By: Heather Keys
If you’re planning to travel soon and don’t necessarily want to stay in a hotel, why not look into house sitting?
It’s a fantastic way to get to know the area you’re staying in, there are tons of platforms that safely match trusted house sitters (and pet sitters) with homeowners, and you can save a LOT of money on your trip by taking care of someone’s home while they’re away.
Let’s look at what you can expect to do as a house sitter, and how to get started!
What Are Your Responsibilities as a House Sitter?
Being a house sitter is pretty straightforward—you’ll match with a homeowner who needs someone to look after their property while they’re away. This can be for a few days, a few weeks, or longer, and your responsibilities will vary depending on what the owners need.
Arranging for a house sitter is actually a common option for snowbirds or other people who regularly leave their homes for extended periods of time, as well as for pet owners who might not be able to take their animals with them or put them into boarding. In fact, pet care is a major reason homeowners sign up for house sitting services.
A few of your responsibilities could include:
- Just occupying the home—a house that’s clearly lived in and being used can be a deterrent to burglars. It’s also good to have someone who’s collecting any mail and packages that might arrive while the owners are away.
- Ensuring that the house is generally clean and taken care of, and that utilities are functioning properly and the owners know of any issues that might arise, such as storm damage or the like (and of course being able to check in to make sure there isn’t any damage!).
- Taking care of pets and plants—pet boarding can be expensive, and sometimes it just makes more sense to have someone to pet sit instead. I’ve had house sitters take care of my cats while I was away, and in the past couple of years have collected so many houseplants that they require daily check-ins as well.
Depending on your experience and the owners that you’ll match with, you could get a lot more involved—for example, you could take care of horses or other animals that need a greater commitment.
And whether you’re able to travel further afield, say for a weekend trip away from the home, depends on your responsibilities and the owners’ expectations. This is something you’ll need to communicate about and agree upon in advance so that you can have the best experience possible and the homeowners can breathe easy knowing their home, belongings, and pets are safe and taken care of.
How Can House Sitting Help You Save Money on Travel?
House sitting shouldn’t really be thought of as a way to travel for free (also the homeowner isn’t responsible for your travel expenses)—and you don’t earn money for your stay.
But it’s a great opportunity for remote workers or for those travelers who want to take a vacation but want to have a totally different experience than you’d get from staying in a hotel. And if you’re tired of vacation rentals with exorbitant (often hidden) fees and unreasonable responsibilities, house sitting can be a better way to stay somewhere unique and interesting while fully setting expectations beforehand.
Many house sitters find opportunities through online platforms (which we’ll cover in the next section), which may have a membership fee—but overall you shouldn’t be expected to be paid for the sit. In exchange for taking care of the owner’s home, and their pets, if they have them, you can stay there for free.
That’s a MAJOR expense you don’t have to worry about!
- A note for international travelers: because house sitting—even without payment—is an exchange of services for accommodation, you may be turned away at the border for traveling for work! Many house sitters just report that they’re traveling for a vacation and staying with friends. This isn’t advice from Frayed Passport specifically, but a point to consider when planning your trip.
Where Can You Find House Sitting Opportunities?
There are a lot of different ways to find house sitting opportunities! Here are a few resources to look into:
- Trusted Housesitters: Matches pet owners with sitters worldwide
- House Sitters America: In addition to pet sitting, has general house sitting opportunities
- House Carers: House sitting and pet sitting opportunities around the world
- Mind My House: Global house sitting matching service
You also can look up house sitting opportunities within the destination you want to travel to—there are a lot of local and national boards matching sitters with homeowners so you can find even more opportunities if you know where you want to go.
You can also reach out within your own networks and on social media—my friend’s parents have a vacation home that they’ve had acquaintances and extended family stay in for weeks at a time in exchange for just making sure the property is taken care of.
How Can You Get Started with House Sitting?
The boards listed above have membership programs and matching services so that you can create a profile and begin looking for a good house sitting opportunity in the destination of your choice.
A few tips:
- Look outside of the main city center, or the most touristy area: you may find the perfect home to take care of if you’re flexible with your location.
- Be honest with your profile: you don’t want to overstate what you’re capable of or comfortable with.
- Be flexible with your travel dates or accommodation around arrival and departure dates: when looking for a house sitting opportunity, you may find that there aren’t a lot of choices exactly for the dates you’re traveling—so you may need to find alternative housing for dates that don’t overlap, or adjust your travel dates.
- Make sure to talk over video with the homeowners: this is a great way to get to know them, for them to get to know you, and to figure out whether that house sit is the right fit for you both. You don’t want to get in over your head, and you don’t want to find out you have wildly different expectations!
- Know what you want from your trip: if you’re pet sitting, for example, you might not be able to take weekend trips or overnight jaunts outside of the home because your responsibilities will be to make sure the pet is taken care of properly.
- Get everything in writing: when figuring out responsibilities, make sure you have an agreement in writing—fortunately when you work with a house sitting platform, they’ll have a bit of structure in place to help answer questions and resolve issues that may arise.
- Don’t give up if your first match isn’t a fit: the homeowners might have something specific in mind that they’re looking for, and if it’s not a fit and you don’t get the job, don’t sweat it. This goes the other way, too—if you match with homeowners who are asking a bit more of you than you’re comfortable with (for example, if you’re not ok taking care of reptiles), move along because ultimately, you both need to be at ease with the agreement.
Wrapping It Up
House sitting can be a super fun, creative way to travel—and it can save you a good deal of money! While you will need to put a bit more effort into arranging your house sit, as opposed to booking a hotel or vacation home, it can be super rewarding and definitely memorable.
- From the Frayed Passport community: Boo! How I Ended Up Haunted House Sitting in Antigua, Guatemala
Have you had the chance to house sit while traveling? Share your stories with the Frayed Passport community!
Featured image by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash