How To House Sit and Never Pay for Your Stay
Did you know you can stay at people’s houses while they’re away in exchange for free accommodation? I came across this amazing money-saver when my friend Steve Dean told me about his long-term, low-cost nomad life. He has dog-, cat- and apartment-sat for the past five years occasionally in Philadelphia, or Washington D.C., but mostly all over New York City.
Steve is a master connector and dating consultant at Dateworking. You can check him out every week as he hosts his video podcast on shifting perspectives, Inflection Points and support his adventures on Patreon. Enjoy!
House sitting gigs provide the opportunity to immerse yourself in cultures all over the world for up to 90 days at a time or however long your visa allows.
When you house sit, you get a chance to really know the local community and settle into the beat of the town or city you are a part of. All while living for far less than you would if you were paying for accommodations.
HOW TO BECOME A HOUSE SITTER
If you’ve never house-sat before, the best place to start is within your own network . This is how Steve lands all his housesitting gigs– the power of friends and friends of friends.
You can first reach out via email to family, friends, and colleagues about the possibility of house and petsitting. Let them know you’re flexible with timing and location so it puts less pressure on them to reach out to their own network.
Steve usually posts to Facebook first to see who in his network is in need of apartment, house or petsitting. You can use this template to post to Facebook now:
“[City You Want to Stay In] friends — Do you know anyone who is in need of a petsitter/apartmentsitter who will be traveling and leaving their apartment empty anytime in the next two months, starting as early as today?
I am starting a low-impact nomadic lifestyle and I’d love to help out friends and friends of friends in the process.”
Super simple, eh? Just give that a go and let us know how it works.
Chances are someone within your friend group or friends of friends will be away from home soon. You can house-sit for them to start to gain experience and the most important thing for a fledgling housesitter… references.
With at least one good house-sitting reference, you’ll have a better shot at convincing a stranger across the world that you’re worthy of their trust.
If there are no bites at your request, then I suggest signing up for multiple housesitting websites to find opportunities. There are several good house-sitting websites out there to match homeowners with housesitters, but all have membership fees.
Sign Up For A House Sitter Membership
TrustedHousesitters.com ($119 annual fee) — This is the largest site on the web, and also the fastest growing with the best functionality. Even though it’s the most expensive site to join, most house sitters agree that it pays off in the long-run and the name says it all– Trusted Housesitters. It’s perfect for UK and European house-sits but is also growing in Australia and North America.
MindMyHouse.com ($20 annual fee)—There aren’t that many house sitting assigments, but it’s a low cost to join.
Housecarers.com ($55 annual fee) — Jobs are mostly in Australia, New Zealand, and North America. I don’t like the design or layout of this site at all, but there are constant new listings.
Caretaker.org ($30 annual fee) — This is the only website where you can’t browse through available house-sits online. The housesitting opportunities are sent via newsletter.
I suggest you really research what you are looking for in terms of timing and location, but try to be as flexible and non-picky as possible to widen your search. Here are some steps you can take to increase your chance of landing an opportunity:
Write an unforgettable profile — With all of the things that make you amazing in one place, you might have homeowners contacting you (unlikely, but it happens). Here are a few things to include:
- All House and Pet-Sitting Experience
- A link to a google drive with personal references. If you have not gotten house or pet-sitting references yet you can use babysitting ones or a job reference that required a large amount of trust.
- Special skills: Can you help fix things around the house for general repair? Are you good with a garden? These things can add bonus points.
- Enthusiasm: You just ooze your love for house and pet sitting all over your profile and you’re gold.
Opening email — Your email is the first impression given to a potential host, so be brief and highlight exactly why they should accept you. Tailor every email according to the listing you are applying for. Don’t just copy/paste a message, people know when it’s not really for them. Pay attention to detail and this will eventually pay off.
References, References, References — The most important thing that homeowners will look at it is your references. Have quality people lined up to vouch for you. If you have no previous house-sitting experience, consider asking the following: former landlords, old neighbors,bosses, or anyone who can attest to your character, reliability, and trustworthiness. I generally advise putting this all together in a shareable online folder.
Ask The Right Questions — Can I have guests? Will I have any financial obligations to keep the house/apartment running? What are my daily responsibilities while I am there and for what amount of time? Can I leave the property overnight? Is there a vehicle? Is there fast and reliable WiFi? You don’t want there to be any surprises when you arrive.
Once You’ve Landed A Housesitting Gig…
How to Be a Good House and Pet Sitter
House sitting and pet sitting aren’t jobs to be taken lightly, ever. Someone is trusting you with some of their most precious possessions in the world and you get a free place to stay. Trust is key here.
The key to getting a repeated number of house-sits is to do an excellent job each and every time. Here are some amazing tips from Steve to help you stand out:
- Campsite Rule: Leave everything better than you found it. Always.
- Delight: Do something every time that leaves the owner feeling delight. leave them a handwritten thank you note; buy them a fancy chocolate bar; identify something missing from their apartment (e.g. a good spatula) and buy one for them.
- Avoid question marks. When the owner arrives back home, they should never experience question marks. They shouldn’t see one of their bath towels strewn over a lamp. The owner shouldn’t see the photos on their night stand rearranged or moved. They most definitely shouldn’t see a stray condom wrapper on the floor.
- Be prepared for adverse situations. Bad things can (and probably will) go wrong at some point, and it’s good to be game for anything that might arise. Be sure to have emergency contact info on hand, and be honest with the homeowners about anything that comes up.
Pet-Sitting 101: Scoring Points with The Pet Parents
Discuss expectations and needs of your new furry friend. What routine is normal for them? Where is food kept and how often must they be fed? What’s there medical history?
Get to know the pet’s likes and dislikes while bonding with them. Be firm with rules around the house so the owner isn’t going to be surprised by any behavioral changes.
Steve sends adorable photos back to the owners while they’re away for a good laugh, but also so the owners can still feel connected to their pet baby.
Cleanliness Is Right Up There With References
You’ve probably heard some wise older person tell you to leave places better than you found them. Well this is especially true for housesitting.
Steve says his background of minor OCD as a child has helped him tremendously in becoming an unforgettable housesitter. He is always hyper-attentive to cleanliness and things being in their proper places. He has never met anyone who even approximates the level of meticulous detail he puts into his house sitting work. He always strives to leave places better than he found them looking magically spotless. Here is what Steve does to truly delight his house owner:
“If I arrive at an apartment with dust, I remove dust. If the sink has hard water stains, I scrub them. People come back to their place feeling like it’s brand new.
I leave no dishes in the sink. I wash sheets and towels and give the space a hotel-quality makeover.
I collect mail and neatly stack it. Sometimes, if possible, I arrange it to form a happy face. The goal is to delight the homeowner.”
After Your Housesit…
Time to ask for a referral!
Always let the owner know how they can pay it forward and share your services with their friends. That way they get to feel like they’re a part of your story, and they’ll be able to confidently offer your services to their friends who are in need. It’s a great feeling to be able to immediately address a friend’s need.
Tell Your Story
Make sure everyone you know is aware of what you do, why you do it, and how they can help. I recommend putting together a free website (Wix would work) with all of your housesitting experience, testimonials, and info in one place. You can build this up over time as you gain more experience.
Remember To Be Responsible
Housesitting is a responsibility — and a huge one at that! Here are a few final tips on being a great house sitter:
- If something goes wrong, always tell the owner. Is a pet acting strange? Has something stopped working? Did you accidentally break something? Don’t be afraid to contact a homeowner and never ever cover up a problem!
- Tell and show them your gratitude and appreciation. You’re getting a “free” place, so be sure to leave a kind note & token(s) of appreciation with a bottle of wine or chocolates.
- Leave your host a review if they’re online — and ask for one in return. Try to do this right after a sit, it’s easier to recall and you may later lose touch.
A huge thank you to Steve Dean for helping me write this! Let me know if you have any questions about house sitting.