Q&A FOR HOUSE SITTERS
What does a house sitter do?
People use house sitters to look after their home, possessions and pets while they go away. This might be for a couple of nights, a weekend, a week, or a month or more. Whilst looking after the home and keeping it secure is key, most people use house sitters as an alternative to boarding their pets. It's considered much better for the pets to keep them happy at home, following their normal routines, being looked after by other pet lovers.
Can anyone house sit?
Yes, potentially, anyone can house sit, but there are some reasons why it might not work for you. You really must enjoy the company of pets and take the responsibilities and house sitting duties seriously, this doesn't fit in with everyone's expectations of a vacation, or lifestyle option. However, we know successful solo sitters, couples, families, people with their own pets - all who house sit internationally around the world.
Does a house sitter sleep in the property?
Yes, in most cases of unpaid international house sitting, the house sitters live temporarily in the property. One or more bedrooms is made available, and it's generally expected that the living areas, kitchen, garden, etc. are all made available. In some cases the home owner may allocated rooms (such as a study), "off limits" and even lock that space, but it's quite rare in our experience. All this can be discussed before accepting a house sit.
How do I begin house sitting?
As we most things, the more research you do the better chance you will have of securing house sits in your location of choice. There's plenty to read on this website and in the House Sitting Magazine back issues - all of which will better prepare you and inform you of the best practices employed by successful sitters.
Do house sitters get paid?
There are several different models for house sitting. Some people house sit for free, some charge, and some use a mix of both - charging in their home countries, but when overseas, they sit for free. One reason for this is that if you plan to charge in another country you might need a work visa. Usually people begin as unpaid house sitters to build experience. Once you have some experience and a profile that shows this, you may think about changing to a paid model, if that is something you feel would be of interest. But free or paid is fine - it's all about what works for you.
Why don't most overseas house sitters charge a fee?
Because house sitting is a value exchange. Home owners offer free accommodation in return for looking after their home and beloved pets. This exchange is usually built around trust (not money), which is at the heart of the international house sitting community. Overseas house sitting could also incur problems with immigration if you charge and don't have a work visa. And for some of us we prefer to be a part of the sharing economy and feel that charging would change the expectations and overall dynamic.
Are websites the same for paid and unpaid house sits?
Not generally. The house sitting websites (often called "platforms") that we work with and recommend on this site are built around the exchange model where money doesn't change hands. This is a grey area though. TrustedHousesitters, for instance, will not allow you to advertise if you charge, and your membership can be revoked if you are found to do this. Other sites aren't so strict and you'll see that some people do make a charge. For the sites that fully promote the business model of charging for services, look at companies like Rover.com or Pawshake.com. You'll find many others if you search on the internet.
What about tips or gifts?
It's best not to expect anything. The value exchange is that you get free accommodation, utilities paid for, WiFi (mostly), and sometimes a car, in exchange for giving pet care and keeping the home secure. However, we have found that home owners frequently leave gifts, or "tips" to help with expenses. Monetary tips seem to happen more in the USA where the culture is of tipping, in the UK and Australia we've found food and drink gifts much more common. It's quite for home owners to provide a meal the evening before they leave as part of the handover process. It's a chance for the pets to get to know you with their owners around and for you to get to know the owner better. Many new friendships are made through house sitting!
Is my food provided?
No not normally, except in extreme cases where a home owner decides that would be a particularly generous thing to do. However, it's usually accepted that any refrigerated perishables can be used up (it's wasteful otherwise), but we still always ask on handover.
Can I house sit with my own pets?
Yes you can, but you will find less sits available. It will depend very much on how socialized your pets are. It often helps if you start locally and can visit potential home owners - you can build up a "pet reference" base to accompany your own profile and references to reassure potential owners. It seems to be more common in countries like Australia, but on some sites you'll find a filter for "pet friendly" sits.
Can I house sit with my family?
Most definitely yes. Most of the main international websites now have a "family friendly" search filter.
You'll find some inspirational and informative posts here on family house sitting:
Do all house sits have pets?
No, but it's only a small proportion that don't have pets - when we last calculated it was around 2% of all available sits. Often sits without pets will have other duties involving security, staff or ground/pool maintenance.
Short term holidays or long term travel?
House sits vary in length from just a few days to many months. A long term sit is generally considered to be a month or more and you'll usually find these are advertised well in advance as they involve some planning by the home owners. Sits of 1-3 months are quite common across the sites, but longer term sits are fewer. In countries like the United Kingdom and Australia, you'll find a lot of long weekend sits available as people make last minute travel choices for short breaks. This is a great way to get started and build up your references.
How do I know which house sitting platform to use?
This will depend very much on where you want to house sit. There are both international and country-based websites that you can join. We use a mix of both depending on where we are in the world.
Many are free for home owners to list their adverts but some, like TrustedHousesitters and HouseSitMexico, charge for both sitters and home owners. We feel this shows an equal level of commitment, with less adverts placed as a "let's just see what happens" type of approach, only to decide against using unknown sitters.
Here are 2 articles to help you decide which are best for you. The second contains all the discounts we have negotiated for our House Sitting Magazine subscribers and Facebook Group members, including 25% off TrustedHousesitters, 15% off AussieHouseSitters and all the other country-based platforms in that group (links open in a new tab).
Q&A FOR HOME AND PET OWNERS
How can I trust strangers in my home?
We like to think that by the time a house sitter arrives to look after your home and pets, they are more than strangers. The process of house sitting involves building trust, and that is done by getting to know the people you choose. Typically this will involve a video chat (an informal interview to make sure you all have the same expectations), possibly a visit if they live close to you, a handover process where you get to know your sitters better and have a relaxed period of time to explain the nuances of your home and pets. All house sitters who take their work seriously and with professionalism, will have your home and pets as their primary concern. Sitters are often selected based on the reference base they have built over a number of years... it would not be in their interest to abuse the trust placed in them.
Do house sitters stay overnight in my property?
Yes, they will live in your property while you are away. Your pets will keep their normal routines, and your home will maintain a lived in presence, further securing it against damage or theft. It is normal to provide your house sitters with a guest bedroom and bathroom for their use, with space for their clothes.
Can I close off any rooms in my property?
If you have a study or a bedroom you'd like to keep locked, that's fine as long as you let the house sitters know at the outset that only part of the property will be available. This is a trust based exchange, so usually it's enough to say that you'd prefer they didn't use or enter particular rooms, but it is usual that at least one bedroom, a bathroom, lounge, kitchen, dining space and any outside areas are left accessible.
Do I need to leave anything for my sitters?
At the very minimum it would be expected that you provide a safe, comfortable and heated (or cooled) space for your house sitters to live in while you are away. Bed linen and towels are generally provided and should be clean (usually house sitters launder bed-linen at the end of their stay). Heating and other utilities are paid for by you as part of the exchange as is WiFi and TV entertainment services. Think of it as having family to stay. It's important to provide access to an emergency fund should your sitters need to take pets to vets, or to cover a property maintenance issue in your absence. Most home owners suggest that house sitters use perishables from the fridge, but do not provide general food for the house sit. Cars are also negotiable and depend on how rural the property is, terms of insurance etc.
Do I pay my house sitters?
Using the international value exchange model, no... there is no monetary exchange. If you choose to tip or leave a gift, this is at your discretion. House sitters coming from overseas would need a work visa in most cases if they were being paid.
How long will house sitters stay for?
Anything from a few days to several months. For long term house sits, it's important to check that your visitors can get a travel visa for the period of your house sit.
How do pets respond to having house sitters stay?
It's well documented that vet's believe pets are happier at home. They get to maintain their routines, their favorite walks, the same food and treats, and generally it's a quick transition to them enjoying the love and care of their temporary carers.
How much notice should I give for my house sit?
Really, as much as is possible. Many full time house sitters get booked up many months in advance, so the sooner you can list your advertisement, the better it is.
What if my plans change and I have to cancel?
Obviously this isn't ideal for anyone, especially if expensive overseas flight tickets have been purchased. It isn't possible for house sitters to list cancelled house sits as a reason for a claim on travel insurance. So we always suggest that you only use international house sitters where a degree of certainty is involved. Of course medical emergencies can never be anticipated, and it is accepted that in emergency situations you might have to cancel or change dates. If you can help your sitter find alternative accommodation that is always appreciated, but sitters are encouraged to have a Plan B for these occasional events.