There can be several reasons why you would want to secure your own assignment housing. The first, and one of the more common, is that you have a friend or relative in the area with whom you will stay. If you know this is the case ahead of time, let your recruiter know up front that you would be interested in taking a housing stipend instead of the company provided housing.
A housing stipend should be something you negotiate with your travel company before you even think of signing a contract. The amount of your stipend can vary drastically from company to company. I recall one assignment where two different travel companies had the same assignment at the same hospital. When I was quoted stipend rates from my recruiters at each company, one quoted me a housing allowance of $800 a month, the other came back with $1300 a month. With the hourly pay rates and other benefits being similar, I was compelled to choose the company with the higher housing allowance.
If you will be securing your own housing, you might consider calling several travel nursing companies and see what their housing allowance is for the city or locality in which you want to work. For housing, the hospital where you accept an assignment doesn’t matter as much as the location. If you say that you want to take an assignment in a specific city, they should know what the going rate of housing is in that particular city and what the company will allow as a stipend. Obviously, the stipend you would receive for working in Columbus, Ohio, is going to be different from an assignment stipend in San Diego, California.
Another reason you might want to secure your own housing is because you want something a little nicer than the travel nursing company is willing to provide for free. I have never really had too many complaints about my assignment housing; however, on a few contracts, if I had wanted to spend a few hundred dollars more a month, I might have been able to secure beachfront accommodations as opposed to the apartment complex my travel company provided that was a few blocks from the water.
If you want to go it alone, just remember that you will also need to budget for your furniture rental if the place you find is unfurnished. You can use the same companies your travel company uses when they rent units in apartment complexes for travelers. A few of the popular companies are Aaron Rents and Cort Furniture. You will also need to budget and arrange for all your utilities such as electric, gas, water, and trash.
Another reason you might want to consider finding your own housing is to earn extra take-home each month. If your travel company gives you a housing stipend of $1300, and you find a furnished one-bedroom condo for $900, even after utilities, you should come home with an extra few hundred dollars each month. Just remember, if you are participating in your travel company’s tax-advantage program, any extra income may need to be taxed (as always, see your tax advisor for your specific situation).
When looking for assignment housing, there are several ways to go. If you are simply seeking an apartment, any site such as Rent.com or Apartments.com would be logical choices, but if you are seeking something furnished, you might need a few other tools in your arsenal. The most common site for such lodging would be Craigslist. Not only can you find furnished apartments, homes, or condos, but if you are really looking to save some money, you might just rent a room from someone.
A few other sites to check out when searching for furnished living are International Housing Assistance and Housing Travel Nurses.com. And finally, if you are looking more for vacation type rentals, you can try HomeAway.com which features homes and condos in popular areas.
Finding your own assignment housing is not for everyone (I still prefer to let my travel company go to all the hassle). But, if you are looking to save money or upgrade your travel accommodations, it can well be worth the extra time and effort.