotels from one assignment to the next is usually around $500. This money isn't given to the traveler up front, but added on to their first check which means travel nurses have to be able to cover the cost of moving up front for each contract.

Travel nurses also have to take into consideration expenses like deposits, cleaning fees, application fees, and sometimes pet fees for each new assignment while waiting to receive their previous deposit back. This creates a need for extra cash flow to essentially have enough money for two deposits on hand at once. 

 

Another thing travel nurses have to budget for is increased uniform cost. While once again travel companies may reimburse for this, the “extra” money is usually a result of funds being moved around in their pay package rather than being gifted from the travel company directly. A lot of hospitals have moved to color coded scrubs and travelers are expected to follow the code at each new job. A cheap set of scrubs from somewhere like Walmart will run at least $30, so most travel nurses will have to spend around $100 or more before they even start work to make sure they have the proper uniform. 

In between assignments a lot of travelers may also find themselves with a gap in insurance coverage or the need to pay for COBRA to cover medical costs. Some companies will allot for coverage between assignments, but many travel nurses opt to change companies based on location or job availability, so this may not be an option for them.

Listing these expenses is not meant to prompt any sympathy from permanent staff or landlords, but rather paint a bigger picture of the financial obligations that come with travel. Although pay packages look quite lucrative up front, most travel nurses do have to be conscious of their budget if they want to make sure and have a little extra money to help transition them between assignments or rental properties.

Company Housing Explained (And Why Most Travel Nurses Don’t Use It)

Another question that many people tend to ask travel nurses is “So do you get free housing at all of your travel assignments?”

In a different age of travel nursing this used to be the norm. Agencies were able to pay a nurse to travel to and from their assignment, put them up in fully furnished rentals with all the necessary linens and household items, and pay a generous wage on top of all of that. 

Unfortunately due to tax laws and perhaps because of the increase in popularity of travel nursing, hospital pay packages do not allow companies to be quite so generous with their travelers anymore. Most travelers find that if they choose to take corporate housing through their company, they are left with less money than they would like in their take home pay each week. 

Instead, a lot of travel nurses opt to find their own housing. This allows them to customize both their preferences and their budget, and it can result in pocketing extra stipend money. By taking all of the pay package money up front, travel nurses are in control of how much they want to budget for their housing, and can make sacrifices as they see fit. 

Of course this requires more leg work on the part of the traveler. Instead of simply showing up to a furnished place on the first day of their assignment, travel nurses have to do a little more research and planning before they even say yes to a contract.

 

How Furnished Finder Can Help

Generally speaking, most travel nurses will look at a couple potential locations and pay packages when it is time to move from one assignment to the next. The next step is to make sure that said pay packages will be enough to support the traveler in these locations. Like I mentioned before, pay packages may not always reflect the actual cost of living in an area, especially if an area is particularly popular for travelers or has a high cost of living without the extra expenses of a short term lease. For example, Phoenix is very popular in the winter and early spring for both travelers and tourists. As a result, pay packages do not have to be exceedingly generous to draw people to the area, but housing costs may rise as an influx of people head into the area. 

By using a housing search tool like Furnished Finder, travel nurses can simply plug in their ideal location, customize their living preferences, and get a ballpark idea of what rent will run in an area. Because Furnished Finder lists both room rentals and entire homes, travelers can check to see if they will need to plan on having a roommate or be able to afford completely private housing based on the pay rates in that area. 

In addition, travelers are being connected with landlords who prefer short term renters. Sure, many complexes may offer a short term lease option, but these often come with additional fees or other hassles such as furniture rental. On the other hand, Furnished Finder is meant to supply exactly what travel nurses need: affordable, monthly short term furnished housing with basic necessities that keep you from having to pack up your entire life and drive it across the country. 

 

Not only is this a great tool for the traveler, but this immediate visibility is great for landlords as well. While you could spend a lot of time browsing Facebook or Craigslist for potential short term housing, using the map on Furnished Finder allows travel nurses to have straightforward information from reputable landlords. Many don’t know this, but Furnished Finder runs a background check and verifies the property ownership for every landlord before their listing goes live on their site. The extra screening is comforting because it makes travelers feel more safe and secure when booking housing online. 

 

Furnished Finder also makes finding housing with pets easier. A lot of travelers choose to bring their pets along for the adventure (up to one third), and it can sometimes make finding housing tricky. Because housing can fill up quickly, it is nice to know you are not spending time researching a place to live that isn’t pet friendly if you need it. Also, Furnished Finder has pet fees and rent noted on each listing, so travelers can plan for what they will need to budget up front. 

While finding your own housing in lieu of taking corporate housing may seem intimidating to new travel nurses, using a service like Furnished Finder makes it a whole lot easier. Instead of spending hours combing rental listings, spending extra money on short term lease fees, or worrying about how to furnish an apartment cheaply, travelers can simply find exactly what they need exactly where they need it. Travel nurses can also make sure they are getting the best bang for their buck before taking an assignment thanks to up front pricing when searching for rentals. 

Remember, there are no booking fees, mark-up’s, or commissions when you use Furnished Finder.

Furnished Finder Helps Travel Nurses Connect With Landlords That “Get” Them

To traditional landlords, renting to travel nurses may seem like a hassle or a business risk in terms of keeping a rental full consistently. To landlords that understand how travel nursing works and what these unique tenants are looking for, this corner of the rental market can become a win-win relationship for both parties. 

Many landlords who rent nightly through Airbnb or other vacation rental sites are finding travel nurses as tenants and then switching entirely to a monthly model because they find it is easier than turning over your property every 4 days or so. Also, HOA and city regulations which restrict nightly rentals leave landlords looking for traveling professional tenants staying 30, 60, or 90 days at a time.

 

If you truly understand the travel nurse market, how pay packages work, and how to properly price your rental in your market, it can become a seamless process to maintain a steady stream of income from a property that caters strictly to travel nurses. By using a service like Furnished Finder, it eliminates even more of the leg work that goes into finding people looking for safe, comfortable short term housing. 

And for travel nurses, using a service that caters directly to what you are needing is a godsend. No need to spend hours pouring through listings, messaging landlords explaining your needs, or calling complexes and trying to work out a short term rate. Take advantage of a one stop shop to help find the best location for your budget, and rest assured you are working with a reputable company that knows exactly what travel nurses are looking for.

About Furnished Finder 

Furnished Finder is the largest online housing marketplace for travel nurses who take temporary positions across the US. With over 25,000 monthly furnished rental properties to choose from, they continue to expand their inventory and make housing easier and more affordable for traveling nurses nationwide.  Furnished Finder owns www.travelnursehousing.comwww.furnishedfinder.com.

Author

Hi! My name is Alex. I am a 20-something dreamer married to my high school sweetheart. We are currently adventuring across the United States as a pediatric travel nurse and traveling physical therapist. I have a passion for food, fitness, and travel. I love off the cuff cooking and spending lots of time with friends and family. Our lives are ever changing, and I am constantly learning new ways to stay one step ahead of those changes!