Retired and dreaming of senior travel but have to watch your wallet? Why not consider house sitting? I’ve been a house sitter for years now and have had amazing sits in Europe and the USA. Along the way, I’ve made lots of new friends and I can only say that house sitting has been a very positive experience.
What is House Sitting?
House-sitting can be a dream comes true for both a traveler and a homeowner. House sitters can stay in somebody else’s house for free while looking after their pets. Homeowners can then travel without financial burden or stress of having to pay for pet care, and this can be beneficial for both parties.
Presently, I am house sitting in a gorgeous family home in California looking after three very independent cats. This house is easy to care for and very comfortable with a kitchen to die for. I do a bit of housework and water the plants. I basically treat it as if it was my home. A home away from home in a new country, a new city. I have all day to explore the local area, enjoy shopping in foreign supermarkets, visit museums, art galleries, and tourist attractions, and then relax as much as I want. Best of all, it’s free! Free accommodation! What’s not to like about house sitting?
Below, you’ll find some of the most common FAQs regarding house sitting.
Can Anybody Become A House Sitter?
If you’ve just been released from jail, you probably won’t be able to become a house sitter right away. You need to be a responsible, trustworthy person, as well as an animal lover as most arrangements involve taking care of people’s pets.
House sitting is popular for travelers, but also for those who may want to save money for a house deposit in their local area. Providing you have the right characteristics, house sitting can be a suitable gig for a person from any walk of life.
How Long Does A House Sitting Arrangement Last?
A house sitting arrangement can last anywhere from a couple of days to a whole year. They are usually to cover people’s holidays, so a couple of weeks is a common arrangement. However, you will likely find month-long breaks, too. Weekends and short business trips are also possible. It entirely depends!
How Can You Make Sure the House Sitting Gig Is Safe?
As a house sitter, both you and the homeowner will want to be sure you’re safe. You will want to make sure their profile checks out, and if you are both interested in working together, communication will be the next step. This can move on to Skype before a deal is made and you are hired for the job. You’ll need to make sure you’re 100% comfortable with the arrangement. When both parties agree, it’s a verbal agreement. The homeowner will usually want to see updates of your flight details and things to be sure everything is in order.
How Do You Go About Getting Your First House Sitter Assignment?
The best and easiest way to get your first assignment is by joining one of the sites dedicated to pet and house sitting. I first joined Trusted House Sitters and was lucky to get my first gig through them. It was a two-week sit-in Oakland, California with two cats. It was a very enjoyable two weeks and I was hooked.
Later, I joined Mind My House and I am still an active member of their site. I chose it because its joining fee is considerably cheaper than Trusted House Sitters. It may not have as many listings but I’ve still managed to acquire quite a few wonderful house sits.
Expect a joining fee of around $20-$100 per year for these sites. This is nothing in comparison to the money you will save on accommodation while traveling!
I did a one-week assignment in Andalusia, Spain in an off the grid property, which was slightly challenging but I really enjoyed the solitude. Another one, looking after two parakeets in a gorgeous property outside of Barcelona, which even provided a car. I’ve had assignments in the UK, France, and the Netherlands, where I will be returning this July for a repeat assignment. This family has become wonderful friends and that’s an added benefit of house sitting; you’ll have new friends all over the world.
How Do You Make An Attractive First Profile?
Your goals should be to make your profile as attractive and convincing as possible. You want reviews and testimonials so that other people know you are a good sitter. You can include interesting facts about yourself. Specifically, you should talk about how much you love animals and why you are interested in house sitting. Be transparent, and if you want to add something a little extra you could also add a character reference from a friend. Make it as long as you can and add lots of pictures of yourself – don’t forget to include pictures of yourself with animals. Videos will also be a big help!
Getting your first gig depends a lot on your profile. You don’t have any references or testimonials yet, so you need to make your profile as convincing as possible.
- Tell your prospective homeowner some interesting facts about yourself.
- Communicate why you want to house sit.
- Tell them about your love for animals and any experiences that you might have had.
- Explain what you can do for them and assure them that their pets will be loved and cared for.
- Reassure them that their home will be respected and returned to them as they left it.
As you have no testimonials at this stage, why not ask a friend to write you a character reference and add this to your profile.
Why Doesn’t The Homeowner Just Rent Or Hire A Management Company?
A house sitter is invaluable to a homeowner. Not everybody wants to worry about collecting rent each month or search for a tenant that they can trust. Many homeowners also want to be confident that they will get their home back as soon as they return from wherever they are going. A renter requires a lot of paperwork, and the homeowner will also need to claim the rental income on their taxes. Renters also want to find unfurnished homes to make their own, while the homeowner wants to keep their home the way it is. With a sitter, the homeowner can do this and avoid putting belongings into storage.
Management companies are a huge expense, and there’s always the possibility that tenants will leave mid-contract, further leaving the homeowner out of pocket. However, the biggest reason most want a sitter and not a management company is that they have pets they would like somebody who is good with animals to watch.
What Are Your Responsibilities As A House Sitter?
You’ve probably gathered by now that pet sitting is a big part of your responsibilities. However, you may be expected to do other things during your stay, but this all depends on your agreement. You might be expected to take care of a pool, mow the lawn, clean, and more. However, if taking care of the house is starting to look like a full-time gig, you would be within your rights to request payment.
Usually, a sitter is expected to treat the house like they would their family’s. You wouldn’t trash their house, would you? Clean up after yourself after preparing food, do the washing, and just take care of the space.
Of course, you also need to be prepared to respect the wishes of the homeowners when it comes to their pets.
What Are Pet Sitting Duties Like?
My feline companions at this time are Ella, Mico, and Guy. Ella and Mico are elderly cats of 16 and 14 years respectively. They are quite happy to sleep all day out on the deck and wander inside around sunset. They both like to sleep at the foot of my bed and are both adorable and easy to manage cats.
Guy is the newest addition to the family and is your typical teenager. I hardly see him except for when he’s hungry. He doesn’t sleep inside and so I imagine he’s out partying. He likes going to the basement which is also available to them at all times through an electronic chip activated cat flap.
Ella loves to be cuddled and often jumps on my lap. Mico doesn’t mind an occasional pet but he likes his space and freedom. As for Guy, he’s a free spirit and very hard to pin down.
My job is to ensure that their kibble bowl and water are always full and every evening I also feed them a tin of wet cat food. These cats aren’t too bothered about food as I guess its always readily available. I ensure that the litter box is clean but as they live mostly outside, it is hardly ever used.
Every couple of days I like to send the owners a photo or two of their pets and a short message just to assure them that everything is well. If I do have a query I can easily contact them by iMessage or WhatsApp.
What Is Expected Of The Homeowner?
A homeowner should welcome a house sitter like they would welcome a guest. Ideally, they will have prepared the space with fresh towels, fresh linen, and kitchen necessities such as salt and pepper. If the stay is longer than a few weeks, the homeowner may provide you with advice on what you can do to meet people – such as taking the dogs to the dog park. They might be willing to show you around the area, or at least write a quick guide to nice restaurants, where to find the supermarket, and so on.
Can House Sitters Invite Friends And Family?
You should always assume that this is not allowed. Some homeowners might make an exception, but you will need permission first. Others would also like to know whether they can take their own pets along with them. This is something you should always ensure is 100% ok before turning up with another pet in tow.
Is House Sitting Ever Paid?
In general, house sitters typically do not get paid. Both parties are benefiting from the exchange. You are providing care for the pets and security for the home in exchange for free accommodation. That seems a fair deal to me, especially in major cities like San Francisco, where hotel prices are high. Occasionally, there may be a long term house sit where the owners may ask you to pay the utilities but this is still a lot cheaper than rent.
How Much to Charge for House Sitting
Some sites you can charge homeowners for your services – just bear in mind that it might put some people off working with you for this reason, as many sitters will do it for free. It is only reasonable to request a fee if there are lots of extra responsibilities. Some who do charge may get upwards of $50 / day. It is also possible that the homeowner will give you a small ‘tip’ at the end of your stay, which could be $100-$300. Of course, this depends and should not be expected.
What Are The Homes Like?
Many of the homes are beautiful and have something unique about them. This is another great reason to do it – because you probably wouldn’t be able to afford to rent out a place like this if you had to pay for accommodation! You might sit in a penthouse apartment in New York, or a beach retreat somewhere exotic. You might not be getting paid for the gig, but staying somewhere luxurious for free can certainly make up for it.
What Countries Can I House Sit-In?
House sitting jobs are absolutely everywhere. Most jobs are in developed nations because there are more homeowners who can travel for extended periods. Europe, Australia, and North America are popular house sitting destinations.
Do You Have To Stay in The House The Whole Time?
You will be expected to stay overnight in the house you are caring for. The amount of time you’re expected to stay in the house each day will depend. Clear guidelines should be set before the arrangement takes place. Pet care requirements, the community, and homeowner preferences will all play a part. If you’re unsure, you need to be sure to clarify.
Is The House Sitter Expected To Supply Their Own Food?
Most of the time, yes, they are. Many house owners will allow you to help yourself to things like tea with fresh mint leaves and coffee, and some may even tell you to help yourself to anything you want. Just make sure you don’t expect this. It’s normal for house sitters to buy their own food.
Who Is Required To Provide The Household Items?
Pet food will be paid for by the house owner, and things like toilet paper and cleaning products should be fully stocked before the house sit begins. Obviously, you need to be practical in your arrangement. You can expect a homeowner to leave you a pack of toilet paper, but if they are gone for months on end, you will need to buy your own at some point!
Will You Need Your Own Car?
A car isn’t usually essential if you’re staying in a city. Some homeowners may include the use of their car, but this is quite rare.
Who Will Pay The Utility Bills?
The homeowner tends to pay the utility bills during the house sit. However, this doesn’t mean you should try to bump their bills up as much as possible while they are gone. Make sure they don’t have restrictions on how much data you can use and whether you can use the heating/air con or not. If it is a longer house sit, then an arrangement where the house sitter puts money towards the bills might be more common.
Do House Sitters Need To Clean The House?
Yes. Of course, the homeowner is usually most concerned about their pets, and they probably won’t ask you to be their cleaner. It shows bad manners to stay somewhere without cleaning it. You won’t build a portfolio of glowing reviews and testimonials if you’re not at least tidying up after yourself. Do the basic stuff, like dust and vacuum. You can have a bigger clean before the owners return if you wish.
If you have slept in the owner’s bed and they are returning later on in the evening, it might be nice of you to put the sheets in the wash. In some cases, the homeowner might hire a cleaner, but this isn’t always the case.
Are There Any Downsides To House Sitting?
Just like anything else, there are downsides to house sitting. You may encounter issues in certain situations, such as having to take a pet to the vet, or even discovering that they are not very well toilet trained. Some house sitters have arrived at a house sitting job to unwashed sheets and dirty houses. Some have even found moldy food in the fridge – usually, this is the case with younger owners. However, not all are the same. Some owners may even drop out last minute, like the day before the arrangement was due to begin. They may also come home early, although it would be unusual for them not to communicate this with you first. If the pets are noisy and used to sharing a bed with the homeowner, you may have trouble getting to sleep, too.
Sometimes, homeowners can be wary, especially if they have had a bad experience in the past. Some house sitters may not have spent as much time with the animals as they said they would, and they may even have left them overnight. They might want you to stay in touch with them throughout their vacation or trip so they can feel confident that everything is in order back home.
How Can You Make Sure You Get Glowing Reviews and Testimonials?
Once you have completed your first house sitting job, you will begin building your portfolio of reviews and testimonials. You can make sure they are glowing by always following the homeowner’s instructions and taking good care of their beloved pets.
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Keeping the house clean and restocking anything you use up, and being considerate for the homeowner’s return will also help you to get a great review when it’s all said and done. For example, washing their sheets and buying another pack of toilet paper/jar of coffee if they are running low.
Once you get your first assignment, you’re on your way. Even a single genuine positive testimonial has a big impact on ensuring that future homeowners will choose you. House sitting is such a rewarding activity in that it allows me to travel more, live like a local and enjoy pet ownership for a short moment in time. I’ve truly loved all the pets that have been in my care and sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye, but I know that there is always next year.
About the Author
Matilda Voss is a 62-year-old Australian woman living in the north of Spain. For the last 10 years, she has been teaching English in Turkey and Spain. She has traveled to 59 countries and has a wealth of solo travel experience. For the last four years, she has been living in the little known Spanish city of Logroño in La Rioja. This area is famous for its wine production and the many outstanding wineries.