Once you've confirmed that you'll be visiting the U.S. on our Work & Travel USA program, you'll need to find a place to live. Although InterExchange cannot secure housing for you, we've listed several resources on this page to help you find housing.
Make sure you read your job offer agreement closely, to understand whether your host employer has arranged housing for you or if you'll be required to secure housing on your own. You can also take another look at the InterExchange online orientation and review the helpful hints about housing in the U.S.
While some employers are able to arrange housing for you, many are not. So in most cases, you'll be responsible for finding housing that is inexpensive, comfortable, safe, and close to your work site. We encourage you to ask any potential landlord a list of questions to help ensure a safe and secure living situation. For jobs where housing is not arranged, you'll want to do research to find housing months in advance of your arrival in the U.S. The tips and resources on this page can help with this process.
Even if you've secured your housing in advance, you may find that the housing isn't immediately available when you arrive in the U.S. You should come prepared to stay in a hostel for a few days until your housing becomes available. Hostel.com is a helpful resource for finding an affordable, temporary place to stay.
Housing options vary across the USA. All cities and even most small towns have apartments available for rent. Larger cities have more options, including apartment sublets, rooms for rent, homestays, and university-style dormitories.
Renting Renting an apartment by yourself will provide you with the most freedom; however, it can also be very expensive.
Share A cost-efficient way to live in an apartment is to share it with other people. You agree to divide responsibilities and payment of rent and bills.
Sublet Another option is to sublet an apartment from a tenant who leaves for a period of time – a few months or longer. You assume the responsibilities of paying rent and bills and the original tenant assumes all responsibilities under the lease.
To rent, share, or sublet an apartment, you are typically required to provide a photo ID, a letter from an employer with salary information or proof of sufficient funds from home, bank account information, and checks/travelers' checks.
Dormitory-style apartments and university housing
Dormitories typically have a greater sense of community and social interaction and will allow you to meet other students. Most often, dormitory-style and university housing will require you to share a bedroom and bathroom with other individuals. Most dormitories also provide essential housing needs, such as furnished rooms, Internet access, kitchen and laundry facilities, and, in some cases, even meals.
Homestays offer participants the opportunity to improve language skills and sample American culture in a unique way by living with an American family. Participants will typically have their own bedroom and arrange to take an allotted amount of meals with the family each week.
Hostels are great for temporary accommodation while you look for something more long-term. Hostels typically require you to share a bedroom and bathroom with other residents, but they also provide opportunities for meeting other young people and making friends.
Ready to get started? Keep the following information in mind as you look for housing and start viewing potential apartments or residences.
Resources – Where to Look
- Start by talking to your employer about the area where you will be working and the neighborhoods they recommend: What are the best websites, newspapers, or other resources people in the area use to look for housing?
Refer to some of these websites:
- Rent Direct.com
- Educational Housing Services
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- Roommates can be found through word of mouth once you arrive in the U.S. or through websites such as Roommates.com.
- Some roommates like to write a contract in order to delegate all responsibilities and outline how space will be shared; it is recommended that you do this before finalizing housing with roommates.
Questions to Ask
- Cost of housing per week or per month?
- Cost of housing deposit? Refundable under what conditions?
- Is housing arranged by employer?
- If yes, employer-owned or third-party owned?
- Is housing an apartment, house, or motel?
- Is cost of housing deducted from paycheck? If yes, pre-tax or post-tax?
- How many students per room?
- How many beds per room?
- Are male/females living in the same accomodation?
- How many people total will be living in the housing?
- Do tenants have a lease?
- Are utilities included?
- What are transportation options from housing to job site?
- Cost of transportation?
- Is transportation arranged by employer or third party?
Know your rights and what you've agreed to — read your lease!
- Safety should be a high priority when looking for housing. The best thing to do is visit a neighborhood before moving there.
- Many students share housing with others during their stay in the U.S. Even though it is a good way to save money, it can also lead to overcrowded and unsafe living conditions. Exceeding the maximum occupancy of your apartment or house violates safety rules and increases the likelihood a fire. Please check your housing/lease agreement and occupy your living space accordingly.
Common fire hazards also include:
- Improper use and maintenance of gas stoves
- Electrical systems that are overloaded
- Flammable liquids
- Fireplace chimneys not properly or regularly cleaned
- Electrical wiring in poor condition
- Matches, lighters
- Electronic and electrical equipment
Use of barbeque
- Fire codes are adopted by the state or local jurisdiction. For your local fire department contact information visit: usfiredept.com/usa-fire-departments-listings.html
- Find out which utilities (heat, electricity, water, cooking gas, cable, Internet, etc.) you are responsible for paying, as it varies depending on the city and accomodation. You can get a list of local utility and cable companies from your landlord.
- Cable, Internet, and phone services can often be purchased together from one company. Assess what is most important to have at home before buying a monthly package, as they can be expensive.
- Find out whether there is easy access to public transit.
- Will you need a bike or are most things within walking distance?
- Will you need a car?
Average monthly housing costs really depend on location, the type of housing, and what is included (furniture, utilities, etc.). Shared housing can range from $80-$120 per week, but the cost will vary depending on your location. To find the average rent price in your area, please check the Fair Market Rent cost.
A security deposit (equal to one month's rent or more) as well as first and sometimes the last month's rent are due when you sign your lease.
Often, a one or two year lease is required when renting an apartment. We advise you against signing long-term lease agreements. Depending on the housing arrangement you select, we recommend that you try to negotiate a shorter lease or a month-by-month lease. This is important in case you need to leave the U.S. early; there may be a fee for leaving before your lease ends, so be sure to discuss this before signing a lease or housing agreement.
You will be able to find both furnished and unfurnished housing options in the U.S. A furnished room or apartment will often be more expensive, but it can also help to reduce the costs of purchasing furniture and apartment necessities after you arrive.
If you need to furnish your apartment, you can find inexpensive furniture and kitchen supplies at places like Wal-Mart, Target, IKEA, or K-Mart.
For more information, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions.
Fraudulent housing schemes take advantage of people who aren't prepared to identify fraud, especially on the Internet, so you must conduct your housing search carefully. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. This will allow you to see the property and meet your landlord/lady without requiring you to wire large sums of money to someone you have never met. If you absolutely must secure permanent housing before arriving in the USA, it is recommended that you look for an established university or residence facility rather than an individual apartment owner.
The Federal Trade Commission stipulates some telltale signs of fraudulent housing:
They want you to wire money. There's never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, or first month's rent. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.
They want a security deposit or first month's rent before you've met or signed a lease. It's never a good idea to send money to someone you've never met in person for an apartment you haven't seen. If you can't visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm it's for rent. If you don't know someone who can do this, wait until you are in the U.S. so you can visit housing locations yourself. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the landlord and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that's a clue it may be a scam.
They say they're out of the country, but they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or "agent" working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Be skeptical, and don't send money overseas. If you can't meet in person, see the apartment or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking.
Please check out the following websites for tips on avoiding fraud:
Also read this blog from another InterExchange participant who was the victim of a fraudulent housing offer from an agency in her home country.
Please also read our guide to Protecting Yourself From Fraud, Schemes and Scams and Theft.
Your housing must be safe, affordable, and located at a reasonable distance from your job. Do not agree to live in overcrowded conditions that can put your safety at risk or violate housing laws.
Whether your employer is providing housing or you arranged accommodations on your own, it is important that you clearly understand all the rules and regulations related to your housing. Ask your employer or landlord for a clear explanation of housing rules, in writing whenever possible, to avoid misunderstandings during your stay.
If you need to pay a housing deposit, ask for a printed receipt and make sure you understand the conditions under which the deposit will be returned. Treat your accommodations and neighbors with courtesy and respect. In some places, laws may prohibit excessive noise between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. (Hours may vary.)
Make sure to read all contracts and agreements before signing or paying a housing deposit! Avoid paying hefty fees upfront for securing housing/rent. Be on the lookout for scams and rip-offs for housing.
Please check Rentometer to find the average rent rates in your area.