How to Start House Sitting and Save Money Traveling

We’ve been house sitting a year already and since we started, we’ve been getting countless questions about it! house sitting is gradually gaining popularity but most people still don’t what it is, how it works or if they should do it.  Whether you’re interested in exploring this option in the future or just curious about house sitting in general, we break down how to start house sitting in this post. This will likely be a series including other articles on the specifics of house sitting, so stay tuned for more!

What is house sitting?

House sitting is basically an exchange where someone (the house-sitter) takes care of a homeowner’s house and pets in exchange for staying in the house for free. While there are people who charge to house-sit locally, there’s no money exchanged between parties in a house sitting exchange.  Many people ask us how much we make house sitting and the answer is nothing – if we’re talking pure monetary gains.  

How to start housesitting
View from the top of the condo building in Salt Lake City – priceless.

House sitting in the way that we (and most people) do it is not a job. It’s an exchange-based system that benefits both parties. Full-time house-sitters reduce their monthly overhead by not paying a mortgage, rent, or bills.  Part-time house-sitters use house sitting while on vacation or for short getaways and save money by not paying for a hotel or having to eat out every meal since they have access to a kitchen. Besides, house sitting also adds a richness to the experience of getting to know another place from the perspective of someone that lives there.

Who can house-sit?

Basically anyone! As long as you like taking care of pets, homes, and are responsible, you can be a house-sitter too!

The majority of house-sitters are retired, as they have either retirement funds or rent out their property to provide income. There are plenty of younger generations house sitting too. House sitting is great for people with location independent work (a remote job or freelancers) that want to travel slowly. The arrangement provides a quiet and comfy place to do work and cute animals to spend time with!

House sitting doesn’t have to be full-time though. We are not currently full-time house-sitters as we rent an apartment in Madrid. Still, we’ve done a house-sit over the holidays in Florence and another nine day house-sit in Berlin. Europe is an easy place to do short house-sits because flights are short and cheap (it cost us just 70 euros round trip from Madrid to Berlin). Depending on where you are located, there may be house-sits in a two-three hour radius driving or using other transportation. House sitting can be great for a long weekend trip to explore a new area that you never wouldhave otherwise.

Is house sitting right for you?

Number one requirement for house sitting: you must love animals! While there are house-sits where the homeowner has no animals (you might have to take care of the yard or simply be there for security reasons), not considering house sitting with pets seriously limits your house sitting options.

Flexibility is key when house sitting, especially when first starting out. Flexibility with timing, location, and types of pets will help you land sits that other people might not be interested in. When we first started, we only looked at house sitting assignments that were a few months long – no matter where they were. Starting off with a three month house-sit in Salt Lake City let us get our feet wet and try out the lifestyle without worrying (for a bit) about where we were headed next.

Remaining flexible extends into your time spent at the house-sit itself. Don’t go into a house-sit expecting the house to be the same as your own. The homeowners may not have the same kitchen appliances or household cleaning supplies that you prefer to use. Every house has its quirks and this is part of the experience for us – we enjoy trying on different people’s homes for size and using all the fun features that we don’t have.

How to start house sitting

We started house sitting by doing gigs for friends and family initially. This is a great way to test out house sitting to see if you like it while earning references for the future. Ask around – so many people have pets and want to travel, even if it’s just for a few days for work or to visit family. Yet most people think they can’t do so because they have pets and don’t want to board them or can’t afford to have a professional dog walker or caretaker come every day.

how to start house sitting
We started off housesitting for Sam’s aunt’s cats. Pictured here: big boy and gentle Hudson.

Many people don’t even know about the concept of house sitting but love it once they give it a try. People will feel vastly more comfortable trying it out with someone they already know and trust. This could be as simple as putting up a Facebook status offering that you’re available as a house and/or petsitter!

Finding house-sits  

There are many house sitting platforms out there that connect homeowners with house-sitters. Both parties usually pay for a yearly membership and set up profiles listing either their home/pets or house sitting experience and references. Yearly fees range from $30-$120, though even the most expensive annual fee pays for itself with even a short weekend house-sit by offsetting hotel or Airbnb costs.

Other options for finding house-sits include regional Facebook groups or through simple word of mouth. Since we’ve only used TrustedHousesitters, we’ll only talk about that here, but we plan on writing a more extensive guide to the most popular platforms soon, so stay tuned for that!

Using TrustedHousesitters

TrustedHousesitters is the only website we’ve used so far for house sitting. We chose it because it is the largest house sitting website worldwide, so no matter where we plan on going, we can use the website to look for house-sits. That said, it is probably the most competitive website and definitely the most expensive ($119/year). Still, considering the money that house sitting has saved us, the annual fee is worth the price. In 2016, we house-sat for around six months and would have kept at it full time if we hadn’t decided to move to Spain.

With TrustedHousesitters, you can set email alerts from your chosen countries where you’d like to sit. Unfortunately, they haven’t broken up the U.S. by region yet, so if you’re looking to house-sit on the West Coast, you’ll have to sort through all the emails for the entirety of the U.S. They also offer an option to have a daily digest email sent with a selection of new listings. We don’t suggest this though as you might be missing out on the perfect sit. Applying immediately is essential when applying to house-sits, as homeowners may receive many applications. You want yours to be at the top of the list of emails they get!

Setting up a profile

Once you sign up, it’s time to create a profile that will stand out from the rest. Recent photographs are a must when setting up a profile. Animals included in the photos are great too! Talk about your experience caring for animals, either your own or friends/families, homes, self-sufficiency, etc. 

Alternative Travelers - Sam and Veren
Our profile photo – smiling and outside – shows that we’re active

Your initial message or “application” to the homeowner is very important, as often homeowners can receive a lot of messages. In some locations they get so many that often they do not respond to all. When we were applying to house-sits in New York City, we rarely had people respond to messages, they were so inundated. We persevered and landed a 10 day house-sit in Manhattan taking care of a cute and infinitely lazy dog!

Applying to house-sits

When sending your initial contact message, don’t go overboard listing everything about your experience as your profile will do that. We highlight experience that is especially relevant to a house-sit and include a couple of sentences about us. Homeowners will get many great applicants and you want yours to stand out while not writing an exhaustive essay. For example, our initial email that landed us the gig in NYC mentioned that we had watched hound dogs before and were used to them sniffing everywhere. The homeowner loved that we knew her dog’s personality!

Contacting house-sitters as soon as possible is essential, so email alerts are key. We have a ready-to-go email that we tweak and personalize whenever applying. Determining which house-sits you’re interested in pursuing comes with practice and is very personal as everyone’s priorities vary. We house-sit not only to travel, but to connect with people around the world. We’ll be writing a guide on how to recognize potentially problematic sits soon, so sign up for our newsletter or to be emailed whenever we publish a new post!

Skype interview and landing the sit

Never agree to a house-sit without Skyping first! Talking to someone face to face will let you get a good read on them. Also, you can ask all your questions without playing email volleyball.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions on anything that is unclear. For example, we always make sure that there is public transportation or a car provided. We don’t believe that we should incur the expensive costs of renting a car to complete a house-sit. Many people don’t have a problem with this though, while others travel with their own car. Bottom line: think about what is important to you and make sure it is addressed.

So now you’ve got your first house-sit – whoot! Stay tuned for more house sitting articles on specific topics. Please leave your questions in the comments below as it will help us in creating these guides! Have you ever house-sat before, or would you like to?

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. 

How to Start Housesitting and Save Money Traveling - A quick and comprehensive guide to starting out as a housesitter, including house sitting websites, how to set up a profile, and contacting homeowners.
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Samantha Anthony

Sam is a nomadic writer and photographer that freelances as an editor and proofreader, which may make her insufferable if you make any grammar mistakes in her presence. She has done stints as an archaeologist and tech writer in NYC and an English teacher in Madrid. She enjoys eating and photographing all the vegan food that Veren cooks.

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  • Rebecca Hall

    Excellent piece. If I need a house sitter for my two cats in Athens, Greece – I’ll get in touch!
    As someone who needs house sitters occasionally, it’s good to mention the other side: It is vital to get trustworthy people who will look after your animals and view house sitting almost as a ‘job.’

    • Thank you! Definitely keep us in mind – we would love to visit Athens and with two kitties as well? Heaven! =)

      You’re so right about treating house sitting kind of like a job – gotta get the cover letter looking good, initial interview, keep in communication during the sit, and follow up after! But it’s a ‘job’ that we truly enjoy and love doing so it doesn’t feel like work!

  • I would be nervous at first to house sit in case something went wrong. It is a perfect alternative to my usual Airbnb to save money and feel at home!

    • It definitely is more responsibility and while we’ve had our share of minor mishaps, it’s never been anything too crazy! We love the ‘feeling at home’ aspect to house sitting – it’s so cozy, especially with pets to cuddle up to in the evenings!

  • Nicolas D’Hoedt

    Great post, next time I travel I will consider that option!

  • Anita Sane

    Thank you for detailed information about housesitting. I am definitely interested to give it a try. I understand short housesitting in Europe would be a good starting point!

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