Portugal is a great country to spend some time in and house sitting is one way to do that cheaply.
House sitting involves looking after someone’s home while they’re away in exchange for rent-free accommodation. Your main responsibility as a house sitter is usually looking after the owner’s pets, although every house sit is different and some people just want someone in the house to keep burglars at bay. The length of house sitting gigs vary: some can be as short as a weekend and others as long as a year.
Most of the house sitting opportunities you’ll find in Portugal will be posted by expats. As a result, most Portuguese house sits are in the Algarve: an expat hotspot. You’re more likely to find house sits in the countryside than in the city. There are some exceptions to these rules, of course.
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Finding House Sitting Opportunities in Portugal
(Homeowners: if you’re looking for someone to mind your property, you can post on any of these sites too)
Most house sitting opportunities (both in Portugal and worldwide) can be found on the following house sitting sites.
This is the biggest and most popular house sitting site out there, with the highest number of worldwide house sit listings. At the time of writing, Trusted Housesitters also had the most house sitting opportunities in Portugal (8). Most were in the Algarve, but there was also one in Sintra near Lisbon. There were also a few house sitting opportunities in Spain (14).
At $119 per year, it’s not the cheapest house sitting website, but that’s the price you pay for joining the largest house sitting community. If you’re serious about house sitting, the extra investment could be worthwhile in the long run.
Price: $119 per year.
Housecarers is one of the longest-running websites. It tends to list a lot of house sits in Australia and in the United States. It has much fewer in Europe, especially when compared to Trusted Housesitters.
At the time of writing, Housecarers had two house sitting opportunities in Portugal: one in the Alentejo and the other in Sintra (the same one was also listed on Trusted Housesitters).
Price: $45 per year.
Nomador is the new kid on the block, and it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on for house sitting jobs in Europe. At the time of writing, it had several house sitting opportunities throughout Spain and Portugal.
Price: $89 per year.
Mind My House
Although it’s one of the longest-running websites, Mind My House isn’t necessarily the most active. At the time of writing, Mind My House only had one house sitting assignment in Portugal.
Price: $20 per year.
House Sit Match
Another new website, House Sit Match has fewer house sitting opportunities than most of the other sites. At the time of writing, it didn’t have any house sitting jobs in Portugal. There had been one or two before, however, so it’s always worth keeping an eye on it.
Price: £35-£75 per year (the website is UK-based, so prices are in Sterling).
As most house sitting jobs in Portugal are posted by expats rather than locals, it’s worth keeping an eye on expat forums such as Angloinfo (especially Angloinfo Algarve and Angloinfo Lisbon).
You should look at Wwoofing sites such as WWOOF Portugal, Workaway, and Helpx. With these sites you do a little work, such as helping out on an organic farm, in return for accommodation. It’s not quite the same as house sitting, but does offer interesting experiences.
WWOOFing jobs at the time of writing included:
- helping out at a hostel in Faro,
- working on a vineyard in central Portugal,
- working at a yurt-based eco retreat,
- and working at a naturist campsite (ooh la la!)
Depending on your ability to stay up late (hostel work) and your willingness to walk around naked (nudist campsite), there are plenty of good opportunities there.
Another option is just to rent. Portugal is not an expensive country to live in, particularly when you get outside of Lisbon and as long as you stay away from the Algarve coast during the peak summer season. Off season, you can rent an apartment in the Algarve for €300-400 per month. During the summer you can expect to pay that per week. Rental prices drop lower the further inland you go. It’s even possible to find apartments in Lisbon for a few hundred euro per month.
Airbnb is a good place to begin your apartment search. It’s more expensive than renting an apartment the old-fashioned way but it’s also easier. You don’t need a Portuguese bank account to pay your rent and sort out amenities like electricity and internet. To get a cheaper deal, you can either find an apartment to rent through Olx or Sapo or ask your Airbnb hosts if they would be willing to rent directly with you.
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
Applying for House Sits
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?
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.
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…
How many hours a day are you supposed to be in the house? How many days before should you arrive for a handover?
In case of 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 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.
Emergency Floats & Reimbusement
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).
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.