The Ultimate Guide to House Sitting Jobs: Part 1 | What Is House Sitting & Is It For You?
House sitting jobs are a wonderful way to travel the world on a budget and experience different cultures in a way most tourists simply aren’t able to. If you’re wondering what house sitting is and if it’s right for you then read on! We’ve completed nearly 40 house sits around the world and are sharing our tips, tricks, and how-tos!
Our goal is to have this series be the ultimate house sitting guide available anywhere. In it we’ll share our secrets, including how to house sit for beginners, the not so glamorous side of house sitting jobs, and how to score the best house sits among fierce competition!
To fit in so much information we’ve made this a multi-part series, so be sure to sign up for our newsletter and get the next part of the series delivered to your inbox.
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Why We Think You’ll Love House Sitting!
We learned about house sitting many years ago and thought, there has to be a catch; it just seemed too good to be true! However, the emerging world of a shared economy (think Lyft, Uber, and Airbnb) has become a thriving industry and a way to save money and share resources. Therefore, we couldn’t help but give house sitting a shot when we started our journey as digital nomads and long-term travelers close to three years ago.
Our first house sitting job was in a small town in the United Kingdom and we loved it so much that in our first year of travel we completed 18 house sits across Europe, including several in some of the most popular (and expensive) tourist destinations! We’ve since continued to house sit full time and have been fortunate enough to complete nearly 40 house sitting jobs!
House sitting was paramount in allowing us the opportunity to visit so many beautiful places and give us the chance to live like locals, instead of visiting as tourists. Furthermore, in that first year of travel we saved about ten to fifteen thousand dollars (conservatively) in lodging costs!
Believe us, we’re proof that it’s possible to stay for ‘free’ in cozy, luxury, and city center homes just about anywhere in the world!
Our tool box is full of resources! From travel hacking to house sitting, digital nomad jobs to privacy and security, financially independent retire early (FI/RE) to entertainment, plus travel hacking (credit cards, miles, points, and rewards), and much much more…
What’s House Sitting?
Put most simply, house sitting is an exchange of services between a homeowner and a house sitter.
As a House Sitter
We as house sitters, take over responsibilities when a homeowner is unable to. This typically means that a homeowner is traveling for work, going on vacation, or attending an event.
We keep the home maintained and in excellent condition (think sparkling clean!), and undertake duties like watering plants and bringing in the mail. We also care for their pet(s) by feeding, walking, cleaning up after, and providing them with love, playtime, and lots of cuddles!
In return, the homeowner welcomes us into their house, a place with all of the modern conveniences and amenities that we get to, for a brief time, call ‘home’.
As a Homeowner
The flip side, is that a homeowner receives the benefit of preventing their home from appearing vacant and ensure their beloved pet(s) stay out of a kennel while they’re traveling.
It’s of great comfort to a homeowner knowing that their home is being looked after and their pets are being loved and cared for in familiar surroundings!
Is There a Cost or Exchange of Money for a House Sitting Job?
The exchange of services between homeowner and sitter can be done at no cost to either party, or a payment can be arranged.
Payment can be provided to the sitter(s) for their house sitting services, or to the homeowner(s) for use of the homeowner’s utilities, car, etc. The specifics of every house sit vary slightly and each party should always make sure that all expectations and responsibilities are clearly outlined and understood before confirming the house sit and booking travel!
With that said, in our opinion payment to either party (homeowner or house sitter) is rare.
What’s the Catch with House Sitting?
If house sitting sounds like a fantastic way to travel the world, we’d have to agree! However, if you think there’s a catch, there of course is.
There’s a side to house sitting that many forums, bloggers, and house sitting websites don’t always talk about. All too often you hear about the glamorous side of house sitting, like “Travel for Free!”, “Never Pay for a Hotel Again!”, or “Stay In Luxury Homes for Free!”.
House sitters commit to care for a home and pets as if they were their own, taking an hour or two, or sometimes more, each day to complete all expected responsibilities.
Additionally, while house sitting jobs open the doors to luxury homes and popular vacation and tourist destinations, you aren’t likely to get these highly sought after sits without experience, references, an excellent profile, a professional demeanor, and great communication skills. These requirements can seem insurmountable, especially when you’re new to house sitting.
Don’t let this scare you away though!
Take it from us, we too started at the bottom and worked our way up to house sits in highly sought after destinations. Furthermore, we believe these requirements are a good thing and that they provide security measures to both house sitters and homeowners alike.
So yes, there’s of course a catch to house sitting, but trust us… the juice is worth the squeeze!
Next, read on and see if house sitting is right for you…
Don’t miss our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists! Whether you’re traveling long-term or going on a short vacation, we'll show you how to travel with a single carry-on. We share our packing lists (his and hers!), packing tips, and our favorite gear. Plus, we discuss what we don’t carry and why!
Is House Sitting Right for You?
Do you have a flexible schedule?
Finding house sitting jobs for an exact set of dates and in a specific location is a tall order and nearly impossible. Even on the most popular house sitting websites, and with dozens of new listings added every day, the chances of finding a homeowner needing a sitter on specific dates in the city you’re looking for (and who selects you from a pool of applicants) is unlikely.
Instead, if you’re able to be flexible on location and/or dates, you’ll be amazed at the places you can go!
Do you love animals?
As you can imagine, the majority of house siting jobs include caring for one or more animals and you’re usually required to undertake their hygiene, food, and exercise responsibilities.
The wonderful part is that we love playing fetch and tug-a-war with a pup and getting a cat to chase a laser or paw at a toy mouse. Plus, there’s nothing better than having a pet cuddle up with us on the couch while we work or watch a movie!
A love for animals really becomes important when the necessary, not-so-fun part of animal care arises. Not only will you be feeding and walking pets once, twice, or more a day, but you’ll also be picking up dog poop and scooping litter boxes. This is of course standard care, but naturally, some pets and their routines require a bit more attention and time than others.
We’ve had house sits where we’ve given daily medications to dogs and cats, applied creams to rashes, cleaned up vomit and hairballs, and dealt with incontinence and diarrhea.
In Chicago we cared for the sweetest ‘grumpy old man’ cat who had heart problems and sadly had a ‘heart incident’ just a couple of days into our sit. We were in constant contact with the owner, kept a close watch on him, and gave him extra love and affection.
In Oslo, Norway we even cleaned the wounds of Garfunkel the cat (whom we affectionately nicknamed G-Funk) who from time to time would get into squabbles with the neighborhood cats!
Can you afford travel to and from?
House sitting full time and jet setting from one house sit job to another can be extremely enticing. Not only do you save massively on lodging costs, get to see the world, and care for pets, but you get the opportunity to make friends in far off lands!
With that being said, don’t forget to calculate in the costs of travel when relocating from one house sitting job to the next.
There are of course ways to reduce travel costs, but no matter what you do, you can’t eliminate them all. With that in mind, here are a few ways to lower travel costs when house sitting:
Use statement credits from credit cards like the Barclay’s Arrival Plus to cover travel expenses.
Depending on feasibility, consider all travel methods, extended layovers, or overnight/red eye travel. For maximum savings, use a combination! For example, instead of paying $600 to fly from Cluj Napoca, Romania to Vienna, Austria where our next house sit job was located, we instead flew to Bratislava, Slovakia for $40 and then took a bus to Vienna for $2.50!
Take advantage of budget airlines, especially in Europe.
Plan wisely and travel logically. For example:
Stick to a region or two instead of crisscrossing across a continent. Short haul flights are typically less expensive then long haul flights. Plus, buses and trains become a more reasonable option for shorter distances.
Leverage economies of scale and focus on larger cities. Larger cities have more travelers and more competing travel businesses and infrastructure, which means more options and therefore cheaper travel prices.
Can you fill in the gaps between house sit jobs?
House sitting full time is often touted as the end-all-be-all way to not pay rent. However, from our experience this isn’t a sure thing.
It can be challenging to find two house sitting jobs that line up perfectly, allowing the sitter to seamlessly end one sit and arrive at the next one on the same day.
In practice, there are often several days or a couple of weeks between assignments. Therefore, house sitters will need a ‘home base’, which is a place they can reside between assignments. The downside of this approach are the travel costs required to travel back to their home base after each house sit.
We have several methods we use to fill in the gaps.
Between house sitting jobs we travel frugally and at our leisure within the region of the current house sit or the next.
If we’re nearby or plane tickets are inexpensive, we return to our home base.
We take advantage of geographic arbitrage and strategically travel to locations with a lower cost of living. We’ve stayed in Bucharest, Queretaro, Sofia, and Warsaw to live for a week or longer and keep our budget extremely low.
We’re always on the lookout for hotel promotions that allow us to stay for very little money, for ‘free’, or in some cases even end up making more points than we paid. We make the most of hotel promotions by staying at category 1, 2, and 3 hotels.
If you’re wondering how to travel internationally, or simply vacation nearby and not spend a fortune on airfare or hotels, then we’d like to welcome you to the world of ‘travel hacking’. See what credit cards we carry, and how we take full advantage of the points and miles we’ve earned.
Are you trustworthy and professional?
House sitters care for some of the most important and valuable items in a homeowner’s life (homes, pets, cars, etc.). Not only do you need to be trustworthy and professional, you need these traits to be immediately apparent when applying for and communicating with a homeowner.
Are You Able to Adapt to Change?
Things change and no matter how much and how well you plan, life happens. When house sitting, not only will you have to adapt to changes along the way, but you should expect it.
Personally, we’ve had a homeowner cancel due to a family emergency (thankfully it was early enough that we hadn’t purchased travel tickets yet), we’ve had an adoption of an additional cat and an addition of an entire litter of kittens! We’ve also taken care of a dog that was originally supposed to have gone on vacation with the owner, and we’ve even had the city of our house sit change (they bought a home in the next city over).
In all of these cases, we were fortunate to have owners who respected our house sitter/homeowner relationship. When changes have come up, the homeowner has always asked us if the changes were acceptable and offer to make different accommodation options when applicable. Which we like to think, is a testament to our house sitting selection process.
Because we’ve always been able to adapt to the changes we’ve faced quickly, and we handled them in stride with a smile, the house sits were still great experiences for us!
TIP: If you’re concerned that a house sit could fall through there are things you can do to lower your exposure. For example, don’t book travel arrangements months in advance, book refundable tickets, confirm with the homeowner that they’ll reimburse (or at least split) expenses if they need to cancel, purchase travel insurance, or get a credit card that includes travel insurance.
Are You Handy and Resourceful?
House sitting is like owning a home and pet(s) for the length of the house sitting job.
No matter how careful you are things are bound to occasionally break or need maintenance at no fault of your own. For that reason, you’ll either need to be handy and not be afraid of a little DIY (do it yourself) and/or be willing to reach out to the resources/contacts the homeowner has left for you.
We’ve had a handful of situations arise, some more urgent than others, but fortunately none have been an emergency. Our resourcefulness and ability to make repairs has been priceless in these situations!
For example, we’ve had to re-pressurize a water heater when we lost all hot water in the home (thank you YouTube how-to videos!) and we had to handle a very large glass porch door that collapsed in a wind storm in Budapest (thankfully it didn’t shatter!).
We’ve also taken it upon ourselves to do minor repairs for the homeowner, such as oiling squeaky hinges, fixing fuses in a light switch (not fixture), and fixing door handles and jams.
Additionally, things will happen that unfortunately will be your fault but are simply part of living. We’ve broken dishes, stained linens, and accidentally broken things (kitchen utensils, a wall hook, and a shower head). In every case, we’ve always let the homeowner know and do everything we can to repair, replace, or clean the item. Because we’re honest and do everything we can to address and repair the situation, it’s always turned out well.
Equally important are the pets you’re caring for.
You’ll need to pay extra attention and know what’s ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ behavior for the pets you’re caring for. When you notice something that seems abnormal, pay special attention, let the owners know, and keep an eye on it. Be sure to give attention as needed, call the vet advice line (if your house sitting site has one), or take the pet to the veterinarian.
We’ve been fortunate to have never needed to take a pet to a medical facility, but we have had to provide medical care to a cat due to a cat fight, and be incredibly mindful and calm with a cat that had a history of heart problems. Plus, some pets are affected by anxiety when their owners leave, which presents itself in different ways, and we’re sure to give extra love, patience, and time for the pets.
Do You Have a Green Thumb?
Gardening isn’t always required, but it’s a huge bonus if you’re willing and able to do it!
Along with gardening, you may find that your house sitting selection pool widens if you’re willing to maintain a pool, water plants, mow the lawn, shovel snow, and perform small projects around the house. Again, all of these are optional but as you can imagine, the more you’re willing to do the more house sitting options you’ll have.
Tip: We learned early on to ask specifics on household duties before committing to a house sitting job. Like how many plants there are to water (one plant is much different than a quarter-acre garden), how large the lawn is that needs to be mowed, or how large the area is that we’re shoveling snow from.
When we first learned about house sitting we were a bit unsure of it. In fact, Shannon remembers the first time Sergio brought it up on an afternoon walk. She was frankly very skeptical and thought there would be special certifications needed or that you needed to know people who knew people to get your foot in the door.
However, after our first sit in a small U.K. town we immediately landed a sit in Amsterdam and then one in London. We learned that not only was it possible get our ‘foot in the door’, but that we loved the experiences house sitting provided.
If traveling and house sitting around the world is something you want to do, we’re here to tell you that you can!
This is just the first part in a multi-part series to our Ultimate House Sitting Guide. Read on to learn everything you need to know to become a successful house sitter!
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