Buying a house as a travel nurse can be tricky business.
Between the regular job changes and variations in pay it can be difficult to find a lender willing to give you a mortgage.
But while it can be challenging, you can buy a house as a travel nurse — if you play it smart and take the time to plan ahead.
In this article, we let you know why the home-buying process can be tricky for travelers and give you our proven tips for traveling, nursing, and buying a house.
Table of Contents
- Is It Hard To Buy a House as a Travel Nurse?
- What Are Some Challenges You May Face When Buying a House as a Travel Nurse?
- Top 10 Tips for a Travel Nurse Buying a House
- Trusted Nurse Staffing’s Excellent Pay and Benefits Can Help Travel Nurses Who Want To Buy a House
Is It Hard To Buy a House as a Travel Nurse?
Buying a house as a travel nurse can come with a few challenges. But as long as you understand the unique challenges and you are smart about the way you approach them, you should be able to buy a house with no problem.
What Are Some Challenges You May Face When Buying a House as a Travel Nurse?
A factor many lenders may often tend to balk at is gaps in employment history. One of the amazing benefits of being a travel nurse is the ability to take off as much time as you want between each assignment. This is a huge red flag, however, for lenders who aren’t savvy about the ins and outs of the travel nursing industry.
If you have employment gaps that span more than three months, you will need to provide an explanation in writing.
Variable Income Levels
In general, most lenders also prefer to deal with loan applicants who bring in the same amount of income each month.
A travel nurse’s pay, however, varies by contract, location, specialty, and season. What you get paid in Minnesota might be very different from your take-home pay in New York City
Plus, tax-free stipends are typically boosted in travel nursing contracts. While this is great at the moment, this income isn’t reflected on your W2s — meaning your income appears to be much lower than it actually is.
While these variables are completely normal for a traveler’s income history, if your lender doesn’t understand the nuances of the industry they may find them to be risky or confusing when they are deciding whether to approve a mortgage loan.
Unstable Employment History
Most people have the same job for years.
But when you’re a travel nurse you’re switching jobs every few months. It’s part of what makes this line of work so incredibly appealing!
But on paper, to the uninformed lender’s eye, 13-week contracts — particularly when you’re working with multiple agencies — may make you look like a job-hopper.
Top 10 Tips for a Travel Nurse Buying a House
#1: Build Up Your Travel Nursing Experience
Just as it does on the job if you’re a travel nurse who’s buying a house, dependability matters.
If you’re able to demonstrate to potential lenders that you are able to work steadily as a travel nurse, they are more likely to be willing to give you a mortgage.
At the minimum, you will need to acquire at least 12 months of travel nursing history — with 24 months being an even better option.
This allows potential lenders to see how long your employment gaps typically last and helps them get the big picture of your income, including gaps and various pay rates. The more time you’re able to show, the higher and more consistent your average will be — and the more confidence lenders will have in the consistency of your earning potential.
If you are a newer traveling nurse who does not yet have two years of travel experience under your belt, it’s fine to use your staff RN experience as part of your employment history.
Extending a completed contract to spend more time at the same facility is yet another way to show lenders your work is both consistent and stable.
#2: Write a Detailed Letter of Explanation
Another factor that is important as you consider buying a house as a travel nurse is outlining in writing why the challenges we mentioned above won’t be an issue for you.
Most lending agents (as well as some real estate agents) simply don’t understand the details of how travel nursing works.
That’s why you’ll want to:
- Explain how your nursing specialty is in high demand.
- Let them know there is no shortage of available nursing contracts.
- Outline the details about how and why your income varies.
- Explain what the breakdown of your pay looks like in terms of base rate, stipends, and overtime.
- Make them aware of the attention and planning that goes into choosing assignments and locations.
- Provide your credit score.
- Include professional references, including a letter from your recruiter or agency.
#3: Research Home Loan Requirements
When you’re combining travel nursing and buying a house, take the time to research exactly what it takes to obtain a home loan.
You’ll find plenty of information online from mortgage lenders and financial experts outlining the requirements for home loan borrowing, but these are the basic things to consider:
- Your income
- Any outstanding debts
- The type of home you want to purchase
- Your financial assets
- Your credit score
Being well-prepared by bringing this information to a meeting with a mortgage lender conveys an air of responsibility and seriousness about purchasing a home.
#4: Keep Detailed Records
Buying a house as a travel nurse is one of those times when having a well-documented paper trail is particularly vital.
Make copies of your:
- Pay stubs: These are the key to proving your true income
- Travel nursing agency contacts who can verify your employment
- W2s: Remember these will show a much lower income than you actually took home
#5: Consider Taking Fewer Stipends
While your housing stipends can be counted as qualifying income, other compensation generally can’t. Tax-free stipends and per diem income aren’t viewed as “income” by the IRS, making your income appear considerably smaller to a lender than it actually is.
Talk with your agency about how to create a package that will look best on paper when applying for a loan.
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, our recruiters are available 24/7 to answer our nurse’s questions and meet their needs. To get started with Trusted Nurse Staffing today, simply use the Pronto job search to find available travel nurse assignments.
#6: Pay Off Your Debts
If you’re a travel nurse who is considering buying a home, another great way to let lenders know you’re low-risk for a loan is to pay off any outstanding debts.
When you’re applying for a home loan, potential lenders are interested in your DTI (debt-to-income ratio) — your monthly debt divided by your gross monthly income. To get approved for a loan your DTI ratio should be less than 36%.
Nursing school is expensive, and one of the first debts you’ll want to eliminate is student loans. Begin a debt repayment method or look into student loan forgiveness programs ASAP to get your DTI down as low as possible and boost your chances of qualifying for a home loan.
#7: Maintain a Tax Home
The IRS defines a tax home as, “the general area of your main place of business, employment, or post of duty, regardless of where you maintain your family home.”
Your lender will likely ask you to provide the details regarding what you intend to do with your home, along with proof that it will be used as your primary residence. This can be difficult to prove, however, when you’re a traveling nurse who lives in a different city or state than where you work.
You will want to explain why you’re buying a home in one state while working in another (or multiple) state.
You’ll also need to provide proof that the home you’re buying will be your tax home by showing this is where you:
- Have a driver’s license
- Pay taxes
- Have your vehicle registered
#8: Save as Much as You Can for a Down Payment
While it doesn’t need to be a huge amount, buying a home can be significantly easier when you’re able to put down some money upfront.
It’s not typically necessary to put down a full 20%, particularly if you’re considering an FHA loan. You will, however, need to be on the lookout for PMI (private mortgage insurance). This monthly premium is often added to mortgage payments that equate to less than 20% of your home.
#9: Look for First-Time Homebuyer Tax Benefits
Are you buying a home for the first time? If so, you may be eligible for financial benefits as a first-time homebuyer.
Most mortgage lenders offer some form of first-time homebuyer perks such as lower interest rates, helping cover down payments, or taking care of closing costs.
There are usually income requirements for these special programs, however. Just do your homework ahead of time to find out the details of the lender you’d like to work with.
#10: Talk To Other Travel Nurses Who Have Already Bought Homes
You seek their advice about the best locations, the top facilities to work in, and the most optimal housing. That’s why it just makes sense to get advice from your fellow travel nurses when it comes to buying a house.
Reach out to a few travel nurse homeowners in your circle to discover which lenders and mortgage companies they used and to get any tips they may have for securing a loan in the easiest way possible.
Trusted Nurse Staffing’s Excellent Pay and Benefits Can Help Travel Nurses Who Want To Buy a House
At Trusted Nurse Staffing our name says it all.
You can trust us to find you the right position and help you every step of the way along your traveling journey.
We provide clinicians with a broad range of staffing opportunities, such as:
- Local or travel assignments
- Permanent placement
- Temp to perm
- Per diem
And we offer the best benefits in the industry including:
- Sign-on bonuses
- High pay rates
- Travel, housing, and meals stipends
- Flexible contracts
- Full or part-time work
- Referral and completion bonuses
- Dental, health, and vision benefits
- 24/7 access to your recruiter
- And more
Start your dream job today by searching for travel nursing jobs on Pronto!