House sitting is one of the fastest growing travel trends, and it isn’t hard to see why: getting free accommodation (and sometimes really nice accommodation) in return for looking after someone else’s pets is definitely a good deal.
It’s a good deal for the owners too. Their pets don’t have to go to kennels, which not only saves them money but is also very comforting, and it means there’s somebody looking after the house as well.
Ignoring the money saving aspect for a second, being a house sitter can also be a lot of fun. It’s not only fun looking after other people’s pets when you travel, but it’s also nice to meet the homeowners as well and people sometimes develop lasting friendships through house sitting.
So, the big question is: where do you find these house sitting jobs and which house sitting website is the best? There are lots of different house sitting sites out there, and (hopefully) this article will make it easy to pick the one that’s just right for you.
How much does a membership cost?
House sitting website membership costs vary from as little as $20 a year to around $120 per year.
|Mind My House||$20||MindMyHouse.com|
|House Sit Match||£49-79||Housesitmatch.com|
$120 or even $50 might sell like a lot, but it’s not that much if you consider how much travel accommodation normally costs. It’s hard to find a hotel room for less than $120 for just one night in places like London, New York, and Sydney.
Accommodation is cheaper in Portugal and other parts of the world, but $120 is only going to cover 1, 2, or maybe 3 nights in a cheap hotel. Saving money isn’t the only benefit of house sitting, of course, so it’s worth house sitting in Portugal and other countries where accommodation is sometimes cheaper.
Other benefits of house sitting
Regardless of whether you like to stay in expensive hotels or budget hostels, being able to save on the nightly costs of travel accommodation will do wonders for any travel budget.
While the main reason people house sit is to save on accommodation costs, it isn’t the only benefit. A few others include:
Looking after other pets is fun
Although this is the ‘work’ involved in house sitting, most people who try house sitting end up really enjoying looking after other people’s pets and find it really adds to their travel experience.
Travel doesn’t have to mean choosing between seeing the world and having pets anymore: you can get your “animal fix” by looking after other people’s pets.
You’ll have a lot more space
If you’re used to renting accommodation while travelling you’ll probably be used to living in smallish one or two bedroom apartments. If you stay in hotels or hostels, you’ll be used to an even smaller amount of space.
When you’re house sitting, you’re looking after someone’s home and so usually you’ll be looking after a house or large apartment. You’ll get a lot more space, which can be a very good thing – especially if you’re travelling as a couple.
Which sites is right for you?
For most people, that’s the site with the right house sitting jobs: Trusted Housesitters.
If you specifically want to house sit in one particular country, like Australia for example, it may make sense to focus on the websites that have a lot of house sitting jobs there. In this example, that would be House Carers, Trusted Housesitters again, and also country-specific sites like Aussie Housesitters.
Is it a good idea to join more than one site? Definitely, although you may want to dip your toes in the water with just one site initially. More websites = more house sitting opportunities. You’ll get more opportunities from some sites than others, but as long as you get just 1 house sitting job per year per site then that site is worth it.
If you were to join all 5 of the top house sitting sites, it would cost you roughly $380. That’s a lot of money upfront obviously, but nothing compared to the amount you could save on accommodation.
The top 5 house sitting websites
Price: $119 per year | Website: trustedhousesitters.com
Trusted Housesitters is the largest of the house sitting sites. It posts roughly 3-4 times as many house sits as the next site (which is normally Housecarers). Trusted Housesitters posts house sitting assignments from all over the world, but is particularly strong in Europe (especially the UK and France), Australia, and the USA. If you want to housesit in any of those locations, this is a good site to join.
The annual fee is much more expensive than most other house sitting websites, but get accepted for just one house sitting assignment, even for a few days, and Trusted Housesitters will have more than paid for itself.
If you’re new to house sitting this is a good site to join, and here’s why: when you’re new to house sitting, you have to apply for a lot of house sits in order to get accepted for just one. It makes sense to be a member of the site that posts the most opportunities.
How it compares:
- Trusted Housesitters has more house sitting opportunities than any other house sitting website (at least 3-4 times as many as the next site).
- It has lots of house sits in locations where hotels are expensive (e.g. UK, Australia, USA, Canada, etc.)
- The team at Trusted Housesitters are constantly improving the site and finding new homeowners to list their homes. Most house sitting sites are just run by one or two people, and support can be poor with a lot of sites.
- Much more expensive than most other house sitting sites (You could get 1 year with Trusted Housesitters OR 2 year with Housecarers + 1 year with Mind My House). Of course, you get what you pay for.
Price: $50 per year | Website: housecarers.com
Housecarers is one of the longest running house sitting sites (since 2000). It tends to mainly have house sits in Australia and the US, but it’s not limited to those countries.
Although Housecarers doesn’t have a team working on improving the site, support tends to be very good.
How it compares:
- Lots of house sitting opportunities in Australia and the USA.
- When you’re searching for house sits, it’s easy to filter by the length of assignment you’re looking for (e.g. 1 week, 2 months etc)
- Isn’t always the easiest site to use (although the site is constantly being improved).
Price: $20 per year | Website: mindmyhouse.com
Given the extremely low membership cost, this site is always popular with house sitters. As it’s only $20 a year, many house sitters join this site and one or two others (usually Trusted Housesitters or Housecarers) to increase the number of opportunities available to them.
The main complaint people have with MindMyHouse is that old assignments aren’t always taken off the site and so it’s very easy to end up applying for a house sit that’s already been filled. To get around this, it’s best to apply for house sits as and when they go live (you’ll get an email when this happens).
Customer support also tends to be very poor, and that’s something a lot of people mention in the MindMyHouse reviews. Still, only it’s $20 which is why a lot of people are willing to take a risk on it.
How it compares:
- Pretty design.
- Nice messaging system.
- Old assignments often aren’t marked as filled.
- A lot of homeowners select ‘variable dates’ rather than giving specific dates or even rough dates of when the house sit is.
- Poor customer support.
- Less house sitting assignments than other sites.
Price: $89 per year | Website: Nomador.com
Launched in 2014, Nomador has quickly made a name for itself, particularly in France and other French-speaking countries like Switzerland where it has a lot of house sitting opportunities.
How it compares:
- Nice design
- Good number of house sits in France
House Sit Match
Price: From £49 (British Pounds) per year to £79| Website: housesitmatch.com
Housesitmatch.com is a newcomer to the house sitting scene. Initially House Sit Match focused on house sitting jobs in the UK and Australia, but now there tends to be house sits from quite a few other locations as well like Spain.
How it compares:
- Is doing quite well for a new site.
- Membership expensive given the number of house sits.
Other house sitting sites
Those sites aren’t the only house sitting sites: they’re just the top 5. If you’re already a member of them, and you’re looking for other places to find house sitting jobs, take a look at these websites.
Aussie Housesitters & Co.
This is a group of several country-specific websites that focus on Australia, America, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada. If you’re looking for house sits in these countries, it’s worth joining 1 or all of them.
Happy Housesitters – (AUD65 per year) Happy Housesitters focuses solely on Australia. If you’re looking for house sitting opportunities down under, this is a site to consider.
Caretaker Gazette costs $29.95 per year for an online subscription, which is definitely very affordable.
Luxury House Sitting
Luxury House Sitting ($25 per year) – Another untried and untested website. Has a handful
How many sites should I join?
It depends on how much house sitting you’re planning on doing. If you’re planning on house sitting full-time you’ll probably end up joining several, although you might just start with one in the beginning.
Which site is the best value for money?
Usually the one with the most house sitting opportunities. House sitters, especially those just starting out, often have to apply for several house sits in order to get accepted for one. Joining a site with a lot of opportunities to apply for gives you a much better chance of kick-starting your house sitting ‘career’.
of opportunities in the USA.
How to Create A Great House Sitting Profile
Think of your house sitter profile as your resumé. It’s a one page overview of who you are, any experience you have and explains why a homeowner should pick you to look after their home.
When you’re writing your profile, try to think about what you’re writing from the point of view of the homeowner. Why should they pick you? Think about what you can offer them. For example:
- Do you have experience looking after pets?
- Have you looked after pets for friends or family members?
A picture is a thousand words as they say and pictures are essential to any house sitter profile. Most sites allow you to add a few photos and it’s worth adding as many photos of you as the site allows.
Tip: Add at least one photo of you with a pet (or pets).
House sitting is based on trust and having references make it easier for a homeowner to trust you, a complete stranger, in their home.
If you’re new to house sitting you may not have any references yet. Many sitters get around this by house sitting for friends and family and asking them to leave a reference.
Another way to get references is to take on a few local house sits (in your own city or within a short journey away). Homeowners who can meet you first are more likely to take you on and this can lead to your very first reference. Although you may do this intially just to get a reference, many sitters find that house sitting in their own area can actually be just as fun and rewarding as house sitting abroad.
Some sites also allow you to include other types of references such as character references, employment references or references from previous landlords. Basically, whatever you can show that will present you as a reliable and trustworthy person.
Most of the top house sitters will have a police background check. This is a simple background check that just states you have no criminal records which you can get simply by going into your local police station. Some countries also allow you to apply for this check online.
Given that it makes you more trustable (and house sitting is all about trust) this is definitely worth having but not having it shouldn’t stop you from applying for house sits in the beginning.
Not every country has a system where you can apply for a criminal records background check, however here are some links for countries that do.
- USA: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/abroad/legal-matters/criminal-record-check.html
- UK: http://www.gov.uk/copy-of-police-records
- Canadian: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cr-cj/fing-empr2-eng.htm
- Australian: http://www.afp.gov.au/what-we-do/police-checks/national-police-checks.aspx
- New Zealand: http://www.justice.govt.nz/services/criminal-records
- Ireland: http://www.garda.ie/Controller.aspx?Page=2742&Lang=1
- South Africa: http://www.saps.gov.za/services/applying_clearence_certificate.php
You’ve joined a house sitting site, created a great profile with plenty of information about yourself and you’ve found a house sit you want to apply for. Now what?
What’s the Process for Getting a House Sit?
The process for getting a house sit looks something like this:
- Find a house sit you want to do.
- Contact the homeowner to let them know you’re available.
- Chat with the homeowner, over email and maybe Skype, answering each other’s questions.
- The homeowner picks a sitter (hopefully you).
How to apply for a house sit
Tip 1: Make It Personal
Although the temptation may be to fire off the same email to every person, making it personal makes a huge difference. You may have a paragraph about yourself that you’ll send to every homeowner (and copying and pasting will save you a lot of time here) but at the very least your opening paragraph should be unique to the house sit that you’re applying for.
Tip 2: Address The Homeowner’s Needs In Your Message
Homeowners may get many responses to their advert and if so, may end up skimming your message to see whether or not to put you on the shortlist.
The easiest way to make sure you make the shortlist: show that you’ve read their advert and can offer them what they need.
If they’re looking for someone with pool cleaning experience and you have it, make sure you mention that in the first few lines. If they have a dog that needs looking after and you have experience looking after dogs, make sure you mention that. If they’re in Canada and you already have the legal/visa requirements to stay in Canada for the duration of the stay, make sure you mention that.
Tip: Even though it’s tempting to want to be able to offer the homeowner everything they need, don’t offer to take on anything you’re not qualified to do (cleaning pools or DIY work for example).
Tip 3: Keep it Short and Sweet
It’s a challenge to get all of the information you want into an email whilst keeping the whole email to a few paragraphs but you’ll get good at it.
Tip 4: Apply Straight Away
Some homeowners have a good idea of who they’re going to pick for the house sit (or at least a shortlist of possibles) within 24 hours of a house sit going live. Often the biggest challenge a homeowner will have will be picking a sitter from so many suitable candidates.
One of the simplest ways they can make that decision easier is to limit the number of people they’ll consider, so some homeowners will get twenty applications and then decide they’ll pick someone from that batch (even if the house sit is still listed as live and accepting applications). To get around this make sure you get your application in early.
Tip 5: Reply to All Communication Punctually
Most people are usually so excited when applying for a house sit that this doesn’t apply but for those that don’t check their emails regularly, make a special effort to do so when you’re applying for a house sit. Applying quickly shows that you’re eager and professional.
Tip 6: Offer to meet the homeowner face-to-face (if you can)
Although house sits are arranged over the internet, it’s an agreement that’s all about trust, and at the end of the day, homeowners find it easier to trust someone they’ve met in person.
If you’re applying for a house sit that’s local to you, you should definitely offer to meet them beforehand (and make sure you offer in the first email that you send). This will almost certainly guarantee that you will get offered that house sit.
Overseas house sits are a different story. Obviously if a house sit is the other side of the world it would be impractical for you to meet the homeowner first, but if you do see a dream house sit that’s within a short travel time, it’s worth seeing if you can find a cheap flight as making the effort to meet with the homeowner beforehand would make you stand out from all of the other house sitters who are applying.
How Likely Am I to Get a House Sit?
This is obviously a difficult question to answer as it depends on a number of things, but mostly 1) have you filled out your profile thoroughly and 2) how persistent are you?
Every house sitting site has a profile you can fill out where you introduce yourself and talk about why you would make a great house sitter. There’s also an option for adding photos or a video. Some sites also allow you to add references (either house sitting references or, if you don’t have any yet, character, employment or landlord references).
If you don’t have a filled out profile (answered questions about yourself, added photos and at least added some character references from people that know you) you’re going to find it very difficult to get accepted for a house sit.
If you do have those things filled out, the next step is persistence. In the beginning, getting those first house sits can be difficult, particularly if you don’t have any references or experience. The key here is to be persistent.
Eventually someone will bite and once you have that first house sit, you’ll find it’s probably going to be easier to get the next one.
Other things to consider
So you’ve been offered the house sit (or it looks like you might get it), now what? Well there’s a couple of things you should consider.
Draw Up A House Sitting Agreement
Agreements and contracts may sound like dirty words but they ensure both homeowners and house sitters think about everything and get it down on paper.
Some things that could be included in the agreement…
Define clear expectations (for both parties)
How many hours a day are you supposed to be in the house? How many days before should you arrive for a handover?
Have a Plan B
Not everything in life goes according to plan. Suppose you’re house sitting and suddenly find out you have to return home for an emergency (for example a death in the family), what then? Although these things are unlikely to happen, it’s good to talk about this beforehand just in case.
Are visitors allowed
Are you allowed visitors during the house sit? For most short term house sit you probably wouldn’t even consider having visitors, but if you’re house sitting long term, especially over Christmas, this may be something that you’re thinking about. Most homeowners are happy to oblige to any reasonable requests so don’t be afraid to ask.
Ask for an emergency float
What happens if you need to take a pet to the vet? It’s a good idea to agree on an emergency float for such situations and to have a point in the agreement that the sitter will be reimbursed for any house sitting related costs they occur (assuming those costs have been agreed with the homeowner).
Get a local point of contact
It can be useful to have a local point of contact for emergencies, particularly if you’re house sitting in a country that speaks another language (and you don’t). Usually this will be the homeowner’s friend or neighbour.