Free and Rewarding Travel: House-sitting
If you want to gain a more authentic experience in new areas while traveling for next to nothing then house-sitting may be for you. While we have been traveling long-term, we have entrusted people to care for our home and pets, and we feel it’s important to pay that forward. So rather than sitting in a sterile hotel room and only feeling like visitors, we live as the locals do and give back in the form of house/pet sitting.
As we are writing this we are sitting in a newly renovated farm-style home in central Florida. The wind chime sings as the breeze moves through on a sunny December day. The light pours through the front door and open windows while a furry cat is sipping some water. This type of travel is our style.
This all came together rather abruptly when we extended our long-term travel plans into South America. As is a theme in our travels, we wanted to learn and try new ways to stretch our budget and comfort zone. We had previously explored WWOOF’ing in Wales and England, and loved it so much we have a three-week WWOOF adventure slated for Peru. However, we wanted to try something new; shake it up a bit.
That shake has landed us in Florida for two weeks while we await our next repositioning cruise to South America where we will travel for six months. This house-sit has been a nice relief from our constant packing and unpacking, allowing us to fully recharge and do a little central Florida exploring as well. Below we break down how you can also travel for free through the crafty travel hack called house-sitting.
What is House-Sitting?
Whether you’re going on a two-day, two-week or two-month vacation there will always be a need for house-sitters. House-sitting is exactly what it sounds like: live in someone’s house while they are away. You get a vacation while homeowners go on vacation. It’s really not much different than being a baby-sitter, except no diapers and more relaxation.
House-sitting positions are available all over the world, with the tourist and coastal locations having a surplus of opportunities to earn free lodging. From expats looking to get away to your small-town business owner on a short Bahama trip, you can find a house-sit in almost any location.
Oftentimes when hosts are making their home available for a sit on TrustedHousesitters, or similar platforms, there will be some form of pet care involved. It’s a pretty amazing exchange: you watch their home and pets, while they allow you to stay in their home free of charge. Easy peasy.
Part of the experience of house-sitting is caring for someone’s pets. The type of pets can vary from fur to fins to feathers. Our current house-sit in central Florida is one where we not only watch the fluffy house cat, but we also tend to two dogs and a flock of twenty chickens. All of this with the homeowner’s car at our disposal.
As you are applying for house-sits make sure to read the listing carefully so you are not getting in over your head with animals you are unfamiliar with or not confident caring for.
Below are the popular house-sitting website platforms:
TrustedHousesitters.com ($130 USD annual fee) – We like this website for our own use. We have found many opportunities to house-sit using this website, and if you click the link above you will be given a 30% discount on the membership fee through our referral.
Nomador.com (free or $89 USD annual fee) – Nomador has the highest number of house-sits in Europe. We do not need it for our next travel adventure but it’s a legitimate option for European travel. Its unique “trust profiles” help lay a foundation of trust between homeowners and house-sitters.
MindMyHouse.com ($20 USD annual fee) – Low fee to join, a good number of house-sits (primarily in North America and Europe), and a well laid-out website.
Housecarers.com ($50 USD annual fee) – Plenty of good house-sits, with a focus on Australia, New Zealand, and North America.
A few questions to answer to determine if house-sitting is right for you:
1. Will you be comfortable caring for someone’s pet(s) for an extended amount of time? The length can vary but we have seen listings for up to six months. Whoa! Talk about real savings and a real commitment. Make sure to request plenty of pictures to ensure you have a good idea of the quality of home you will be occupying.
2. Does the added pressure of being responsible for someone’s precious pets and home keep you up at night? House-sitting is a big commitment. It is much different than your AirBnb pad or hotel stay. You are actually tending to someone’s private life while they are away. That comes with a degree of pressure and responsibility. Knowing who to call in an emergency, how to tend to an injured pet, and what to do in the event an appliance springs a leak are all part of the job. By no means would you be required to solve these problems on your own, but knowing who to contact and being resourceful in these types of situations is imperative.
3. Do you mind living in someone’s home with all their worldly possessions surrounding you? It can be a bit of an adjustment to live in another person’s home. At this point, we are able to jump right in, not needing much time to feel comfortable. However, you’ll want to consider this if you are a first time house-sitter; it can be a bit awkward in the beginning. Perhaps trying this in your hometown may be a good first step if you’re unsure of your comfort level in another person’s home.
Here are some tips to help you land your first house-sitting job:
1. Descriptive profile – Have a thorough profile with many pictures, character references, and any optional background checks available. Just imagine a stranger will be living in your home with all your worldly possessions and your beloved pets; it can be a quite worrisome ordeal. So, make it as easy on your host to trust you as possible. We have gone so far as to have a YouTube video on our profile so hosts can see we are actually real people. Your profile is going to be the first thing a hosts views and how they decide if they want to move forward with you as a potential house-sitter. You want to make a great impression, especially if the house- sit is in a highly desired location. Take your time completing your profile and go the extra mile. Note that couples can create one joint profile on most house-sitting sites and hosts do not typically object to having more than one person complete the job.
2. Sign up for a reputable house-sitting website – We like TrustedHousesitters because there are many hosts looking for sitters on this platform around the world. Their membership fee is high, so you’ll want to make sure you are serious about this before signing up. Part of the appeal of this company for hosts is the high membership fee. It essentially tells them that member house-sitters are serious about sticking to their assignment and caring for the home.
3. Check the website often – When we are looking for a house-sit in a specific area we begin our search months in advance. We make it part of our morning routine to check the location and dates. Making a prompt inquiry into a potential house-sit is important. It communicates a willing and responsible message to the host, helping them to feel secure in your ability to care for their home and pets.
4. Demonstrate how resourceful you are – Hosts will want to feel confident in your ability to solve problems should they arise. There may be times when your host is out of cell phone reception so requesting an emergency contact list beforehand would demonstrate that you intend to be the person who solves problems, not one that makes problems.
5. Include character references – These really speak volumes to your commitment and integrity. Try to mix it up by requesting references from friends, family, colleagues, and clients. Having a good sample of character references will allow a host to get to know you through the eyes of other people who trust you.
What can you expect as a house-sitter?
Each house-sit will vary, but your main responsibilities are to make sure everything is in order at your host’s home and that the pets are being cared for properly. This is the primary expectation most hosts have.
However, it can get muddy, dirty, and stinky at times especially if you are dealing with farm animals or untrained pets. Keep a positive attitude and focus on the money you are saving on your vacation in these moments.
A list of questions to ask your host:
1. Do the pets have scheduled feeding time?
2. Do the pets have any medications?
3. Should any visitors be expected during the house-sit?
4. Are there any areas to avoid in the neighborhood/city?
5. Will the host provide Homeowner’s Guidelines detailing their preferences?
6. Are there any areas or belongings that are “off-limits” in the home?
What is expected of you as a house-sitter while you are on the job?
Everyone’s expectations will be different, but all hosts will desire good communication. Keeping in contact with you hosts by providing daily or weekly updates is a nice touch to your house-sitting reputation. We like to send updates with pictures of the pets. It’s a kind gesture and gives a host more peace of mind that their pets are being cared for properly.
You may undergo an interview process; videochatting is something we have participated in and a great way to receive a tour of the home before you arrive. There are times when you will arrive to the house-sit after the host has left. Having a video interview is a great way to get a lay of the land before arriving, and providing you with the opportunity to see where all the essentials are at (e.g., pet food, modem, breaker box, house keys, ect.).
House-sitting comes with its challenges but we are so very happy to have discovered and participated in this travel hack. It puts you directly in the heart of a neighborhood, living like the locals, and offering intimate insights into different ways of living.