Imagine staying rent-free in amazing places in exchange for house sitting... Sounds great, right? Today I tell you everything about how to become a house sitter and travel for free!
The first time I heard about house sitting was in 2014 through friends. They kept posting pictures on their Facebook of fantastic houses and cute animals, and it seemed like every other week they moved to another exciting place in another country... I was mind blown of this way of traveling and staying rent-free in beautiful houses. It seemed like house sitting was a fun and budget friendly way to discover new destinations.
Wait... You're confused? You have no idea what I'm talking about and don't quite understand what house sitting means? OK, let's start from here.
What's better than a cat? A cat with a view. 2 adorable cats that happen to live in 2 amazing places.
What is House Sitting?
House sitting, or also often called pet sitting means you'll look after the pets of someone who is going away for a specific amount of time (for travels, business etc). During that time you can stay at their house while looking after their pets. Basically you're trading pet sitting service for accommodation. For free. There is no money involved. Sounds like a great deal, right?
Needless to say, it didn't take long until I was hooked to the idea of house sitting. If you're retired, or happen to work online, this is probably the best thing you can do to keep traveling and keeping your expenses low. It's no surprise that the number of full-time house sitters – who sold all their belongings to travel for an indefinite time – has been growing ever since...
But even if you don't work online and have a normal job, house sitting is still a great option. It will help you to save a ton of money on your travels, as your accommodation is free.
House sitting has become a big thing over the past decade.
Pet owners are no more asking friends or neighbors to look after their pets.
Now they can select from a massive community of International
house sitters who love to travel the world for pets.
Cat sitting in the skies, with incredible views from the 57th floor...
I did over 60 house sits – My experience as a pet sitter
Fast forward, until today I have done over 60 house sits in the past 5 years, mostly in Asia. My first house sit was in Hong Kong, I continued pet sitting in Thailand, Malaysia, Bali (Indonesia) and in Singapore, where I am right now. And guess what I'm doing in Singapore right now while writing this article? You got it right, I'm on a house sit.
Thanks to all the house sitting opportunities that opened up to me, I got to stay in some of the most amazing properties. I stayed in a 6 bedroom penthouse that cost over $20k rent a month, I house sit for the CEO of a popular company, I cat sit in a condo complex with eight (!) swimming pools... in other words:
I enjoyed staying in homes with incredible views and facilities! I'm so grateful for all these experiences, that I could have possibly never afforded myself.
One of my favorite house sits. They invited me back for 5 more sits, I ended up spending more than 3 months altogether
Not forget to mention the pets... I bonded with animals that I treated like my own. Some of the funniest and most hilarious characters, which made me fall even deeper in love with pets, especially cats are such magnificent creatures.
Many of the pet owners were incredibly kind and generous, a lovely couple from Australia allowed me to host my parents at their house during the house sit. Many pet owners left me a full fridge of food, bottles of wine or christmas gifts. Some of my best travel memories were made through house sitting.
I remember every name of every cat I looked after. From left clockwise: Gatsby and Greg behind him, Oscar upside down, Cookie and Ginger in the bathroom sink and Milo and Myry grooming each other.
Why should you become a house sitter?
Because you love animals. That clearly should be your main intention. And second, you love to travel of course. Don't get me wrong, but if you only care about free accommodation and not much about the animals, then pet sitting isn't for you. In some rare cases you can find house sits without pets, but these gigs might involve other responsibilities such as gardening, etc.
If you're a pet lover, you definitely love house sitting! You can spend quality time with pets and bond with them, without the responsibility of owning an animals for the next decade(s).
As mentioned above, house sitting comes with free accommodation which is an amazing extra bonus and makes this a win-win situation for both parties. Pet owners don't have to pay for pet hotels or kennels, while the pet sitter gets the lovely company of an animal, plus free accommodation. If this sounds awesome to you, keep reading...
Who wouldn't enjoy staying here for some weeks? I definitely did...
Who can become a house sitter?
Anyone can become a house sitter, this is what makes it so great. No matter what nationality or race you are, no matter if you're old and retired or young, anyone who has a love for pets can become a house sitter. There are all kinds of pet sitters, from singles to couples, even families can enjoy house sits around the world.
It's very common that pet owners of bigger properties or homes in more rural areas prefer couples or even families, while pet owners who are living in city condos or smaller apartments often seek out to a single pet sitter or a couple.
How long is a house sit?
House sits can vary in duration, it can be anything from a day or two, to an extended weekend, up to several months. Personally I enjoy long house sits over 1 month. It allows me to travel at a slower pace and discover a new destination on a deeper level, maybe even connect with locals and experience a place beyond the regular sights and attractions.
Last year I had a 9 weeks long cat sit in Singapore and absolutely loved it. I ended up becoming a member of a yoga studio for a month, going to regular meet ups with expats and locals, and even made a bunch of new friends.
Cats love to join me whenever I sit on my laptop. I have countless photos like this... More on my cat-stagram
How to become a house sitter?
Are you hooked already? You want to know how to become a house sitter, too? You're ready to travel, care for pets and enjoy free accommodation? YES!! Let me tell how I started and how I became a house sitter.
I joined TrustedHousesitters in 2014, as they were one of the first websites out there that promoted house sitting. Until today, TrustedHousesitters is still one of the best websites to find pet sitting gigs, with the largest selection of house sits around the world.
The sign up process is pretty simple and straightforward. You go to TrustedHousesitters, click on Join Now and register as a new user. You can choose between sitter and owner membership. If you're looking for house sits, then you register as a sitter. If you have pets yourself, you can sign up as an owner and find free house sitters through the platform. They even offer a combined membership if you like to do both.
Join TrustedHousesitters NOW and get 25% off with the discount code JUSTONEWAYTICKET
TrustedHousesitters brought quite a few pet sit opportunities to me, and once I had established a reputation, things got a lot easier. Later on, I received more house sitting gigs through word of mouth. Previous pet owners recommended me to their friends and colleagues, but also at the same time I had build a network of pet sitter friends who did house sitting as well. Whenever one of us was not able to commit to an awesome house sit, we would ask our pet sitting friends if anyone else was available. I'm so grateful for all the connections and friends that I made through TrustedHousesitters.
The more house sits I did, the more photos I had... Thousands of pet photos and videos, mostly cats as 99% of my pet sits involved cats. I'm definitely one of those crazy cat ladies who can spend hours on YouTube watching cat videos all day long.
With an archive of pet footage (including a few exotic cat breeds) I started at some point to document my pet sitting experiences on a separate Instagram account called @catsitter_travels. Believe it or not, but even through Instagram I was able to score a few house sits.
House sitting offered opportunities to me to encounter exotic cat breeds, such as these beautiful Bengal cats.
How much does it cost to become a house sitter?
The house sit itself is free. However, websites such as TrustedHousesitters carry a yearly fee. The membership for new sitters cost EUR 89 a year. At this point, I have good news for you. I have a discount code for Trusted Housesitters, if you use the code JUSTONEWAYTICKET, you'll get 25% off the yearly membership price and it will drop to EUR 66. You're welcome.
So... is this worth it, you're asking? Let's do the math.
With the membership you can apply for unlimited house sits anywhere in the world. Every house sit that you get through the platform is free, there is no additional cost, you only pay for the yearly membership and can do as many house sits as you want! I know people who did full time house sitting, just traveling and moving from one house sit to another, without ever paying rent. Clearly, it's worth it for them.
But what about if you have a normal job and can get only two weeks vacation a year?
I'd say, even then it's worth it! If you do only one house sit per year (although you can do unlimited), you're still saving money. Let's say you do a one-week house sit within a year, the yearly membership of TrustedHousesitters will be still cheaper than paying for a hotel for one-week in most places of the world! Not forget to mention the unique experience you'll get, house sitting it's not your ordinary vacation.
I house sit here for 2 weeks. This could be your bedroom, too. So what are you waiting for? Sign up, find house sits and start to travel! Get 25% off on TrustedHousesitters with the promo code JUSTONEWAYTICKET
Create a profile as a house sitter
Once you joined TrustedHousesitters, make sure to spend enough time to create a strong profile, that shows your personality, your professionalism and your love for animals. Needless to say, a picture with a pet is literally a must! Tell a bit about your background, your current lifestyle, and describe why you are the perfect person for a house sit. Ideally, you have plenty of positive reviews and references from previous pet owners to show your experience.
But, what if you don't have any reviews yet, because you just signed up? No problem, there is help! Start pet sitting for friends and ask them to leave a reference for you on TrustedHousesitters. This is possible, even if they are not a member of the platform. Once you gained a few positive reviews, it will get easier to find house sits and who knows, at some point you might be in high demand...
A photo with a pet is a must when creating a profile as a pet sitter. Ideally the pet should look happy, too.
Looks like I failed with this one. To my defence, Bella, the cat has always the same poker face.
How to find a house sit
Once you have created an outstanding profile with TrustedHousesitters, you can start browsing for house sit opportunities. You can search by country, city, duration, the kind of animals to look after, etc. Most house sits involve cats or dogs (or both), a few involve other animals such as farm animals. I recommend applying only for those animals that you're familiar with.
You found a house sit that you like? Go for it and apply! The message will go directly to the pet owner, so please write a personal email, pick up a few sentences from the house sit description so the pet owner knows that you have read through it. Highlight any experience that you have with pets, and explain why you're perfect for this house sit.
Bonus Tip: If you're new to house sitting, apply for house sits in your city (or wherever you are right now). Many pet owners will feel at ease being able to meet the pet sitter in person before confirming to you – which is usually not possible if you apply for a house sit abroad.
Finally, a photo with a happy looking puppy. One of the rare times the cat lady (AKA me) looked after a dog.
The interview before the house sit
You've applied for a house sit, you have a good conversation going on with the pet owners, and it looks like they're interested in having you as a house sitter, too. Cheers to that, that is a good sign.
Now it's time to meet each other, or at least have a video call, if a meet up prior to the house sit is not possible (which is mostly the case). Even if the pet owner is not asking for a video call, I suggest you do. It's important to share expectations and make sure the house sit is a great match for both parties. Also, this is a great opportunity to get a quick video tour of the house, so definitely ask for this, too.
There are loads of things to consider before you 100% commit to the house sit. Also have a look at my other blog post How to Avoid House Sitting Nightmares – 10 Questions to Ask Before Confirming a House Sit – to make sure, you're prepared for all kinds of scenarios.
If everything sounds great, go ahead and confirm this before the owner decides to go with someone else... Once the pet owner confirms, it's time to celebrate!
Two beautiful cats, two different house sits. Both pet owners invited me back for another cat sit.
Preparation before the house sit
Congratulations, you scored your first house sit! I remember how excited I was when that happened to me the first time, it feels like winning a free vacation, which is almost true. Once you have secured a house sit it's time to get travel arrangements done.
01. Book your flights as early as possible as prices usually go up sooner to the date.
I recommend discussing arrival and departure dates with the pet owner before booking your flights. Some pet owners prefer you arrive earlier, so you have plenty of time to discuss the pet's and house routine. Also ask which date you are expected to leave and plan your flights accordingly. Don't wait too long, book your flights as soon as you have the dates confirmed, prices will go up the later you book. The best websites to find cheap flights are Momondo and Skyscanner.
02. Apply for a visa, if necessary.
Does the country you're going to house sit, require a visa? Make sure to get all your documents in order and check if your passport is still valid for more than 6 months. If you need to apply for a visa, plan time ahead as some visas need several days to process.
03. Research about airport transportation in your destination.
Ask the pet owners what's the easiest way to get to their house from the airport. If you're lucky, they'll pick you up, or maybe they offer to fetch you from the nearest train or bus station. If they won't, be cool about it and get prepared to find your own way. Google Maps is your friend.
Looking after the cats Salt & Pepper while they're looking over the skyline of Hong Kong...
Arrival at your house sit
Usually the pet owners are still present during your arrival to make sure they have time to explain you everything about their pets and their home. Be mindful at your arrival, the pet owners might be caught up with last minute packing, so don't expect too much attention from them. Ask them if it's a good time now to explain you everything, or if they need some time to themselves first. Respect whatever they say.
If I arrive many hours before they take off and they seem busy, I usually offer to go outside to check out the neighborhood, and ask when is a good time to come back. Once the pet owners have time for me to explain me everything, I have a list handy with 50 Important Questions to ask the Pet Owner – this blog post is a useful house sitting checklist for pet sitters to make sure everything gets covered about the pet, the house and the surroundings.
In the rare case the pet owner leave before your arrival (or your time together is very short), I recommend to send a copy of these questions via email to the pet owner. Ideally, send it a week prior to the house sit, so they have time to reply.
Imagine waking up to views like this...
During the House sit
It's vacation time! BUT, don't forget the pets are the main reason why you came here, someone is trusting in you that you'll take good care of their pets, so please give the pets all your love and treat them like your own. These animals are family members and should be treated likewise.
Aside from the pet sitting responsibilities which are discussed with the pet owners, I'd like to add that it's always appreciated to keep in touch throughout the entire stay. I tend to send every day photos or videos of the pets to the owners, assuring them their pets are well. If the pet owners hardly response, you might step back and give an update every other day. But never go completely silent or offline for longer periods.
Keep the house clean and tidy during your stay. Water plants if necessary, empty the mailbox if the pet owners were asking for it, and follow all the instructions you were given by the owners. If in doubt, you can always message them.
Looking after Sushi, he was such a cuddly boy who would wake me up every morning with some gentle paw massages.
Last day of the house sit
Once your house sit is nearing the end, make sure to bring the place back into the same condition (or even better) as it was when you arrived. Wash any dishes, vacuum and mop the floors, and make sure the house is spotless and ready for the pet owners arrival. I always strip off my bed at the end of a sit, and if I have enough time (assuming I'm not leaving on a 6am flight), I'll wash the bed sheets, together with the towels that I used during my stay.
Empty the mailbox a last time, and please stock up groceries if you used up much. Even if the pet owners tell me I can consume whatever I want, I will always make sure I never finish products, or I restock products that I have completely finished. For me it's just common sense, and I'm sure the pet owner appreciates coming home and still find some food in the kitchen.
Last day house sitting, tidying up the home and waiting for the pet owners to come back.
After the house sit
Once the house sit is finished and I have left the house, I usually check back 2-3 days later and ask if everything was OK, but also I express my gratitude for the opportunity to look after their pet (assuming it was a great pet sit).
If the house sit was arranged through a website like Trusted Housesitters, go ahead and leave a review for the pet owners. That will possibly encourage them to leave a review for you too, if they haven't done yet.
Reviews are super important as this will help you to get easier more house sits in the future.
If they haven't written a review about you within one or two weeks, I would message again and say something along these lines:
"Hi (name of the pet owner), thanks again for the opportunity to look after your pet(s). I noticed that you haven't left a review for me yet. I was wondering if you were not satisfied with my services, or if there is anything else that could have been improved. Let me know. Thank you."
I try to stay in touch with the pet owners, especially if it was an amazing house sit! You might want to be considered for another pet sit in the future. They might even recommend you to their friends with pets – a word of mouth goes a long way.
Say hello to Elliot, one of the few cats that was allowed to roam around the swimming pool.
Some final words
I hope you enjoyed this house sitting guide and you're ready to become a house sitter yourself, explore the world, and bond with cute pets! I'm in my 5th year with house sitting, and there is no end in sight. It completely changed the way I travel and it brought amazing opportunities and connections to me. And seriously, there is nothing better than waking up with a furball and sharing some cuddles with a cute pet...
If you have anything to add or want to tell me about your house sitting experiences – or even if you have some questions – please leave them in the comment section below. I hope this guide will help you getting your first house sit soon! Happy travels!
More Blog Posts about House Sitting and other Travel Jobs
- How to Avoid House Sitting Nightmares – 10 Questions to Ask Before Confirming a House Sit
- House Sitting Checklist for Pet Sitters – 50 Important Questions to Ask the Pet Owner
- The Best Travel Jobs – 50 Ways To Make Money While Traveling The World
- How I Created My Dream Job In Less Than A Year (Just By Doing What I Love)
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