How to become a house sitter: tips on getting started and having success

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Becoming a house sitter was one of the best things I did when wanting to travel more long term. It allowed me, and my family, to explore in a way that we could never have done if we’d had to pay for hotels or rentals around the world.

I’m always asked about house sitting, especially since we did it successfully with kids, and managed to get some great sits in locations such as New York and London (a great way to get budget accommodation in these high cost areas). I hope that this post will inspire you to consider house sitting to complement your travels and give you the tools to give it a go!

While it’s a great way to travel on the cheap, do be aware that being a house sitter does come with some start up costs that you should be aware of. Most, if not all, websites that match potential sitters and home owners have a subscription model. Mostly it can equate to just one or two nights in a hotel so it can pay for itself really easily

This is the main site that I’ve used over the years to get my sits and can recommend:

Why should you consider becoming a house sitter

There are many reasons why you should consider becoming a house sitter but the main one that people think of at first is that it can be a great way to get free accommodation while you travel.

This is often the first thought, but it would be remiss of me not to mention that while yes, the accommodation is free in a monetary sense, it’s not free in your time you need to give up and the responsibility you’ll have.

For others, a life of travel means that you can’t have your own pets. Being able to look after some other people’s furry friends can give you that love from an animal that you can’t get on the road.

It’s also a great way to integrate into communities and truly ‘live like a local’ when you’re travelling. Often you’ll stay in areas that aren’t touristy giving a completely different perspective on an area.

You can settle for a while as well. If you’ve been travelling a while, it’s nice to not have to move on every day!

Finally, working on the road is common nowadays and whether you own your own business or are a freelance digital nomad, a home base with wifi and only fluffy distractions can be a good idea if you need to get some work done!

How to get started house sitting

First of all I’d suggest getting yourself signed up to the main sites below. They normally allow you to look for sits that are available without paying to subscribe to the service.

Check them out, see what kind of things are available and have a good think about whether this will fit in with your travel plans and style.

Next you need to build a profile on these sites. This is where you can list references, add police checks to your profile and basically sell yourself. If you don’t want to do join their platforms you could potentially have a page on your website or blog – this is what we did a while ago.

Once you have a profile built up, you’re ready to find sits.

Where to find house sits?

So the next question is – where do I find people who are in need of my services?

House sitting sites

This is the main way of finding house sits. These matching platforms have reviews which means people can be more sure of what they are getting themselves into.

There are a number of different platforms around these days. Some are country or area specific and some cover the entire world.

House Sitting Sites: worldwide

House Sitting Sites: local

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is a great way of finding sits and you can do that by getting in touch with expats in the area you want to go to, local FB groups or by being involved with other house sitters who may be able to refer you on.

I’m in a group where we regularly try and help out home owners by finding sitters for people we’ve sat for before. It’s definitely worth getting to know other house sitters and either online or by meeting up if the opportunity arises. Networking can really get you far in this game!

How to stand out and get the sit?

I’m going to be honest here and say that you will likely get far more ‘no thank you’ replies to your applications than ‘yes please, when can you come’. It’s time to grow a thick skin, not take rejections to heart and just keep trying. Be aware that, especially on bigger sites, home owners can be inundated with applications. You sometimes have to stand out in order to get a sit.

So, here are my tips for that:

  • be quick in replying – being one of the first to get in front of them really increases your odds
  • be personal in your email or message to the potential owner
  • mention the pets names if they were given – owners are looking for people to love on their pets when they are gone
  • highlight any concerns they mentioned in their advert and show how you will be perfect to alleviate those
  • brevity is key in my mind – don’t write an essay, they have a lot of replies to get through
  • offer to speak to them via Zoom so they can get to know you better

FAQs about becoming a house sitter

What skills do you need to become a house sitter?

Not everyone makes a great house sitter. Here are some of the skills and traits that you should have:

  • be an animal lover – perhaps obvious!
  • be confident with animals
  • have handy skills around the house
  • be responsible
  • trustworthiness
  • good communication

I have no references – what can I do?

Everyone starts from scratch at some point but it’s hard to get going if you can’t prove you’re reliable and have done this before. Here are some ideas:

  • look after friends and families pets and ask for references. Take photos!
  • look for local sits, especially if you live somewhere that’s not particularly touristy – you might have more luck, especially if you can meet the owner before hand.
  • get references about your character from employers, volunteering places – anything you’d do to get a job would work.

Do you get paid to be a house sitter?

You can get paid to be a house sitter and some people do make a business out of their skills doing so.

I’ve never done it as a paid job but have only ever done it on a swapping basis – I get accommodation in return for looking after pets.

Can you house sit if you are a family?

Yes! We managed to do a lot of house sits with our kids who were as young as 11 when we first started.

It can be more difficult to get sits, so definitely be aware that you’ll get a lot of negative responses, but it’s not impossible.

We managed sits in London, New York, France, the Netherlands and in various places in the UK all with our kids.

What are the downsides to house sitting?

I don’t want to sugar coat this article into making you think house sitting is the best thing ever. It can and does have downsides.

The first one to mention is that this is NOT a free holiday and there’s a huge responsibility that you have in not only looking after someone’s pets but also their home. Don’t underestimate the mental load that that requires!

Secondly, things do go wrong. Pets need to go to the vet, houses can have problems and sometimes accidents happen to the house sitters or the pets. Again this comes back to the responsibility of the sit – it shouldn’t be dismissed!

You’ll also, depending on what you’re looking after, be more tied to the house which might mean you can’t explore as much as you’d want to. For example, when we were in New York, we couldn’t be out all day long because we’d have to be back for the pets. In London it was a bit better as we had a cat who was more independent to look after.

Sometimes there’ll be a bit of a mismatch in the cleanliness of people’s houses. We didn’t have this problem too much but I’ve heard it a lot from others. If you’re someone who keeps houses immaculate you might not be able to cope with someone else’s house where they don’t keep house as well as you do.

Finally it’s just sometimes a bit odd to be living in someone else’s house and can feel discombobulating. Some people just don’t enjoy it at all. For that reason I always suggest short sits at first to figure out if it’s for you.

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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