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Is Long-Term House Sitting Right for You?

written by Samantha Anthony September 25, 2019
Is Long-Term House Sitting Right for You?

Anytime someone hears that we do long-term house sitting as full-time travelers, their reaction is usually some form of, “Wow, that’s so cool! What a dream life!”

And we’re not going to lie: we love this lifestyle. We wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. 

But just like with any lifestyle, there are pros and cons. 

We’re not here to glamorize house sitting and tell you that every day is lounging poolside at a luxury villa. 

We are here to tell you the real deal, nitty-gritty of house sitting. 

In fact, we have so much to say about house sitting that we wrote a book! 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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If you’re a pet and/or homeowner reading this, hopefully it’ll give some insight into the lives of house sitters! We strongly feel that being aware of the needs of both sides facilitates a fantastic house sitting experience for everyone. Knowing the house sitter perspective helps pet/home owners find the perfect house sitter. If you’re looking for more tips geared toward pet owners interested in using house sitters, start with our post: Thinking of Using House Sitters?

Pros of Long Term House Sitting 

Save Money 

If you’re house sitting long-term, it more or less goes without saying that you’re saving tons of money. In our three years house sitting, we’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars in accommodations. We’re being modest here. This is estimated at 50 bucks per night on average, and we’ve stayed long term in places where the cost is at least 3 times that – if not more.

Pssstt…if you’re thinking joining a house sitting website, we’ve also got a special reader discount so you can save even more money. Click here to sign up for TrustedHousesitters with 10% off!

Long term house sitting means that you’re not paying rent anywhere (ideally) while you house sit for a long, hopefully uninterrupted stretch. Maybe you own a home and are renting that out. Or maybe you’re like us and don’t own a home and thus are completely free-floating. 

This means that house sitting subsidizes your living expenses considerably. 

This is a big pro over the occasional house sitters who still live somewhere full-time. While they’re saving money while exploring a new place, they’ve still got all their at-home expenses.

As long term house sitters, you don’t have that (at least, we recommend you don’t). 

Keep in mind that if you’re interested in long-term house sitting, you may be asked to pay utility bills at the house sit. It’s your preference if you want to do that, but our firm position is that we won’t pay any bills while we are taking great care of someone’s home and pets. 

The fact is that we’ve set up our lifestyle so that we don’t need to be at any house sit in particular. There will always be another house sit available where the owners appreciate the hard work and responsibility that house sitters do, and don’t ask for utilities/other home expenses to be paid.

On the other hand, pet owners do need us to be there to take care of their pets and home. If they don’t find a house sitter, they’ll need to arrange (and pay for) long-term pet sitting, while still paying for their utilities. It goes without saying that this would add up real quick – hence why they need a house sitter! 

Quite frankly, pet/home owners who ask for utility payments while getting free pet and home care are trying to have their cake and eat it too. 

Pet owners may argue “but electricity is expensive here and people might use too much AC,” to which we’d reply “Would you leave your pet at home with no AC on if it’s really that hot?”

No (hopefully). 

When pet/homeowners insist on passing on their expenses to us, we pass on their house sit.

Read more: 10 Red Flags of Bad House Sits

Explore New Places at a Slower Pace 

This is the other pretty obvious pro of full-time house sitting. You get to explore places at a much slower pace than if you were popping in for a quick weekend. 

When long-term house sitting, you can learn more about the place’s culture, connect with locals, and generally enjoy your time there without being rushed. You gain a greater appreciation and knowledge of a place the longer you stay there. 

Read More: Why We Slow Travel

Here are just a few places where we have done long-term house sitting (1 month or more):

Easier to Establish a Routine the Longer You Stay 

House sitting is a fascinating life that’s certainly never boring. However, humans are creatures of habit, and sometimes you don’t want fascinating or adventurous. 

The pro of long term house sitting is that you can actually establish a routine somewhere.  

If you house sit for a long period of time, you’ll need to establish a routine in your temporary home. 

This is especially true if you work online (as we do) or have goals that you’re working towards (ditto), whether they’re related to fitness, creative work, personal development, or anything else.

That’s why this year, we decided to take on house sits of one-month minimum duration only. The couple of times that we let this minimum slip because of one thing or another, we regretted it. Moving every couple of weeks is disruptive and doesn’t allow for the establishment of a routine. It’s also exhausting.

Staying in one place for at least a month (ideally more) means we can create that routine by stocking up on groceries, joining a gym, getting to know the lay of the land, and of course bonding with the pets! 

Better Bond With Pets 

On that note, long term house sitting means getting into a groove with the home and pets you’re taking care of.

Animals usually take a bit of time to warm up to their new caretakers, especially if they are a rescue animal and have any anxieties or apprehension about new people. In longer house sits, you get to truly get to know the animals and their needs. Likewise, you’ll get into a routine with the home care, streamlining things and generally making your life easier. 

Cons of Long Term House Sitting

The big shiny pros of house sitting are pretty obvious. But people tend to play up these pros and glaze over the cons (especially those marketing house sitting online).

If you’re interested in house sitting long term, you need to be aware of the very real cons and make peace with them. If you’re not aware of these potential cons, you’re setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment. 

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It’s Sometimes Difficult to Create a Stable Routine

We talked about the pros of being able to create a routine in long-term house sitting.

But sometimes, you just can’t. 

Each house sit is uniquely different. You may find that the place you’re going to be for the next month is not set up for the kind of routine that you need and crave. Maybe you work online and they don’t have an office space or even a table to work from.  Or maybe the home is really cluttered and cramped and you can’t get your home workout in. Maybe you have to spend inordinate amounts of time to take care of errands because everything is far away.

Whatever it is, these are the kinds of things you might take for granted as available in every home – until you end up in one where it doesn’t exist. And we often don’t notice how important certain circumstances are until they aren’t available.

This is why asking the right questions for you and your needs is key when arranging a house sit. Still, sometimes things slip through the cracks, especially as you’re getting the hang of house sitting. 

Also, the routine of a place you’ll be for a couple of months is not the same as a routine you have in a place you’ve lived for years (which can be both good and bad). 

Part of the long term house sitting lifestyle involves uncertainty and unpredictability, our next con. 

Inherent Unpredictability 

Life is unpredictable. Surprise – so is house sitting. 

We’re talking about  “what if” situations in house sitting that we often get asked about, aka the “What if X happens while I’m house sitting?”

Our answer?

It just might – so you need to be prepared. 

With long-term house sitting, there is more potential for things to pop up, simply because there are more days that you’re “on the job.” 

Maybe the sit you arranged fell through because of an emergency on one side. Luckily, we have never had a homeowner cancel on us, but it does happen. This is why house sitting shouldn’t be used by truly broke travelers. You need to have an emergency fund for if something happens and you need to book last minute accommodation until you find another sit. Fellow long-term house sitter and blogger Nora talks about this misconception in this article.

Another “what if” scenario: pet illness or even death. Needless to say, this causes stress for both house sitter and Pet owner. Unfortunately, we’ve experienced both of these situations. In both cases, we immediately reached out to the pet owners and took the pet to the vet. The owners thanked us profusely for dealing with the situation so rapidly and calmly. 

These are just a couple of things that might come up. No matter what happens, you need to be able to deal with these unexpected situations and move on as best you can.

More Home Maintenance and Pet Responsibilities 

Often, long-term house sitting comes with more responsibilities than a short-term sit. If you’re house sitting somewhere for three months, you’ll have to do more home maintenance than if you were only there for a week. 

These responsibilities could include mowing the lawn, intensive pool cleaning, car checkups (if you’re given use of one), or any other home maintenance tasks that are done infrequently. It’s important to know if the workload is reasonable. You shouldn’t be expected to paint walls, repair the roof, or anything else that they would pay a specialist to do. This is why it’s especially important to make sure your responsibilities as a long-term house sitter are clear. A home owner may assume certain things will be done, but if they’ve never voiced those assumptions, it may not be obvious to you how to properly upkeep their home.

Likewise, you may be asked to take the pet to the vet for a check-up or yearly vaccines or change out flea collars.

This is a pretty minor con and one that doesn’t bother us in the slightest. We’ve learned some great new skills this way! But you do need to be aware and ask questions about ongoing maintenance. This way, you’ll avoid surprised homeowners when they get home that you didn’t do a task that is part of their monthly routine.

Potential Loneliness and Homesickness 

Long-term house sitting is different from long-term travel in a number of ways. One of them is that you can’t fly home any time you feel like it. Digital nomads traveling on their own dime can fly home on a whim if they get homesick and can afford it. 

House sitters, not so much. 

As a house sitter, you are assuming the serious responsibility of caring for someone else’s home and pets. Emergencies aside, you can’t just up and leave in the middle of a house sit. 

This can be difficult, especially when unexpected circumstances might happen involving your family or friends. This is one advantage of house sitting as a couple (whether a romantic partnership or just friends). If something goes down back home, one of you can fly out while the other takes care of house sitting responsibilities. This happened to us during our very first house sit, but it was no problem at all since there were two of us. 

Regardless of unexpected family events, you may feel general loneliness or homesickness while house sitting. 

This is one reason why we don’t house sit in remote locations. We are introverts and have no problem spending tons of time with ourselves (both individually and together). Still, we like the option of being able to meet people if the mood strikes. We love connecting with people on the road, so we keep that option open, which definitely helps in combating the loneliness of long-term travel. 

Long-term house sitting works well for fellow introverts and creatives that like to spend lots of time on their work. Want to finally finish that novel you’ve been working on for years? Long-term house sitting may be the answer! 

If you’re super extroverted and need to be around people constantly, you’ll have to seriously consider your house sitting options, and aim to house sit in places where social spaces are always within reach.

Pet Attachment Woes

Over the years, we’ve cared for so many adorable and lovely animals. But it’s the pets from the long-term house sitting experiences that we truly remember and miss the most. 

They have more time to worm their way into your heart and firmly plant themselves there! 

When long-term house sitting, know that you’ll have to say goodbye, eventually. To be fair, it’s good practice to strengthen this zen muscle, because after all, life is full of goodbyes. 

Even if we never see a pet again, they’ll always live on in our hearts – and photos! 

How to Get Started with Long-Term House Sitting

Getting started with long-term house sitting is more or less the same as learning how to house sit in general. However the strategy and long-term goals differ.

We always recommend using a house sitting website. This makes finding and arranging sits so much easier than if you were to try to find them on your own. We only use TrustedHousesitters as it’s the biggest worldwide, most user-friendly, and we appreciate their guidelines. Read more about this website in our full TrustedHousesitters Review and don’t forget to sign up with our 10% off reader discount.

If you’ve never house sat before, we suggest you spend time initially as an occasional sitter. Once you learn the ropes, you’ll get a leg up, and more reliably and predictably land the house sits that you apply for.

Once you have that under your belt, it’s time to start looking at specific elements in your life that will make long-term house sitting a challenge.

For example, you may have to untether yourself from wherever you’re living. That’s the topic of an entire other series of blog posts (we’re getting to them!), so if you’re interested in that kind of thing, leave us a comment and let us know.

To learn more about diving into house sitting, especially house sitting long term, you’ll definitely need some experienced guidance, so check out our book and our popular house sitting articles:

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