I think we have all heard about this world of house swapping or house sitting, but without a bit of research and a certain level of comfort around the idea, it’s hard to embrace. Cameron remembers the days when it was a monthly subscription newsletter delivered via snail mail. Thankfully the internet has made it easier and faster to find great places to stay for free around the world.
There are tons of benefits to house sitting and a few things to know. After our experience and a little bit of research, here is a Get Started Guide.
How it Works
For the Home Owner: If you want to have your house and pets taken care of, choose a website, create a profile, select the dates you want to be away, then wait for the house sitter applications to roll in.
For the House Sitter: Pick one or two websites that fit your location needs or on which you have found a few great potentials. Sign up, pay the money, follow directions to create a killer profile, apply to the house sit and wait to be contacted by the owner.
Most sites offer similar features:
- Identity checks for sitters and homeowners to make sure their email is real, the phone number is real, they have a drivers license or Passport and a real address. Most sites encourage and have a place for references.
- Secure communication platform protecting identity, contact information, and exact house location until the sit is confirmed.
- Apps so you can use the service easily from your phone or tablet.
- Advice and support that help both parties have successful experiences.
- Email alert systems so you can set search criteria and have new listings pop into your email when they come up.
- How Much: Homeowner AND sitters pay $35 for three months of access or $89 for a year.
- Where: France mainly with the rest in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Eastern European Countries as well as a bit in Canada and a few in the US
- How Many: 1,019 homes listed worldwide on their site today. Over 400 of these are what they call Nomador Stopovers, a unique feature wherein homeowners offer to host a traveler, free of charge, for a night or two.
- Other Info:
- a great and easy rating system for sitters and homeowners
- we found our house sit on this site
- How Much: Sitters pay $20 for a year membership and homeowners are free.
- Where: This site is focused mainly on US, UK, and NZ houses with a growing number of French/Europe as well as Canada and South America.
- How Many: There are 295 current listings around the world on this site as of today.
- Other Info:
- This site is nice in that you can see the details of all the listings before you join, so you really only need to join if you see something that interests you.
- Cheapest site out there for sitters
- I like their interface but their total user-ship is still smaller than the others. If you are really focused on the UK though, it’s worth looking into.
- How Much: For sitters, it’s $50/year and free for homeowners.
- Where: This site is heavily US/Canada with its second focus being Europe and the rest is a smattering of other English speaking areas; Australia and England with fewer still in farther-flung places around the world.
- How Many: There are a total of 174 listings today on this site.
- Other Info:
- If I were posting my own house, I might look more closely at this site. It is free for homeowners. It seems to have a bent more toward protecting the privacy of the homeowner and providing services, sample agreements and lots of resources to allay any fears or concerns that may come up.
- Its interface is a bit more cumbersome.
- They tout that most homeowners receive at least 20 applicants per house sit post giving the owner lots of choices.
- This site encourages sitters to get a Police Report and outside references which are available to the homeowner upon request.
- While most sites act a bit more like a database which sitters can peruse, this site acts more like a dating service, matching sitters who specify a certain location of interest with homeowners in that area.
- How Much: The price is steep at $119/year for both parties.
- How Many and Where: The overwhelming value of this site is the number of sits available. Just in the UK, the largest market, there are 1,248 sits listed. The US comes in second with 715 followed by Australia, Canada and then France with 47 in addition to 50 other countries with a small to minuscule numbers of sits.
- Other Info:
- You can peruse all the houses without signing in. In order to see details on any of the sits, you need to create a free account, and to apply to a sit, you need to pay the money.
- The site provides 24/7 Vet Advice Line.
- They also provide insurance for home damage, theft, and liability up to $1M USD at no extra cost to the owner.
- The site does have a great interface with more of an Airbnb feel, offering to search houses at the beach, houses in a city or mountain hideaways.
- It also has way more relevant filters than other sites, allowing you to identify only houses which offer Wifi access, use of the owner’s car, family-friendly houses and/or access for disabled sitters.
- This site also offers reviews so sitters and homeowners can be rated.
What You Need to Know Before You Go
You Must Love Pets
They say “house sitting” but most of the time you are really “animal sitting.” If you are not at least somewhat inclined toward animals, you’d better just get a hotel room. The animals may be low maintenance, but they also may need special food, medications, unique treatments or specified exercise. There are very few house sits without animals.
You Must Be Flexible
The hardest thing for us was that I would find amazing house sitting opportunities that didn’t jive with my dates. We had a two-week timeframe and it was challenging to find anything that fit perfectly into that in an area where we wanted to be. Most homeowners have firm dates but some are flexible to a point. If you say to yourself, “I want to be in X country, or better yet, X continent somewhere in these three months, you are going to find a great place that fits your needs.
Create a Good Profile
Jump through all the hoops they ask you to jump through. Most sites have way more sitters than homeowners so you gotta look better than the next guy. Kids can be a bonus for some people because they know the dog will get lots of tummy rubs. Some people want just one person and many call for a “mature couple”. Read what they are looking for and don’t waste their time if you don’t match their description unless you feel you have a good shot. Add photos, confirm all your details and if you are super serious, get a police report. Most importantly, if you have housesat for a friend before, get them to write you a reference.
You Must Act Fast
The best opportunities don’t last long AT ALL. Set up email notifications and check them first thing in the morning. Reply fast and keep the communication going.
The Pros of House sitting
1 – It’s free! Or it usually is. If there is money involved then it’s a job, not a sit. Most sites do not condone payment of either party under normal circumstances. If the sit requires lots of extra duties, then a payment may be appropriate.
2 – You really get to understand another culture in a more intimate way. You see how people live with all the little choices one makes when setting up one’s home. “Oh, you have a bread drawer… of course you have a bread drawer, it’s France!”
3 – The house is set up. No worries about whether you need to pick up the TP or if the sheets are included in the rental, you are moving into someone’s house so most of the little supplies you might not expect in a rental, are there.
4 – Animals! You usually get to love on someone else’s animals. I’m leaving this in the pro column in my case, but it may not be in the pro column for everyone.
The Cons of House sitting
1 – Scheduling can be challenging. You usually can’t pick and choose your dates. In addition, you can’t leave until they arrive home typically, so if their flight is delayed or their car breaks down, you have to work around that, so plan a buffer.
2 – Responsibilities. This isn’t a rental, you might have to feed the cats, water the plants, walk the dog, pick up the poop, figure out why the rumba lawnmower isn’t working or sweep the snow off of the solar panels. You might even end up in the emergency room with the dog.
3 – Most sits I’ve seen do not come with a car and most are rural. You may want to plan to rent a car, unless you find that ideal house sit.
The Extra Mile
- Download Whatsapp and Google Translate (if a foreign language is involved).
- Bring a small gift to your host and/or purchase something while they are away as a thank you.
- Assume they have nanny cams in the living room, respect the home and behave yourself.
- Be amazing, communicate with the homeowner while they are away, helping ease any worries they may have so they can enjoy their time away.
- Leave the place SPOTLESS or at least pull your sheets, sweep the floor, clean the bathrooms and hand the house back over in a better state than you received it.
- Make dinner for the homeowners when they return home.
House sitting is an amazing way to make connections, build friendships and get to know a culture more intimately. It also saves tons of money, especially if you are not paying a mortgage or renting back home!! What we have heard is that house sitting tends to build upon itself. Often you get invited back to a previous sit or you get known as a sitter and friends, or friends of friends begin to call on you and ask if you can help them out by sitting their home. If you are interested in long term travel or are curious about being location independent it is a great way to step out into that world.