Healthy Cash Flow – Introduction to Renting to Travel Nurses

The World of a Travel Nurse

If you’re a nurse, or you have a friend or family member who is a nurse, much of this will probably sound familiar to you. But keep in mind the unique experiences and needs of travel nurses. We’ll discuss them in depth here, so you can address through thoughtful preparation of your property and proper management of your time and resources.

Travel nurses have their own unique challenges and preferences, compared to other tenants. Fortunately, it is not difficult to meet those needs and figure out how you can best serve them.

As we mentioned before, travel nursing has been around for a while. The practice was started to compensate for staffing shortages across the nation. Nurses are unfortunately in short supply, and when there is a healthcare emergency, such as with COVID-19, hospitals need to staff up quickly to meet the need.

There is an extensive infrastructure of staffing agencies which list positions in major metropolitan areas, as well as some smaller cities and rural regions. There are hundreds of these staffing agencies, and there are over 65,000 open travel nurse positions listed on the site Bluepipes.com. Just a glance at the job listings shows over 4,900 travel nurse positions open in Houston alone – https://www.bluepipes.com/jobs?filter={%22profession%22:%221%22,%22positionTerms%22:[%223%22],%22location%22:%22Houston%20TX%22}.

Pay a visit to the site and check your area. If you’re in a major metropolitan area with multiple hospitals, you may have some attractive opportunities.

Some agencies do offer company housing, but a stipend for housing is often preferable. The stipend can count as non-taxable income, and the funds may be discretionary, i.e., if their housing costs less than their stipend, they can spend the rest on whatever they like. If they receive $3,000/month for the housing stipend, but their rent costs $1,800, that leaves them $1,200. And if your $1,800 unit is in an area where average comparable rent is $1,100 (as it is for one of our founders), you as the landlord have just cash flowed $700/month more than you would have otherwise. For nurses who want to take the risk of securing their own housing and making all of the arrangements them selves, there can be a significant benefit of hundreds of dollars per month. And for you, the upside is clear.

As mentioned, travel nurses are typically placed for 13 week rotations, and they often have the option to extend another 13 weeks. That means the standard length for your rentals would be three months, possibly six months. There will also be rotations the last for one month, a month and a half, or two months. But 13 weeks is the standard. Shifts can be 12-hours, or 5 8-hour shifts, or 3 12-hour days, or 4 12-hour nights. There’s a wide variety of options, and it’s a good idea to find out from the nurse what his/her schedule will be like so you can accommodate them.

Nurses don’t always know very far ahead of time about the location of their next rotation. First, they often work long hours and don’t have a lot of leisure time to “go shopping” for assignments. As is often the case with staffing of any type, opportunities can arise quickly, or they can disappear just as abruptly. Sometimes a nurse will sign on for an assignment in one city, but that may fall through and she needs to find an assignment in another city. Sometimes a nurse will wish to extend her rotation, and it looks like it’s OK, but then it may be canceled by the hospital without much advance notice.

As you can well imagine, there’s a great deal of urgency for nurses to find assignments quickly, especially when things change. Along with that need comes an urgency to find housing. That’s where you come in.

While it may seem a little risky to rent to tenants who can have things changed on very short notice, keep in mind that there are so many travel nurses in such urgent need of good housing, that if one arrangement falls through, you can quickly find someone to take the spot. One of our founder’s properties is so popular that in two years, it has never been vacant, and at one point she was turning away 50 inquiries per week for that rental. Because she has the right location, the right furnishings, the right amenities, and she’s responsive to everyone who reaches out, there’s no lack of tenants, and the property has been cash flowing regularly at above market rates.

Before she transitioned to travel nurse renting, her short-term rental business was fraught with tenant issues, including wild parties and noises that disturbed her neighbors. On top of the tenant issues, her short-term rental listing site subjected her to hefty fees and a bias towards the tenants. She didn’t have much recourse, when it came to managing the bad behavior of her tenants, which was yet another great reason to pivot from short-term vacation rentals to travel nurse housing.

We mention this (yet again) to point out that due to the nature of their jobs and their lives, travel nurses are far less likely to cause you these kinds of issues.

A day in the life of a travel nurse is very similar to the day in the life of any other nurse, with a few key exceptions. First, because they are responding to surges in healthcare needs, they are often on high stress, high demand assignments that really take it out of them each day. It can be exhausting, tending to extreme need, day in and day out. And since these needs are ongoing for 13 weeks running, they have to pace themselves, they have to take care of themselves, and they don’t have all that extra time and energy to be partying or punching holes in your walls.

Especially in these times of COVID, quality travel nurse housing is needed more than ever. As COVID surges around the country, burn-out is a huge problem, and they need isn’t going away anytime soon. Travel nurses literally just want a clean warm, well-equipped, comfortable space to retreat to at the end of their shift. They need Internet WiFi to stay connected with their friends, loved ones, and employers, and they need all of the basic comforts of home. They need Smart TVs to connect to, so they can unwind with Netflix. But they don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, and the furnishings that they do use, they generally take care of.

Put yourself in their shoes… You’ve been working long, demanding hours for days at a time. And you know you have to get up the next morning and go back and do it all over again. All you really want is a warm meal, a shower, and some downtime to regain your balance. You want a quiet, basic space that doesn’t require a lot of attention on your part. You just want the basics that will keep you happy, secure, and comfortable during your time.

In some cases, nurses who travel will rent unfurnished units and keep only the bare minimum there. Some of them travel with inflatable air mattresses, which they just put on the floor, and then they rent furniture for three months. Others rent rooms in peoples houses, sharing the space four lower cost lodgings. That was very much the case in years before the pandemic, but now that living spaces may not be safe, and now that furnished units are increasingly available, it’s not as necessary for nurses to live with the barest of necessities, or to share space with a family.

If someone’s renting a small unit under 1,000 square feet, with a kitchen and all the appliances, tableware, and cookware, a clean, well-appointed bathroom, and a living space with a few pieces of comfortable furniture and WiFi, they’re ahead of the game, compared to an unfurnished apartment or a room in someone’s house. They’ll will need to spend more, obviously. But think about it – if you were traveling for months at a time, which would you prefer? Sleeping on an air mattress on the floor, or an actual bed in a unit that was a space just for you? I’d pay the money for the room. Especially if I were receiving a stipend.

Sometimes nurses travel with family members – some of them are also nurses, some are just along for the travel.

Put yourself in the shoes of a nurse whose partner is also a travel nurse. Couples can see the country together and work 13 week rotations at the same time in the same city, even if they’re not at the same hospital. Having a unit that is all theirs, that they can call home for three or six months, instead of staying at a hotel or an extended stay sweet, can be priceless. Nursing itself is demanding, so by providing a space that is comfortable, safe, quiet, and has all the necessities of life, can be hugely helpful to our front-line workers.

Now, let’s look at the weekends. After getting some rest, many are ready to enjoy local attractions, have a meal out, or just go about their lives, free of the cares to keep them occupied all week. They need suggestions for fun activities, entertainment, sightseeing, and other ways to rest and relax. They need to stay fit, healthy, and be at their best when they’re on the job. They may take time on the weekends to exercise, to explore the area they just moved to, or venture outside the area. One of the benefits of travel nursing is that you get to see different parts of the country that you normally wouldn’t. And nurses want to take advantage of that opportunity! Especially in COVID times, nurses need distractions that will lift them up and help restore their energy and spirit.

Sometimes, if they are traveling with their families, they need to know about family-friendly activities or other attractions that will be interesting to their kids or partners. Another consideration for families traveling together, is the “kid-safe” factor. Because hospitals tend to have a lot of ambulances coming and going, as well as sirens and speeding fire trucks, ambulances, or police cars, a rental that’s close to hospitals probably isn’t the best option for a family with kids. They tend to prefer staying outside the city – and that may open up investment opportunities, if you’re focused on suburbs around major metropolitan areas.