What is house sitting?

My partner Vanessa and I often refer to ourselves as “Global Nomads”. We pick a country and location that we are drawn to and then we go to live there for anywhere between three months and a year. We take the opportunity as long term travelers to really live like locals so that we can experience the local culture for as long as possible. We get our inspiration sometimes from travel magazines and blogs and sometimes by word of mouth.

Over the past couple of years we have lived, or spent significant time, in several different countries. After a year together on a small island in the Caribbean just off the coast of Panama, we spent six months in the southern states of the USA. We stopped over for a month in England and are now living and working for a year in China. Our next house sit is in the Alpine Mountains of Victoria, Australia, for a couple of glorious summer months.

After that? We’re not really sure yet, but we quite fancy Vietnam, Thailand or Laos. Or maybe South America – somewhere like Colombia. Then maybe we’ll head to Europe for the summer. We have the whole world to choose from – and maybe you could have similar options too.

We’re often asked, “How do you manage to travel in this way?”

“By house sitting,” is our usual response.

More often than not, the follow-up question is, “What is house sitting?”

So what exactly is house sitting?

Well, simply put, house sitting involves looking after someone’s home while they’re away. Instead of leaving a house vacant, home owners use house sitters to care for their property, possessions and pets.

For travellers like us house sitting has become extremely popular over the last few years. But as well as being a great accommodation option for longer term travel, it is now a recognized alternative to a regular vacation. It’s an inexpensive way to visit and live temporarily in different countries where we can experience different cultures around the world. This could be for just a few days, a couple of weeks, several months or even longer.

A mutual agreement is put in place where the house sitter is usually given rent free accommodation in exchange for looking after the property and pets. Over the agreed period of time, the house sitter makes sure things run just as smoothly as if the owners were at home.

A house sitting arrangement is a win-win situation, where the people on both sides of the equation enjoy significant benefits.

For the home and pet owner, they get to go away on holiday knowing that someone responsible is looking after their home, rather than leaving their house unoccupied and possibly vulnerable to theft.

If they have pets then they don’t have to find kennels or make arrangements for boarding their animals while they’re away. This offers a dual benefit of saving money, but perhaps more importantly, means that the pets get to stay in familiar surroundings. This makes the owner’s absence much less stressful for most animals. Everything remains familiar and known, other than the fact that a different person provides food and affection for a while.

For the house sitter the main benefit is obvious. They get to enjoy the comforts of a fully furnished home with furry friends happily living in residence, with no accommodation costs.

It’s not quite as simple as an introduction to the pets and a quick handover of keys. There are many things to consider, for both the house sitter and the home owner. But as the house sitting world grows and develops, the process is becoming more popular, and easier to organise.

There are now many websites that offer to introduce potential house sitters to home owners, and some of these sites have thousands of listings worldwide. Usually there are many more potential house sitters than there are homes available to look after, which does make it a little competitive for the sitters. For a home owner they usually get the chance to pick from a wealth of well qualified sitters with references, experience and reassuring background checks.

But don’t worry. If you’d like to become a house sitter, it’s relatively easy to get started, even without previous experience – read on.

What are the benefits for the home owner?

All house sitting arrangements are open to negotiation and can involve all sorts of possibilities and benefits for the home owner. Here are a few potential advantages over the alternative – leaving your house unoccupied:

  • Your house does not remain empty for weeks, or even months – you don’t need to worry about burst pipes, overgrown gardens, or unwanted intruders.
  • Some insurance companies invalidate policies if a property is left unoccupied for long period of time – this problem is solved by using house sitters.
  • Your pets get to live in their regular home while you are away – no boarding costs and a minimum of stress for you beloved companions.
  • Your garden can be looked after and your lawn kept in order.
  • Your swimming pool can be maintained and kept clean.
  • Your vehicles can be turned over regularly to keep them in good running order.
  • Your solar system and batteries can be monitored and maintained.
  • Your indoor plants can be watered.

What are the benefits for the house sitter?

  • You get FREE accomodation for the agreed period of the house sitting assignment.
  • You have no bills to pay.
  • You have some furry friends as company.
  • You get to experience life as a local in another area, rather than staying in a hostel or hotel.

House sitting can be more than just vacation accomodation

There are many reasons why people become house sitters. Here are a few other ideas to consider:

Some couples choose to house sit in their local area while saving for a deposit on a new home.

Many retired people opt to house sit because they have plenty of free time to take advantage of longer assignments. They get to make new friends and experience different cultures. If they have small pensions, it’s a great way to make their money go further and travel to the places they always hoped to visit, but could never afford.

You might simply want a short vacation but you’re fed up of traveling with tourists and staying in soulless hotels. Have you ever been on holiday and thought it would be nice to stay longer? Stay long enough to really experience the culture, the food, the people and the environment.

Others who could benefit from becoming house sitters are location independent people like us who enjoy the freedom of living in different countries. As long term travellers we can get to the point where we tire of hotel or hostel living and wish we could stay in a more homely environment. Somewhere we can really chill out and relax, cook for ourselves, do the laundry and watch movies.

What about the chance to visit and live in amazing cities? On vacation, many people limit city travel to just a few days because hotel costs make it so expensive. What if you could stay longer and really experience city life in a cosmopolitan centre in Europe, America, Asia or Australia? A lot of house sitting assignments come up in London, Sydney, and Paris as well as in some pretty cool cities in America.

We spent almost two months last year pet sitting an elderly dog in Austin, Texas and had a wonderful time in an amazing and vibrant city. House sitting offers an alternative way to experience city life, often in quieter, less stressful environments where you can relax after touring the local sights.

Maybe you have a big project to complete… writing a book, studying, or developing an online business. You’d like a completely new environment to help you focus on the task. It’s so easy at home to get distracted by routine actions, friends popping round for coffee, a night out for drinks. A house sitting assignment can provide the focus you need.

If you’re a teacher with long summer vacations, you could find a house sit to cover this period. You get to live in rent free in a different environment but with all the facilities available to mark papers and develop lesson plans.

If you’ve considered any of these options, then house sitting is certainly something that can offer a cost effective solution.

Benefits of house sitting over a regular holiday or short term rental

There are many benefits that house sitting can offer over a regular holiday or short term rental. First, you can choose to house sit in countries all over the world in many different types of houses. We’ve stayed in small city apartments and beautiful, luxury properties in the mountains of America.

You may be fortunate and secure a luxury property with a pool or other high end facilities. It depends what you are looking for but I can guarantee you’ll be spoilt for choice! In fact, our next house sit is in a beautiful six bedroom property with a 10m pool and the provision of a car, motorbike, moutain bikes and a canoe!

House sitting assignments pop up in all sorts of unlikely locations… small islands, remote forests or mountain locations, a windmill, a lighthouse. You never know what sort of interesting property you could end up caring for.

Anything’s possible!

The costs involved

House sitting is amazingly inexpensive when compared to any other type of vacation accommodation. In most situations you can stay in the property rent free. It’s a mutual exchange – property for pet and/or house care.

Most short term assignments provide electricity, gas, water, WiFi and other utilities free of charge. If you take a longer term assignment you might be asked to contribute to the utility bills. But this is a small price to pay when compared to a rental property or hotel room!

You’ll get to travel to towns and cities that you’d never have thought to include on your itinerary. You’ll get to live like a local, meet new friends and experience new adventures.

Your only major cost will be getting to your house sit location. Obviously if you choose a house sit halfway around the world then you will have flights to pay for. But pick somewhere closer to home, and your biggest expense will likely be your food and transport costs.

The house sitting lifestyle – how do I get started?

If you choose to house sit as a way of life, as we have, then you’ll experience a varied, changeable lifestyle with no ties and few possessions. House sitting offers the opportunity to enjoy a lifestyle of freedom and choice! We love living in this way and would encourage anybody to at least give it a try. And as a bonus we get to cuddle up with pets that we can no longer have now that we travel so extensively ourselves!

If you want to know more about house sitting and the opportunities it offers, either as a home owner or as a house sitter, sign up for our monthly newsletter below. We’ll also send you details of our new online “House Sitting” course at Udemy.com. We’ll even give you a great discount too if you think the course might be useful to you.

You can learn everything you need to know to get started and to gain an advantage with your profile when applying for assignments.

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Leave a Reply 6 comments

Brian & Lynn Moore - August 3, 2015 Reply

Really good article with loads of useful information. My wife and I discovered house sitting and pet sitting back in March this year and have been exploring the UK ever since. At present, we have an online business but need to be UK based, so can’t yet do the more exciting overseas options.

Nevertheless, since March we have stayed in some wonderful homes and looked after some adorable pets in Cornwall, Somerset, Hampshire, Surrey, Lancashire, Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire with 9 more bookings between now and next July. All we need is decent broadband internet and we can go anywhere.

If you want to be successful, I think the key is take great care writing your profile and ensure it is written to meet the needs of the homeowner, rather than focussing on what you, as the house sitter, may want.

    Ian Usher - August 3, 2015 Reply

    Hi Brian & Lynn,
    Many thanks for the reply and feedback on the article. It’s great to hear that you are having such a wonderful experience house sitting your way around the UK. It sounds like you are having a great adventure.
    As you say, if you work online all you need is a decent internet connection and you can work practically anywhere.
    I think you are absolutely right – having a well written profile is vital if you want to secure great house sitting assignments.
    Which house sitting site do you use to find your house sits?
    Best wishes,
    Ian and Vanessa

      Brian & Lynn Moore - August 3, 2015 Reply

      Hi Ian & Vanessa,

      Thanks for your reply and I’ll definitely take a look at Vanessa’s blog on UK housesitting. We are registered with HouseSittersUK.co.uk and have picked up some bookings via them. However, most of our bookings have come via TrustedHouseSitters.com which has a lot more choice and I do like their facility for homeowners to leave references for the house sitters. Looking forward to reading about your UK experiences 🙂

      Kind regards.
      Brian & Lynn
      PS About to head off to walk the Fareham Creek foreshore walk with Maddie, a lovely Collie dog we are looking after, and then a swift pint at the Cams Mill pub overlooking the water. It’s a hard life……..!

        Ian Usher - August 3, 2015 Reply

        A swift pint at the Cams Mill pub overlooking the water sounds lovely. As you say, it’s a tough life. I do miss English pubs and beer sometimes. Enjoy.

Heather - March 11, 2016 Reply

Ian,

Great piece to read. Very well written, it explains every angle of house-sitting lifestyle. My husband and I have been house/pet sitting for years; we are loving this lifestyle. It is a very rich and fulfilling way of being.

    Ian Usher - March 11, 2016 Reply

    Hi Heather,
    Thanks for the feedback. Glad you enjoyed the article.
    As you say, it certainly is a rich and fulfilling way to live your life.
    We have many more articles and resources at our new house sitting website here:
    https://LongTermHouseSitters.com
    Happy House Sitting. Best wishes,
    Ian

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