Housesitting is a vacation and pet care concept that has become extremely popular over the past few years. In some countries like the US, Canada and Australia, it has been long established. More recently it has expanded into other destinations like Europe, Central America, Asia and even Africa.
The housesitting community is growing
Housesitting is a recognized alternative to a regular short term vacation and a great accommodation option for longer term travel. For some, international house sitting has even become a way of life. Individuals, couples like us, and even families, use it as a way to travel, live and work remotely while providing a valuable service to pet owners.
Home owners offer free accommodation in return for looking after their home and beloved pets. This exchange is built around trust (not money), which is at the heart of the house sitting community.
Housesitting also provides a way to live temporarily in a variety of locations around the world. But what we love most is the opportunity to really become immersed in the culture of another region or country.
As a house sitter you will get to live more like a local than a regular tourist. Importantly for most pet lovers, and as a welcome added bonus for all parties, you get to cuddle up with furry friends during your time away!
Housesitting is NOT just about free accommodation
Housesitting comes with responsibilities – it should NOT be seen as just an inexpensive way to enjoy a vacation. When we are housesitting, all our focus is on looking after the home and pets, and we see our “travel” periods as separate experiences.
Make sure you think carefully about any commitment that you make and consider it seriously!
Why do people use house sitters?
A vacant home is more vulnerable to theft or maintenance issues, and insurance companies generally prefer a property to be occupied when the owners are away for an extended period of time.
But pets are usually the most important factor when home owners consider using house sitters. There’s a reluctance to disrupt our pets’ routines by boarding them in expensive kennels and catteries. Especially when you can use a sitter to love and care for pets in your own home.
Home owners might be leaving for a vacation, for business or for family reasons. As well as pet care they may also need help with gardens, swimming pools, livestock or land management.
Make the most of your house sitting skills
If you have a specialist house sitting skill such as living in an “off-grid” property, then you may find yourself looking after some unusual properties, possibly in very exotic locations!
Before selling up, we used international house sitters to look after our home on this fantastic Panamanian island location. We needed someone with solar, rainwater collection and most importantly, boat handling skills!
Does housesitting always involve animals?
Looking after pets is the number one reason for using house sitters. You’ll generally find that cats, dogs or even exotic animals could become your temporary charges. This provides an important service to home owners.
For this reason it’s important to review your relevant experience, as well as how comfortable you are with looking after another person’s home and pets.
It isn’t for everyone – so maybe try a short local house sit before committing to overseas international house sit jobs.
It is possible to find house sits free from pet responsibilities, but the choices available are usually fewer. You may need to be a little more patient or be open to trying a wider selection of destinations.
Will I have free time to explore my new location?
Housesitting is often more about living and integrating into a local area, and not so much about traveling or sightseeing for long periods, away from your home base. Remember the home and pets are your priority.
There’s often plenty to do and experience in your local area, but think carefully about your expectations in this respect.
While cats are more independent, dogs cannot always be left alone for long periods, and they may not be well adjusted to traveling in cars. Short day trips away are usually fine, but you should always discuss this with the home owner before accepting an assignment.
Be clear about your own expectations and honest about these when considering a house sitting assignment. Otherwise, you could find yourself having a miserable experience.
The sharing economy – be part of a caring community
Over the past few years, there has been a growing emergence of collaborative websites, forums and person-to-person communication apps that encourage “sharing”.
Websites like Couchsurfing and AirBnB have revolutionized travel, as people open up their homes to both paying and non-paying guests.
On the whole it seems we love to share and be generous. Housesitting provides the perfect opportunity to be part of a sharing, trust-based community. Most house sitters offer their services and time for free in exchange for accommodation, utilities and sometimes even a vehicle.
It’s a win-win-win for everyone – homeowner, house sitter and the pets!
Forming house sitting friendships
Often a home owner leaves their home and pets to experience their own travel adventure. Knowing that people with the same life values are looking after their home, possessions and pets is extremely reassuring.
Friendships are formed, referral sits are common and all parties get to enjoy opportunities to travel further for longer periods and at a lower cost.
You’ll also find yourself meeting up with other house sitters as you travel. We use mapahub – a map based resource that allows you to connect and meet up with sitters all over the world. You can try it free for a month, to see who will be in the same location as you while you travel, not only now, but also in the future.
Where can I house sit?
Housesitting is commonly linked to expat communities. As people venture further afield to explore alternative retirement locations, they also have a need to return home for short to medium term periods to visit friends and family.
House sits can be found in both the countryside and popular city destinations, such as London, Paris, New York and Sydney. They can span anything from a few days to a few months, sometimes even longer.
Some countries are definitely more popular than others, but new locations are popping up all the time.
By the end of this year as long term house sitters we will have house sat in Australia, Fiji, England, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Botswana and Barbados. Next year we will be spending four months in St Vincent in the Caribbean.
With housesitting the world truly is your oyster!
How do I get started?
As the housesitting community flourishes, more and more websites are appearing for the purpose of matching house sitters with home owners. Some are international and others are regional. But each has their own unique features and services that suit the needs of everyone involved.
You may need to pay an annual subscription charge, and it’s often a good idea to sign up to a couple of different sites to widen your choices. However, the investment you’ll make is tiny compared to the savings on accommodation. Hotels, B&Bs or rental properties are often one of the most expensive elements of your vacation.
What else should I consider?
Becoming a successful house sitter is a bit like applying for a job. You need to “sell” yourself and your experience to the homeowner. As with any job application, the more effort you apply, the more likely you are to get the position.
You’ll need to think about these things too:
- Where in the world do you want to house sit?
- Is your passport up-to-date and will you need a special travel visa?
- Are you considering a location where flight costs negate the saving in accommodation?
- Which house sitting site is best for your specific needs?
Create an engaging profile
Creating an impressive house sitting profile is key to house sitting success.
Unless you’re meeting with the homeowners in person, your application letter and profile are the first impressions you give to them. They will either get you short-listed or rejected. Your application letter is your personalized introduction, but your profile is a carefully-crafted sales pitch. Besides looking professional, it needs to dazzle and delight homeowners
There’s a lot of information to help you with this on the house sitting platforms. But if you want to improve your chances of selection consider joining House Sitting Academy. Run by Nat & Jodie, professional long term house sitters, you can learn everything about house sitting including how to create a compelling profile.
The Academy includes membership to an exclusive referral club of house sitters. Others who love travel, and who openly share referral sits from their home owners with other Academy Graduates. As members ourselves, we have already secured several referral sits in countries around the world including Nicaragua and Barbados!
We believe it’s well worth the investment to get the best head start in house sitting!