We’ve been abroad for more than ten months now, and we’ve stayed in different types of accommodation. Hotels, motels, flash tents, airbnbs, and our most frequent home: our van. Traveling and sleeping in a camper van is probably the cheapest way to travel in Australia. However, it’s not always that easy to find a free/cheap campsite in Australia. Certainly in big cities it’s almost impossible.
Our trip in Australia is coming to an end, and now we have found an even cheaper way of saving costs on accommodation. And to be honest, it’s a lot more comfortable too. In our post Backpackers Guide: Travel Australia on a Budget, we already mentioned this type of accommodation. And now, during our last two weeks in Australia we have a whole house for ourselves without having to pay anything. The only thing we have to do is taking care of a cute dog. We are house sitting.
What is House Sitting?
As I’m writing this I’m snuggled up on the couch with Jeffrey, and our new friend Paisley is snoring and crawled up between us. Paisley is a dog, a Kelpie Cross more specifically, and we’ve been taking care of her for a week now. In front of us we have a lovely view of the Swan River and tropical palmtrees (… and netflix). We are staying here completely free, without paying rent or utilities. There is even a 4×4 drive car we can use. The only thing we are spending money on right now is groceries.
So what is house sitting? Basically, you live in a house while the owner is away. Your job is to take care of the house and it’s often paired with taking care of pets. Because you are live there, you keep burglars away.
House sitting is a way to keep your costs low, whether you are traveling or in between houses. It gives you the feeling of being a local in the place you are staying, because even though you don’t pay rent, for the time that you are there – you live there.
It’s a great opportunity for long term travelers, just like us. Sometimes you can house sit on a certain place for weeks, months, sometimes years! However, also for short term travelers it’s definitely an option. For instance, this place is only for a short time period. And after this house sit, we have another house sit in Australia for just three days.
How to Become a House Sitter
What is really important when you want to become a house sitter, is that the owners trust you. They need to be sure that you are reliable, that you are honest and that they can feel safe while they are away. This trust can be gained by having prior experience as a house sitter, so that you can actually give them references. But how to get this experience in the first place?
The best place to start is with your own family, friends, and colleagues. Ask them if they know anyone that is leaving for a while, and that you are looking for a place to house sit. That way, you will get experience with housesitting, and you’ll also learn if it’s really something for you. For instance, our first house sit was via people we knew at the bar we worked in. And we used that experience as our reference to get our first official house sit.
How to Find Your First House Sit
Like we said above, use your connections. Who knows, maybe someone in your inner circle can help you to find a house sit in sunny Spain? This is probably not always the case, so you’ll have to find your house sit via official channels.
When we started looking for a house sit in Perth, we didn’t know where to start. There are a lot of websites out there. After some research, we have put together a list with possible websites where to get started. The first two are only located in Australia, the rest are worldwide. There are lots of good ones, and unfortunately you often have to pay for a membership. But, once you get your house sit, it will save so much money, and that membership payment is nothing compared to that amount.
All Pets Housesitters (free membership)
This organization only operates in Perth, and is the smallest organization we’ll mention in this post. The reason we mention it, is because we found our first house sits via them, and easily too. We called them, the next day we could already come in for an interview, and the day after that we could already meet the owners of our first house. With All Pets Housesitters (the name already says it), there is always a pet to take care off.
Aussie House Sitters ($65 for a year)
This house sitting website only operates in Australia. It has lots of listings, so very convenient if you’re planning to house sit in the Land Down Under! A lot of experienced house sitters recommended this website to us for Australia.
Trusted House Sitters ($10.75/month or $95.2 for a year)
From almost every experienced house sitter, we got Trusted House Sitters as best recommendation. Probably because it’s the largest site on the web, and it also has the most listings. It’s mostly covering Europe, Australia and North America. It even has occasional listings in Asia. We are hoping to be lucky and able to use it for some destinations in Asia.
Nomador (Limited free membership/$89 for a year)
With the limited free membership, you can apply for three house sits. This is quite limited, especially if you’re new. The membership costs $89 per year and gives you unlimited options to apply for house sits. Nomador has the highest number of listings in Europe. When we looked for places in Perth, we couldn’t find any. However, they are currently growing world-wide, so be sure to check the listings for your desired location.
Mind My House ($20 for a year)
This website doesn’t have a lot of listings, but it’s the cheapest to join and it’s easy to use. You can always take a shot and take a look at the listings.
Housecarers (Limited free membership/$50 for a year):
Here you can start with a limited non-paid membership. To actually apply for a house sit you need the full membership which costs $50 per year. This website has a lot of listings in Australia, New Zealand and North America.
When you’re thinking about which house sitting website to join, be sure to check the available listings first. Think about the location you want to house sit, the time, and if the listings description actually fits you. Also consider competition and your own experience. For instance, Trusted House Sitters might have a lot of listings, but there is more competition between house sitters as well. If you have no experience at all, you might have more luck on a smaller house sitting website.
It’s not always as easy to find a house in your preferred location. For instance, we were looking for a house sit in the city centre of Perth, but finally found one house sit in East Fremantle, and one house sit in a suburb of Perth. We are flexible, so it wasn’t an issue at all. Eventually, we were stoked with the beautiful location of East Fremantle, and so happy to have the luxurious big home in a suburb. A little flexibility really helps with finding a great place.
Decided on Where to Join? What Now?
So you’ve seen some listings on a house sitting website and you signed up. What is the next step to land a successful house sit?
Create a quality profile
This is the most frequent tip we received when we asked multiple experienced house sitters for advice. It makes sense, as your profile on the website is where the homeowner gets to know you. Make sure your profile is well written, up to date, and contains photos of you (preferably with some cute pets that you are cuddling). Other things to include are:
Enthusiasm: Show that you LOVE to take care of homes and pets. In our application for All Pets House Sitters, we made sure they knew that we really, really were so excited to start house sitting.
Experience/references: What is your previous experience as a house sitter? Remember, if you don’t have any experience, house sit for family, friends or colleagues. Otherwise, ask bosses, your former landlord or neighbors to be your reference. Make sure that you have people that can vouch for you.
Pets: Like we said, photos with pets are preferable. Also include your love of pets in your written profile with examples. Maybe you have your own pet, or had pets in the past? It’s important that you show that you are a real animals person, because most house sits include taking care of pets. If you don’t really like animals, don’t act as if you do just to get a house sit. Because you will not like taking care of a pet.
Apply for house sits
Once you’ve set up your amazing, kick ass profile, start applying for house sits. In your message to homeowners, be sure to show enthusiasm and most of all, explain why you are the most obvious candidate for the job. Thus, read the listing you are applying to carefully and comment on the pets you will be taking care of. Furthermore, let them know why you want it. So in short: be enthusiastic, show them why you are the best person for the sit and show them why you want the sit. It’s basically like a job application.
Sign up for e-mail alerts
It’s important to be one of the first to apply for a house sit. There can be a lot of competition. Some of the house sitting opportunities can be in very popular locations. If you’re one of the first, you have a bigger chance of actually being noticed and getting the job.
Do you have contact with a homeowner for a potential house sit? Be sure to ask a lot of questions about the house, pet and anything else you need to know. Also once you get the job, don’t forget to ask essential details. How often do you have to feed the pet? Do you need to walk them? Can you have guests? Can you leave during the night? Before you accept a house sit, make sure that both you and the homeowner are clear about the expectations.
How to be a Good House Sitter
You have applied for your first house sit and actually got it! Yay! Now, you want to do a good job, right? Especially if you’re thinking of doing this more often! By being a good house sitter, you’ll get good references, and it will only get easier and easier to get great house sits in the future.
House sitting needs to be taken seriously. You’re taking care of someone’s home, possessions and often their most trusted fury little friend. So first of all:
Don’t house sit just for the free accommodation
Remember, it’s a two-way thing. It’s not as if the homeowner puts their house online, because they want a stranger to live in their house for free. They need something in return. Take good care of their house, always lock the door, don’t stay away for too long (often you have to be in the house during the night) and keep everything clean. Or most of all: make sure it’s clean once the owners come back. We can be a bit lazy and don’t do the dishes for a day, but we do make sure that once the owners come back, the house is in great condition. The house is supposed to be in the same shape as when you arrived – or better!
If there are pets involved, be sure you give them all they need. Don’t leave them alone for hours and neglect them. Make sure you are really excited about taking care of a pet. If you don’t like animals, it really doesn’t make sense to take care of someone else’s pet.
Follow the guidelines
Be sure everything is clear before you start your house sit. Often there are also guidelines left behind on notes. These can be about the pets (feeding, walking, where are they sleeping, etc.), about the alarm of the house or about mail, it can be about anything. You might have to mow the lawn, or water the plants. Read those guidelines and make sure you follow them.
Know what to do in a bad situation
Bad things can happen while you are there. Pets can get sick or there might even be a burglary while you are there. Things that you don’t have any control over, but you do need to fix them. Therefore, you need emergency info so you can call the vet, the police, or the homeowners. This is also something you have to talk about before starting the sit, so you are sure what you have to do.
Stay in touch with the homeowners
We like to keep in touch with the homeowners, but only if that is what they want as well. Often when there are pets involved, they like to be sure everything is going okay. Again, you can talk about this before starting the sit, and ask the owners if they like to get some updates while they are away. This can be done via text, e-mail or even via the phone. During this house sit, we call the homeowners on a daily basis to update them about their dog Paisley. During a longer house sit, it might make more sense to give updates on a weekly or even monthly basis. Whatever the homeowner prefers!
We already love house sitting, because it’s a way to live like a local in a new place. We also love the fact that we get to take care of pets. Yes, the money saving bit is great too, but don’t let that be the primary reason why you want to house sit.
Every morning we get waken up way too early by Paisley who jumps on us in bed. Even though we are tired and don’t exactly want her waking us up, we won’t ever get mad or kick her out. Because, we know she is used to doing this with her regular owners and because secretly we love her for it. She makes us laugh, doesn’t matter how tired we are, by being so excited to be awake and start the day. Our next house sit will be with two big, cute labradors, and they really want some attention and love from their short term house sitters. And we are willing to give that attention!
We are just beginners ourselves, so are still in the learning process of house sitting too. We do hope that this blogpost helps you find your first house sit. It’s an amazing opportunity to see places you would otherwise not go to, or wouldn’t be able to afford. Furthermore, it’s an amazing way to really connect with a place, and to feel like a local. Plus, you often get furry little friends included.