Did you know that you can live in great houses almost anywhere in the world and save yourself the expenses for accommodation when travelling? House sitting is the magic word here! As a house caretaker you look after the home and often the pets of homeowners that are travelling themselves. I too have stayed in other people’s houses as a house sitter a couple of times and was able to save a lot of money. As I launch my new housesitting book, I’d like to use the opportunity to share with you my top 10 tips how to become a house sitting pro yourself and how you can finance your trip through it!10 tips to becoming a house caretaker pro
How to travel the world on a budget!
How does house sitting work and why is it worth it?
What is house sitting?
House sitting is becoming more and more of a trend and is pretty simple: you stay in private apartments or houses while the owners are off travelling. They often leave pets behind as well which you have to take care of. Usually cats and dogs, but there are also cases where house caretakers look after horses, donkeys, pigs, chickens, fish, birds or other animals. Anything that can live in a house, basically.
You also have to take care of the house or apartment itself. This includes keeping it clean, watering the plants and doing gardening or cleaning pools if there are any. You should also empty the mailbox regularly. Bottom line is to take care of the house and animals while the owners are not there.
Why becoming a house caretaker?
The reason that house sitting exists and why this concept is getting more and more popular is obvious: people with pets want to travel too and rather than putting them into expensive caretaking facilities and exposing them to unnecessary stress many leave their animal family members at home and have them taken care of by a friendly house sitter. In the facilities the animals usually are just one of many, they are not looked after individually and often times they get sick because of the stress.
Many homeowners also worry about the home itself: leaving a house or apartment empty for several days increases the risk of a burglary. And there always is the risk of damage to the home that can quickly become a catastrophe. A pipe leakage for example! This can happen any time and within a few hours the house is flooded and there can be horrible and expensive damage. So it is very comforting to have a house caretaker staying at the house who scares off burglars and handles any repairs necessary.
How do I get these house sitting jobs and in which countries can I live as a house sitter?
There are numerous house sitting site nowadays where you can register as a house sitter and then look for house sitting jobs. Some of the largest platforms are amongst others trustedhousesitters.com, housecarers.com and nomador.com. Most house sitting jobs are in English speaking countries like Great Britain, Australia, Canada, the US or New Zealand. But you can also increasingly find these kinds of jobs in Central America and the other European countries. And with a little luck you might even find some in more exotic countries like Nicaragua, South Africa or Indonesia.
How long are the most house sitting jobs?
Many of the house sitting jobs offered are one to three weeks, this is the standard amount of time people usually travel for. There are shorter jobs too that only are a couple of days or just under a week. You will also find jobs for more than three weeks to two months if the homeowners decide to visit their former home country. There even are house sitting jobs for several months or even two years, but these are a lot rarer. Usually these house sits are due to the owners going abroad for a temporary job or they take off to travel the world.
Can I find a house sitting job as a couple or a family?
There are a lot of house sitting jobs especially for couples which is understandable: couples often seem more reliable than singles, they are said to be more empathetic and mature and quite simply taking care of a house and animals is easier for two people than one person alone. So if you plan on travelling with your girlfriend or boyfriend, then the two of you have a pretty good chance of living cheaply all over the world as a house sitting couple.
There also are house sitting jobs for families from time to time as well. Especially if it is a family that left a house behind to go travel, they often are able to understand another family’s situation pretty well. Often these houses are larger, sometimes it is even an entire farm with several animals that need looking after.
Most jobs will specify in the offer if they are looking for a couple or if the job is managable for a single as well or if a family can come stay at the house. Some house sitting sites such as trustedhousesitters.com offer a filter function and precise labeling for these specifications.
Is house sitting free?
Generally house sitting is free – you live in someone else’s house without paying rent. But you do have expenses when house sitting. Often you have to cover the utilities such as electricity, water and gas, and of course you pay for your food, drink, toiletries etc. If you get to use the car which is not even that unusual then you of course pay for the gas.
There are also registration fees for the house sitting sites. These vary from site to site and are usually between 15 and 95 Euros per year. Some sites let you register for free, but you will not have the same benefits as a paying member does.
If you aready have gained some experience with house sitting and have enouph positive references to show then you might even be paid for your services as a house caretaker. Sometimes house sitting jobs are also paid if they are very spontaneous and the owners desperately need someone to take care owf their home, basically you are being paid for your flexibility.
Imagine that: you not only live in a great house in the land of your dreams for free, you even save a good part of your travel expenses, look after cute animals, on hot days you can cool off in the pool and on top you get paid for all that! To get a bit closer to this not even so unrealistic daydream I have 10 tips that will make you a house sitting professional!Becoming a house sitting pro in 10 easy steps!
1. Register as a house sitter!!
To have access to the best house sitting jobs you should register with one or even better with several of the big house sitting sites. Becoming a member often only takes a few minutes: you enter your name, email address and other basic data and that’s it. Even though most sites charge a fee these expenses are worth it. The money you will save on accommodation with your first house sitting job more than covers that!
Only choose sites that really fit your needs and where you will be able to find the right kind of house sitting jobs for yourself. Most sites let you see the jobs listed without becoming a member. So you can get a good overview. The design and functions of the sites also vary. I highly recommend the following sites, they reflect the state of the art of the internet and are very user-friendly:
The best house sitting sites at a glance
TrustedHouseSitters: Large number of members, modern design, new house sitting jobs every minute, good filter function for job searches, useful map display, daily email updates, mostly in the UK, US and Australia. You can register here!
House Carers: Helpful filter for the length of the jobs, good mapping, mostly Australia, US and UK. You can register here!
2. Build a killer profile!
Registering only takes a few minutes but you should take a bit more time for the creation of your profile. Most sites let you create your own description and header and you can give your profile a title. Try to keep the title as short and precise as possible, try to give as much information about yourself in as little words as possible. The descriptive text however should be detailed and reflect your love for animals and your passion for travelling as well as your experience and knowledge of house sitting and any given expertise with animals.
Also write about your motivation for house sitting and why this concept is so great for you. Don’t forget to share a little of your life and character as well: How old are you? Where do you come from and where do you live? What do you do for a living, how do you spend your time off, what are your hobbies? Do you have any special talents, are you maybe very athletic or do you speak several languages? Anything that will make you a better house sitter and that makes you trustworthy and shows responsibility belongs here!
3. Find a house sitting job that really fits you
3 weeks of looking after a beautiful house with view of the sea, large pool and a cool veranda complete with bbq area in the Bahamas and taking care of three super cute Golden Retrievers sounds like a wonderful house sitting job, doesn’t it? Even if there really are great jobs like this, they are not always as fun as you think and might not be your thing at all.
Do you realize how expensive the flight from Europe to the Bahamas is and what life in the Bahamas costs? On average you pay twice as much for everything in the Bahamas as you do in a regular supermarket in Germany. Restaurants, electricity, water and internet also cost a lot more there than they do in Germany. Not to mention the workload of looking after three large dogs. Are you really fit to take on three fully grown Golden Retrievers?
You should definitely consider these things before you apply for a seemingly wonderful job. Be honest to yourself when looking around for house sitting jobs and make use of the various filters that the house sitting sites offer. You are allergic to cats? Then exclude jobs that have anything to do with cats from your search. You desperately want to go to Thailand because the airfare and cost of living is affordable? Then only search for house sitting jobs in Thailand.
Save yourself and the homeowners the time and hassle and only apply for house sitting jobs that really fit you!
4. Be fast!
As soon as you found a good house sitting job for yourself you have to be fast! Homeowners often get a ton of applications, in very popular places it can be several hundreds. Due to the sheer number of applications they often only manage to read the first few of them. To be one of the first applicants it makes sense to have the various house sitting sites opened in your browser and refresh them regularly. This way you immediately see when a new job offer comes online and you can be one of the first to write.
Since this of course is not always possible you should alternatively subscribe for email notifications by the sites. This way you get several emails a day informing you about the newest house sitting jobs. Again, you should open those mails immediately and see if there is something among the offers for you and then quickly apply!
5. Write a personal application
Even if you want things to go fast, you should take the time to address the homeowner and put effort into the official application. Read the offer carefully and refer to specific points. Do the owners mention their pets’ names, breeds and character traits? Then refer to the animals by their names too and incorporate their personalities into your application. Do you already have experience with these kinds of animals? Then tell the owners about that!
Also refer to the house and ensure the owners that you will keep it in good shape and that you will diligently take care of any chores they ask. Write a little about yourself, your personality, about what makes you a good house sitter and why you are the right one for this specific job. You have to persuade the homeowner that you will be a great caregiver to their beloved animals and home and that they have nothing to worry about when you are there!
6. Charm them in the interview
You have gotten one step closer to your dream job as a house sitter, have received a positive answer from the owners and have been invited to an interview? Congratulations! Now you need to be persuasive and make a good impression on the homeowners. Before the interview you should write down questions that you want to ask them. Ask about the animals, the house and the area. Show them that you have been putting thought into the job and amply considered what it would be like to live in the house and what it takes to look after the animals.
The homeowners will have a bunch of questions for you too and you should be prepared to answer them all as well as possible. They will usually ask about your experience with animals and about your current occupation and circumstances of life, they will probably want to know how you can afford financially and timewise to go to another country for several weeks of house sitting. It is important to be honest here, be yourself. Don’t try to feign something, homeowners quickly notice that! You should be as likeable and trustworthy as possible because ultimately they will be handing their beloved pets and home over to you for a while!
These interviews will often take place via Skype, this way both parties can already get a first visual impression of each other and the homeowners can show you the house and animals. Sometimes you will just talk on the phone and very unlikely unless the house sit is in our area you might also be invited over.
7. Prepare properly
If you rocked the interview as well and have been given the job then it is time to prepare for the upcoming house sit. Most of these jobs will require a so-called Housesitting agreement to be signed. Read the contract carefully and clarify open questions in time so that there will be no misunderstandings or problems when the signing comes around. Prepare the necessary documents, these are usually a valid passport, international driver’s license and a credit card with which you can make payments worldwide and withdraw cash anywhere you need to.
You should also make sure to get any vaccinations you might need as well as a good health insurance policy that covers medical expenses abroad and travel and baggage insurance. If you don’t yet have a liability insurance then now is also the time to get that! When these important things have been taken care of then figure out how you are going to get there, look for cheap flights or book alternative transportation.
8. Plan enough time for the handover
With most house sitting jobs the homeowners will want you to come 2 days prior to their departure so you can live in the house together. This way they have enough time to show you everything and see how you do with the animals and if they get along with you. The transition also is not as sudden for the pets and they will be less stressed. And you too will have enough time to get used to them, observe their routines and ask any questions you still have. Often these questions will only arise when you are there!
9. Be a really good house sitter!!
The time has come: The owners just left the house and you as the house caretaker are now responsible for the welfare of the animals. From now on the home and pets are just like your own. This is exactly how you should look after things! Feed and tend to the animals like instructed, play with them, cuddle them and if applicable go for long walks. Also take care of the house as agreed upon with the homeowners. If small repairs should be necessary, take care of them.
It is important that you are independent and don’t call and annoy the homeowners for every minor issue. As long as nothing really bad happens it should be enough that you inform them upon their return of little incidences. On the other hand you should be proactive and give them regular updates on their pets. Send them photos and videos and share what you and the animals have been up to together, how they are doing or how they are developing if they are still younger. The owners are always happy to hear that their pets are doing well. Don’t keep them waiting until they get so worried that they write to you!
10. Make a winning handover!
You can really collect some points and show that you are a house sitting pro at the second handover when the owners come back and move back into their house. The house should be in even better condition than before, it should be spotless and tidy. And of course the animals should be in good shape, brush or wash them again and make sure that their litter boxes are clean and the toys put away.
If you have been allowed to use their car then have it cleaned and fill it up. And depending on when the homeowners come back surprise them with a good breakfast, lunch or dinner or make a cake from scratch. Fill up the fridge, stock a few drinks and basic foods like rice or pasta. And if you really want to charm them get some flowers, chocolates or other sweets and write a nice card! This way they will keep you in good memory and you are sure to get a great reference!
And outstanding references are the foundation for your career as a house sitter and your chances of staying cheaply all around the world allowing you to go on another trip and more adventures!
You can become a house sitting professional too!
House sitting really is ingenious and I can hardly imagine a better way to travel nowadays: you live for free in a real home not an anonymous and often expensive hotel room and often even have really cool and cute pets around! I will definitely be travelling the world as a house sitter more often and with my 10 tips you can become a house sitting pro and do so too!
Can you imagine travelling the world as a house sitter as well? Or have you already lived in someone else’s house and taken care of the animals there? If so, what was your experience like and do you have any tips?