Have you ever thought of house sitting while traveling?  Global house sitting has become an exciting and cost effective form of travel- and it’s worth looking into.  Its benefits include living like a local, having a home with amenities, potentially having a pet as a friend and guide, and meeting neighbors… all without being a tourist.  Take care of a home in the destination of your choice- and travel for a fraction of what you would spend otherwise. 

Some of the many websites currently available for house sitting include:  Trusted Housesitters (the largest and my favorite), Mind My House (the least expensive to join), Luxury House Sitting, HouseSit MatchNomador (mainly French speaking countries), and HouseCarers.com (for less pet-sit options).  All usually require a membership fee of anywhere from $20-120/year to join, but the actual house sit is (typically) free for both parties.  For the traveler, this provides a free home while globe-trotting in exchange for watering the plants, walking and feeding a dog, or leaving food out for a cat, among other things.

Locations range from islands in Fiji, farms in Alaska, beach homes in Bermuda, Bed and Breakfasts (with pay) in Spain, apartments in Vietnam, chateaus in France, and the list goes on.  One interesting request was from a site called The Caretaker Gazette.  The request was for a person or family to live in a home in Alaska, watch over 2 apartments, and run a general store (for an unspecified salary with bonus over 6 months).  For the most part, though, the homes require minimal upkeep.

With house sitting, after paying for groceries and transportation to your destination, much of the extraneous costs of accommodations are erased.  Transportation is typically provided with the home owner’s car, a subsidized rental car, or directions to public transit.
Some tips to being a great house sitter (and getting chosen for your dream home):

  1. Choose a site (or multiple sites) from the list above and register.
  2. Fill out a profile: Each site requires you to complete a profile.  Try to convey who you are and your strengths.  If you’re a dog lover and grew up with Basset Hounds, state that.  If you’re allergic to certain animals, or would rather house sit a home with no pets, state that, too- people appreciate honesty.
  3. Get a background check: Trusted HouseSitters provides 2 levels of background checks, $20 each, which you can have set in motion by submitting your driver’s license and passport. Other sites, like Mind My House, suggest getting a police report from your local police station (this is more common overseas than the US) and having that handy to provide to home owners.
  4. Post Photos/Videos: Upload as many photos as the site will allow, in addition to a video.  This provides the home owner a sense of who you are and will give you a leg-up on being chosen.
  5. References: To start, have friends, coworkers, and landlords (if possible) write references for you on the site.  One house sit I was accepted to stated that the only reason I was singled out was because I had great references from friends and coworkers.  As soon as you start house sitting, you’ll be able to work on getting actual house sitting reviews- and that will make future house sits easier to come by.
  6. Apply to as many houses as possible: Upon starting out, like applying for a new job, it’s important to apply to as many homes (that will make sense location-wise and date-wise for you) as possible.  You want to get experience on your resume.  It’s often suggested to do house sits locally before branching out to other cities, states and countries.  Apply as soon as a home is available.  A home can often get 20 applications in the first day or two, depending on the location.  If you’re the 21st application, there’s very little chance you’ll get noticed.
  7. Respond/Be Responsible: Respond quickly to a home owner’s replies.  This should be a given: you want to leave a good impression with your new ‘boss’ who owns the home you’ll be taking care of.  In addition, be overly responsible for the items entrusted in your care (also a given).  Remember, each house sit is a referral on your resume- and a potential networking connection to future opportunities.

And that’s it.  Like anything, this takes some time and thought, but house sitting (I think) can be much more enjoyable than staying in a hotel.  You can have the amenities of a home, live like a local, and (potentially) save a lot of money.  If you’re traveling for a week, a $100/night hotel comes to $700 spend on accommodations alone.  After a house sit membership fee of $120 for the year, you’d be spending on average $17/night for the week (less than most hostels).  If you’re traveling like me -for months at a time- I figure, I’m saving between $20k-35k per year.  Pre-tax earnings, that would be a $45k/year job.  Not bad for exploring the world.

Potential house sits…