How to House-Sit Around the World and Live Rent-Free While Traveling
Summer is in the air (in a large part of the world), and with that comes wistful pangs to sneak away from your open-plan office, get on a plane, and never look back. And you should — but the money goes quick. House-sitting is a great way for you to see the world while saving on accomodation.
But how do you get started, and what the hell is house-sitting, anyway? I spoke with house-sitting expert Jema Patterson about the best and worst house-sitting sites; how to write a profile that will get homeowners to choose you; and other crucial info you need to get into house-sitting.
Subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast to hear the whole story. (Apple podcasts | Stitcher | Google Play). I’ve highlighted essential tips here (Not into house-sitting? Here are some other ways to save on travel accomodation).
What is house-sitting?
“I think most people would define it as taking care of someone else’s home, and probably their pets, while they’re away,” Jemma says. “It’s important to remember that house-sitting is not just, ‘I got a free place to stay.’ You’re doing someone else’s life for them.”
What should I do if I'm interested in house-sitting?
Think about why. ”You’re helping other people with their lives, so if you’re not excited about that, you probably won’t have a lot of fun.”
Get experience. “Homeowners need reassurance. You can just reach out to your friends and family and tell them, ‘I want to start doing this house-sitting thing, you guys are going away for the weekend…I’d be happy to watch your dog.’” Another way to get references: dog walk. Platforms like Rover can give you experience looking after pets and help you earn cash.
Join a house-sitting platform. “Don’t commit to a platform until you find a house-sit you really want.”
House-sitting websites: what are my options?
TrustedHousesitters. “Everybody was raving about TrustedHousesitters, and I think they’re the worst platform,” Jemma says. “I think they nickel-and-dime people. And they are $117 last I checked, which is double some of my favorite websites… And, functionally, trying to find a place to house-sit…it’s awful. They let homeowners make these profiles that say, ‘I’ll need a house sitter some day,’ so you might search, like, Portland, Oregon and go, ‘Oh cool, there’s 70 house-sits.’ Then you’re clicking through the ads, and it takes a lot of time because their setup is not good, and then you realize 68 of them are people who live in Portland that at some point in time might need a house sitter.” The price has gone up to $119 a year for house sitters.
HouseCarers. “HouseCarers is my favorite,” Jemma says. “I’ve never personally talked to the guy who runs it, but he has a super good reputation among all the house sitters…He hasn’t put his prices up in years, and he could easily start charging more. The platform is well done, though I do have to say that it’s old, I mean it’s been around forever.” $50 annual fee for house sitters.
Nomador. “It is free for your first three contacts,” Jema says, “The other thing that Nomad does that nobody else does, or at least not that I found, is they let you have a quarterly membership if you want. So I think it’s really cool that they kind of just let you do this tasting fee. And then, because they’re newer, they have a really pretty website. They do a really good job, as good HouseCarers I would say, with having all the information really quickly visually accessible, so you’re not digging through ads, And they protect house sitters. I think this is really critical. Another site that I don’t like is housesitter.com…other house sitters I know are getting spammed. Nomador protects house sitters — they won’t let homeowners click around and look at house-sitting profiles unless they’ve had their identity verified.” $35 per quarter or $89 annual.
House Sitting Academy. “These cool Australian women train up house sitters, and they really talk about how important it is to be service-minded,” Jema says. “They’re really small, like, they only let 10 people in at a time, so they have time to give individual attention to every person and answer every single question. The Academy not only talks about how to become a house sitter, but how to market yourself.” After you graduate from the course, you get access to a Facebook Group of existing house sitters who share house-sits they’ve been offered but can’t do. $297 for lifetime access (prices recently went up).
What should I include in my house-sitter profile to give me an edge over the competition?
Put yourself in the homeowner’s shoes. “Think about what you would want to hear.”
Answer the prompts. “I’m shocked at how many people just have a two-sentence, ‘I’m Tom and I like dogs and would love to house-sit for you sometime.’ Don't be that guy. Talk about your experience with pets. Did you have them growing up? Do you have favorites? If you’re an animal lover, say it: ‘I’m gonna spoil your pets like crazy. I’m working from home. I’m going to be coddling them all day long.’”
List special skills. “I’ve never owned a home, but I certainly know what it’s like to take care of property. Are you handy if something breaks?”
Describe traits of a good guest. “Do you tend to get the dishes done? I don’t know if I’d go mentioning that If I didn’t, but if that’s the truth, say that.”
How difficult is it to find a house-sitting opportunity?
“It’s quite competitive, especially if you’re wanting to do it in, like, London or something like that.” Even if it’s not in a really high-demand area, Jema says a six-month house-sit in a place like rural Minnesota could be highly desirable for full-time travelers looking to take a break from always being on the move. So...take your time in building your profile and follow the steps above on how to stand out against the competition.
I scored a house-sit! Now what?
Listen to the Postcard Academy podcast for the questions you need to ask your hosts and other tips for a great house-sitting experience.
If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 7 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.