I haven’t paid rent or bills in over two years. I once spent a couple of weeks living in a house in the English countryside that’s worth over $3 million. As I write this, I’m sitting in southern Portugal, where I’m living for five months looking after two cats—one, named Luna, is currently nuzzling the corner of my laptop.
I’ve traveled the world permanently for the last five years, and house sitting is one of the main ways I sustain myself financially. Throughout 2015, I travelled across the UK and Ireland for my book, hopping from house sit to house sit and discovering my native land for free. My sits usually last a couple of weeks—some even just a weekend—and all involve looking after pets.
Even if you work full time, you can use house sitting to get around during your vacation time for free. These tips and resources will help you get going.
To be able to convince people you’re responsible enough to look after their home and pets, you’ll need a couple of references. These don’t have to be anything fancy—when I first started collecting mine together I asked my current boss and a couple of friends who own pets. However, the most effective references will come from people you’ve actually done this with before, so start small and work your way up.
Ask a friend who owns a dog if you can take it for walks every now and then, or offer to look after a friend’s cat in their home while they’re away for the weekend. House sit casually, when you can, to gather five or six references together to use when you start applying for the assignments abroad.
If you have very specific dates and a destination in mind, it can be hard to find a suitable house sit. If you can give or take a few days and you’re not overly fussed on location, a whole world of assignments will open up to you. This makes the prospect of using house sitting to travel even more exciting—you never know where you’ll end up.
Plus, home owners appreciate flexibility as plans—such as the start and end dates of the house sit—can change suddenly, and animals can be unpredictable. Showing flexibility lets the home owner know you’re ready for anything.
This makes the prospect of using house sitting to travel even more exciting—you never know where you’ll end up.
There is a lot of competition in house sitting. Many house sitters, like myself, do it permanently, and we trawl websites to make sure we’re up-to-date with the latest and greatest house sits. When I really need them, I check the listings twice a day and apply immediately if I see one I’m interested in—if you don’t apply within 24 hours, then your application will probably be lost in a pool among dozens of others. In short, check regularly and apply ASAP if you see one that fits.
Show Keen Interest
Home owners want to know that you’re specifically interested in them. A generic copy and paste job won’t do when it comes to applying for house sits—you need a personal touch and to show that you’ve properly read the advertisement.
Always use the pets’ names in an application, keep it light-hearted and charming but stress just how much of a super-responsible individual you are, and pepper in any other details you can pick out of the listing. If they’ve talked about looking after plants, mention you’re happy to do so. If they’ve got a gorgeous home, tell them! A little flattery will get you everywhere.
Know Your Responsibilities
You’re a house sitter and you’re there to do a job. Okay, so you’re not strictly getting paid for it, but it’s an exchange of services and you’re being trusted with someone’s home and pets—those are big responsibilities.
When applying, chatting with the home owners, and carrying out your assignments, know that first and foremost you’re there to care for their beloved animals and house. And enjoy all the perks that come with that—free accommodation, your own space in an exciting place, and, more often than not, a new furry friend by your side.
House Sitting Resources
There are a handful of websites you sign up with to find house sits across the globe. My personal top recommendation would be TrustedHousesitters, a site that I’ve used from the beginning and cannot fault. Countless listing go up each day—many in the UK, USA, and Australia—and the website is easy to get around.
The other big players in the house sitting world include MindMyHouse and HouseCarers, both of which host hundreds of listings across the globe. It’s worth taking a look at a few different websites to see which works best for you—one might be more suitable in terms of membership fees (usually less than $100 a year for sitters whatever the website) or number of sits in your preferred location.
Have you ever house-sat abroad? What was your experience?
Feature Image via Brooke Ashley Photography