House sitting is one of the best travel tips I can recommend. Did you know you could score accommodation for free or as little as AUD$30/year? Or if you’re giving the digital nomad lifestyle a shot, there’s a way you could stop paying rent indefinitely?
Yep. But what’s the catch? You’ll be house and pet sitting for people in exchange for a place to stay. And I really don’t think that’s going to put anyone out.
I first heard about this whole house sitting business one day at work. This lady was doing long term sits in the city I’m from in Australia. But after a quick Google search, I found out you could do this anywhere in the world. Anywhere.
For a night, or for six months or longer. Websites like TrustedHousesitters, MindMyHouse, HouseCarers.com and House Sitters America charge their users between AUD$30 and AUD$140 for an annual membership.
House Sitting And Pet Sitting
Once you apply to a house sitting website, you can then apply for house sits in your city, state or country, or that place you’ve been longing to go to in Mexico or France. You can look after loft-style apartments, homely homes in the suburbs and cabins on a tonne of land. Or even someone’s mobile home. There are ads where people don’t have pets—they just want their home to look lived in. But most people do have pets.
Cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, fish. And some people have iguanas. Of the 12 house sits I’ve secured since starting out, there was only one sit where the owner didn’t have pets. But just before I arrived, the lady adopted two Siamese kittens from a local rescue in Cincinnati.
Tips For Starting Out House Sitting
- Upload photos of you with pets. Try to avoid uploading Instagram-style selfies.
- List any traits you have that might impress homeowners – e.g. ‘I’m organised and reliable’.
- Talk up any house sitting you’ve done for family or friends.
- TrustedHousesitters lets people leave references on your profile. Think character and employment references. Ask your boss, workmates, or friends and family to write a few kind words to help you out.
- Similar to a job interview, if there’s something you don’t want the recruiter—or homeowner in this case—to see, make your social media accounts private. I always say I’m happy to link them to my Facebook and Instagram accounts, or LinkedIn profile if that’s what they’d prefer.
- Sign up for email notifications. Depending on the site, you’ll either get real-time notifications each time a property is listed against your criteria or most sites send out a daily email with links to the new sits.
- Read what’s expected of you during the sit. If it says you have to maintain a garden, ask yourself ‘Can I look after a garden? Or will I end up killing their plants?’
- Look for local sits first. You’ll probably secure a sit or two in your city before you get one in your dream holiday destination. Once you’ve got your first five-star review, it gets easier!
Reasons To House Sit
So what made me decide I wanted to do house sitting? Honestly, I’m not sure. But I’m glad I found out about it. While it’s not a conventional way to get around, it does make for interesting conversation when you meet people in the cities you’re visiting.
And where has housesitting taken me? All over America. My first house sit was in San Francisco over the Christmas–New Year breaks in 2017. And I spent last Christmas looking after a mountain sanctuary and the couple’s super affectionate cat in Boulder. I don’t like to think about how much it would have cost to stay in a place like this over the holidays.
In between those two Christmases, I got almost back-to-back sits during a two-month trip over July and August 2018. My most recent sit ended in January 2019 where I was looking after a pueblo home in Santa Fe and the lady’s feral-now-domesticated cat, Kitty Rumi.
What House Sitting Entails
It’s simple. As a house sitter, you’ll probably be asked to:
- Bring in the mail.
- Put the rubbish and recycling out each week or fortnight, or however often it’s collected by the city.
- Wash any dishes you use.
- Feed and clean up after their pet.
- Love their pet as if it was your own.
Some people might have outlandish chores, but I’m yet to encounter anything too ridiculous. You’d hopefully know about these odd responsibilities before you get there. If there’s something on the ad you don’t want to do, don’t apply.
It’s also good to keep the owners updated on how their pet’s doing or if there are any problems, pet-related or otherwise. Before the sit ends, I like to wash and change the sheets before the owner gets back. This has always earned me bonus points.
And there’s nothing worse than coming home and having to change your sheets. That’s the last thing someone wants to have to do after an international flight.
And what about a vehicle? I’ve seen ads where owners are happy for the sitter to use their car, but don’t assume you’ll get one. Because you probably won’t. My Cincinnati sit included a car. This wasn’t something I felt comfortable using, especially when we drive on the opposite side of the road back home.
Other owners have said I was welcome to use their bicycle, but I’m not a bicycle person. Another good idea is to ask about the home’s proximity to public transport. If there’s a bus or train line within easy walking distance, you’re set.
Is House Sitting Worth It?
Minding homes and pets have let me stay in some amazing properties in places I wouldn’t have ever considered visiting (like Cincinnati). It has saved me tens of thousands of dollars in accommodation costs over a 12-month period. That AUD$140 TrustedHousesitters membership fee doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?
I’ve met some great people along the way. I’ve sat for couples younger than me, empty nesters, single professionals, and quite a few artists and mental health professionals. I caught up with one couple from Seattle when I was back sitting for someone else last December, and I’m hoping to catch them again in June.
Not only have I remained in contact with about half of the homeowners, but some of them have helped me carve out a possible new career. They’ve encouraged me to start documenting my house and cat sitting travels. They were so impressed with the photos and footage I captured of their cats, they said I’d be silly not to share my stories online.
Other House And Pet Sitting Websites
The websites I’ve mentioned are ones I’ve used and got sits through, but there are heaps of other ones out there. Another big one is Nomador. Nomador seems to be more popular with, and for, Europeans. It also has ‘Nomador Stopovers’ where travellers making their way from one destination to the next can stay at someone’s place for free. Kind of like couchsurfing, I guess, but only for one night.
Another website focused on pet sitting is Rover. You have to be an American resident or citizen to use Rover, and sitters get paid unlike with many of the house sitting websites. But, hey, I’m not complaining about doing this ‘work’ without being paid!
There are also country-specific sites like House Sitters Canada and Aussie House Sitters. If there’s a certain country you’d like to visit, try Googling the country with ‘house sitting ’ and see what comes up. Other people have mentioned finding sits on Facebook groups. I haven’t done this and I’m not sure how I feel about it. But if you’re comfortable with sorting out a sit through social media, and not through a house sitting platform, then go for it.
House sitting is a very cheap and lesser known way of traveling the world, and I highly recommend you use it to see some new destinations!
We hope that this article has inspired you to think about house sitting. If you have any questions about pet sitting or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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Read More About Working Abroad
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