A house sitter takes care of someone’s home while they’re away. But, unlike vacation rentals and hostels, you don’t pay for accommodation. In other words, house sitting is possibly the best travel hack ever.
There are plenty of ways to find lodging on a Top Ramen budget. Like house swapping, hostels, and conveniently “reconnecting” with your high school friend who recently moved to the British Virgin Islands it’s a relatively inexpensive way to travel, but it has its own advantages. Namely, that it can be free and you can stay in a much fancier place than you’d be able to afford otherwise.
And, unlike house swapping via an exchange website or an international vacation home exchange, you don’t have to earn swap points or barter with your own home. This means you don’t have to worry about someone else doing weird things on your futon. What you do with the latest issue of the Economist and a cup of single-origin coffee is your business.
Keep reading to see if it’s right for you, discover the best house sitting websites, and find out how you can get chosen as a house sitter.
What Does a House Sitter Do?
When a homeowner goes on vacation, a house sitter ensures everything at the house runs like clockwork. Pet care often accounts for 80% of house sitting assignments. Your responsibilities may include walking the dog, singing to the parrot, and making sure their pet goat doesn’t eat the couch.
Before you accept a house sitting gig, make sure you’re cool with what the homeowner would like you to do.
House sitting duties might also include:
- watering the plants
- collecting the mail
- making sure the house doesn’t burn down
- designing elaborate booby traps to thwart the Wet Bandits
Can I Get Paid for House Sitting?
If you’re house sitting in a popular destination — say, cat-sitting in a slopeside condo in Jackson Hole — you may not get paid. The trade-off is that you’re saving big bucks on accommodation.
But you may earn a fee if you’re house sitting for a long period of time, or if you’re caring for multiple pets. Sites like Mad Paws, Pet Cloud, and The House Sitting Company offer house sitting gigs for around $20 to $60 per night.
How to Become a House Sitter
Becoming a house sitter isn’t hard. If you think you have what it takes, start asking around to see if anyone you know needs their pets or plants watched while they’re away.
If your friends and family don’t need you to watch their pets and home while they’re away, there’s someone who does. But how do you find them?
1. Sign up for a House Sitting Website
If you’re serious about scoring free lodging as a house sitter, sign up as a member of a site that specializes in this. Most charge an annual membership fee, but the fee will generally run you around $100, or the cost of a single night in a hotel.
Here are four of the best house sitting sites:
- Trusted HouseSitters ($119 annual fee; $7.49 a month) — This site features more than 1,500 house sits per month and is probably your best chance for landing a luxury gig if you’re trying to land something like a five-bedroom house in Malibu with a golf course in the backyard.
- Nomador ($89 annual fee; $35 per quarter) — Nomador has one of the highest number of European listings. If you’re not ready to sign up, you can apply to 3 locations before they require you to join and pay the annual fee. Listings tell you the square footage of the home, the size of the property, and how many animals you’ll be caring for, so you don’t run into any surprises. (Oh hey, that cute Provencal house is also a working goat farm! Mon dieu!)
- Housecarers (Free 3 month trial; $50 annual fee) — This reliable site has been around since 2000 and focuses on house sitting gigs in Australia, New Zealand, and North America. It also lets you filter by assignment and length of stay, which is ideal if you’re taking a one-week vacation because your boss won’t let you take a six-month one.
- Mind My House ($20 annual fee) — This inexpensive house sitting site offers a good number of sits in North America and Europe. With fewer members, there’s less competition for assignments.
2. Stand Out With Your Online Profile
You’re not the only one who wants to sleep in a cave house in Greece for free. Here are a few tips that can help you land a gig.
- Create a stellar profile — Include a photo, and highlight any special qualifications you have. Did you spend a summer working as a plumber’s apprentice? Can you speak six languages? Now is the time to mention it.
- Send a personal message — Instead of a generic “I’m interested” note, read the description and address their concerns with a personal note. Explain, for instance, that you’re an avid hiker who can give their Border Collie plenty of exercise.
- Spruce up your online presence — Any responsible homeowner is going to do some social media stalking, so post those shameless pet selfies on Instagram (and delete that pic of you drinking vodka straight from the bottle).
3. Be Prepared to Apply
- Have references ready — The homeowner is probably going to want them, so start calling in favors.
- Be speedy — The best house-sitting jobs go fast, so apply to the one you want as soon as you spot it and respond quickly when the owner messages you back.
4. Make Sure The Home Is a Good Fit For You Too
- Set up a video interview — Chatting in real-time can help you get a sense of whether you’re a good fit. It also gives you a chance to feel out any weird/dungeon vibes before you arrive at a stranger’s house.
- Discuss the details — Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do they have WiFi? Are you allergic to cats? Are they near public transportation or is there a vehicle you can borrow? Is their Burmese python friendly?
- Make sure you have the right documents — Popular house sitting destinations include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the UK, which means you’ll need a passport if you don’t have one. Check visa requirements for the destination country, too. With a North American passport, you can travel up to 90 days in most European countries on a tourist visa.
How to Be a Great House Sitter
There are a few key qualities that can help you cement your reputation as the kind of Very Responsible Adult a homeowner can trust to keep an eye on their Bondi beach house for a week or two. (This is when you leave Chad at home to play beer pong.)
Do it right, and you might be able to ask them to be a reference when you apply for your next gig.
- Be a genuine animal lover. Remember, you may have to snuggle multiple pugs.
- Follow their schedule. If they ask you to walk Archie at 5 a.m., that means you have to be up by 5 a.m.
- Be honest about your qualifications. Don’t sign up to tend someone’s greenhouse if you can’t even keep a cactus alive.
- Respect off-limits heirlooms. Cool that they own a vintage 1965 Strat, but do not be tempted to unleash your Jimi Hendrix impression on it unless they say you can.
- Leave the house in the same condition you found it. This is self-explanatory. If you break something, own up and offer to replace it.
- Actually watch the house. No matter how amazing the locale is, your priority is making sure the house stays intact. Keep emergency numbers at hand, and address any issues — like a leaky faucet or a power outage — ASAP.
- Lock the doors. But don’t lock yourself out. Especially if the animals are on the other side of the door.
Here’s few more tips from Traveling Weasels on how to be a great house sitter.
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