House sitting is one of the latest sustainable travel trends, while using house sitters for your home and pets is steadily growing in popularity.
What is house sitting? In short, housesitting is an exchange in which a person, the housesitter, stays at someone’s home and cares for their pets and property while they are away. We almost exclusively use TrustedHousesitters to get all our house sits. Click to read our comprehensive TrustedHousesitters review and our top tips for using the website.
Despite existing before the internet, house sitting is still relatively new, at least in terms of homeowners and prospective sitters meeting online first. We have been house sitting for over 2 years (full-time for around 9 months and now that we’re Madrid-based, every couple months or so), so we get a lot of questions whenever the topic comes up.
People express excitement and a desire to start house sitting – which is amazing. Inspiring people to travel in an affordable way is part of why we started this website.
Yet many misunderstandings persist (understandably). This one sums it up: “I’m going to [insert destination] – how do I get a house sit there?”
Seems like it’s about time we clear up some common misconceptions about house sitting.
House Sitting is Not Like Booking a Hotel or Airbnb
When house sitting, you can’t just book a specific set of dates in a specific place. Dedicated websites (like TrustedHousesitters) or even social media platforms act as an intermediary, or a meeting place, for people to connect. Think more like a dating site.
You wouldn’t ask a dating site user, “Hey, I´m going to London, how do I get date for that Friday night?” You have to go on the app, talk to people, see if there is a connection, and find someone that wants to go on a date with you. You don’t just decide when and who you want to go on a date and then it magically happens.
What it is: A community of people, looking for an exchange.
Homeowners are looking for house sitters who are available for a specific time and willing to commit to caring for their home and pets. They determine the dates and house sitters respond to their listing or inquiry. In turn, house sitters are looking for a house sit that they can commit to, unforeseen circumstances withstanding.
(Btw, if you decide house sitting isn’t for you and would rather just book an Airbnb, here’s a $40 credit on us for your first Airbnb booking – click here to use it!)
House Sitting is Not Instant
Getting a house sit when you want is not something that happens overnight. Again, see above with the dating analogy. You can’t book a trip for the following month and land a house sit that corresponds with those exact days unless you’re improbably lucky.
What it is: a process
Setting up for a successful house sitting opportunity takes work and time. Like anything worthwhile, you need to invest a lot of time and energy into building your profile, honing house and pet sitting skills, and gathering personal and site based references. Once your profile is set up, you need to be on top of browsing new house sits posted (email alerts are essential for this) and respond more or less immediately if there is one that you’re interested in.
House Sitting Is Not Paid In Cash
You can’t expect to have free accommodations and get paid, just like you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Normally one pays to travel, so if any part of that comes free, expect to pay in some form of labor. People often ask us how much we make house sitting, and we say nothing – if we’re talking cold hard cash. We get paid in the form of not paying for a place to stay and also in lots of cuddles from the pets!
What it is: a work exchange.
Your payment comes in the form of a work exchange where you commit to caring for pets and a home, and you get to stay somewhere for free. A huge benefit is that you get to stay not just in a hotel but an actual home, with all the amenities (varies per house of course), and at times even a car.
House Sitting Is Not a Free Vacation
Often people imagine you show up to a home, get handed keys, and hop into a jacuzzi. They think about what house sitting offers them (a free place to stay) while not taking into account what you need to contribute in return. When we were house sitting in Florence, we posted on Instagram about not particularly connecting with and enjoying the city (read why here). We got comments telling us to take overnight trips and explore the region instead. When we responded that we were house sitting, we got some confused responses of people saying they could never travel that way. House sitting isn’t for everyone – and that’s ok! If you’re looking to take a short vacation and go wherever you want whenever you want, house sitting may not be the ideal choice (get a discount for your first time using Airbnb using this link!).
What it is: It’s a commitment.
You have responsibilities to pets and private property. No overnight trips or even long day trips unless it’s a super chill cat and the homeowner explicitly gave the go ahead. For example, an extremely generous homeowner insisted on road tripping with his cat during our three-month housesit so we could experience Utah’s beauty first-hand. Read more about our mini-Utah road trip here.
House Sitting is Only for Retirees
Of course, age is nothing but a number! But it’s true that many people we have come across in the house sitting world are retirees that have either sold or rented out their homes to travel slowly via house sitting. In turn, this makes people think that only retirees can house sit. Not true at all!
Who house sitting is for: Anyone who is willing to try!
As long as you’re flexible, love animals, and keep in mind the above four points, you could very well be on your way to your first successful house sit. Take it from us – we started house sitting when we were 24 and 28 and have house sat in various U.S. states and European countries. We never apply to house sits requesting a “mature couple” (we know this to mean a retired couple) and instead focus on applying to house sits where we perceive that the homeowner is open to younger housesitters.
As a final note, we keep in contact with many people for whom we have house sat, and one homeowner once told us that he had a not-so-great experience with a retired housesitter he had after us. Just goes to show you that it’s not all about age!
House sitting works for us because we prefer to slow travel and aren’t interested in booking two weeks of 12 hour days of nonstop activity.
Of course, we house sit because it lowers our overhead. For example, this summer we plan to house sit full time because it will likely cost less than paying monthly rent and we don’t need to be in a fixed location for a job.
But ultimately, we house sit because we love pets and we love traveling slowly. Sure the cost reduction helps, but it fits our lifestyle and priorities. It’s a great way to meet people and spend time with their pets.
If you’ve decided that you’d like to try house sitting after reading this post, we’ve got a gift for you! Use our reader discount code ALTERNATIVE10 for 10% off your TrustedHousesitters membership through our special link. Click here to use our code!
If you’d like to learn more about house sitting, head to our comprehensive post on how to get started.
For more housesitting tips, check out our guide to avoiding bad house sits.
Would you ever try house sitting? Did you have any of these common misconceptions about house sitting? What other questions do you have about house sitting?
*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in March 2017 and has since been updated.