Travel Nurse Housing: Agency-Placed Housing vs. Stipend Pay

Travel Nurse Housing: Agency-Placed Housing vs. Stipend Pay

Travel nurse housing. It’s this very piece of logistics that can often make or break the deal on a travel nursing contract offer. Many nurses want to know about the housing options before any other consideration. However, every travel nurse is different. Some people want to know every last detail of the housing situation and others are happy to go along with the flow as long as the pay is good and they have a place to sleep when they get off work.

Exploring your new environment and sight-seeing are great benefits of taking a travel nursing assignment. At the end of the day, you still want to feel relaxed and comfortable in your home environment. As a travel nurse myself, I have heard horror stories from other travel nurses about their housing situations that scared them away from travel nursing altogether.

In order to better understand the housing arrangements for travel nurses, I am going to break down the different options you will have available and the pros and cons of taking the company-provided option versus the housing stipend.

Travel Nurse Housing Options

Housing for travel nurses can be done two different ways:

  • Agency-placed housing — in this option the agency makes all the housing arrangements on your behalf. You just show up, and everything is ready to go.
  • Stipend pay — in this option you are given a tax-free stipend and you make your own housing arrangements independent of the agency. These payments are calculated based on the cost-of-living for a given area in which the travel nursing assignment is located.

Part of my desire to become a travel nurse was because my husband and I wanted a good excuse to live in our RV with our kid for a while, but not permanently. Because my housing was already decided, I always took the stipend. However, I have met many travel nurses who always take the stipend so they can show up and just get to work. Other travel nurses might alternate and take the stipend for one assignment, but choose company-provided housing for the next. Neither option is necessarily better than the other, it really just depends on you as the travel nurse and what works best in your situation.

How Does Agency-Placed Housing Work?

Most travel nurses opt for company-provided housing. Many travel nurse staffing companies have their own internal housing department that is in charge of securing short-term leases or they have long-leases and they alternate the travelers. In addition to housing, the agency will also pay your utilities and rent a furniture package. You might even be able to secure housewares like dishes and linen, but this might come with a charge. It’s not common, but it’s also not unheard of, for a travel nursing agency to also pay for internet and cable.

The majority of travel nursing contracts are booked within two weeks (sometimes even two days) of the start date. If you ask, your travel nurse agency may be able to provide you two or three options to choose from for the housing.

Benefits of Agency-Placed Housing

  • It’s simple. If you are easy-going and don’t have too many concerns about the housing or if you are new to travel nursing, you may want to choose this option simply because it’s easier. You don’t have to fool around with security deposits, utilities, etc. 
  • Housing can be hard to find. It’s not always easy to find housing, especially if you are traveling to a smaller city.
  • You score a deal on housing prices. Travel nurse staffing companies often have negotiations in place so that they can provide you better options for housing than what you could buy with the stipend.
  • No up front money is needed. You can show up for your assignment and not worry about having extra money for things like a lease, deposit, etc.
  • Cancellations won’t set you back. If your assignment is canceled early for any reason, if you chose the agency-provided housing you will not have to pay for a broken lease agreement, etc.
  • VIP Treatment. Landlords and property managers can be a nightmare to work with sometimes. However, if they know that they are trying to please a company with the potential for long-term commitment and not a single individual there for just a short time – they are likely to be more attentive and helpful. 

How Does Travel Nurse Stipend Pay Work?

If you decide to forgo the agency-placed housing and take the stipend, you are in charge of finding, paying for, and booking all of the housing arrangements you will need and whatever additional expenses that may require. The amount of this payout will vary based on location, but you will be given a monthly quote, and that amount will be divided into your weekly paychecks.

With the emergence of sites like Airbnb, it’s becoming easier for travel nurses to find vacation rentals that come equipped with everything you need even down to the dishes. You can find your own house or apartment to rent. Or you can do what I did, and live in an RV and pay for campgrounds with amenities on site.

Benefits of Travel Nurse Stipend Pay

  • You decide where you want to live. Finding your own housing opens up new opportunities to live in exotic places. Company-provided housing is typically standard apartments or condos without a lot of flares.
  • You can choose how to live. Many times the agency-placed housing will not have its own washer and dryer unit. There may be other things too that are not up to your preferred living standard. Taking the stipend allows you to make arrangements for housing that has everything you want and need to make it a comfortable stay.
  • You might be able to make money off your housing stipend. This is a true variable and depends greatly on the location, but there is the possibility of securing cheap housing and pocketing the extra income. If you’re able to travel with another nurse – you can save even more by sharing a cheap accommodation and splitting the cost.
  • You can settle in on your own schedule. The standard for agency-placed housing is to allow you to come to the place only two days in advance. While that can be plenty, if you want to spend time settling in and getting to know the area, if you work out your own housing arrangements, you can allocate for extra time if you want it.

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