As long-time travellers and lovers of pets, we were quite late to the long-term house sitting lifestyle, despite it being a fairly obvious choice for us in terms of combining all the things we love. In the end, it was actually a good friend in Tokyo who pointed us in this direction and taught us how to get started with house sitting.
Although a popular living option for digital nomads, house sitting is certainly not mainstream yet, so we’ve been met with hefty amounts of confusion and general disbelief that this kind of lifestyle is even possible.
People are usually surprised when we suggest that it’s not just for people who want to live in other countries long-term; that you can use this to have cheap weekend getaways around your local area, or simply use house sitting to support your annual vacation away.
We truly believe house sitting is for everyone and something everyone should try at least once. House sitting can change the way you live, work, and travel. It can set you free.
As with all things, there are a fair few myths floating around about it so we’re here to clear things up, point you in the right direction in terms of getting started with house sitting, and let you know what to expect.
Should you find that you’re interested, you’ll also discover, right here, how to make a house sitter profile that stands out and gets you excellent house sits.
Your Ultimate Guide to Pet and House Sitting
Initially, we decided to try a short, week-long house sit at home in the UK so that we could get a feel for it, which ended being a great idea as we could get a review which would allow us to apply for even more desirable house sits.
We know people who have seen every corner of their home country, and cities and areas that are often too expensive for many locals to stay in, like London, Paris, and Manhattan. Of course, house sitting very much works for people who want to travel long term, and, on our journey, we’ve met people who’ve been long-term house sitting for over five years.
Up until the point where we began house sitting, we had been teaching abroad in China, Korea, and Japan, and very much enjoying it.
We’ve looked after our friends’ pets and rescued our own cat from China (who now lives in the English countryside with family). We wanted to move towards a, self-reliant, independent, freelancer lifestyle. House sitting seemed to offer a way to live very cheaply but still have free time, and an opportunity to travel endlessly.
Many people worry that they would sign up and find that sits were too competitive; that they wouldn’t get stable housing. We’ve not found that at all and have been booked up solidly for two years and counting. Long-term house sitting has worked well for us — feel free to follow along on Instagram as we share our house sitting lives there!
Essential House Sitting Tips
Think of this as the house sitter’s bible, to be followed at all times. Following a few simple house sitting rules will take away any stress that could arise as a house sitter and make it a pleasant experience for both you and the homeowner!
- Don’t agree to a house sit lightly. Cancelling is frowned upon and reflects badly on you. Make sure you’ll be available and only cancel if something unavoidable has come up. You can’t control them cancelling on you but it hasn’t happened to us yet (using one of the paid-for services like TrustedHousesitters reduces the risk of this since the homeowners and sitters tend to be more invested).
- Make sure you’re clear with what you need. The homeowner should be as ideal for you as you are for them. Do you need high-speed Wi-Fi to work? Any accessibility issues that you need to ask about? Is it close to public transport if driving won’t be an option for you? Do they leave a car if driving is an option or will you have to rent one? These are all great things to discuss beforehand.
- Expect to be skyped or called. They’re letting you stay in their home so they’re going to want to know you a little (and you them). We’ve skyped every person we’ve sat or prepared to sit for. It’s generally quite fun and it’s a nice ice-breaker for when you meet them for real. We’ve become fast and lasting friends with many of the people we’ve sat for.
- Don’t eat all their food (or use their products in general). Unless they’ve said you can. We’ve been treated incredibly well by people we’ve sat for, been left with a full fridge, and even treated to lunch and an Airbnb the night before, but never take liberties with people’s homes. One bad review could cost you far more in the long run than doing some grocery shopping. In fact, a bad review can end your house sitting lifestyle in a moment.
- Make sure you know what you’re doing .This is a biggie. And this can be discussed on Skype, found in the welcome guide, and explained when you meet them. But make sure you know their pets and their house needs. What’s the routine of the dog, cat, parrot etc? Do they need meds? Are they indoor/outdoor pets? Know when the rubbish days are, ask where the hoover is etc.
- Spend time with their pet. So many house sitters treat this as a free opportunity to travel (and it is, in a lot of ways) but it does come with responsibility and that’s worth remembering. Lots of the owners we’ve spoken to have mentioned that their dogs have been left alone too long and gotten stressed, barked, and annoyed the neighbours etc.
- Always be polite, even if you’re rejected. We’ve been rejected for being a couple, for not being a couple, for being too young, for no reason at all. People have a picture in mind of what their ideal house sitter looks like and you might not always fit that. Keep friendly and let them know that you’re still interested if anything falls through or in the future. We’ve had dream sits just because we were nice and their original house sitter fell through. We have no problem with being someone’s sloppy seconds.
- Be prepared for gaps. If you’re doing this full-time, be prepared for the odd day, here and there, where you may have to stay in a hotel unless you’re lucky enough to have friends or family nearby. You can also try couchsurfing if you’re trying to keep costs as low as possible. If you’re working, then this can take some meticulous planning in terms of access to WiFi or only travelling from place to place on weekends etc.
Where to Find House Sits
These are the house sitting websites which we’ve had the most success using.
By the far the biggest house sitting website with the easiest-to-use interface. New ‘sits’ pop up daily, and checking them becomes an addiction (you have been warned). We’ve had the most success with this site overall.
How TrustedHousesitters works:
Simply enter in the dates and the city you’re looking for, or you can just generally scroll through and find suitable sits anywhere in the world. Then hit the apply button and prepare to sell yourself.
It sounds dramatic but your letter to the owner and your profile (we’ll come to that later) are very important. It needs to be well written (get our free house sitting letter template below), show that you’re trustworthy, and interested in their location, their home, and, most importantly, their pet.
Once you’ve formally agreed on a sit (both parties have to hit an ‘agree’ button), those dates on your calendar get blanked-out and it’s added to your dashboard. The owner will send you a guide book and you’re good to go. They’ll probably check closer to the time with details of your arrival and where to go from there.
TrustedHousesitters does come with a hefty annual membership of £79 or $119, something which may put some people off. But there is a refer-a-friend offer available (here’s ours) which gets the sitter two months free and a discount for the ‘friend’.
For every friend you refer, you’ll get two months extra free on your contract so it’s worth sharing around. Feel free to use ours and then make your own.
The Downsides of TrustedHousesitters:
It’s the most popular site and there are many people using it. It’s hard at first to get the ‘best sits’ — these tend to be the longer ones, the ones in desirable cities, the idyllic ones with swimming pools, and the ones with the least work involved.
Once you’ve got a few successful sits and reviews under your belt, things become a lot easier (people even reach out to you).
Our tactic for this was to do some close to home, in places that weren’t that desirable, so that we looked reputable when we went for the more exciting ones. Other tactics have involved simply getting there first. If you see a sit you like, don’t hesitate to apply because it’ll probably be gone within hours.
Also very big, and the original house sitting site, but far less crowded than TrustedHousesitters. There are more long-term sits on here and they have much less competition.
How Mind My House works:
Mind My House works in much the same way as TrustedHousesitters. They even have similar interfaces; you create a profile to sell yourself.
Your profile works kind of like an ad and, once you’ve set your availability dates, you have the added bonus of people messaging you if they like the look of you. This usually happens far earlier than it does with TrustedHousesitters due to the lack of competition.
You’ll find ads in the same way as with TrustedHousesitters — just click on the ‘find a house sit’ button down the bottom. We’ve noticed that there are more sits in off-the-beaten-track locations here compared to with TrustedHousesitters, and they are predominantly (though not exclusively) in the UK, USA, NZ, and Australia.
They’ve also got a lovely community going on. Bloggers can write for them about their experience and you’re generally encouraged to interact and ask for advice from other sitters.
Mind My House Price:
Far cheaper than TrustedHousesitters. You can join for $24 and that lasts for a full year; owners even join for free. There are no discount codes or referral options here, however.
The Downsides of Mind My House:
There are fewer sits in general but less competition, too, so that balances out nicely. The fact that homeowners don’t get charged could mean they take it less seriously though we’ve seen no evidence of this yet.
Country-specific House Sitting Websites
If you’re interested in particular countries, many have their own specific sites.
For Australia: Aussie House Sitters is by far the most popular website to use. A simple interface and lots of homes available; it’s a perfect option for those wanting to explore Oz.
For New Zealand: Kiwi House Sitters is the one to go for. With as many city-based as rural housesits, this is a really good option if your travels are primarily focused in New Zealand.
For the USA: House Sitters America is a very good choice if you don’t want to sign up for the more expensive TrustedHousesitters.
House Sitting Facebook Groups
There are so many Facebook groups that promote the latest sits in specific countries. When we were living in Japan and Korea, we were part of the local pet sitting and house sitting Facebook groups and plenty of options came up.
Another favourite of ours is Housesitting Cafe, which is full of house sitting opportunities and support.