Finding the right housing as a travel nurse can be a real hassle, and it’s the first thing I like to check off my to do list. Everything else can go swimmingly, but housing — and the atmosphere in your home — can make or break a contract. We all want a cozy and safe place to kick our feet up. The same goes for roommates. You want someone to vibe with who is respectful and considerate. Here are my travel nurse housing tips for finding the best locations and having a great experience.
1. Beware of “everything included”
Don’t fall into paying for utilities you may not be using, or for a period you’re not actually there. You also avoid getting hit with a surprise AC or heat bill in those outside average seasons.
2. Avoid the lease
Opt for month to month. I try to protect myself by not signing a lease and avoiding a deposit although I can see the reasons a renter would require such things. I usually find that I’m able to meet the person before or have a conversation then come to an amicable agreement. If you do settle with a lease, include an “if contract cancelled clause” or the possibility to move out with appropriate notice.
3. Be a lazyboy/girl
Go for furnished: it’s efficient to travel without bulky furniture that in reality you don’t need. On the other hand, on my most recent assignment I was able to furnish a friend’s room into a bedroom for relatively cheap, a win for both of us.
4. Do a walkthrough
Take pictures, have evidence of current damages, and meet the person beforehand. Get an idea of personal or habitation boundaries. Get the “hard passes” out in the open to save stress later. If you’re the type of person who likes to have people over, or are planning to have visitors stay with you, make sure this is conveyed up front. Going to have roommates? What is their schedule? What are they like? Are you on days and the area or roommates are noisy? This is easy intel to get out in the open early.
5. Research based on your goals
Are you in New York and want to live in downtown Manhattan, or San Diego and want to be near the beach? Most of the time you get what you pay for. A little research goes a long way into seeing what the norm for an area is. That being said, if you want the awesome loft in Seattle within walking distance of Pike Place Market, you may only be in Seattle once, go for it!
6. Use all the search options
There are many different ways to find housing. Here’s what I’ve learned through experience about each option.
- Airbnb: I have used Airbnb twice for assignments. Both times were only for a couple weeks until I felt settled, then I found a spot I preferred for the rest of my assignment. Make some inquiries in the area, and if possible, arrive early prior to assignment, or plan to look around after the first week. Airbnb or a hotel can be an easy, carefree way to have short term stability. Stay at the Airbnb or hotel for a week or so until you find a good fit. This allows you to actually go see places and meet people and not worry about where you will be sleeping when you arrive.
- Craigslist: Don’t shake your head at it! I have had the most amazing luck with landlords and roommates. In Denver my landlord and other roommate became hiking, biking, and rock-climbing buddies. The house was a hit for my assignment with its multiple grills and fire pits. Some communities have their own version of Craigslist. I found a spot through this that had me 2 blocks from the hospital and a new friend who taught me how to fly fish, a bucket list thing I had always wanted to do.
- Rentler: This is a free property listing and property management site. I like this site as it gives me a base of what is normal to pay for housing in the area. The site offers great photos, informative descriptions, and renter requirements.
- Furnished Finder: I have used this site as a comparative tool but never actually utilized it for housing. The site advertises use by travel nurses, locum tenens, and medical staffing companies. Their basis is to be a specialized resource for greater than 30-day stays, and as it says in the name, it’s furnished!
- Zumper: Another good housing search engine that lets you filter by location, price, pet-friendly, and amenity. They also have a real-time alert feature that will let you be one of the first to know about new listings.
- Facebook: It’s a beautiful thing. Facebook Marketplace, FB interest groups, city-specific housing, and the travel nurse FB groups are excellent resources! The Marketplace has an easily navigable page, and you may even have a mutual friend of a person renting. Most cities have a FB housing site. In Denver and Alaska, I was on the city’s FB housing site and was able to make a lot of connections. On another assignment I used the Salt Lake City Climbing Partner Finder FB group and found a roommate with common interests. Through Travel Nurse Housing FB, I found a spot in southern Oregon with a landlord who focused on renting to travelers. Her home was the nicest place I have ever stayed. My roommate there, a fellow travel nurse and now surf partner, has become a close friend. With so many travelers in different places I would be shocked if you weren’t able to make a connection!
- RNnetwork’s housing team: If you want someone to do all the heavy lifting, RNnetwork has a housing team that can do everything from finding you multiple options to choose from to lease negotiation. This can be a huge time savings, and they have housing connections in most cities that you wouldn’t.
7. Get unpacked ASAP
Seems like common sense, but get the car unpacked as soon as possible. You probably don’t know the areas you’re stopping through. Unfortunately, some people may like what they see in your front seat.
8. Be wary of cons and scams
It’s not actually an African prince on the other side of your computer! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t wire money without seeing a place, it may not exist. PayPal has a secure payment feature, look into it. Better to pay 3% than lose everything.
At the end of the day we all do the best we can, so try not to let the housing thing stress you out. It’s all part of the travel nursing experience. Some of the most unique circumstances I have been in were from the housing I picked and the people I met.
What have you learned in your quest to find the perfect housing? Share your travel nurse housing tips in the comments below.