little known truths

PSA: House Sitting Is The Best Way To Travel The World On A Budget

A farm in Alaska. An apartment in Vietnam. A bed and breakfast in Spain.

If you haven’t tried house sitting as a form of travel, well, you should. You get to live like a local wherever you are, stay in an actual home, make friends with pets and next-door neighbors, all while seeing the world for a fraction of what you might spend otherwise.

Now, how to land a house sitting gig? As you might expect, there are a plethora of sites that connect house sitters with those in need of a house sitter. Some of our picks? TrustedHousesitters (the largest), Mind My House (the least expensive to join), Luxury House SittingHouseSit MatchNomador (mainly French-speaking countries) and HouseCarers.com (for limited pet-sit options). While most sites require a membership fee ranging from $20-120/year to join, the majority of actual house sitting opportunities are free transactions between both parties (though there are the occasional that pay sitters for longer stays). For the traveler, this provides a free home while globe-trotting in exchange for watering the plants, walking and feeding a dog, leaving food out for a cat, or taking care of numerous other animals.

Locations range from islands to explore in Fiji, farms to tend in Alaska, beach homes to look after in Bermuda, bed and breakfasts to run (for six months with pay!) in Spain, apartments to occupy in Vietnam… and the list goes on. One of the most interesting I came across was on The Caretaker Gazette: A request for a person or family to come live in Alaska, watch over two apartments and run a general store for an unspecified salary and bonus over six months.  For the most part, the homes are available all over the world and require minimal upkeep.

After paying for groceries and transportation to your destination, much of the extraneous costs of staying somewhere are erased.  Transportation is typically provided with the home owner’s car, a subsidized rental car, or directions to public transit.

Here, seven tips on house sitting (and getting chosen to sit your dream home):

1. Choose a site (or multiple sites) and register.

2. Fill out a profile. Each site requires you to complete a profile. Try to convey who you are, and what your strengths are. If you are a dog lover who grew up with Basset Hounds, mention that. If you are allergic to certain animals or would prefer to house sit a home with no pets, mention that, too. People appreciate honesty.

3. Get a background check. TrustedHouseSitters provides two types 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 pictures of yourself. Upload as many photos as the site will allow. This provides the home owner a sense of who you are and will give you a leg-up on being chosen.

5. Provide references. Have friends, coworkers, and landlords (if possible) write references for you on the site. One house sit that chose me stated that I was singled out was because I had such great references from friends and coworkers.  And as soon as you start house sitting, you’ll be able to work on getting actual house sitting reviews, which will make future house sits easier to come by.

6. Apply to as many houses as possible. Upon starting out, much like applying for a new job, it’s important to apply to as many homes that 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 twenty applications in the first day or two, depending on the location. If you’re the twenty-first application, there’s very little chance you’ll get noticed.

7. Respond and be responsible. Respond quickly to a home owner’s replies.  This should be a given, as you want to leave a good impression with your new “boss”. In addition, be overly responsible for the items entrusted in your care (also a given). Remember, each house sit is a review 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 (in my opinion) can be much more enjoyable than staying in a hotel.  You have the peace of mind that you’re helping someone else, you get to know a neighborhood and city as a local, and you save a lot of money.

If you’re only traveling for a week and spending $100/night in a hotel (which is on the low side), that’s $700 spent on accommodations (pre-tax and tip). You’d be saving $580 with TrustedHouse Sitters for that week alone, even after the membership fee. If you’re traveling like me (for months at a time)? Well, I figure I’m saving between $20k-35k per year. Pre-tax earnings, that would be a $45k/year job. Not bad for a life of creative travel.

A few more resources for our world-traveling friends:

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