If the increased volume of cute animal pictures on our social media channels hasn't been obvious enough, we've been housesitting during our travels and many of you have been asking us about it. It all sounds kind of perfect, right?
Over a few posts, we'll attempt to answer your questions about this new kind of travel and share some of the things we've learned along the way. If you have a question we don't cover, feel free to ask in the comments section.
This post will cover the basics – the first questions people have generally been asking us when they discover the reason why our jackets are covered in cat hair. ;)
So, first thing's first, what exactly is housesitting?
Housesitting is when you take care of someone's home (and usually their pets too) while they are on holiday. You get a free place to stay and the homeowner gets a trustworthy sitter to ensure their pets are happy and healthy, and their home secure.
How long are housesitting assignments?
That totally depends. Some homeowners may need a housesitter for just a weekend away while others may be going for longer vacations of weeks or months. The shortest assignment we have seen listed was for one night and the longest two years! So it really varies depending on the homeowner's requirements.
Where in the world can I housesit?
Basically anywhere homeowners are in need of a housesitter and you meet the entry requirements to stay in that country for the duration of the assignment. Listings can be posted for any location. The site we use (TrustedHousesitters.com) is in English and therefore tends to attract listings from English-speaking countries and English-speaking expats living around the world. There are numerous assignments on the site for Australia, the UK and France, but also for a variety of other countries. As sites such as TrustedHousesitters and housesitting in general becomes more well-known, so too does the diversity of the listings.
What am I expected to do on assignment?
This varies from assignment to assignment. Homeowners include their requirements in their listing. While some may only be looking for home security, someone to check the mail and make the house look ‘lived in', most are wanting someone to stay because they have pets. This of course means there are responsibilities surrounding feeding, walks, cleaning and interacting with them. Ensure you read these responsibilities carefully and clarify anything you are not sure about with the homeowner. It goes without saying that you should enjoy spending time with animals if you are considering this type of travel.
Only apply for assignments you are confident you can fulfill. If you have no experience in looking after a particular kind of animal and you don't know where to begin, it's best you don't apply for those kinds of assignments. I can't think of anything more stressful for you and the homeowner, and you're both supposed to be enjoying your time away!
Additionally, make sure you are doing the assignment for the right reasons. The pets need to take priority. So if you like to spend a lot of time away from the house and really won't walk the dog everyday or interact with them as the homeowner has requested, then don't apply.
Some assignments may have other responsibilities such as watering plants or gardening, or perhaps other kinds of maintenance. This can depend on the location, season and length of the assignment. Longer assignments will likely have more taking care of the home elements than shorter ones.
In general, most require you to simply keep the house clean and maintained, take care of their pets and attend to other needs as they arise.
Always make sure the responsibilities are clear so both you and the homeowner can have peace of mind and enjoy your respective times away.
What are the homes and facilities like?
Again, this is totally dependent on the assignment. Homeowners include features of their home in their listing including facilities and services available for use by the housesitter such as cable TV or Wi-Fi. If you'd like anything clarified, you can always contact the homeowner to ask.
Some homes may be in a country location in which a vehicle is necessary for getting around. Some homeowners may provide access to their own car, while others may not. Always clarify if you are unsure and only apply if you feel that you'd be happy to stay in that kind of environment for the duration of the assignment and in some cases be willing to provide your own vehicle. The idea of staying in a sleepy village for a few weeks may not be one person's idea of enjoyment while it could be a dream getaway for someone else. Luckily, there's such a range of assignments on offer that you'll surely fine one that suits you.
Do I have to pay to housesit?
Apart from the membership fee to join the housesitting site, then generally no. We use TrustedHousesitters.com and their annual membership fee for unlimited assignments is US$96 (3 month and 6 month options are also available for $72 and $89.94 respectively). Doing the assignment itself is usually a cash-less exchange. However, some long-term assignments may require you to pay for things like the utilities you use. Always be sure to discuss this with the homeowner first if anything is unclear.
Can I get paid to housesit?
You can and this is an option to check on the TrustedHousesitters site. However, while some very experienced housesitters may do so as they are basically doing it professionally as a means of income, unless you have a specific skill set that no one else can offer, we'd recommend not charging for your services, especially if you are just getting started. We see housesitting as already a mutually beneficial exchange and for us being able to stay for free in someone's home is payment enough for providing the homeowner with the service of ensuring everything is taken care of while they are away.
Additionally, there's lots of competition out there. Many homeowners have emailed us saying how surprised they have been at the response they have been getting to their listings. If you charge and others don't, then in most cases the homeowner is understandably going to go with the free option.
Sound like something of interest? Click here for our post on how to get started with housesitting and applying for your first assignment.
Have you house sat on your travels or would you consider it?
We've ended up referring so many people to TrustedHousesitters that we decided to join their affiliate program. Using the affiliate links in this post will not cost you any extra, but will simply tell them we referred you so we can earn a small commission to pay for the coffee that fuels this website.
Marie-France (a.k.a. BigTravelNut)
Tuesday 28th of July 2015
I started house-sitting two years ago and have been on five assignments so far! It's a great way to travel economically and stay in one place for a while. I've written about my various experiences on my blog. Here's the latest one: http://bigtravelnut.com/house-sitting-in-wolfville-nova-scotia/
Friday 24th of February 2017
It can be such a great way to travel! Glad you are enjoying housesitting too!
Sunday 26th of July 2015
So...let me know when you want to come to LA. I've got some nice fruit trees and mean pets!
Friday 7th of August 2015
Haha Awesome! We love fruit and a challenge! ;)
J in Beijing
Tuesday 4th of March 2014
I've heard of housesitting, but thought it was just something you'd do for a family friend or something. I had no idea there were websites and everything! You've opened my eyes! Definitely want to try it and looking forward to your next post about it!
Wednesday 5th of March 2014
Hi J! Yes, there's a whole industry out there! So glad to be able to introduce you to it. Hope it helps you out with future travels. It has really transformed the way we travel. Our only regret is that we didn't know about it/start doing it sooner! The next installment in this series has just gone live :)
JD @ Honest Mom
Sunday 2nd of March 2014
Hi! I found your blog through the Weblog Awards site. I am now living vicariously through you, as I am trapped in suburbia and travel is nowhere in my future. *sigh*
Can I ask a nosy question? How do you survive, traveling like this? Do you make money as you go somehow? I'm so curious - I'd love to do something like this someday!
Monday 3rd of March 2014
Hi JD! Many thanks for stopping by! I just went over to take a look at your blog and love it. You have a new follower :)
Don't worry, it's not nosy. It's probably one of our most FAQ's! We are probably going to put together a post on it soon. However, disappointingly, we don't have any magic answers haha
Basically, we use a combination of savings from when we were working in Japan (where we lived for four years before embarking on this RTW trip) as well as gaining sponsorship or other opportunities via our blog that make us some money or allow us to save it. Obviously our savings won't last forever, but we are working towards multiple income streams and are open to staying in a place to work for a while if necessary. Maintaining a lot of flexibility allows us to more easily follow opportunities as they arise.
If there are specific questions you have, we'd be more than happy to share any info. We can always incorporate them into the blog post or if you just want to ask something personally, feel free to send us an email at jessica(at)notesofnomads(dot)com
Thanks so much and hope you're having a great weekend! :)
Saturday 1st of March 2014
I think this is such a great opportunity, especially for pet-loving expats who can't have one of their own. I've only browsed the listings so far, but am much more keen to give it a try after seeing the photos of the gorgeous cats you got to sit for!
Saturday 1st of March 2014
Oh, Bennie and Bungle! They were heartbreakingly adorable! We'll be posting some more photos of them during this housesitting series soon! ;)
It really is a great opportunity. Especially, as you say, when you can't have any pets of your own on the road. I'm sure once you get started, Heather, you'll be as addicted to housesitting as we are! :)