Free housing is without doubt one of the biggest perks of being a travel nurse. When debating on the financial benefits of travel nursing, it is the icing on the cake. As if it weren’t good enough in its own right, it even comes with options: an all-inclusive packaged deal or “Here’s the money. Good luck.” Depending on your situation, one option might be better than the other. My goal is to help you make your decision.
The packaged deal is usually by far the less stressful option of the two. Your travel agency will provide
everything you need. Most agencies have employees that specialize in this area and they have it down to a science. When you arrive at your new apartment, you quite literally have absolutely nothing to do but unpack.
Benefits of provided housing:
- Furniture is provided
- Agency arranges all details
- Utilities are paid for by agency (with the exception of cable and internet)
- No security deposits (unless you have animals traveling with you. You may be required to pay pet deposits or monthly pet fees)
- No monthly rent payment
Sounds great, right? It usually is. Depending on how far you have traveled, how many other people or pets have traveled with you, and countless other variables thrown in on your journey to your new location, there is something to be said about arriving without the added stress of finding and securing an apartment on your own. That’s not to say it is always smooth as silk.
Disadvantages of private housing:
- No control over apartment location
- Short move in date usually 1-2 days before assignment begins
- Short notice of location
- Can be up to 45 minutes from your facility (may vary by agency)
When choosing the packaged deal, you really have very little input in the matter. You can request all you want but the reality is that many agencies have deals with certain complexes or placement services. Your happiness is obviously important to keep you as an employee but sometimes they can only do so much. It may end up being a minor inconvenience such as a further commute to the hospital than you would like or you might end up in an extended stay hotel. This is where option two comes in.
Taking the housing stipend gives you absolute control. Although finding an apartment on your own can be very stressful and difficult, it can also be very rewarding. This will be your home for the extent of your assignment and you don’t want to feel “stuck” in an apartment you are not happy with. The stipend will give you options you might not have otherwise.
Benefits of housing stipend:
- You will not be limited to apartments that your travel agency has deals with
- If you are close enough to friends or family, you could stay with them and pocket the cash
- Better control of location. Proximity to the hospital may not be as important to you as living near a park
The freedom to find an apartment of your choosing can be very exciting. It is not without its challenges however. Best said in the movie “Spider-Man”, with great power comes great responsibility. You may decide having more flexibility just isn’t worth the additional stress.
Disadvantages of the stipend:
- Security deposit and first month rent are usually required as an upfront expense and you are responsible for both
- You will have to arrange and pay to furnish your apartment
- It can be difficult to find an apartment complex that will offer a short term lease, especially if your assignment is less than 13 weeks
- All utilities are your responsibility to pay and have connected
- The stipend is divided out into your weekly/bi weekly paychecks for the month, not one lump sum
- If you are traveling with pets:
- Do they allow pets?
- What is the pet policy? Many apartments allow cats but not dogs and some have a maximum of one pet
- Is there a pet monthly fee? Some charge per pet and others charge a flat fee for two
- A pet deposit? This can be as high as $500 and again can depend on the number of pets. Most will not reimburse the pet deposit
Security deposits and first month rent can vary widely depending on location. Your stipend should be enough to cover the rent, but you will not likely be reimbursed for security or pet deposits. You will also have to front the first month rent. Your stipend is usually added to your bi-weekly paycheck. This means you will not be fully reimbursed for the first month rent until your second paycheck, a full month into your assignment.
We have had both positive and negative experiences with housing. In California, we were able to find a beach-side apartment on our own and it made for an awesome experience. It also took a dent out of our savings. I was able to get my recruiter to increase our stipend by $500 for the $2100 rent. We still ended up paying $100 each month out of pocket in addition to utilities and about $300 per month to rent furniture. Looking back, it was well worth the
money to live on the beach and be able to watch dolphins every morning from our balcony. If providing your own housing sounds too stressful, I can honestly say our provided housing has been very nice and made for much easier moves. It does make it much less stressful when starting a new assignment.
So far we have only had one bad experience. On a previous assignment, I signed a last minute contract and the agency had to scramble to find housing. They did their best but came up short and offered to place my husband, myself and our two dogs in the Extended Stay Hotel at the Airport close to Philadelphia. We were quick to decline and asked for stipend to find our own apartment. We did have to pay out of pocket to stay in a hotel for 2 nights while we worked frantically to find a suitable apartment. We also had to drag around all of our belongings and two dogs during
our search. For this reason, I would highly recommend keeping at least $1800 in savings in case you run into a situation like this. That should cover your first month rent and deposit for most one bedroom apartments.
Whether you choose provided housing or take the stipend, feel free to use our hospital search on our homepage to research the area around the hospital. Type the name of the hospital or city and state it is located in and click on your hospital on the results page. This will provide you with a google map of the hospital and lots of valuable information about the hospital and surrounding area. When we research our next location, it’s the first place we go. Good luck and feel free to share your housing experiences in the comments below!