A Guide to Affordable Temporary Housing
When you move into a home — a single-family house in the suburbs, a studio apartment in the city, or any other type of dwelling — you likely do so with the expectation that you’ll be living there until you decide to move.
But sometimes, life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes you can’t move into a place right away, a major disaster like a fire or storm occurs, or a pipe bursts — rendering a home uninhabitable. In any of these cases, you need a place to stay while looking for more permanent housing. Temporary housing, as the name implies, is a type of accommodation designed for a short-term tenant, usually no more than a few weeks or months.
Urban areas tend to have the most options for temporary housing, thanks in large part to business travelers who may need to spend several weeks away from home. As opposed to suburban housing, urban housing in less populated regions is also seeing an uptick in temporary options, sustainable building, future-proof design, and subsequently increasing growth rates.
Wherever you happen to be, though, you may not have a lot of time to find temporary housing. Understanding your options, how to budget during your stay, and how to protect your belongings while you’re in transition can make the process easier and more affordable.
Types of Temporary Housing
By definition, temporary housing is just that: A short-term accommodation that isn’t intended to be permanent. While some people might stay for up to a year, the general expectation is that it’s designed for a few weeks or months at the most.
Depending on how long you plan to stay, the size of your family, whether you have pets, the amenities you need, and the location, you may have several options to choose from. The most common types of temporary housing include:
A sublet is a type of rental in which you temporarily move into a space already being leased by someone else. They may not need the home or apartment for several months but don’t want to give up their lease, so they allow someone else to move in and pay the rent while they are gone.
Not all landlords or building managers allow sublets, and lease terms can vary from a month to several years, but in competitive urban markets, this can be a viable arrangement when you don’t need a long-term place to stay.
Extended Stay Hotels
Extended stay hotels offer large, comfortable suites with more “home-like” amenities, including full kitchens, and separate living and sleeping areas. Many properties also offer shared amenities, including swimming pools, gyms, outdoor cooking and dining areas, and services like housekeeping, grocery shopping, and laundry.
Extended stay hotels are designed primarily for business travelers, but families looking for a place to call home temporarily are welcome. These properties typically offer nightly, weekly, and monthly rates. Except for housekeeping, most services are charged separately.
Because these properties (which include brands like Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, Towneplace Suites, and Extended Stay America) are hotels, they are subject to certain taxes and fees that might not be charged at other properties. This can drive up the cost considerably.
The vacation rental industry has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to websites like Vrbo and Airbnb, which allow individuals to rent their properties to travelers. From single rooms in a shared home to 10,000 square foot mansions, vacation rentals include all types of properties and can be found in almost every city and town in America.
One advantage of a vacation rental as temporary housing is flexibility. Many owners offer longer-term rentals (sometimes at a discount) especially during the off-seasons when the property would be otherwise empty. Cost depends on the property, the location, and the available amenities, and can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per week.
Corporate housing is a short-term rental — either an apartment or full house — owned by a company for the use of its employees. These rentals are most often used by employees who are relocating and need temporary housing while they find a permanent home. These properties are also used by travelers on business for the company.
Corporate housing is typically affordable, but it’s not always available to everyone in every situation. Still, if your company is transferring you to a new location, corporate housing may be the ideal solution while you make the move.
Temporary Housing vs Transitional Housing
Temporary housing is designed for individuals between houses, or for those who have homes that they can’t stay in for any reason but that they expect to return to. Transitional housing is a specific type of housing for individuals who need support, and is typically operated by the government or a nonprofit agency.
For example, the Department of Health and Human Services manages the Transitional Living Program for Older Homeless Youth, which provides housing and support to people ages 18 to 22. If you lose your home and have nowhere else to go, a transitional support program may be able to help.
Make a Budget
Temporary housing is often more expensive than permanent, and you may incur additional costs. For example, some properties charge additional cleaning and maintenance fees, parking fees, or utility fees for longer stays.
When looking at your temporary housing options, make a budget to prevent unpleasant surprises. Don’t forget to consider:
- Cleaning fees;
- Pet fees;
- Amenity fees;
- Storage costs (for storing your belongings while in transition);
- Mailbox rental;
- Parking fees;
- Extra insurance;
Depending on how long you plan to stay in temporary housing, certain costs may be negotiable. For example, you may not need to rent a mailbox if you are only staying a few weeks and can still access your mail or the post office. You may also be able to cut costs by not taking advantage of amenities. For example, instead of taking advantage of grocery shopping services at an extended stay hotel, do your own shopping.
If you need temporary accommodations due to damage to your existing home, you may be able to claim living expenses on your homeowner’s insurance policy. Before looking at your options, confirm what is covered, how much you can be reimbursed, and for how long, as this can help determine your budget.
Insure Your Belongings
One temporary housing expense that is likely to be non-negotiable is insurance for your belongings. Chances are you won’t be moving everything into your temporary home, so it will need to be stored. While your homeowner’s insurance might pay the storage rental fees, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re fully covered if items are stolen, lost, or damaged.
Most storage facilities require customers to carry insurance to rent a unit. Homeowner’s insurance policies do typically cover items while in storage, but the coverage limits may be significantly lower than what you might expect.
Check with your insurance company to determine the policy limits, and consider purchasing additional insurance as needed. Extra insurance is a must for valuable items, and you may want to buy additional homeowner’s coverage to ensure you can replace all of your belongings if necessary.