Many people have been asking about housesitting in detail. Wanting to know more about what is involved and how to get started. This is a great way to reduce your costs while travelling. I have personally done it twice and highly recommend it if it is done the right way. And what is the “Right Way” i hear you ask….?
Imagine sitting comfortably in a cosy sofa, hot chocolate or coffee on a side-table near you and in front of you a bay window with views of the surrounding valley. Out the window you see lush pine trees, a beautiful blue sky and the reflection of the nearby lake. On the lake is a boat that you have free access to and in the garage is a 250cc yamaha motorbike.
This is a scene from our last housesitting gig. We had two months of no rent, no power or water bills, free access to all amenities ( a house, a boat, a motorbike, a kitchen) and all we had to do was keep the house safe and in good order. Just imagine, this could easily be you.
If it sounds like something you would love to try then keep reading.
Housesitting will not only save you bucket-loads of money in free accommodation but you also gain a unique set of experiences that you just can’t get any other way.
Now, many people think housesitting is just for the long-term nomadics that sit from one house to the next, zigzagging their way around the world. That idea can’t be farther from the truth. In fact, there are many opportunities that cater for all types of travellers. Some sitting jobs range from a few days to a few years. Our shortest stay was 3 weeks but I know people who have housesitted for a weekend.
How to Become a House Sitter
If you’ve never house-sat before, the best place to start is with your own connections. Query family, friends, and colleagues about the possibility. Chances are good that someone within your network will be away from home soon. House-sit for them to learn the ropes.
With at least one good house-sitting reference under your belt, you’ll have a better shot at convincing a stranger across the world that you’re worthy of their trust. There are several good house-sitting websites out there to match homeowners with house sitters (all have membership fees):
TrustedHousesitters.com ($60 annual fee) — The largest site on the web, and also the fastest growing with the best functionality. It’s heavy on UK and European house-sits but is also gaining ground in Australia and North America.
MindMyHouse.com ($20 annual fee) — Low fee to join, a good number of house-sits, and a well laid-out website. Jobs are primarily in North America and Europe.
Housecarers.com ($55 annual fee) — Plenty of good house-sits with a focus on Australia, New Zealand, and North America, but a poor website structure that is difficult to navigate.
Caretaker.org ($30 annual fee) — We have had no success on this site but know others who have. Note that this is the only website where you can’t browse through available house-sits online. You need to pay the annual fee, and the opportunities are sent via newsletter.
When reviewing available listings on the above websites, choose carefully according to your own desires based on location, timing, and other needs. The key to finding one is flexibility in your plans: rather than searching for a house-sit in north London for the first week of August, widening your search to all of London and for a week during any time of the month will increase your chances greatly. And once you’ve seen some house-sits that are right up your alley, be sure to have these basics in place:
A killer profile — This is your face to all the potential homeowners, and if it is well written and up-to-date, you may have homeowners contacting you directly rather than posting their job (this happened to us once). Things to include:
- Experience: house-sitting or as a previous homeowner
- Pets: Exude your love for all things furry, or scaly, and slimy, if applicable. The large majority of house-sits include pet care of some kind.
- Special skills: Do you speak foreign languages? Do you have a green thumb, or are you handy with tools? Be sure to outline those in your profile.
- Enthusiasm: Lots and lots of enthusiasm for this newfound “career” goes a long way.
Opening email — When applying for a specific job, you have the ability on each website to open with a message that will accompany your profile when sent to the prospective homeowner. The key to a good opening is brevity while highlighting important information, and of course, using lots of enthusiasm.
Pay close attention to the listing and draft your email according to specific details. For example, if they have a dog, make a comment on how cute he is and that Schnauzers are your favorite creatures on four legs.
Be Speedy — When the six-week house-sit opportunity in Manhattan was posted, I applied within the first few minutes of it going live. I had exchanged emails with the homeowner within the first hour and shared a virtual handshake over Skype within a day. Attractive house-sits go fast. Being one of the first to apply can greatly increase your chances of getting it. Sign up for email alerts in your desired areas or follow along on social media to be one of the first to know what’s available.
References — The most important thing that homeowners will look at it is your references. Have quality people lined up to vouch for you, and if you have no previous house-sitting experience, consider asking the following: former landlords, old neighbors, or bosses, or anyone who can attest to your character, reliability, and trustworthiness.
One good reference leads to another job and another good reference. And once these start to stack up, potential homeowners will be highly inclined to work with you, and subsequent jobs will be much easier to get. One of the house-sitting websites (Trusted Housesitters) allows reference letters to be housed directly online, but you should otherwise have them compiled and ready to be distributed with ease.
Be sure to ask a lot of questions. In the beginning, it’s easy to get overly excited about the prospect of living somewhere exotic for virtually free and forget about the finer details of the job. Ask the homeowner a lot of questions: Can you have guests? Can you leave the property overnight? Is there a vehicle? Will there be Internet? You don’t want to be blindsided with rules or surprises when you arrive.
How to Be a Good House Sitter
There’s no question about it: house-sitting is a job that needs to be taken seriously. In exchange for a free place to stay, you’re being asked to take care of someone’s worldly possessions.
Most times you’ll be able to kick back and soak in your good fortune, but there will be moments when you have to work for it.
The key to getting a repeated number of house-sits is to do an excellent job each time and stack up virtuous references.
- Treat the house with the utmost respect. Return it to the homeowners in as good — or better — shape as when you arrived.
- Stick to the homeowners’ guidelines on correspondence, how to deal with mail, instructions for pets, etc.
- Be prepared to deal with adverse situations like chasing dogs through muddy fields and disposing of a dead chicken. Bad things can (and probably will) go wrong at some point. Be sure to have emergency contact info on hand, and be honest with the homeowners about anything that comes up.
We may have had our share of difficult moments, but the incredible experiences we’ve gained by house-sitting have far outweighed them. In exchange for chasing dogs and disposing of rats, we know people who tell us of how they discovered first-hand how the Turkish are the most generous and hospitable people in the world. And while cleaning up after a nasty storm in Honduras, another couple told us how they became close friends with a local lady, and later were named the godparents of her child.
We’re always a little surprised that more people don’t know about, or take advantage of, the opportunities presented by house-sitting. It’s not just about the money-saving aspect, but the ability to live like a local in a new corner of the world. Whether you’re going away for nine days or nine months, this can be a great way to do something different during your trip. It’s become our favorite way to travel, and we bet it could be yours too.