House Sitting: A guide to finding and arranging house sits anywhere
House Sitting refers to a home owner leaving their house in the hands of one or more “house sitters”. In exchange for free accommodation, the house sitter agrees to watch the home and any pets on the property for part of or the entire duration of the homeowners’ absence.
There are exceptions where the house sitter will be paid a small stipend or will be asked to agree to a security deposit or to pay a nominal fee. However, these are extremely rare and are only applicable if agreed upon by both parties involved.
Why should budget travelers house-sit?
The opportunity of a house sit not only allows you to save more money on a trip (whether you are budget minded or not) but allows for a longer and more “complete” stay in one place. As you’re living in another's house, you gain ample opportunities to explore the city, town or countryside in which you are residing in. This further allows for a greater understanding of the local culture and if you travel in order to see wildlife, a better chance to get that one special picture.
Another reason to house sit is the availability of an easier transition into travel mode. If you’re traveling with family and children, you’ll still be able to do all of the exploring you planned while being able to come back to a more homely atmosphere that most hotels are unable to provide. In turn, your vacation or long term travel will be more enjoyable for yourself and kids.
What if you’re not a budget traveler or even looking to travel the world? That’s okay. Many people decide to house sit for an entirely different reason all together: they are looking for a new place to live. If you’re interested in a particular country, region, city or town, sitting allows you to travel to that area, explore and make a more informed decision whether the move will be the right one for you.
Different types of house sits
As with any accommodation, the amount of different sits available are endless. An important thing to always remember when applying for a house sit is that not all are created equally. Some of the key distinctions are listed below:
Length of House Sit
From a long weekend to a few years, you’ll find it all. Most house sits fall in the 1-month to 6-month range with the possibly of a return sit the following year. Essentially, it depends on what the home owner is planning on doing. Are they going to see family out of town? Are they looking for a quick vacation to another country? Or do they have a second home somewhere else and need a house sitter on a regular basis?
As stated above, not all house sits are created equal. Some owners are just looking for someone to watch their house and make sure that no one breaks in, the mail is picked up and that the indoor/outdoor plants are watered. Others however, expect a little more out of the sitter.
Instead of kenneling their dog or cat, they prefer to have someone in the home operating in place of the original owner. In fact, most listed house sits have pets. If you’re looking for more of a challenge and have experience dealing with a wide range of farm animals, consider applying to a sit that involves horses, goats, chickens and more. In each part of the world you’ll find a few farms sits available that are a perfect way to live out your country living dreams.
House-sitting is available all over the world
In almost every corner of the world, you’ll find a few house sitting opportunities waiting for you. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Costa Rica, England and France are very active and you will almost always find two or more houses available at one time.
Other countries such as Thailand, South Africa, Ireland, Ecuador and Greece offer less availability but are slowly getting more and more involved in the community. One important thing to always keep in mind when applying for a house sit in another country aside from your own is the seasons. For example: If you live in the US and are planning on sitting in New Zealand, remember the seasons are opposite. Summer in the US is winter in New Zealand. The last thing you want to happen is arrive at your sit with a suitcase or backpack filled with bathing suits when it’s 20F outside.
Utilizing house sitting websites to get the most out of your money
Ok, so you’ve decided to venture into the house sitting world. Now you’ve just got to figure out what website to use, the yearly fees and how to use that particular website to your advantage. Below is a list of the most used and trusted house sitting websites available today as well as answers to commonly asked questions.
Which Websites Have The Most House Sits In Each Region in the World?
This varies year to year and season to season. All three have seem to have a fairly equal amount of sits available in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. TrustedHousesitters.com leads in Thailand, Greece, South Africa and Costa Rica. This is always changing as more and more home owners decide to join the community therefore making it your best bet to keep checking the websites for updated house sitting lists.
Should You Sign Up For More Than One Site?
Some people (myself included) only use one website for their sitting needs while others feel it is more beneficial to use more than one at the same time. What I’ve come to realize is that nearly every site lists the same exact houses in the same countries. Therefore the question begs- is it more efficient to register with one site or more? My answer? Just one will do, there is no need to spend more money to look at the same houses over and over again.
Should You Apply For More Than One House Sit At A Time?
This is a tricky one. There are many sides to this argument and thus, no true answer. In the end, it comes down to what you feel comfortable doing. Personally, I see nothing wrong with applying for more than one at the same time and have done so on many occasions. It is impossible to know if you are going to secure a sit or not and waiting on one home owner to respond to your application is counterproductive and will cause you to utilize the site in a less effective manner. Remember, the home owners review many different applicants each time they post a sit up; why can’t you inquiry about more than one house sit?
How to set up a house-sit profile that will get you noticed
Pictures (Profile And Supporting)
First impressions are vital in house sitting and should be taken very seriously. A good picture of you either out and about, in an adventure or with a pet (yours or another) is a great way to get noticed and pushed to the front of the pack. Avoid selfies, bathroom mirror pictures and the like.
An overview is basically a summary of who you are, what you do and why you are house sitting. Keep in mind that the owner is trying to get to know you as best as possible. The more details and information you provide, the more likely they will be willing to entrust their home and pets into your care. Did you go on an amazing hike last summer? Did you volunteer at an animal shelter? Do you go sailing? Any and all information about past and current activities should be shared, especially if you are applying for a sit that involves walking the dog.
This section doesn’t have to be nearly as detailed but it is still good to give a brief explanation of how you have made money in the past.
This one is up to you. There are no general rules stating that a reference has to be given. Many house sitters opt to leave references out of their profile and simply state that references are available upon request. This way, your references aren’t getting random calls or emails which in turn could cause them to forgo being a reference in the future.
How to apply for a house sit
Once you have chosen one or more sites to be a member of and have set up your profile, the next step is relatively easy. Every time you apply for a house sit, not only does your inquiry get sent to the home owner, but your profile as well allowing you to be freed from writing all of your information down again. It is important, however, to provide a brief explanation about why you are applying for that particular house sit and why you feel you would be a good fit. Also, if you have any websites (business or otherwise) that are conducted in a professional manner include those as well.
What Questions Should You Ask The Home Owner?
Depending on the sit, certain general questions should be asked. These are best asked after the home owner has contacted you back stating either that they are interested in you or have decided to pick you out of the pool of applicants.
Questions that should be asked include:
- What requirements are expected while caring for your pet? dog walking/medications/meal times (how many and how much food each time/baths).
- What requirements are expected of the house? maintenance/plant watering/snow shoveling (if winter)/ mowing.
- Is internet/cable/phone included?
- Does mail need to be picked up and if so where? mailbox/post office?
Should you draft up a contract once you receive your assignment?
Personally, I’ve yet to draft one up but can see how this might be necessary. In the end, it’s what will make you feel the most comfortable. If you do decide you would like one and the home owner declines, then take that as a red flag and move on.
What To Do Once You’re At Your House Sit – the Dos and Don’ts
- Follow sitting directions
- Clean house
- Take care of the pets and farm animals as if they were your own
- Keep the owner up to date if a long sit
- Throw parties
- Invite random people over
- Make a mess
- Neglect animals
- Disrupt neighbors
Your house sitting assignment is about to end, now what?
Your first house sitting assignment is about to end, congrats! Now all you have to do is make sure the house is clean and you’re good to go. If you still plan on traveling, by now you should have applied for another house sit or two and hopefully landed one.
All in all, house sitting is a great (if not the best) way to explore the world or a certain region in hopes of moving there in the future. For the budget minded travelers out there, sitting provides a great opportunity to get out of the hostels and cheap hotels and enjoy a little luxury.
If you’re traveling with kids, even better as they’ll have a steady place to come back to after their daily adventures. Becoming a house sitter not only allows for an easier time getting to know the locals and blend in, but looks great on your resume. Future employers want to know that you are dependable and trustworthy. House sitting proves that and more.
By Rachel Campbell
Rachel is an avid adventurer that can be found hiking or freediving and who travels the world via truck bed camping and house sits. She is also a photographer, writer and editor whose work can be found at TreePotTravels.com