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How to Start House Sitting and Save Money Traveling

written by Sam and Veren October 2, 2017
How to Start House Sitting and Save Money Traveling

Imagine traveling the world and not paying one cent for accommodations.

Accommodations that let you experience what it’s actually like to live there without displacing locals with illegal rentals.

Now imagine that it comes with free cuddles!

House sitting is gradually gaining popularity but most people still don’t what it is, how it works or if they should do it. (If that’s you, head to our post: Common Misconceptions About House Sitting). 

We’ve been house sitting since 2016 and have house sat across the U.S., Europe, the U.K. Since we started, we’ve been getting countless questions about it. Most people are ready to learn and want to know how to start house sitting.

Whether you’re interested in exploring this option in the future or just curious about house sitting in general, we break down how to start house sitting in this post.

(Thinking about using a house sitter? Five things you should consider before).

In fact, we have so much to say that we wrote the definitive guidebook on 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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Four kitties on a terrace | AlternativeTravelers.com
Cuddles provided by these guys.

House Sitting in Your Earbuds:

Wanna learn the 10 steps to house sitting? Check out this episode of our podcast, The House Sitting Travel Podcast, the first ever podcast on house sitting to travel! We share tips, advice, and inspiring interviews with fellow globe-trotting house sitters. In this episode, we go over the basics of house sitting in 10 easy steps. We cover a lot of the points in this blog as well as some additional ones!

Subscribe and listen to The House Sitting Travel Podcast below or on your favorite podcast app. Just search House Sitting Travel in your app of choice or click these links: Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher.

Or simply listen to the episode below – no need to download anything, just hit the green play button! =)

What is house sitting?

House sitting is basically an exchange where someone (the house sitter) takes care of a homeowner’s house and pets in exchange for staying in the house for free. While there are people who charge to house sit locally, there’s no money exchanged between parties in a house sitting exchange.  Many people ask us how much we make house sitting and the answer is nothing – if we’re talking pure monetary gains.  

House sitting in the way that we (and most people) do it is not a job. It’s an exchange-based system that benefits both parties. Full-time house-sitters reduce their monthly overhead by not paying a mortgage, rent, or bills.  Part-time house sitters use house sitting while on vacation or for short getaways and save money by not paying for a hotel or having to eat out every meal since they have access to a kitchen. Besides, house sitting also adds a richness to the experience of getting to know another place from the perspective of someone that lives there.

View of Salt Lake City from the top of the condo building of our first housesit.
View from the top of the condo building in Salt Lake City – priceless.

Who can house sit?

Basically anyone! As long as you like taking care of pets, homes, and are responsible, you can be a house sitter too! Whether you want to house sit full time or just for a few days once a year.

The majority of house-sitters are retired, as they have either retirement funds or rent out their property to provide income. There are plenty of younger generations house sitting too. House sitting is great for people with location independent work (a remote job or freelancers) that want to travel slowly. The arrangement provides a quiet and comfy place to do work and cute animals to spend time with!

Start Housesitting and get to know adorable kitties!

House sitting doesn’t have to be full-time though.

We’ve been full time house sitters for periods of time, and other times (like when we lived in Madrid), we house sat during vacations, doing a house sit over the holidays in Florence and another nine-day house sit in Berlin. Europe is an easy place to do short house sits because flights are short and cheap (it cost us just 70 euros round trip from Madrid to Berlin, and you can even find 20 euro flights to London).

Depending on where you are located, there may be house sits within a two to three-hour radius when driving or using other transportation. House sitting can be great for a long weekend trip to explore a new area that you never would have otherwise.

Is house sitting right for you?

Number one requirement for house sitting: you must love animals!

While there are house sits where the homeowner has no animals (you might have to take care of the yard or simply be there for security reasons), not considering house sitting with pets seriously limits your house sitting options.

Flexibility is key when house sitting, especially when first starting out. Flexibility with timing, location, and types of pets will help you land sits that other people might not be interested in. When we first started, we only looked at house sitting assignments that were a few months long – no matter where they were. Starting off with a three-month house-sit in Salt Lake City let us get our feet wet and try out the lifestyle without worrying (for a bit) about where we were headed next.

Remaining flexible extends into your time spent at the house sit. Don’t go into a house sit expecting the house to be the same as your own. The homeowners may not have the same kitchen appliances or household cleaning supplies that you prefer to use. Every house has its quirks and this is part of the experience for us – we enjoy trying on different people’s homes for size and using all the fun features that we don’t have.

How to start house sitting

We started house sitting by doing gigs for friends and family initially. This is a great way to test out house sitting to see if you like it while earning references for the future. Ask around – so many people have pets and want to travel, even if it’s just for a few days for work or to visit family. Yet most people think they can’t do so because they have pets and don’t want to board them or can’t afford to have a professional dog walker or caretaker come every day.

Many people don’t even know about the concept of house sitting but love it once they give it a try. People will feel vastly more comfortable trying it out with someone they already know and trust. This could be as simple as putting up a Facebook status offering that you’re available as a house and/or petsitter!

how to start house sitting
We started off housesitting for Sam’s aunt’s cats. Pictured here: big gentle boy Hudson.

Finding house sits  

There are many house sitting platforms out there that connect homeowners with housesitters. Both parties usually pay for a yearly membership and set up profiles listing either their home/pets or house sitting experience and references. Yearly fees range from $30-$120, though even the most expensive annual fee pays for itself with even a short weekend house sit by offsetting hotel or Airbnb costs.

We have easily saved thousands of dollars while house sitting, and that’s a low estimate!

Other options for finding house-sits include regional Facebook groups or simple word of mouth. Since we’ve only used TrustedHousesitters, we’ll only talk about that here for reference but for a comprehensive and honest review look here. (Our readers get a 10% discount when signing up).

Using TrustedHousesitters

TrustedHousesitters is the only website we’ve used so far for house sitting. We chose it because it is the largest house sitting website worldwide, so no matter where we plan on going, we can use the website to look for house sits. 

That said, it is probably the most competitive website and definitely the most expensive ($129/year). Still, considering the money that house sitting has saved us, the annual fee is worth the price. In 2016, we house sat for around six months and would have kept at it full-time then, if we hadn’t decided to move to Spain. When we lived in Spain, we house sit during holidays and summer break (when Veren had time off from teaching English in Spanish public schools), and after that, we went back to house sitting full time again.

With TrustedHousesitters, you used to be able to set an email alert for your chosen country (reportedly they will bring this feature back – get on it people).

Either way, you can choose to search for the countries where you would like to sit. Unfortunately, they haven’t broken up the U.S. by region yet, so if you’re looking to house-sit on the West Coast, you’ll have to sort through all the emails for the entirety of the U.S.

They also offer an option to have a daily digest email sent with a selection of new listings. We don’t suggest this though as you might be missing out on the perfect sit. Applying immediately is essential when applying to house-sits, as homeowners may receive many applications. You want yours to be at the top of the list of emails they get!

For more on using TrustedHousesitters, read our TrustedHousesitters Review (and Tips for Using It)!

If you want to sign up right away, we have an exclusive discount for you guys – click here to sign up with a 10% discount!

Setting up a profile

Once you sign up, it’s time to create a profile that will stand out from the rest. Recent photographs are a must when setting up a profile and communicate who you are at first glance. Animals included in the photos are great too! Talk about your experience caring for animals, either your own or friends/families, homes, self-sufficiency, etc. 

Your initial message or “application” to the homeowner is very important, as often homeowners can receive a lot of messages. In some locations, they get so many that often they do not respond to all. When we apply to house-sits in New York City, pet owners rarely respond to messages. We persevere each time (we return to NYC often as we have friends/family there), and have to date completed two house sits in Manhattan, two house sits in Brooklyn, and a house sit in Queens that we ended up returning to for a repeat sit.

Applying to house-sits

When sending your initial contact message, don’t go overboard listing everything about your experience as your profile will do that. We highlight experience that is especially relevant to a house-sit and include a couple of sentences about us. Homeowners will get many great applicants and you want yours to stand out while not writing an exhaustive essay. For example, the initial email that landed us the gig in NYC mentioned that we had watched hound dogs before and were used to them sniffing everywhere. The homeowner loved that we knew her dog’s personality!

Contacting house sitters as soon as possible is essential, so email alerts are key. Determining which house sits you’re interested in pursuing comes with practice and is very personal as everyone’s priorities vary. We house sit not only to travel, but to connect with people around the world.

Curious as to how to recognize a potentially problematic sit? Check our top 5 tips.

Video interview and landing the sit

Never agree to a house-sit without Skyping (or WhatsApp videoing, FaceTiming, Zooming, etc.) first! Talking to someone face to face will let you get a good read on them. Also, you can ask all your questions without playing email volleyball.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything that is unclear. For example, we always make sure that there is public transportation or a car provided. We don’t believe that we should incur the expensive costs of renting a car to complete a house sit. Many people don’t have a problem with this though, while others travel with their own car. Bottom line: think about what is important to you and make sure it is addressed.

So now you’ve got your first house sit – whoot!

Need more help landing sits? Check out The House Sitting Handbook, a full-length book and comprehensive resource that we created to help anyone house sit. In it, we share all the juicy tips that you’ll need whether you’re a newbie house sitter, struggling to get sits, or already house sitting but feel that you’re missing a piece of the puzzle to make your house sitting experience the best that it can be.

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*Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in January 2017 and has since been updated. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. 

How to Start Housesitting and Save Money Traveling - A quick and comprehensive guide to starting out as a housesitter, including house sitting websites, how to set up a profile, and contacting homeowners.
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