Travel Nurse Housing - How Does it Work? Tips for Travel Nurses

By Katie Fitts

March 2, 2020

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Travel Nurse Housing – How Does it Work?

When I tell people I’m a travel nurse, out of all the questions surrounding travel nursing, the #1 question I get asked is how does travel nurse housing work? Does the company provide you housing? How do you find housing? If you missed my post earlier about how travel nursing works, definitely check it out! This post is going to go over your options and the pros and cons of each.

To find your own housing or let the company find your housing?

The Travel Nurse Housing Breakdown

First things first, there are two options for where to start as far as travel nurse housing goes. You can take company-provided housing or take the housing stipend and find your own housing. I say two options lightly, as only SOME travel nurse companies will find housing for you. So make sure you research your companies before assuming this a given with each company. Let’s first take a look at what exactly a housing stipend is all about.

Travel Nurse Housing Stipend

Hospitals and facilities pay a pretty penny for travel nurses.  Part of this high “bill rate” as they call it includes both a housing and meals allowance that compensates the nurse for the housing and meals needed while on assignment.  The assumption is that you are duplicating expenses maintaining a “tax home“.

Tax homes can get pretty complicated and for detailed information, it is always best to consult a tax professional.  However, in a nutshell, it means you have claimed a residence somewhere where you regularly pay rent/mortgage. For example, I own my home in Charleston, SC.  I pay mortgage and property taxes and visit it several times a year. It doesn’t have to be owning your own home though, it could be as simple as renting a room somewhere where you are home-based which is what I did when I started travel nursing. As you are maintaining this “tax home”, the housing stipend is a TAX-FREE subsidy (assuming you have claimed a tax home). If you do not have a tax home, the stipend is taxed (and we all know that’s a bummer!).

Now that you know what the stipend is about, let’s compare the two options!

Company travel nurse housing

So option #1, you can choose to go with a travel nurse company that has the option for company-provided housing. To name a few, TNAA, Medical Solutions, and American Traveler.  Of note, some companies like to draw you in and advertise this as “free paid housing”.  While that sounds nice, that’s not exactly true…as they say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. 

In choosing to have company-provided housing, you forego the aforementioned housing stipend.  The facility’s bill rate includes that housing allowance which is paid to the travel nurse company and then on to you.  So by not accepting the housing stipend the company takes that money and pays for your housing. The housing could be much cheaper but you would be none the wiser and thus essentially leaving money on the table! 

It may seem nice when you aren’t ponying up the money every month to pay for your housing, but just remember that it’s still YOUR money technically with which they are paying the housing.

You still receive a meals stipend (untaxed if you maintain a tax home) but is usually minimal when compared to the housing stipend. (Confused? Check out my post on pay breakdown!)

Company Travel Nursing Housing Pros

  • You don’t have to search endlessly for the right housing
  • You save time and energy
  • Less stress
  • It’s private housing!
  • If something is wrong with the housing you hand it back to the housing department to deal with

Company Travel Nurse Housing Cons

  • You lose extra money from stipend pay. If your housing costs less than your housing stipend (which you will probably never know) you aren’t credited the difference. On the flip side, if your housing is more expensive,  you don’t pay anymore: a bonus for you!
  • You don’t really get a hand in the decisions where you will stay the next 3 months

Finding your Own Travel Nurse Housing

Option #2 is you take the housing stipend and find your own housing. I believe the majority of travel nurses end up finding their own housing.  It is definitely a lot easier than it used to be to find temporary housing, even compared from a few years ago in 2014 when I first started travel nursing.  There are now oodles of resources!

The trick of finding your own housing is finding a fairly cheap place to live so that you can pocket the rest of the housing stipend and fund your amazing adventures you will have!

Although there are a lot of resources nowadays, it definitely can still be stressful.  You have to find the right location, price, accommodations, pet friendliness, etc. If you are looking for shared housing, you also have to make sure the roommate situation will work. And most of the time you are doing this on the fly with only a few weeks notice. Not only that but you have to trust that the photos online are an accurate representation of the place as you are not likely to be able to go across the country and look at these places. Phew! 

As I mentioned, this is definitely one of the most stressful parts of travel nursing. But it can also be a little fun! Sometimes you can find some pretty amazing places and if you have the money, splurge for a great place!!  

Finding your Own Housing Pros

  • With patience, diligence, and time you can find some pretty epic stays 
  • You can pocket extra housing money. For example, your housing stipend is $1200/month and you get a place for $800/month. Boom! That’s an extra $400/month you pocket tax-free!
  • You make the decision of where you will stay for the next 3 months!

Finding your Own Housing Cons

  • Holy time-consuming! Searching and searching for a place within your budget, minimal commute, and an acceptable roommate if you choose to rent a room
  • Did I mention this is usually done within a 2-3 week timeframe? Stressful!
  • If the housing is not suitable it’s on you to fix it

Overwhelmed yet? It certainly can be overwhelming! For more information including travel nurse housing resources as well as my personal experiences, hop on over to https://whispersofthewando.com/travel-nurse-housing/ .

Thanks for visiting and happy house hunting! – Katie


If you are a travel nurse looking for housing for your next assignment check out our Housing Page!

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