Is ‘No Housing’ a Deal Breaker?

Caught up in the excitement of an overseas job offer, educators may be willing to overlook the inherent expenses and disadvantages of accepting an International teaching position that does not include furnished housing in the deal.

Security deposits add up fast! Think: apartment, utilities and internet. Shopping for household items such as a bed, couches, lamps, tables, and all the small stuff we take for granted back home (can opener, knives, forks, etc.) is not cheap. Before you know it you spent a full month’s salary, or more!

Schools know full well the costs associated with setting up complete households from scratch. They also know the legal and financial problems that often arise when dealing with local landlords who refuse to return security deposits and/or refuse to maintain their properties. Schools that choose to place the entire housing burden on teachers new to a country are schools that ISR feels take advantage of unsuspecting educators. As such, this may be a very telling indicator of what, if any, support you can or cannot count on from your school in the future, both in the classroom and outside of school.

The situation is further compounded when schools only pay a 10-month housing allowance, forcing teachers to pay out-of-pocket for the summer months or move out of their apartments. Apparently such schools place profit over the well-being of teachers. Additionally, teachers preoccupied with finding a place to live are not in a position to give 100% to their students. Everyone loses, except the school, which, of course, profits.

Is a lack of school-supplied housing a deal breaker? ISR recommends that teachers carefully weigh the pros, and especially the cons, of accepting a Contract that does not include furnished housing, or at least a stipend to cover deposits, furnishings and a school-trusted agent to personally help you find an apartment. Getting picked up at the airport upon arrival into your new country, dropped off at a hotel and told, “We’ll see you the first day of school,” has prompted many an educator to take the next available flight out.

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25 Responses to Is ‘No Housing’ a Deal Breaker?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Please note that in several schools in Russia they say they help with housing but that is not actually the case, you will find out after you arrive. Many teachers end up long-term in hostels or hotels at their own expense. Make sure to get the definition of “help” with housing. In Russia it is difficult for a foreigner to get a rental because the landlord has to complete paperwork each time you travel and must submit this documentation to provide the authorities with your known address upon return, even from a weekend holiday away. This law to be registered makes the owners of apartments, that teachers can afford, less willing to rent to foreigners unless they pay 20-30% more than a local would.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    Teachers should also be aware of what and where the school “ furnished accommodation” actually is. I recently returned from a contract in Vietnam where the school provided accommodation was extremely spartan and the school provided: a bed, a sofa and a TV only. Just the basics to live . The rest was up to the teacher to provide themselves. The teacher was also responsible for all utilities, service costs and getting wi-fi. Teachers are strongly advised to check out what the provided accommodation actually is.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. David says:

    Yes, my school left me with a non English speaking real estate agent, who was also expected to help me with phone, gas, electricity, bank, taking us to register with police etc etc. They had outsourced all responsibility. Her fee was about 1500 AUD, in addition to security deposits etc.


  4. mwalimu says:

    This situation is as short as it is long. I have had both situations, including once in the same school. In that school the Director had assumed that all the foreign teachers would be happy sharing a very large house. However he had not anticipated some of the problems that this situation can inflict so for the second year he gave us a choice : allowance or provided.

    What is crucial is how much support the school will provide eg. with agents / problem solving if you decide to go independent. Also important considerations come in whether you know the local language and culture.

    Situations very by region. Africa and China ( for cultural reasons ) may have their own accommodation ( and so you have no option ).
    In Europe most schools will not have their own accommodation.

    When you have any choice of where you live the crunch decider depends on whether :
    The salary ( including any allowance ),
    the housing choice,
    your knowledge
    are ALL adequate.

    Whichever way ( as in so much in international education ) your experience depends on whether you can trust your employer so use your ” horse sense ” ! And the best of luck !


  5. Jenn says:

    So I’ve taught in Europe, Asian and Central America and here are some tips.
    1. Don’t expect any school in Europe to offer housing or even much of any stipend as part of your package. These schools often pay the most comparable salaries (or more if you are paid in euros) to US salaries and they get droves of applications. Europe is where to move to assume a lifestyle not where you go to save money. If the salary is very low, even European schools who want good teachers offer a stipend, if they have low pay and no stipend you will NOT be working with professional staff. The European school where I worked left finding housing to us, BUT they had local staff help us look and negotiate best prices for rent and they covered other things like flights, kids tuitions and so forth.
    2. SE Asia, these schools should be offering housing or a GREAT stipend and a in-school staff member whose job it is to help you find and negotiate housing. If they don’t offer any of these things DO NOT TEACH THERE. Most schools in Asia are for profit and they make PLENTY of money. If they aren’t offering a great package deal and at least part of your salary in EUROs/Dollars then you will be working with international staff with little to no educational experience, degrees and who are drifting around the world picking up employment here and there to fund their partying.
    3. Central/South America – Many of these schools either own apartments near or on campus where they house teachers, or they rent apartments around the city and when one teacher leaves they just put the new teacher in that apartment. They either pay the full rent (most do) or they offer a stipend. If you want something outside of what they have to offer, they might pay for it, but you would have to find it on your own.
    *** Rule of Thumb in all areas – The less developed an area the more likely good schools will provide the housing, Most good and median schools everywhere provide some kind of stipend, it’s only the bad schools or incredibly high tier (think, London, Paris, Rome and not even every school in these places, some are helpful) that kind of leave you to figure things out on your own.
    ****HOT TIP – I find the best schools are the ones that even if you have to find your housing and they take the rent out of your pay, THE NAME ON THE RENTAL CONTRACT IS THE SCHOOL’s and not yours. A Landlord is far more likely to be responsive and less likely to screw you over if they think they will have to answer to the business you work for rather than you.

    Good Luck and Go Forth!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Mike JG says:

    My current school (Malvern College, Egypt) is about to replace its provided housing with an allowance, so this is an interesting topic to us at the moment. Teachers who currently are in school accommodation are having to move out next academic year. We expet a HUGE turnover of staff in June!


  7. mjmckay81432 says:

    I am new at international teaching but my school located in Southeast Asia has excellent housing. It is a poor nation and I suppose considered a “hardship” post so maybe that is an enticement. Our apartments are clean, spacious, fairly well furnished and within a short walk of school. The school takes care of any maintenance and repairs in a timely fashion and supplies potable water.

    As another poster mentioned, this is your sanctuary. I think decent housing is important to your mental health and stability. I would say housing is a deal-breaker for me…unless I knew exactly what was available from in depth research and others working there.


  8. Richard Levett says:

    Even better when you realise your “horel” offers half hour rates and is a well known brotheltel! I stayed one night.


  9. Sam Thompson says:

    It should be a deal breaker because it is a considerable extra expense and will take care of a significant percentage of your salary. In S.E. Asia,China & the Middle East, a housing allowance is pretty much standard but Europe is very different. Many European countries offer fairly average salaries (potentially exacerbated by a high cost of living) & this could make working in such an environment much less attractive.


  10. Nick says:

    There are all kind of factors to this. But for me one positive is if you like your location and after your first contract want to move to another school in the same city – perhaps to a bette school/top tier and conditions, you don’t have to uproot your family or yourself if the option to receive an allowance is available in the new role. So no, no a deal-breaker.


  11. Samuel says:

    It was not a deal breaker for me in a previous search that led me to Europe. However, my experience of finding housing and dealing with landlords made it a dealbreaker for my next job search. I turned down an offer in Asia that had a generous housing allowance partly because I didn’t want to navigate landlords again. I’m far less likely to accept a job where I have to deal with overseas housing.


  12. omgarsenal says:

    There are many European countries that have no provisions for housing allowances or arrangements but they pay big salaries which easily provide more than sufficient funds for selecting a good residence. Most Latin American and middle-Eastern schools offer accommodations or a housing allowance. I gather than most Asian countries also offer this assistance.


  13. Jacquie says:

    The best option is housing with a clause offering a reasonable allowance for finding own accommodation. After working at a school in Yangon where the house was a small dump with big gas bottles in grotty kitchens and concrete stairways and old furniture, I paid extra from my salary to get somewhere halfway decent. Didn’t stay long there. If schools provide housing, aways ask for pictures of the housing and exact details of where it is and research independently.Your home is your castle after .a tough teaching day.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Happy in Europe says:

    Many top schools in Europe do not offer housing or a housing allowance but they often provide generous “settling in” stipends, interest free loans to assist with security deposits and the assistance of a trusted realtor (or better yet, apartments “passed down” from teachers who are leaving). High salaries and excellent retirement plans can make up for the lack of provided housing. It is shocking to see how many other schools provide no settling in $$ or just a pittance. It will cost money to move, no matter what the “benefits” are.


  15. Anonymous says:

    I am older and wiser: it would be a deal breaker for me. But it would be stipulated in any contract I would sign. My experience described below was a good one.

    I worked for a very good company in Nanjing, China, a relatively expensive city. They provided a stipend (3000 RMB at the time, as I recall, though that did increase a bit over time, with inflation) but the kicker was that the contract stipulated “satisfactory housing”. They provided a liaison to help find what the teacher deemed to be satisfactory and negotiate the contracting process. My first apartment was cost more than the 3000 (gated high rises), but when I moved into a proper Chinese community, low rise, it was more to my liking, and 1000 RMB less. I was responsible for utilities at both places, both were furnished and provided basic kitchen wares.


  16. Mel says:

    I would recommend never accepting a job that does not include housing. It’s hard enough adapting to a new country. Even with a fully furnished house supplied, there’s always things you need to buy. Currently, my contract states fully furnished. And it is. But it’s not at all nice! We were not told about ‘hidden’ costs either such as having to pay for a ‘gardener’ ie a man comes and waters the grass nor were we told we had to pay the security guards! It’s been quite the surprise. This is not my first tour of international teaching and I thought I’d asked all the right questions. Let’s just say I’ve added a few to my list for my next work place 😊


  17. Anonymous says:

    No housing is a deal breaker. Many schools offer a housing allowance that doesn’t begin to cover the cost of a barely adequate apartment. Try to find out, in advance, what the rental market looks like if you consider accepting a housing allowance. Arriving only to find out an apartment costs double your allowance is terrible. I personally do not want to have to find a flatmate in a foreign country. Ask if housing allowance is a TAXABLE benefit. Also not cool to lose 35% of allowance due to taxes!


  18. Chris says:

    No, it isn’t a deal breaker. But all the cards need to be on the table so people can make an educated decision. Nothing worse than the rules changing mid way through the game.
    And it is all about choice. We moved somewhere with no housing, no moving, nothing because of the school and the location.


  19. Anonymous says:

    I worked for a school in Yangon, Myanmar and the happiest staff chose housing that WAS NOT provided by the school. The apartments that were owned by the institution were mold infested dungeons. The administration amounted to nothing more than slum lords in my opinion. Housing in Yangon was expensive, far away, and corrupt. However, if you scores a unit in the expat community it was far superior than the shanties that were provided.
    That being said, no housing period would be a deal breaker for me. I’d pick a contract that included housing with the option to take an allowance and find my own place. Regardless, the whole profession is turning into a mine field filled with weak leaders who hire millennial’s fleeing their student loan obligations. Whole thing makes me sick


  20. Anonymous says:

    Yes!!!! I worked (for a very short time) in China for a school that gave 2000 rmb for housing then sent teachers into a desolet mountain region where the ONLY available rental was 5800 rmb and THE TEACHERS had to sign the lease, gas. electric, internet… Everything in the teacher’s name. Now understand, these were the ONLY living quarters available… AND no air conditioning. I learned my lesson.


    • Pete Ska says:

      I worked in Tianjin. The apartment was provided by the school – adequate, but dilapidated (even if the building was only 4 years old!). However, all utilities were indeed on my name; what is more – they must have been paid in advance. I discovered this when the electricity was automatically disconnected, because I did not put enough funds. However, the final closing of all accounts was smooth – the school provided a solid assistance.
      I guess it all depends on your employer!


  21. Pete Ska says:

    Let’s face it – it all depends on the salary and the country. I had this situation (no housing provided) twice: in Switzerland and Cayman Islands. In both cases there was even no housing subsidy – just the plain salary. In both cases I was able to arrange a very satisfactory housing from Canada (my homeland). By the way, in both cases I had to pay my medical insurance. Still, I have saved more money, than in other teaching positions, in which both benefits were provided. However, at that time I was an experienced IB teacher – at the top of the salary grid.
    The bottom line: check your income, rental properties (this can be done on line) and take your decision!


  22. Bad house day says:

    I made the big mistake of taking a position in Guatemala that did not come with housing. There were 12 new teachers and each of us was staying with a different family while we searched for houses. Eventually the families got tired of the intrusion and 9 of us moved into the director’s house and slept on the living room floor. Teaching all day and house hunting in the evening and weekends is tiresome and makes preparing for the classroom difficult. I eventually found a house and made my way through the contract and the owners attorney. At the end of the contract, just like this article says, the owner kept my $850 deposit and claimed all sorts of damages, from rusty toilet seat hardware to peeling paint. Be wary of schools that leave you on your own to arrange for housing.


  23. wanderinjoe says:

    It is a deal breaker for me, as is no tuition benefits for my kids.


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