Cheapest way to conduct long-distance job: apartment lease or hotel?
August 25, 2009 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Long-distance job: should I just stay at hotels, rather than leasing an apartment?

I have a job (on the academic semester) that requires me to be in Baltimore three days per week during term time. Right now I'm leasing an apartment in town (work is in Catonsville), but it always grates on me having to pay rent during the summer when I'm not there, just to keep the apartment. Doing the math, it seems like it would be cheaper over the course of a year to stay in budget hotels out near BWI airports (I'm thinking of Days Inn and the like, to be safe & clean). Relative costs:

Apt: 1000 a month. Required lease to hold it, even though I'm not in town during summer/breaks.
Parking: 160 a month (I park in a garage downtown - it's a safety thing).
Cable/internet: 65 a month.
Utilities: say, 75 per month averaged out.
Total: 1300 per month, =15600 per year.

Hotel: say, 70 per night for 3 nights a week = 210 per week.
Many budget hotels offer free breakfast, parking and internet.
Here's the bonus: because it's only during the semester I'm looking at say, 32 weeks per year, plus 4 extra weeks for random stuff like meetings etc.
Total: 210x36=7560 per year.

Even allowing a couple of extra grand for unexpected costs/having to stay longer/etc it looks like I could easily save 6 or 7 grand a year. As an added bonus, I could charge the hotel stays to a cashback or rewards card (whereas I can't really do that with rent).

I've considered added stress but I'm already pretty mobile psychologically - the apartment is really just a place to sleep and prep classes/grade/etc. It doesn't seem to affect my teaching, at least if evaluations & student feedback are any indication. So, aside from the hassle of having to book ahead, am I missing anything? Or is this just a dumb idea?
posted by media_itoku to Work & Money (25 answers total)
Er, I should add: I'd rather stay in a hotel than have a roommate. I'm too old for all that drama ;-)
posted by media_itoku at 12:40 PM on August 25, 2009

Don't forget to add in added food cost if your hotel room doesn't have a kitchenette and do you need laundry while you're away from your primary residence? That's an extra cost if you don't have a washing machine on-site.

Is there a reason you wouldn't sublet an apartment during the summer?
posted by amanda at 12:44 PM on August 25, 2009

And subtract the cost of all the furniture, bedding, and other crap you need to maintain an apartment.

I'd go with a hotel, no question, and you'll get a nice rate if you arrange a package of many dates in advance.
posted by rokusan at 12:45 PM on August 25, 2009

What about food? If you're the type who eats out all the time anyway then it's not a big deal. But if you like to cook, you'll have to learn some hotel cookin'.

Personally I'd go with the hotel. Then you don't have to worry about household expenses like cleaning and toilet paper. And if you book through, you get 1 night (up to $400) for every 10 you buy. You could reward yourself with a nice vacation afterwards.
posted by mrsshotglass at 12:47 PM on August 25, 2009

--- I promise I'm not a shill for, just a frugal/savvy traveler.
posted by mrsshotglass at 12:49 PM on August 25, 2009

I think that's a great idea - especially since you've got maid service with staying in a hotel. There may be other amenities that you could search out such as a weight/workout room, pool, arcade, hot tub, etc. that come with a hotel.

Also, there are long-term type hotels that come with kitchenettes. My husband stayed in one for about 3 months while he was in the Baltimore area (I don't remember the name of). It had a pool and other amenities. What was really nice, too, was that they had an appetizer hour each day. Kind of a buffet type thing for those who stayed at the hotel. It was really simple, but at times he counted that as dinner.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:49 PM on August 25, 2009

How about the commute time / cost from the hotel vs the apartment? That's an unknown variable.

Also, the hotel/motel will have 13% tax on top of the rate, so the real numbers are $69 room = $8420, $79 room = $9641.
posted by smackfu at 12:50 PM on August 25, 2009

Be sure to consider that the hotel cost may fluctuate seasonally. Presumably you can beat or reduce that by booking well in advance.

Rokusan said to "subtract the cost of all the furniture, bedding, and other crap you need to maintain an apartment," but I think that is only relevant for crap that you don't have given that you already maintain an apartment and therefore probably already have most of those things.
posted by onshi at 12:51 PM on August 25, 2009

Been doing this for three years now. You can do way better than $70/night if you're willing to move every week or so. For this, you want 2 star hotels -- fewer incidentals and more likelihood of a kitchenette. Though lately I've been doing 3 stars, at a bit less than $70/night, including incidentals. Mefi-mail me if you want more tips.
posted by orthogonality at 12:52 PM on August 25, 2009

Seems like the hotel is a home run. Definitely go with one that has kitchenettes - even if they're a bit more expensive, you'll probably save on food, and it'll definitely be healthier than eating out all the time.

Try a few different places, and once you find a place you like, work out a special deal. If they know you'll be staying 100x/year, they'll probably be willing to give you a nice discount.
posted by wholebroad at 12:56 PM on August 25, 2009

Many hotels will give a discount for pre-determined & reliable stays. For example, sometimes renting a hotel room for five workdays is actually cheaper than for three separate days. Ask/Bargain per your situation.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 12:59 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Extended stay hotels such as Homestead / Studio Plus / Extended Stay America specialize in this kind of thing. They have kitchenettes, on-site laundry, limited housekeeping. Their long term rates are usually in the $50/night range, and they're often quite nice, although it would be more like $70/$80 if you pay by the night for 3 nights at a time.
posted by eschatfische at 1:00 PM on August 25, 2009

Sounds like a hotel would be a good choice, assuming cooking isn't an issue. But another possibility would be instead of renting your own apartment, what about renting a room? The proverbial little old lady renting out one of her rooms seems like it could be a nice balance between the benefits and drawbacks of your own apartment versus a hotel room.
posted by 6550 at 1:01 PM on August 25, 2009

The upside to the downside of paying for the apartment when you're not there, is that your stuff is there. If you need a home away from home, an apartment can be that; a hotel can only be a bed and shower; you'll have to bring in (and out) everything that makes it homey. If that's OK with you (and 15 grand a year might make a lot of OK-ness!), the hotel sure wins. If you value coming back a place that feels more like it's yours, you'll have to put your own $-value on that.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 1:40 PM on August 25, 2009

I would look into what kind of rate you might get from Homewood Suites, which is out at the airport. I've stayed there, and it was nicer than some places I've lived. It's more expensive than a Day's Inn, but you can mitigate that with HiltonHonors points and perhaps some direct dealing with the place.

You'd have a full kitchenette and a separate room to work/goof off in as well as a fitness center (with pool) and a communal printer. I think the separate rooms will help a lot-- single hotel rooms are confining, doubly so if it's a budget hotel.

You know what you can tolerate, but if you can pay less than list, the Homewood Suites at BWI would be very good.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:38 PM on August 25, 2009

I've done this twice. For me, it was a financial wash between the hotel w/kitchenette and the apartment, renting month-to-month with furniture and utilities included. From a personal comfort perspective, it was a no-brainer.

Having the apartment meant that I didn't have to drag a full suitcase back and forth across the country every week, and then spend my precious weekend time with my family doing laundry getting ready for the next week. I could leave food in the cupboards, fridge or freezer over the weekend and not have to worry about only buying food (even non-perishables) in a quantity that I wouldn't waste after four nights. I had an Internet connection that didn't suck ass - and most hotel internet connections do, which meant that I didn't have to rack up big cellphone minutes trying to stay in touch with my wife and daughter back home.

What I would do in your situation is to look at corporate-type housing. I used a company called Preferred Corporate Housing for my last go-round with this, and was rather pleased.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:43 PM on August 25, 2009

I like what both Mayor Curley and deadmessenger are saying -- I personally find it hard to get work done in a hotel room. I don't know why. Something about the bed facing the teevee and the tiny desk makes it far more likely that I'll veg out rather than do any purported work that I should be getting done. An extra room or a more home-like atmosphere with a corporate apartment or actual apartment seems better to me.

Also, it's unclear whether you'd still need the garage rental -- that sounds like something that is at your daily destination? If so, that'd still be in the matrix.
posted by amanda at 4:36 PM on August 25, 2009

Maybe you can find some kind of happy-medium. I have seen a lot of places on Craigslist and the like that cater to people who need short-ish term apartments...weekly or monthly.
posted by radioamy at 4:54 PM on August 25, 2009

I personally wouldn't be able to do this. I like to be in a space that is mine, with my furniture, stuff, etc. Or at least, the same furniture over and over again rather than a series of hotel room ensembles. Also, are you eating out all the time? If not, are you factoring that in? Even with kitchenette hotel rooms I bet you would end up eating out more, or at least, I would.

As an aside, I think you could be doing way better than 1000+160 in Baltimore, especially if the apartment is just a place to sleep/prep/grade. I am paying 850 for a sizable 1-bedroom including parking (though not garaged; this really isn't necessary in all neighborhoods). This brings the total to more like 1000 per month; if you sublet your apartment for the summer, I would think that this ends up in the same range as hotels. A small studio should be even cheaper. Just glancing at craigslist and picking mount vernon at random, studios are more like 700. Charles village has a similar range, a little cheaper if anything.
posted by advil at 6:19 PM on August 25, 2009

My father has done this for 15 years, including several times in Baltimore. He typically finds a budget chain motel in a convenient location and works out a deal by the week that is typically 15-40% less than the rack rate (He says Maryland in expensive in general though for this).
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:26 PM on August 25, 2009

Hotel: say, 70 per night for 3 nights a week = 210 per week

Wait, where are you staying the other 4 nights a week, and won't that cost you money?
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:22 PM on August 25, 2009

I'd like throw my vote in with an extended-stay type hotel such as: Candlewood Suites, Homewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, or Residence Inn. They're all mid-level to nice chains that focus solely on guests needing a home away from home.
Most of them have complimentary, on-site laundry. Some of them also offer other perks geared towards people living away from home. Residence Inn, for example, also does grocery shopping. You can give them a shopping list, and they'll pick up everything and stock your kitchen with it, and they don't charge you any sort of fee for the convenience, they just charge your bill for what the exact cost is.
One intangible benefit to that kind of hotel is the workspace you get in your room. What somebody said about two separate rooms is definitely true. I stay in hotels about 25 days out of the month, and a hotel room with two separate rooms is like a breath of fresh air when it comes to sitting at a desk and getting things done.
But, the bad thing about those type of hotels is that for them, a guest staying as much as you do is the rule rather than the exception, so you probably wouldn't be able to get as good of a rate from them. Especially because, for most of them, somebody staying 3 days a week is actually the type of guest they DON'T want. They want people checking in and staying at least 7 days, preferably longer. If you went with something like a Days Inn, you could definitely talk to management and tell them how long you want to use the room, and they might cut you a great deal. Especially if you book directly with them as opposed to, etc.
posted by ComeUndone at 10:11 PM on August 25, 2009

Wait, where are you staying the other 4 nights a week, and won't that cost you money?

Presumably at his home which costs him whether he stays there or not.
posted by missmagenta at 11:00 PM on August 25, 2009

Presumably at his home which costs him whether he stays there or not.

Yes, I figured out that I'd misread it after posting that. I thought the apartment she was considering giving up was the only home.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:16 AM on August 26, 2009

I've done this. Hotel is the way to do it.

Stay in the same hotel every week. Here's why:
- Within a month or so the staff will offer to store items for you.
- If you ask, the staff will consistently book you in the same room(s). I like to be next the gym, no problem.
- You'll be accruing lots of credit card and hotel reward points and premier guest status. In my case, it was enough for a nice vacation.
- As for the long-term rate. You'll be surprised how much cheaper it is.

Here are the options:
Courtyard, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn are the Marriott brands.
Embassy Suites and Homewood are the Hilton.
If you're a Starwood/Sheraton fan, the Four Points is your best option.

Personally I love the Starwood hotels, but for long-term I'd go Marriott.
posted by 26.2 at 7:52 AM on August 28, 2009

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