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Common Misconceptions About House Sitting

written by Sam and Veren April 13, 2021
Common Misconceptions About House Sitting

House sitting is one of the latest budget travel trends, and using house sitters for your home and pets is steadily growing in popularity.

All thanks to big publications sharing the clickable baity headlines along the lines of: “ZOMG travel the world for free while playing with cute puppies and kittens!”

This rising popularity means that many people will inevitably harbor a number of house sitting misconceptions. We’ve been house sitting since 2016, write a lot about it online, and consquently receive lots of feedback and questions; we’ve spoken with a lot of people that are interested in house sitting. Most people believe at least one (if not more) of these house sitting myths. So let us dispel them for you!

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, house sitting to travel is an exchange in which a person, the house sitter, 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 since 2016 and currently are full time house sitters (though we did it part time when we lived in Madrid), 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 and our brand new podcast, The House Sitting Travel Podcast (the first podcast on house sitting to travel the world).

In fact, we have so much to say that we wrote a book about house sitting! The House Sitting Handbook is your ultimate guide to successful house sitting, packed with all our best tips and secrets that we’ve learned over the years. Click here to learn more and to get your hands on The House Sitting Handbook!

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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.

Common House Sitting Misconceptions in Your Earbuds:

Listen to us go over the common misconceptions about house sitting in an easy listening, conversational format! Our podcast, House Sitting Travel, is also available on all podcast apps and platforms, or just click below to stream directly. We also feature inspiring interviews with globe-trotting house sitters, so definitely check it out 😉

And now, onto the blog post!

House Sitting is Not Like Booking a Hotel or Airbnb

One of the biggest misconceptions concerns how house sitting compares to booking accommodation. 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?” Instead, 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. No one decides when and who they want to go on a date with and then it magically happens.

What house sitting is: A community of people, looking for an exchange.

Home and pet owners are looking for house sitters who are available for a specific time and willing to commit to caring for their home and pets. Pet owners 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.

This means that the house sitter needs to be adaptable and open to a wide variety of destinations and/or a flexible schedule. The more flexible that you are with both of those factors, the more likely it is that you will find house sitting success.

If that doesn’t jive with how you like to travel, then house sitting may not be for you. And that’s okay! Click here for our travel booking recommendations and resources.

House Sitting is Not Instant

This is another very common house sitting misconception. Often, people are already planning a trip and may even have their tickets booked, when they hear about house sitting. They want to land a house sit immediately, and usually in a glamorous (aka competitive) location. But getting a house sit (especially a highly coveted one) 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 house sitting is: a process

Setting up for a successful house sitting takes work and time. Like anything worthwhile, you need to invest time and energy into it. With house sitting, that means 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 (alerts are essential) and respond more or less immediately if there is one that you’re interested in.

This all goes doubly true in popular and competitive places. For example, house sitting in Paris is highly competitive. You need to be experienced and persevere in your applications when considering house sitting in highly sought-out places.

House Sitting Is Not a Free Vacation

Often people imagine that they show up to a home, the pet owner hands over keys, and then they hop into a jacuzzi. They think about what house sitting offers them (a free place to stay) while not taking into account what they need to contribute in return. This is another big house sitting myth, perpetuated by the term “free” being used to describe house sitting. But the reality is that nothing is free, you gotta work for it 😉

When we were house sitting in Florence, we posted on Instagram about not particularly connecting with 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.

As we mentioned above, 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.

What house sitting 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 in Salt Lake City. He wanted us to experience southern Utah’s beauty first-hand. Read more about our mini-Utah road trip here.

It really cannot be overstated enough that house sitting does involve some amount of work. Yes, the situation should be an equal exchange. This is something that you will need to determine for yourself based on your needs and priorities. This is another way that house sitting is not a free vacation: you need to do your due diligence before agreeing to a house sit. Agreeing to a house sit without any due diligence is potentially a one way ticket to a bad house sit.

We don’t say any of this to scare you, and bad house sits can absolutely be avoided. But every time someone we have spoken to has had a negative experience, it’s because they did not fully vet the house sit with a conversation beforehand. And often, a negative experience is due to one of the house sitting misconceptions we’re talking about in this article. The free vacation house sitting myth is huge, so don’t let yourself fall into that trap!

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. If you want to get paid as a pet sitter, you might be better off establishing a local pet sitting business. That way, you can gather repeat clients who prefer to pay to have the same sitter for their pet each time they go away. But that’s a completely different scenario, and not what we’re talking about here.

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, making local connections with the pet owners, and of course, lots of cuddles from the pets!

What house sitting is: a work exchange.

Your payment comes in the form of a work exchange. You commit to caring for pets and a home and in return 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. Someone’s home with all the amenities (varies per house of course) and at times even a car.

Just like you can’t expect to be paid as a traveling house sitter, the pet owner should not expect the sitter to pay for or front any costs themselves. We strongly believe that money should stay out of this exchange-based occasion.

House Sitting is Only for Retirees

Of course, age is nothing but a number! And it’s true that many house sitters are retirees that have either sold or rented out their homes. They travel slowly with house sitting because they’ve realized that they can stretch their retirement money so much further this way. And of course, have amazing experiences to boot! 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 all over, including many U.S. states, European countries, and the idyllic Caribbean. 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 it’ll be a good fit.

As a final note, we keep in contact with many people for whom we have house sat. 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. We aren’t interested in booking two weeks of 12 hour days of nonstop activity.

Of course, we house sit because it lowers our overhead. We don’t need to be in a fixed location for a job, so house sitting enables us to travel further and for longer. Very importantly, house sitting allows us to pursue creative projects as a business (aka this blog and our podcasts).

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 for 10% off your TrustedHousesitters membership through our special link. Click here to use our code!

Readers of our book will get an even higher discount code (always the highest that TrustedHousesitters offers at that time). Make sure to check out The House Sitting Handbook if you’re serious about house sitting. The discount code helps offset the cost of the book too 😉

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Further Reading:

Common Misconceptions About Housesitting as a Means to Travel Cheaply: Interested in housesitting as a way to get free accommodation while traveling, but not sure how it works? We go over the top misconceptions about house sitting and what house sitting is really all about! #Housesitting #BudgetTravel | AlternativeTravelers.com

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 is continuously updated. Latest update: April 2021.

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