Last updated: August 2018
I’ve house sat throughout Europe, looking after everything from cats and dogs to turtles and once, even a farm of alpacas. In exchange for walking the dog, feeding the cat or watering the plants, I was able to stay in all of these properties for free, sometimes on house sits that lasted for six or more months at a time!
In terms of rent, the savings were probably somewhere in the region of €500-€1,000 per month. If you were to stay in somewhere more expensive such as New York, Sydney, or London, the savings would obviously be much bigger.
What Does House Sitting Involve?
Aside from looking after the house and generally just keeping an eye on things while the owners are away, the main responsibility of almost every house sit is looking after pets. This usually means all of the expected responsibilities that come with pet care like walking the dog and feeding the cat but just as importantly being around to give the pets the kind of care and attention they wouldn’t get in a boarding kennel.
There can be other chores as well for example watering the plants, collecting the mail or cleaning the pool, if the owners have one.
Finding & Applying for House Sits
House sitting is normally something you might do as a favour for friends or family, it’s also a growing travel exchange community where you can sign up and look after other people’s homes. The easiest place to find out about new house sitting opportunities is through a house sitting website. The main house sitting websites are:
There are also smaller websites like Aussie House Sitters and Christian House Sitters, but the websites above are the main ones. In fact, TrustedHousesitters.com probably accounts for well over 50% of all house sits, followed by Housecarers.
Why House Sit?
The main reason people house sit is in exchange for the free accommodation they get in return for dog walking, pool cleaning and cat cuddling. While you don’t get paid for house sitting, not having to pay for accommodation for several weeks or months at a time can make a huge difference to the travel budget.
Although the pet care is ‘work’, I’ve found that having pets to look after whilst travelling can be a lot of fun. I once spent five months in the French countryside looking after a cat and a dog and after spending so much time with them, they had become like my own pets. Walking the dog or feeding the cat really didn’t feel like a chore at all. In the end it was quite hard to say goodbye to them both when the owners returned.
Living in a home can also give you more of a sense of living like a local. The homeowners who I’ve house sat for have also been incredibly willing to introduce me to their neighbours and friends and if you’re in a house sit for long enough it doesn’t take long before you get to know a few of the other people living nearby.
Towards the end of that five month house sit in France I ended up getting invited to the local Repas De Chasse, an annual meal thrown in the village and organised by the ‘chasse’; the local men’s hunting group. The meal was an incredibly tasty eight courses of venison, wild boar, cheese and all sorts of other delicious French things – an experience I would never have been able to be a part of had I not been living in the community over the previous months.
How to Create an Amazing House Sitter Profile
On any house sitting website, it’s important to have a well-filled out profile answering all of the questions asked and providing as many photos as possible. When filling out your profile, try to think of what you can offer the homeowner (for example, mention any previous pet care experience) rather than just focusing on why you would like a free holiday.
The next and arguably most difficult step is to get some references. Handing over the keys of your home to a stranger is understandably a big deal to most homeowners so as a potential sitter you will need to prove that you are trustworthy. Of course, getting that first reference without any previous house sitting experience can be difficult so here’s what I did to get around that catch-22 stumbling block.
Firstly, I got in touch with friends and family who had pets to let them know I was available to house sit for them. Surprisingly quite a few had been considering going away but having a pet had held them back and they were very grateful of the offer.
Secondly, I kept an eye on house sits in my area. Homeowners are a lot more willing to take on a new house sitter with little or previous experience if they can meet them first. In the end, I ended up taking on two house sits in Edinburgh where I was living at the time. Even though I had only taken these on for the reference they ended up becoming two of my favourite house sits.
Aside from getting references, another easy way to show how trustworthy you are is to get a police background check. In most countries this is as simple as walking into your local police station and paying a fee (in the UK it’s £10) to get a criminal records background check carried out.
Be persistent! You may not land your dream house sit right away but if you keep on applying for house sits and building up your profile, you’ll get there in the end.