A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO HOUSE SITTING
Our digital nomad lifestyle means it’s not unusual to call café or patio table the ‘office’ but as I reach for my steaming coffee, I hear a nasal squawk. A flamingo ruffles its feathers on the other side of the fence, warily eyeing a peacock as it struts by.
We’ve been house sitters for a week but our new home still strikes us as rather exotic.
The idea sprouted after reading an article about an Australian couple who saved up enough for a mortgage with one year of house sitting. This led us to a site called TrustedHousesitters and, a couple glasses of wine deep, we signed up for the yearly membership on a whim.
By 3 pm the next afternoon, we were Skyping with a British couple living in Portugal. They needed house sitters to look after their dogs. Somehow, our TrustedHousesitters profile stood out. There was a lot to take in during the call — that the stint was 2.5 months long, that we would have our own house on the property, that there was a pool and aviary of endangered birds on the premises, and that there were nine dogs to care for.
We said we’d think about it and hung up the phone. We were curious about house sitting and suddenly had an offer for the mother of all house sits.
As we talked it through, there were many reasons to say yes. The house sit began shortly after our Ljubljana apartment lease ended. It offered nearly 3 months of rent-free living in Portugal, a country that was on our shortlist before we chose Slovenia. Last but not least, nine dogs were counting on us for cuddles.
What is house sitting?
House sitting is just one of many ways people travel (and sometimes work) on a shoestring.
House sitting is the practice of residing in and looking after another person’s house while they are traveling. The home owner entrusts their house to the house sitter in exchange for taking on responsibilities ranging from pet sitting and general home maintenance to discouraging intruders with their presence. House sits are mutually agreed upon and can be arranged directly or brokered by third party sites.
What A house sit entails
While each house sit is unique, here are some of the responsibilities you can expect to take over as house sitters:
Reside in the home as a measure of security
Feed, walk, and look after any pets or animals on the premises as if they were your own
Water the plants and garden
Check mail, receive deliveries
Clean and maintain the property
Stay in communication with the owners and report anything worth mentioning
Odd jobs and any additional duties that the homeowner and house sitter agree upon
What are the perks?
Live rent-free. Generally speaking, house sits offer a period of rent-free living. Some also cover monthly costs like water and electricity.
Care for cute animals. They often involve spending ample time with dogs, cats, or other animals.
Experience new places. House sits can introduce you to new places or bring you off the beaten path. More importantly, they allow you to experience a place as a temporary local. This can offer a unique window into other lifestyles and cultures.
Save money. Freelancers and digital nomads who line up a house sit can save a larger portion of their income.
Travel longer for less. House sits can decrease the cost of travel, lengthen travel stings, and provide a much-needed break from hostels.
Be an artist in (someone else’s) residence. If you need to tuck yourself away to finish your book or clear other (paying) projects from your plate so you can focus on your own projects, house sitting can offer the right environment for creative endeavours.
There can also be a wide range of specific perks, depending on where you’re staying. In our case, we are residing in a guest house on the premises instead of the main house, leaving us in a modern bungalow that looks out into the hills. We’ve had the opportunity to learn the ropes and bond with the animals before our hosts depart. Staff who visit the property to feed the birds and oversee construction are on hand to help in case of emergencies. We also have free use of a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and Skoda yeti for grocery shopping. Specific perks will vary from house sit to house sit but for now, we’re just appreciating how lucky we are!
Is house sitting right for you?
House sitting is a big responsibility — it entrusts you to care for someone else’s home and pets as if they were your own. While there are many perks, aspiring house sitters should consider whether they’re ready to accept the various responsibilities associated with house sitting before pursuing it.
There are many resources online that help describe what house sitting entails. Dig into online resources, dive into first-hand accounts, and put yourself in the shoes of those house sitters.
If the concept of house sitting appeals to you and you find a potential gig, it’s also important to consider whether that particular house sit is a good fit for you. Consider the location. Is it urban or rural? Do you need a visa? Can you speak the local language or get by? Consider the animals too. Are you a dog person or cat person? Do you actually have experience looking after horses?
House sitting isn’t rocket science but it is best suited for dependable people who are willing to take on—and keep up with—their given responsibilities.
Where to find a House Sit
You may be interested in a house sitting gig — but where on earth do you find one?
Some lucky folks have scored a house sitting gig by word of mouth. But your odds of finding a gig are better if you’re willing to house sit for a stranger. Luckily, there are a few reputable websites that connect home owners with house sitters.
TrustedHousesitters ($130) Ideal for house sits in the UK and Europe and kicking off in Australia and North America
Nomador ($) Ideal for house sits in Europe and has a ‘Stopovers’ feature that works like couch surfing
MindMyHouse $ Decent number of house sits and clean website
House Carers $ Ideal for house sits in Australia, New Zealand, and North America but website is harder to navigate
We can personally vouch for TrustedHousesitters (not an affiliate link). Though the membership fee is CAD $130 per year, we found a discount coupon online (TrustedHousesitters even offers discounts directly on their website from time to time).
TrustedHousesitters also offers an Insurance Backed Guarantee. This means that they automatically cover all members for property damage, theft, and public liability up to $1 million through Royal Sun Alliance, adding peace of mind to any house sits booked through their site.
For those of us who are living nomadic lifestyles, traveling on a shoestring, or simply wish to get a taste of home ownership, house sitting is something to consider. What’s not to love about seeing new places or making new connections with people and animals?
If you’re curious to learn more about house sitting, here are a few more resources that may help:
Want to make an irresistible house sitter profile and nail your interview?
Want to do an amazing job on your next house sitting assignment?