Live like a local in a new location. . . Do it in your home country or abroad. . . When you do it, you can extend your stay in a new place and save money. What is it? Why, housesitting of course!
So, what exactly is housesitting?
Housesitting is an arrangement where someone – we’ll call them the sitter – comes and lives in the owner’s home for a specified period of time. (It may be a renter, not an owner, but let’s keep it simple.)
Usually no money changes hands, although some housesitters do charge for their services.
In exchange for free lodging, the sitter agrees to take care of the owner’s pets, and keep their household running, for a specified time period. If you’re the sitter, you get a free place to stay. This is an excellent strategy for controlling living costs if you’re a digital nomad.
It’s also a great way to try on a new location, to see whether you’d like to get your own place there for an extended period of time.
When my podcast co-host, Kitty, took a gap year between high school and college, a housesitting gig helped her to stay in France for over two months. She stayed in an apartment and took care of the owner’s cat while he was on vacation.
If you’re the owner, you know someone’s looking after your house and your pets. It’s a win-win.
Since my experience as an owner, I’ve met several people who housesit.
For example, Eden and Denny haven’t paid rent in about three years. They’re full-time housesitters, going from place to place. Dick and Anita housesit some of the time. Jen just got her first international housesitting gig. Jeff uses housesitting to keep his costs down while he satisfies his wanderlust and works as a freelance writer.
As housesitting becomes more mainstream, competition has heated up for owners and sitters. As a sitter, it’s important to approach housesitting the same way you’d approach finding a new job or freelance gig.
You want to stand out from the competition, and you need to quickly establish rapport with the owner. Remember, they’re trusting you with their home and their beloved pets!
As an owner, you need to think about what makes your area and your home appealing to a visitor, so you attract people to your listing. You also need to be scrupulously honest about what they will find when they arrive!
Before I got organized in my search for a housesitter, I reached out through a couple of online forums. There was one couple who looked promising, and I set up a Skype interview.
On paper they looked really good. But when we connected on Skype, they were in a place that was so dark I couldn’t see much of them, let alone their surroundings. I figured if they didn’t care enough about the gig to appear to good advantage in their interview, they weren’t the right people for me.
What next? How do you go about finding a sitter, or a housesitting gig? Sometimes you get lucky, or word of mouth helps you out, but what if that doesn’t happen?
When I started looking, I found a number of housesitting websites. I used a site called Trusted Housesitters — you can read all about it here.
Some sites specialize in particular areas. Some are international and some specialize in one country. For example, House Sitters America specializes in the US and House Sitters UK specializes in — you guessed it, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
If you’re interested in housesitting in a specific location, try searching for “best housesits in BLANK.”
If you want to housesit on a regular or frequent basis, plan to go above and beyond to make a good impression on the owners so they’ll give you a good review (or even have you back again!). After Kitty finished her housesitting gigs, she did a few things to express her appreciation. At the time she was young — between high school and college — with very limited funds.
- She tried to leave the place in better condition than she found it
- She left fresh flowers for the owners
Both times we had housesitters, they had a hot meal ready and waiting for us when we arrived home tired after a day of travel.
If you want to have a good housesitting experience – whether you’re the sitter or the owner – keep these important steps in mind.
- Figure out the qualities most important to you in a housesitter / housesit and choose accordingly
- Be absolutely clear about expectations and responsibilities on both sides
- Communicate often before the housesitting gig starts
- Be flexible where you can
- Help the housesitter feel welcome / help the owner feel confident
As an owner, there are a few more things.
- Give the housesitter time to get to know you, your pets and the community. Make it as easy as you can.
- Introduce him/her to people who speak the same language
- If you can, put some emergency backup systems in place and let the housesitter know about them. For example, we gave a second set of house keys to a friend just in case.
Then relax and enjoy your travels.
Kitty has put together a tool to help people organize their housesits. It’s available as a free download.