May 05, 2020

Learning the Rhythm of the Travel Nurse Housing Market

For someone who does not work in healthcare, it may come as a surprise to find out there are actually busy seasons in the field that can be anticipated and planned for. Yes, even with specialties that should seemingly have “random” busy times such as labor and delivery or psychiatric nursing there is still data to help guide managers looking to hire travel nurses.

General Rhythm

For the majority of travel nurse specialties, jobs will increase during the winter months and slow heading into spring and summer. As the traditional “flu season” winter is pretty consistently the time of year with the highest numbers of emergency department visits and hospital admissions.

This actually works out well because spring and summer are known as “trauma season”. With more people getting out to play sports, take advantage of water-based activities, or spend time riding bikes, motorcycles, and ATVs, there is a much higher rate of broken bones and other orthopedic injuries during the summer months. In addition, hospitals anticipate a lower census from general illness over the summer, so many elective surgeries are scheduled for warmer months. This is also helpful for patients who are students or parents of students who do not want to take time off during the school year to rest and recover.

As a result, there is always some sort of travel nurse job available, but there are times that there is less movement on the market. Experienced travel nurses are aware of times like the summer when they may not see as many options for jobs, so they may take advantage of extensions offered on current contracts and stay where they are. Other travel nurses like to take this time to travel or visit friends and family. Because they are not obligated to work when a contract ends, travel nurses are able to save up money during their assignment so they can take extended breaks between one contract and the next. For single travelers with no major bills or student loans, this could mean taking the whole summer off and waiting for the fall jobs to start pouring in.

Learning the Rhythm of the Travel Nurse Housing Market
Local Influences

Another huge factor when it comes to supply and demand in your area is local events or influences. While travel nurses certainly don’t fall into the same category as vacationers, most of us are all too aware that touristy events in the area can cause a shortage in short term housing and impact the price of said housing at different points in the year.

One great example of this is Spring Training season in Phoenix, Arizona. January to March is prime tourist season because the state is warm but not hot, and numerous Major League Baseball teams host their spring training games in the area. As a result, people who might otherwise be willing to rent their vacation rentals to nurses are less inclined because they know they can make a good chunk of money off of short stays in this time frame. Of course, they also have to deal with cleaning their rental repeatedly, potential cancellations, and managing the flow of tenants for several months at a time.

Another example is Coachella Music festival in California. Although the festival itself is less than two weeks, many people come early or stay late and make it a huge vacation event. Vacation rental prices soar and many travelers avoid areas where events like this are taking place because they are worried about not being able to find affordable housing. This means if you offer affordable housing, tenants will be that much more thankful to rent from you.

As a landlord specifically marketing to travel nurses, you can take advantage of this time by resting assured that there should be no reason your property will not be filled. Price your unit appropriately, ask for a reasonable lease agreement, and travel nurses will be lining up at your door to avoid paying overinflated prices at regular vacation rental sites during these sorts of times.

Learning the Rhythm of the Travel Nurse Housing Market
How Seasons Affect the Market

Do you live in an area of the country that experiences extremes in weather? Or are you somewhere like San Diego that stays beautiful the majority of the year?

One thing travel nurses have in common with the typical tourists is a lot of them will chase the nicer weather. Although we have to go where there are jobs, with a country as large as the United States we don’t necessarily have to experience any season we don’t find appealing. I spent a full twelve months without a winter—I believe the lowest temperature I saw in that time frame was about 45 degrees on a rainy day in Seattle.

Chances are if your area gets really cold or really hot, the number of travelers headed to that area in that time frame will taper off a bit. Of course, cold weather usually accompanies flu season and a spike in jobs, but without a little extra incentive most travel nurses aren’t looking to hang out somewhere that it is negative ten degrees and snowy. On the other end of this, a lot of nurses also try not to work in the south during summer months when it is extremely hot or humid. This is not absolute but it can definitely impact the number of travelers looking for housing in your area at certain times of the year.

How This Information Can Help You

For most landlords, running a travel nurse rental is a business at the end of the day. You have expenses to keep a furnished rental up and running, and the only way to keep on top of those expenses is to make sure your rental is filled as much as possible.

By knowing ahead of time what to anticipate from the travel nurse housing market in your area, you can figure out how to plan ahead and make sure you are keeping your rentals full as much as possible. You cannot necessarily control things like the weather or flu season, but you can take steps to counteract any slow seasons and make yourself more appealing to nurses looking for short term housing when there are less renters and more open spaces.

One great way to get ahead of the market is to ask potential renters if they plan on extending their contracts. A standard travel nurse contract is thirteen weeks long. Some nurses prefer to move at the end of each contract, while others like to stay in an area a bit longer to see and experience more. Most travelers have an idea going in whether or not they would like to stay in an area beyond the initial contract. Some travelers even prefer to work a minimum of six months in one area to save the time and hassle of moving.

Learning the Rhythm of the Travel Nurse Housing Market

While the nurse won’t know for sure that an extension will be offered, they usually have an idea of how short staffed a unit is based on their interview, or they have an idea if other jobs will be available in the area if they choose to stay. You can’t take anything they are estimating as guaranteed to happen, but it does give you an idea if you will have a renter for a good chunk of the year. This can be helpful if you know you are approaching a slow season and would prefer someone who might be willing to rent your unit for a bit longer. If you have multiple applicants, feel free to ask them a bit about their potential for contract extensions to get a feel for who would be the best fit for your needs.

While the nurse won’t know for sure that an extension will be offered, they usually have an idea of how short staffed a unit is based on their interview, or they have an idea if other jobs will be available in the area if they choose to stay. You can’t take anything they are estimating as guaranteed to happen, but it does give you an idea if you will have a renter for a good chunk of the year. This can be helpful if you know you are approaching a slow season and would prefer someone who might be willing to rent your unit for a bit longer. If you have multiple applicants, feel free to ask them a bit about their potential for contract extensions to get a feel for who would be the best fit for your needs.

You can also plan for slower seasons by pricing your rental according to what you need to make even if you cannot find a renter for part of the year. Most travel nurse rentals tend to stay full if you have a good rating and referrals, but it never hurts to build in a little cushion so you can relax if the market slows down in your area. To get a better idea of how to competitively price your rental, be sure to check out our Housing Demand Tool.

Understanding the more predictable seasons of the travel nurse market is certainly not a necessity of being a short-term rental owner, but it can make managing your property more enjoyable. If you can estimate what to expect and how to approach each season, you can better price and financially manage your space. By keeping an open line of communication with potential renters and knowing the events that affect tourism or other short-term rentals in your city, you can be prepared and stay ahead of the game as a travel nurse landlord.


Author Alex McCoy

Alex McCoy, BSN, RN

Alex is a pediatric travel nurse and the content manager of Furnished Finder. After traveling for four years with her husband, a physical therapist they recently welcomed a daughter, Jade, into their crazy travel family. Read more articles from Alex on Furnished Finder or Travel Nurse Housing, or read about her previous travels here. Have an idea you would love to share with fellow travel nurses or landlords? Be sure to email her at Alex.McCoy@FurnishedFinder.com.