The Short-Term Rental Operator’s Guide to Renting to Travel Nurses

The Short-Term Rental Operator’s Guide to Renting to Travel Nurses

renting to travel nurses

Just last year, the short-term rental industry was one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Anybody could become an entrepreneur, and you could build and scale a short-term rental business easily and with almost no investment. 

But since the coronavirus rocked the world at a scale our generation has never seen before, new Airbnb entrepreneurs have had to act quickly and creatively to keep their business afloat. 

I recently spoke to Tom Sargent about how he managed to pivot quickly and keep his clients happy and his listings occupied. As a relatively new vacation rental entrepreneur, Tom joined the landscape only 9 months ago, and already had 7 short-term rental units and 5 long-term rental units.

Within a span of 4-5 days, Tom’s listings in the Boston area got hit with $10,000 worth of cancellations. But he’s managed to make it through and keep his business running.

His main strategy has been using his units for renting to travel nurses. Here’s how he did it.

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How he changed his messaging for renting to travel nurses

Based in Boston, Tom’s listings got hit before the European travel ban with the cancellation of a huge international conference.

He decided to quickly shift to travel nurse housing.

The reason this will work for a lot of short-term rental hosts is the following:

  • Hundreds, if not thousands, of travel healthcare staff are being flown in from around the country

  • Travel bans are in place and probably won’t be lifted for months

  • Medium-term rentals provide more flexibility to switch back to short-term rentals after the crisis

  • He wants to help the community and house the front-line heroes instead of encouraging travel

The first thing he did was change his marketing material across all the platforms his units were on. He focused on 2-week pricing strategies and slashed prices - not only because slashing prices has been the most consistently proven strategy, but also to be able to provide housing for those helping us get out of the crisis.

renting to travel nurses

Travel nurses won’t have set contracts until a week before they start, sometimes even less, given the situation. It’s really tough to market to them for a May move-in start date. They don’t even know what’s going on next week.

So you need to be able to market them to move in very quickly. The best strategy right now is to slash prices, but you don’t need to do that more than 2 weeks out. Otherwise, travelers might book for a week when you could potentially offer that space to a 3-month rental. 

This strategy might be nerve-wracking for your landlord. Seeing so much vacancy in upcoming months isn’t what most short-term rental operators dreamt their calendar would look like. But it pays off when you find guests or tenants interested in booking out 2-3 months solid. 

He restructured his marketing message - meaning reworking the photos, descriptions, and titles to resonate more with traveling nurses.

Focusing solely on travel nurse housing

It’s common knowledge in the marketing world that if you speak to everyone, you speak to no-one.

So when you pivot, it’s important to choose an audience so that your message resonates with them. If you’re going to choose travel nurses, be sure your message speaks only to them. In this time of crisis, you can also duplicate your listings to target different audiences, and make sure your PMS synchronizes all the calendars.

You can use phrases like “Quiet place to sleep for medical staff”, “nurse discounts”, “discounts for medical staff”, “close to hospital” or “fully stocked fridge for tired nurses” in your title or description. 

Tom duplicated all his listings for a minimum of 30 stays, and he specifically promotes a 13-week discount. That’s because most travel nurse contracts are signed for about 13 weeks.

“I’ve had a lot of demand with nurses. I’m helping them with the price -  I’m not slashing it to a point where I’m losing money, but I want to be able to help them out and help out the partners that I team up with, and they’re on board for this,” John said, explaining his pricing strategy and how it’s win-win for all the stakeholders involved.


Why renting to travel nurses is a good strategy

Travel nurses need housing, and they need comfortable, furnished housing. They’re also the largest chunk of people who are actually allowed to travel and booking temporary housing right now.

Providing them with high-quality housing at discounted rates helps not only your business, but it helps your community by not putting them at risk and by allowing more healthcare staff to come and fight the virus.

They just want a quiet place to stay and a good night’s sleep at an affordable price. 


What travel nurses look for in housing

When you start targeting travel nurses for medium-term rentals, it’s important to highlight things that appeal specifically to that audience.

Things that travel nurses look for are:

  • Black-out curtains: travel nurses work for crazy hours, and often through the night. They need black-out curtains to help them sleep through the night.

  • Pet-friendly accommodation: A lot of travel nurses travel with their pets, so offering them a home where they can bring their furry friends is a big plus.

The travel nurse industry is diverse.

You have single people who are happy with renting out a room in a shared apartment, and others that are married couples traveling with their kids. Be specific on the audience that you wanna target and you will appeal to them. Stay on top of that.

How to market your rental to travel nurses

Travel nurses sometimes look on Airbnb, but not usually.

You’ll have to expand your horizons off that platform to reach as many as possible. 

Some platforms where you can find travel nurses looking for housing are the following:

  • Furnished Finders - This platform is great to find travel nurses, but be careful to read the contract twice and have crystal clear messaging - it seems they charge you based on leads, not bookings.

  • Facebook Groups - Whether just groups for travel nurses in the whole country or specific to a region. There are a lot of people seeking accommodation in these groups. Again, be sure to read over the rules so that you don’t get kicked out of them.

  • Travel nurse staffing companies

Ask around. Join initiatives like Rent Responsibly’s #FindTheHelpers campaign - they are publishing stories about people in the short-term rental community that are helping or looking to help during the crisis. If you’re looking to house medical staff, even publishing your story with them could get you that extra coverage to help everyone involved.

Be proactive and connect with your network, letting them know your units are open to medical staff. Now is the best time to get creative.

Go above and beyond when marketing your rental to travel nurses

Travel nurses work really hard and they’re putting their lives at risk. Try to go above and beyond for them by adding extra services. For example, their hours might not allow them to go grocery shopping.

For a small extra fee, you could provide them with a unit with a full fridge, for example, so they can have a healthy meal without going out and putting themselves at further risk.

Put yourself in their shoes and see how you can get creative about helping them.

Tiered pricing strategies for medium-term rentals and long-term rentals

Working with the co-host business model, Tom was making 20-25% percent off every booking. When you move to bookings that last anywhere from 3-12 months, this model won’t work anymore.

One solution is to switch to a tiered pricing model. 

Be up front and have the conversation with your landlords early. Do not expect to continue receiving the same payment for a booking that doesn’t require any management for months.

A win-win tiered pricing model looks like this:

  • Any booking from for 0-90 day bookings maintains the same percentage,

  • 3- to 6-month bookings get a lower percentage,

  • 6- to 9-month bookings gets an even lower percentage,

  • Anything over 9 months gets the lowest percentage - that of a long-term rental

This makes sense for the travel nurses, for you, and helps instil more trust in the relationship with your landlords. That way, they’ll be glad to continue working with you after the crisis is long gone.

They’re the ones with the overhead and mortgage. If you make them angry trying to be greedy, you’ll be completely out of a business.


Risks of switching to long-term rentals

While nervous landlords might want to immediately switch to long-term rentals, there are a few reasons you should try to convince them not to.

For one, when you switch, you’ll be stuck with a 12-month lease at a low income. When the crisis ends, you can’t change back to short-term rentals.

Also, most people have decided to switch to long-term rentals, and that market has very suddenly become saturated. So you’ll be stuck with low income, high competition and very long commitments to this model.

At least try to maintain some of your portfolio and inventory available for when the crisis slows down, so you can be agile enough to pivot back to short-term rentals and start to increase your revenue again.


Respecting the community 

If there’s anything we learned in this crisis, it’s that community is everything.

renting to travel  nurses

Now is not the time to be greedy and try to take advantage of the situation.

If you can't find demand, there are other things you can do: work on your unit, redecorate and improve it so that it’ll be even nicer when the crisis slows down and you’re able to start operating again.

Even better: start working on your systems, training your VAs, and setting up solid foundations in your business to become more focused on profit than cash flow, so when the next recession hits, you'll be ready. 

The most important thing is to do what you can to stay healthy and protect and respect your community.

Get the STR Coronavirus Survival Kit

We created a resource with swipe files, lists, tips and actionable how-tos for getting your business through this crisis.

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