For the work-anywhere location independent professional who enjoys a few home comforts while they travel the world, house sitting is an excellent option for accommodation:
- It’s a cheap (often free) way to explore a new destination
- If you’re considering a more permanent move, house sitting is excellent for road-testing a destination
- You enjoy the creature comforts of a home
- You get to live someone else’s life for a while
In this guide, Leigh Haugseth introduces you to the basics of House Sitting…
House Sitting 101
What Does House Sitting Involve?
House sitting involves staying in another person’s home and taking care of their household as if you are the owners – you do this in exchange for living there rent-free. Occasionally, house sitters are paid although it’s rare with the assignments listed in the most popular House Sitting websites.
Why People Want House Sitters
Getting to live somewhere rent-free might sound too good to be true – it’s not! If you are chosen to house sit for someone, you should try to spend as much time at your house sitting assignment as possible. If you’re going to spend many nights away, then you’ve defeated the purpose of house sitting – the house needs to have its usual occupied appearance in order to deter criminals. This means that you need to be there to make sure that:
- Junk mail is collected & trashed
- Pets are walked and fed regularly so that they’re not lonely and bored
- Lawns and gardens are watered (if required)
- The answering machine is cleared regularly and messages are passed on
- Utility bills are paid so that services remain connected
Above all, it’s important to remain contactable while you’re there so that the homeowner can enjoy peace of mind while they’re away from their home. Also, homeowners love to receive written and emailed updates on their pets and the property on a regular basis – it helps to reassure absent homeowners that all is well.
As far as transportation goes, most house sits require you to provide your own. Although I’ve seen some assignments that do allow you to use a car or bike and many of the ones in bigger cities are near public transportation so it’s rarely an issue.
Can Anyone Be A House Sitter?
Yes, anyone can house sit. Some experience helps but it’s not necessary. You’ve probably house sat for friends or family before which counts as experience.
Some people that house sit full time – it’s a lifestyle and they jump from one location to another for years – it’s a great solution for location independent professionals who want the comforts of a home but don’t want to own or rent their own.
Many full time house sitters enjoy slow travel and rather than spending two weeks at a time somewhere, they spend two months or more. Some couples use house sitting in an ideal location as a fun and inexpensive way to spend time together or to test out a new location before they put down any of their own roots.
There are also those that just need a break from reality and want an extended vacation somewhere remote where they can get some peace and quiet. Whatever the reason, house sitting is a very cheap way to explore a destination without fully committing to it. And while a lot of these assignments are in more remote areas, there are plenty in medium- to larger-sized cities to go around.
Do I have to provide a security deposit?
The homeowner may ask for a security deposit to insure against damages to their property. This is a reasonable request. The amount and how it is paid should be negotiated between the homeowner and the house sitter.
In general, it should be relative to the length of the house sitting assignment and be no more than the equivalent of one month’s rent for a similar property in the area. Never agree to send anyone a security deposit in advance via mail!
Money should only change hands between house sitters and homeowners when everyone is together at the property just before the homeowners leave. Some of the house sitting sites have security deposit forms you can use.
How To Become A House Sitter
Step #1: Register on line
Register online at a reputable house sitting site (see the list at end of guide), pay a small annual fee if required and put up a profile and picture. Try to make the profile as thorough as you can and inject a little of your personality in there. It’s worth visiting a few sites to see which one(s) you like best – it can be a matter of personal preference.
Step #2: Pick Your Preferences
Most house sitting sites work in the same way:
- Think about where you’d like to go and when.
- Select your preferred dates, countries
- Think about whether you’d like to have weekly or daily assignments delivered to your in-box.
If you’re serious about finding a housesit, I definitely recommend you sign up to receive new alerts as it’s easier than checking for new assignments daily. Also, think about your life right now and when you would be available to house sit for someone. You may need to do a little planning with this but try to stay somewhat flexible if you can, as it will be easier to get assignments.
Step #3: Be Proactive!
Keep in contact with potential house owners who contact you and house sits you are interested in applying for. Having your preferred house sitting locations sent to your email box on a weekly or daily basis will help you be one of the first to respond and stay ahead of the competition.
Just joining a site and throwing up a profile will get you some responses but the chances of you getting the assignment you want increases greatly if you’re vigilant about keeping up with the latest assignments and updates on a regular basis.
Step #4: Network, Network, Network
You don’t necessarily need to rely on house sitting websites to organise a house sit either. Don’t forget to tell people you know that you are interested in house sitting – you never know which of your friends and family may know of someone who goes on vacation for three months each summer and would be interested in the peace of mind provided by a house sitter.
Many people don’t even know about the concept of house sitting websites, yet alone consider posting an advert for strangers to house sit for them – I know several people who have gotten assignments by word of mouth.
Top 3 Tips To Land Your Ideal House Sitting Assignment
Some house sitting assignments are easy to get, but not all. In fact, they can be quite competitive at times. Here’s how to stay ahead of the pack and increase your chances of winning your ideal house sitting assignment…
Tip #1 Have a Thorough & Engaging Profile
Fill out all the required information and more. Show some of your personality… people want to know what you’re like as a person so showing a little of who you are makes you feel more familiar to them before you even meet them in person. There is a better chance of someone choosing you if you seem like a real, down to earth and professional person than an unknown stranger on a house sitting website. Posting a great, smiling and friendly picture also helps.
Being somewhat flexible with when you are able to arrive and leave gives you a better chance of getting a house sitting assignment you really want. That great condo in San Francisco may not be available for the first three weeks of May, but it is available the first three weeks of June. How much do you want it?
Tip #2 Check New Postings As Often As You Can
Be vigilant about checking your favorite sites so you can stay on top of the latest postings. Some house sitting sites will let you have assignments in your preferred location sent to you on a daily or weekly basis. Check the box so it’s an automatic process.
Tip #3 Have Good References
Don’t worry if you don’t have references from previous satisfied homeowners who have used and enjoyed your house sitting services. References can also be from your estate agent or a former/current landlord. Basically the homeowner just wants to have some idea of who you are to reassure them that you’re not a wanted criminal in three countries or more!
Also, home owners can easily see which house sitters have references by doing a simple search, so it’s a good idea to have references to improve your chances of being contacted.
If you have your own personal blog or web site that you can point people towards, this increases your chances as well. I’ve found this to be very helpful and it helps establish a certain credibility. At the end of my introductory email, I simply mention my website as another way to learn more about me – this really helps reassure people I’m a person they can trust and ensures I offer something a little more than many people who apply.
Things To Keep In Mind
Be sure to interview your prospective homeowners. The bigger house sitting sites are generally very safe but it is still important to get to know the people you are house sitting for before committing to anything. You may want to consider talking with them on the phone or via Skype if you won’t be able to meet them before arriving.
Also, ensure that you let friends and family know where you’ll be staying – including the address and telephone number (and ideally a cellphone number). If you’re in a more remote area, make sure you know how to get back to the house if you go exploring and be careful walking alone at night.
One of the keys to a successful house sit is communication. You want to be clear and thorough in all your communications prior, during and after the house sit to ensure that nothing is missed. Homeowners usually like to hear how things are going while they are away so an email or call, depending on their preference, to assure them all is well will make you stand out in their mind as a reliable and responsible house sitter.
As a location independent professional, you’re highly likely to need a decent internet connection so be extra sure to check that the house you’re sitting for has this – and confirm it’ll be available for the duration of your house sit. Most of the assignments do provide internet; just don’t forget to double check and confirm the speed and reliability – if this is important to you. Some of the more remote areas may still be – gasp! – on dial up.
Many of the house sitting assignments ask that you care for their pets while the owners are away. Make sure that you are capable and truly enjoy the types of animals you’ll be caring for. If you are not a cat person, don’t accept an assignment looking after cats and try to just squeak by, by feeding them and not petting them. Many owners will want to know that their precious family members will be given the love and attention from the house sitter – and if you don’t really want to give this, let someone else do the job.
House Sitting Resources
Reputable house sitting companies/websites include:
This is a very reputable site and easy to navigate. It’s been around since 2005 and is $20 a year to join. I’ve done a couple of assignments from this site and had great experiences. They also have an extensive list of FAQ’s that are helpful. Not as big as a couple of the other ones but I like that – it’s less intimidating when you’re just starting out, and they have plenty of assignments. Most are in the US but there are several in other countries as well.
This is one of, if not the biggest house sitting sites – lots of people are registered here. When you put up your profile, make it a good one! There’s plenty of competition. On the upside, since it’s so popular and well known, there are a ton of listings by homeowners and they are updated frequently. Don’t be intimidated by all the people vying for some of these assignments – just get in there since you have just as good a chance as anyone.
Around since 1983, this is another big site that’s been featured on The Today Show in the US. It’s $29.95 a year to join and has assignments all over the world. On the website it states that assignments are available on ‘ranches, resort homes, retreat centers, camps, hunting and fishing lodges, vacation homes, and private islands.’ I haven’t used this one personally but it has a great reputation.
This site has home exchanges, rentals and house sitting for those in the academic community. It’s higher end and charges a fee in some cases. I found a few house sitting assignments that were free after digging a little deeper.
This is a smaller site for house sitting in the United States. There’s a $30 annual fee for sitters but it’s free for homeowners. I haven’t used it yet but it seems to be professional, safe and has some decent house sitting opportunities. You can browse the ads for free before joining if you want to check out what’s available.
This is a smaller site with house sits in luxury homes around the world. It’s $10 a month to join and a few even offer paid compensation. This one has a system which ranks each house sitter depending on feedback from homeowners. There are some truly beautiful homes available.