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House-sit your way around the world

By Sue King 22 January 2020

The concept of house-sitting is growing in popularity and it is easy to understand why. As a house sitter, you may find yourself living rent-free on a houseboat in Amsterdam or perhaps on a ranch in the Australian outback. If you love to travel and enjoy the company of animals, house-sitting could revolutionise your life and make it possible for you to visit destinations you never thought you would otherwise be able to. A luxury apartment in Honolulu may not be beyond your wildest dreams after all!

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Why house-sit?

It’s the perfect solution for pet owners and a great opportunity for those who love travel and enjoy being around animals. People choose to house-sit for a number of reasons: some are full-timers house-sitting their way around the world or digital nomads who work on location independently. For backpackers who are travelling on a budget, it’s an ideal way to save on accommodation costs. House-sitting is also very popular with retirees who have the freedom to take off spontaneously.

Many people house-sit on their vacations. Not only does it make financial sense, but it can be preferable to stay in a comfortable house rather than a soulless hotel. Having a kitchen means that you can self-cater, and it is also likely that you will have a garden to chill out in after you have explored the local area. Another advantage is that the house-sitter becomes part of the local community for the duration of their stay, thus making the experience an even more authentic one. House-sitting is also a great way to meet new friends around the world, both of the human and furry variety!

What’s involved?

In most cases, house-sitting necessitates the care of a pet, and occasionally a menagerie! Every now and again, it is possible to find a pet-free assignment, but they are in the minority. In these cases, the homeowner would usually want someone to live in their property while they are away solely for security purposes, and sometimes gardening or light maintenance is required.

As you would expect, most house-sits involve the care of cats and dogs, but occasionally homeowners need someone to look after other animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas, and donkeys. It’s best to apply according to your preferences and previous experience. House-sits vary in duration from one night to a year or more, but the majority of them are for a week or two.

Why have a house-sitter?

From the homeowner’s perspective, opting for someone to live in their property while they are absent means that their pet can remain in the comfort and security of their own home. Some dogs and cats find being sent to a kennel or cattery extremely traumatic and house-sitting eliminates this common problem. Routine can be maintained and additionally, the property is not left empty for the duration of the owner’s absence. It is a win-win scenario for all those involved. If you are considering house-sitting yourself and have a pet, you could even arrange for a house-sitter to come and look after your pet and property while you are away.

Where to house-sit?

House-sits can be found worldwide, but are particularly popular throughout Australia, New Zealand, UK, and North America. Properties range from multi-million-dollar mansions complete with a swimming pool to modest one-bedroom apartments. There is a wide variety of situations to choose from, from a bungalow in the heart of a major city to a remote location in a peaceful rural area, and you could even house-sit in your hometown!

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Make sure you know what is expected of you

It is always key to establish exactly what is expected from both parties. Some house-sits are paid, others are not. Occasionally, especially on longer sits, the property owner will request that the sitter contributes to bills. It is up to those involved to negotiate.

The sitter will often be asked to water plants, receive deliveries, and—naturally—keep the property in a clean and tidy condition for the owners’ return. Homeowners are often very helpful, leaving information about the local area, contact details of friends who can help out in emergencies, and—if you're lucky—a bottle of wine or even a fridge full of food! Sometimes the use of a car is included, which can be very useful depending on your location.

One of the downsides to house-sitting is that you can become attached to the pet you are caring for to the extent that it is hard to say goodbye! Every now and again you do grow particularly fond of a pet, and it can be tough bidding farewell. With experience, let's hope you can adjust to the constant arrivals and departures.

How to become a house-sitter

So, how do you become a house-sitter? The first thing you need to do is to build up a portfolio of testimonials. If you have ever looked after pets for friends, ask them to referee for you. To these, add any character references so to demonstrate that you are trustworthy and reliable even if they are not specific to pet care.

You could start by offering a house-sitting service to friends and you will then be able to get your portfolio off the ground. Don’t forget to obtain testimonials upon completion of every house-sit that you do. The more you have, the better chance you have of scoring your dream house-sit!

It is also wise to obtain a police check, which gives property owners added peace of mind when assessing your suitability. You can either advertise independently or register with a house-sitting website, most of which charge an annual fee. Once registered, you can apply for any house-sit featured on the website.

Freedom to explore the world

Once you have a little experience and some credentials in place, you are ready to go. House-sitting can open a whole new world and makes it possible to visit destinations that you never even considered before. Like what they say, the world is your oyster. Happy house-sitting!

Here are a few of the most respected house-sitting websites to help you begin your search for your ideal house-sit:

Trusted Housesitters 

Mind My House

House Carers

HouseSit Match

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Sue King


Sue has been backpacking and housesitting her way the world since 2012 and has travelled and lived in over fifty countries. Her favourites countries to date are the equally colourful and compelling India and Mexico.