How to Become a House Sitter


House sitting aor housesitting – the jury is still out on which term is official has taken off as the digital world allows more white-collar folks to break their 9 to 5 habits.  Lucky for homeowners offering house sitting jobs, the internet now boasts a variety of house sitting services to connect sitters and owners.

My background:

For five seven years I’ve used the Best (and Worst) House Sitting Websites and word-of-mouth to find house sitting jobs caring for fidos and felines around the world.

wanaka new zealand

Wanaka, NZ is the first international place I house sat. #hardlife, hey?  photo Paul Bica

Here’s my summary of tips for those figuring out how to get into house sitting:

  • Friends & family first: tell your social network if you have summer/holiday availability.
  • Jobs found on house sitting websites generally aren’t paid. (Here’s Why.)
  • You can browse for free, but you have to pay to play.
  • Less flexibility about time and place usually means paying for more site memberships.
  • You need a great profile – it’s a job! Your “resume and cover letter” need to shine.
  • Choose your “boss” wisely.
  • It’s not 100% free!
  • Don’t let uncertainty keep you from changing your lifestyle.  If you’re nervous, invest in the House Sitting Academy.

To jump to a category below click a link:
How to Pick The Best House Sitting Website
How to Find the Best House Sitting Jobs
12 House Sitting Tips
The Costs of House Sitting

How to Become a House Sitter – Part I

Pick The Best House Sitting Website


I’ll let you in on a little secret.  The best house sitting website is… whichever one has the house sitting job you want!

You can study up on the Best (and Worst) House Sitting Websites.  But really, finding the house sitting job that matches your criteria is more important than picking the right website to join.

The hard truth: you’re probably going to have to buy memberships for more than one house sitting website bas nearly all of us with the experience to be writing house sitting website reviews can attest.  No site is #1 for the most house sitting vacancies or long term house sitting jobs..  The notion that you can pay for a single membership and then travel the world with free accommodation is attractive, but false.

disappointed reluctant grossed out

Wait. There’s no Free Lunch? photo gratisography

The good news: With a few annoying exceptions, most house sitting websites will let you quickly browse with no strings attached.  When you find the job that fits your schedule/location parameters, join the site and contact the owner.

The industry has yet to be monopolized by a single site, thankfully.  If you’re after an international house sitting job, you’ll start by looking at those sites, but don’t forget about local and regional sites that may have more house sitting jobs listed for your target area than international sites.

Lastly, don’t forget about friends and family!  If you’re keen to housesit during vacation season, putting the word out on your social network will likely land you a paid house sitting job.

How to Become a House Sitter – Part II

Find the Best House Sitting Jobs


Another secret?  The best house sitting jobs are… the ones that match your situation and personality the best.

Do you like cities?
Prefer small towns?
Love big dogs?
Only kind-of like cats? 

Do you see yourself house sitting for just a week or two?  A few months?
Would you like to commit several months out, or wait until closer to the dates you’re available?
Do you like everything you read on the home owner’s profile?

international house sitting job

Guess which one is loving this house sitting job? photo splitshire

When you first start searching, don’t be tempted to stray from your ideal house sitting parameters.  First try to find a house sit that’s exactly what you want.

If you aren’t excited about walking a big dog for an hour each day, but you apply for the house sitting job because it’s in your version of paradise, you cand the owner! could end up pretty unsatisfied.

If you reply to an ad that says a pet needs groomed six times a day and fresh water every time she drinks, but don’t have enthusiasm for these pet care standards, you’ll likely regret it later.

Especially because these are generally not paid jobs.

Why?

Here’s the ethos of house sitting websites: in exchange for the time and autonomy din my opinion, the two most valuable things in the world it takes you to live home owners’ lives for them, you get accommodation.

In my experience, home owners who agree that autonomy and time are more valuable than bills they’d be paying anyway have compensated me.  However, it is more common for the situation to be seen as an equal give and take.

If you do several short term eless than 3 weeks house sitting jobs in a row, you’ll realize pretty quickly just how much effort it really is to live someone else’s life for them.

How to Become a House Sitter – Part III

12 House Sitting Tips

Ease the Sting of the Financial Risk
Mental gymnastics will make you less sad about paying to use a house sitting website without the guarantee that you’ll ever get what you want out of it.  Here’s what to tell yourself: even if you spend $150 to join three sites, that’s arguably three nights for 15 nights if we’re talking a mid-level hotel in Bangkok of accommodation costs.   (Unless your perfect house sitting job was listed on my least favorite site.  More sting with that one.)

Write a Good Profile
I thought this went without saying until I started playing homeowner on some sites and discovered most people barely fill out their profiles!  This is a job, hey.  You’re in competition with other sitters.  Every home owner I’ve sat for gets several offers within the first day of posting their ad.  Make your offer the best.  If you feel your skills are lacking in this area, the House Siting Academy has an awesome step-by-step guide about every aspect of house sitting for less than $40.

Don’t’ be Tricked by Old Ads 
On many platforms, I’ve gotten “sorry I already have a sitter” because I didn’t know the ad was old.  Spend some time getting familiar with postings on house sitting websites you’re thinking of joining.  I think your best shot is with the newest ads.  Which leads me to…

Be Patient 
Don’t let perceived scarcity of house sitting jobs cause you to commit to a less-than-ideal situation.  New jobs are posted all the time, and homeowners are on different timelines.  Some want their sitter organized six months in advance, some three, some two, some just six weeks away.  Some have a friend fall through and turn to platforms at the last minute.  Some have a sitter who cancels.  gYou should never, ever, ever cancel a house sit.  If you know something might come up, (your parent is sick, you’ve applied for a new job, etc.), don’t drag someone else into your drama.

Longer is Better
It’s easy to underestimate how long it takes to get settled into an area and routine. Ten days race by when you’re learning new roads, finding your way around aisles of new grocery stores, opening every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen twice just to find the can opener, and of course spending an hour (or more!) each day taking care of fido, plants, trash, gardens, and other little house chores.  Set a mental minimum length-of-sit to avoid exhaustion.  hAfter 5 years spending 20% of my time house sitting, mine is ten days for friends, three weeks for friends-I-haven’t-met yet.

how to become a house sitter - long term house sitting jobs are better especially for international house sitting

You might find several short jobs in a row to be a taxing juggling act.  House sitting jobs of at least three weeks are my preference!  photo: Maria Georgieva

Be Picky
It’s equally easy to overestimate how much you’ll enjoy a place. Maybe an idyllic cabin in the wintertime woods romanced you, but you discover you hate shoveling show.  Or a big city house sit sounded fun and glamorous, but now you can’t wait to get away from honking horns.  If you’re committing for more than three weeks, do your research and know what you’re getting into.

Choose “Your Boss” Wisely
Not everyone needing a housesitter is a match for you. Even if the location is perfect, the homeowner might not be your cup of tea.  If their ad strikes you as a bit abnormal, listen to your instincts.  Be sure to interview them on Skype, which allows you to get a feel for them and the condition of the home iand the speed of their internet if it matters to you.  If you’re a tidy person, living amongst another’s clutter for a few weeks (or months!) might drive you mad.

Ask Lots of Questions
I use the “lite” version of my home-owner pre-departure checklist when I interview them on Skype. Asking about the pet’s schedule, likes, dislikes, behavior history, medical history as well as inquiries about plants, gardens, appliance idiosyncracies, type of heating/cooling system, neighbors, etc. help get a feel for whether or not the house sitting job is right for me.

Put Yourself in the Home Owner’s Shoes
Owners get lots of “applicants.” Which inquiry would you be more excited about:

“Hey.  My name is Alex and I’m an online marketer from Chicago.  I saw your ad and am available for the time you’ll be gone.  Can we set up a time to skype?”  

or

“Hi,  Owner’s Name.  I’m Alex.  I saw your ad about Rover and Fido.  I love walking big dogs, and they seem very sweet.  I’ve also always wanted to come to your area because my grandma told me stories about it growing up.  I have an opening on my calendar for the time you’ll be gone.  I’m an online marketer from Chicago.  As you’ll see on my profile, I have lots of house sitting experience, references, and am a non-smoker.  It would be great to e-meet Rover and Fido and you on Skype.  I have time this week in the afternoons.  Let me know?”

Don’t Assume
Before the home owner departs, ask lots of questions and get clarifications.  e.g. A couple seemed very easy-going about me using pantry items, but in response to my question about past house-sitter problems they described the sitter using too many of their pantry items!  jRelated: I find I tend not to use a home-owner’s food.  Anyone who’s lived in their home longer than a year usually has plenty of expired goods.  At another locale I confirmed the internet was unlimited.  However, I incorrectly assumed the communications bundle also included the standard unlimited long-distance.  I racked up hours’ worth of talk time that easily could have been free if I’d known better.

international house sitting job

Especially if you’re house sitting internationally, it’s important to ask about everything. Things like internet can be very limited. Sometimes the difference between running the washing machine at night or in the daytime makes a big impact on the electric bill.   photo: Padurariu Alexandru

Loneliness Management is Important
Take it from an introvert who can happily spend ten days holed up in her village apartment outside Croatia’s capital city: you’ll likely want to spend some time setting up a social life. Even if you’re exceptionally satisfied with your own company, at some point you’ll want the company of another human being.  To be ready for that moment, you can make friends of your neighbors, or get connected through online platforms like meetup.com.

Be Confident
If you’re not a bold DIYer, getting started as a house sitter can feel daunting.  If you want a comprehensive overview, checklists, and lessons, the House Sitting Academy has an affordable step-by-step guide.  If you want someone beside you every step of the way, they do that, too.  The Academy Program takes ten new members every month.  They train you to the highest standards using wisdom from over 60 house sitting pros, and they give you lifetime access to their private referral network.  <- What’s that?  Homeowners regularly ask good house sitters to return, but most of us are booked months in advance.  Sits that experienced sitters have to turn down are referred to the network.  Homeowners get someone they can trust without the effort of posting on a platform.  Academy graduates get access to house sits not listed anywhere else!

How to Become a House Sitter – Part IV

Know the Costs of House Sitting


Yeah, lot’s of sexy, click-bait webpages out there have titles like,

“Travel the World for Free!”
“Sleep for Free Around the World!”
House-sit and See the World for Free
“How to Become a House Sitter and Never Pay for Accommodation”

But house sitting isn’t cost-free. Instead of giving cash for rent and utilities, you’re paying with at least an hour a day of your valuable time to live someone else’s life for them.  If you’re working your location-independent job, think carefully about how much time you will really have for sight-seeing between that and pet walking/feeding/grooming and daily house and garden maintenance.

In addition to time, other associated costs include:

  • house sitting website memberships
  • transport to and from the house sit
  • groceries that you don’t use up but are impractical to carry to your next destination
  • transport costs to get around the area – whether fuel for their car or tickets for trains and busses
  • expensive drop-in gym memberships
  • location specific supplies kmaybe they don’t have a coffee maker and you can’t go without for six weeks, or their freezing tile floors require the purchase of a pair of slippers you wouldn’t generally need
  • the time it takes to meet new friends – relationships that will, for the most part, ultimately be dissolved by the realities of life
  • money for going out with new local friends lbecause you don’t invite relative strangers to a home that’s not yours, and social convention dictates going out for drinks or dinner with new friends

And, something I like to call…

  • “education money” – In this category: buying groceries from a pricey gourmet shop when you don’t know about the basic market, paying a parking ticket because you didn’t understand the town’s weird and uncommon parking system, replacing a key that dropped and broke, etc.

Now you know how to become a house sitter!  You’re armed with the knowledge you need to have great experiences filling house sitting vacancies around the world.

Here’s one lucky freelancer’s New York Time’s write up of her house sitting experiences.  And wikipedia’s angle on house sitting is worth a look.

You may also like:

Fly for Free to Your Next House Sit
How to Sleep For Free When You Travel
Do You Make These 8 Travel Mistakes?
.
The Real Cost of a Round-the-World Ticket
Which Travel Insurance to Avoid

And if you’re new to the lifestyle, you’ll relate to:
Why a Hard-Working Perfectionist… Doesn’t Want a Job

Happy Traveling! ♣

References   [ + ]

a. or housesitting – the jury is still out on which term is official
b. as nearly all of us with the experience to be writing house sitting website reviews can attest.  No site is #1 for the most house sitting vacancies or long term house sitting jobs.
c. and the owner!
d. in my opinion, the two most valuable things in the world
e. less than 3 weeks
f. or 15 nights if we’re talking a mid-level hotel in Bangkok
g. You should never, ever, ever cancel a house sit.  If you know something might come up, (your parent is sick, you’ve applied for a new job, etc.), don’t drag someone else into your drama.
h. After 5 years spending 20% of my time house sitting, mine is ten days for friends, three weeks for friends-I-haven’t-met yet.
i. and the speed of their internet if it matters to you
j. Related: I find I tend not to use a home-owner’s food.  Anyone who’s lived in their home longer than a year usually has plenty of expired goods.
k. maybe they don’t have a coffee maker and you can’t go without for six weeks, or their freezing tile floors require the purchase of a pair of slippers you wouldn’t generally need
l. because you don’t invite relative strangers to a home that’s not yours, and social convention dictates going out for drinks or dinner with new friends