House sitting, looking after other people’s homes and pets while they’re away, is becoming an increasingly popular way to travel. In this house sitting guide, we explain how to become a house sitter and travel the world for longer.
We’ve been house sitting and taking care of other people’s homes and pets for over two years. Through house sitting, we have been able to live well for less in the mountains of Costa Rica, stayed in Panama’s best coffee growing region with three gorgeous golden retrievers and even spent a week knocking coconuts out of trees while house sitting on Ometepe Island.
Here’s our story of how we became house sitters and how you can do it too.
How We Became House Sitters
Back in 2013, we noticed that house sitting was becoming popular. Many of our favourite travel bloggers at the time had started looking after other people’s homes and pets while travelling and this is what originally got me interested in finding out how to become a house sitter. We’d just finished teaching in Taiwan and although we loved living in Taiwan, we also wanted to travel more.
I devoted some time to reading up on what it was like to be a house sitter and how to become a house sitter. After reading about what it takes to become a house sitter, we decided that we both have the characteristics required to be good house and pet sitters. We love animals, we’re very responsible, we want to travel but we also like to have a home base for a little while when we do, and we’re flexible with our travels.
After our research phase, we decided that we were going to become house sitters. We set up a house sitting website where we put up photos of animals we’d looked after for friends. Some of our friends provided references about our character because we didn’t yet have an official house sitting references. We put out some notices on Craigslist with a link to our website. We heard back from a couple of people and finally arranged our first house sit for an American family living in Costa Rica.
Since then we’ve house sat in the UK, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexcio, as well as multiple times in Costa Rica. We love house sitting and wouldn’t want to travel any other way.
Why Do People Want House Sitters?
People sometimes ask us why people want house sitters. For travellers, the benefits seem obvious: free accommodation, more time abroad and a lovely home to stay in. But actually there are many reasons why home owners also want to have house sitters when they’re away. For home owners, house and/or pet sitters can provide peace of mind that their home and pets are in good plans and in some scenarios even save home owners money.
Before You Decide to Become a House Sitter…
Before sell all your belongings, decide to become a house sitter and hit the road in search of houses to sit in, think about whether house sitting is really for you. Caring for someone else’s home and pets is a lot of responsibility. During one of our house sits in Costa Rica, we were looking after eleven dogs and one cat – that’s a lot of animals!
Animals don’t just need feeding twice a day, they need constant love and attention. We pulled ticks out of dog fur, porcupine spikes out of muzzles, made sure they didn’t lick any toads, and even rushed one dog to the vet after he was bitten by a venomous snake. Fortunately, he lived, but looking after someone else’s homes and pets isn’t always easy.
House sitters need to be committed, responsible and communicative. Though there are many benefits of becoming a house sitter, it’s a huge commitment and house sits shouldn’t be taken lightly. If everything still sounds good, read on to find out how to become a house sitter.
Should You Charge to House Sit?
There are really two types of house sitter: house sitters who live in the area, and house sitters who are travelling.
House sitters who live in the area usually have their own home and run a house sitting business. These house sitters are usually paid per day/night. Local house sitters often have repeat customers who they house sit for every time they home owner goes away. The benefit for home owners is that they have a reliable person they already know and trust.
Travelling house sitters – like me and Luke – tend not to charge. For us, house sitting is a way to travel and save money, and we find that living rent-free in exchange for taking care of a home and pets is a fair deal. We work online so we always have an income as long as the internet connection where we’re staying is reliable. We choose to house sit for free because that’s what works for us.
The other thing to consider if you’re charging for your house sitting services, is whether it’s legal in the country where you’re house sitting. If you’re travelling on a tourist visa, then it’s unlikely that it’s legal to be ‘working’ in that country and therefore you shouldn’t be being paid for house sitting. You may need a working visa or residents visa of some kind in order to legally charge for your house sitting services.
However, it is usual for home owners whose house sitters are not being paid to cover the costs of utilities including water, electricity and wifi, and for any cleaners or gardeners they employ.
How to Become a House Sitter
So you’re ready to become a house sitter? My advice to everyone who wants to become a house sitter is to begin establishing yourself as a house sitter online. It’s likely that most, if not all, of your house sitting opportunities will be found online. If you do decide to become a house sitter, then you will need to search out house sitting opportunities yourself. Of course, those magic emails offering you a house sitting opportunity don’t just appear in your inbox. There are lots of different ways you can do this and each method has it’s merits. Here are the steps to follow to become a house sitter:
1. Take Some Photos and Gather Some References
When you’re first starting out as a house sitter, you’ll need to search out house sitting opportunities online and that first impression is crucial. Home owners are looking to see how friendly, reliable and trustworthy you are. Photos are an excellent way to communicate these qualities. We took photos with our own pets and some friends’ pets who we looked after. If you have already looked after houses and pets for friends and family, then ask them for a reference. Good references can go a long way. If you haven’t then now’s a good time to get a little bit of experience and try out shorter term house sits before looking to house sit abroad.
2. Set Up Your Own Website
This step isn’t 100% necessary and there are many successful house and pet sitters who don’t have their own website. However, I personally think that a website is really important. Many home owners have said that they loved our website. Getting house sitting work hinges on homeowners feeling a connection with you. No one wants a stranger looking after their home and pets. A website or blog is a great way to introduce yourself and answer common questions which people may have about you and your house sitting service.
3. Create a Facebook Page
If you’re unsure about setting up a website or blog, then having a Facebook page for your house sitting services is a good alternative. Facebook pages are great because many house sitting opportunities can be found on Facebook, you have a page that people can engage with and you can promote yourself for free. You can update your status with you location and availability and post video clips and photos from your house sits as you go.
4. Join a House Sitting Website
The majority of house sitters I’ve read about use house sitting websites to find work. HOWEVER, we have house sat for nine different homeowners in six different countries and we have never used a house sitting website. Nonetheless, we have many friends who have hda success on house sitting websites. The biggest is Trusted Housesitters and this is the one you hear the most success stories about.
When we started out as house sitters, we opted to join Mind My House. This is smaller and therefore cheaper to sign up to. Unfortunately, we weren’t pleased with their service as we found that many of the listings weren’t house sits but rather work-aways, volunteering, property rentals and job adverts.
Other options include HouseCarers.com, Nomador.com, HouseSitMatch.com and HouseSitter.com.
5. Advertise (on free sites!)
Our first big house sitting opportunity in Costa Rica came through Craigslist. We posted a short ad in the country’s classifieds under ‘services’ with a few photos and a link to our webpage. We exchanged emails and after a successful Skype interview with the homeowner, we agreed to fly out to San Jose a few months later. Since then, we’ve had a trickle of enquiries from our Craigslist ads. Remember to also look through the listings yourself as homeowners will post ads too. Look up other free websites to advertise on in your area and check if local online newspapers have an ad section too.
6. Join House Sitting Facebook Groups
There are many Facebook groups where home owners and house sitters can connect. Posting messages about where you’re located and what your availability is, as well as looking out for posts from home owners looking for house sitters, can be a good way to find opportunities. Other groups act as support networks for house sitters. Each group operates slightly differently so read the rules for each one before posting your availability.
Here are some of the bigger house sitting related Facebook groups:
7. Join Expat Facebook Groups
We’ve had our biggest success finding house sits through Expat Facebook Groups. In Central America, there are a lot of expats who are looking for pet sitters to look after their home and pets while they’re away on visa runs or trips home. We’ve found most of our house sitting opportunities through joining Expat Facebook Groups in the specific areas where we’re looking for house sits, introducing ourselves and providing a link to our website with more information. Even if no one in the group needs a house sitter, they might pass on the message to their expat friends in the area. We found our second house sit in Costa Rica this way.
Here are a few we’ve used:
- Expats Living in Mexico
- Guatemala Expats
- Expats in Panama
- Expats in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Southern Zone Expats
- Expats in Nicaragua
8. Ask Locals and Local Expats
If you’re already in the area where you want to house sit, word of mouth is sometimes all you need to find a good opportunity. Leave a flyer or business card in local cafes and bars. If you’ve already been house sitting in the area, ask the home owners who you sat for if they have friends who need house sitters. In areas with big expats communities, you can sometimes find back-to-back house sits this way.
9. Connect with Other House Sitters
Networking with other house sitters can be a great way to find house sitting opportunities all over the world. We’re in contact with some other well-established house sitters and regularly check-in with each other about our travels and let one another know if we’ve had any house sitting offers that we can’t take ourselves or that they might be interested in. The house sitting community is growing and this is a great way for everyone to benefit!
Bonus Tip! Be Flexible
If you want to become a house sitter, it’s essential to be flexible with your travel plans. House sits may not come up in the exact area you’re hoping for, sometimes there won’t be fluffy kittens, and the dates might not match up exactly. Don’t write house sits off straight away – discuss with the home owner and see if there is some wiggle room to make a house sit work for both of you. It’s also worth noting that house sitters are in more demand in some countries than others.
Before Your Agree to a House Sit
I’ve already discussed how to become a house sitter and how to get your first pet sitting assignment. However, it’s important to remember that not every house sitting opportunity will suit you – and that’s okay. It might take a few offers and discussions before you find a house sit that works for you.
Here are some important points to remember before you accept a house sit:
House Sits are Semi Long-Term Commitments
House sitting assignments vary in length, but are usually semi long-term commitments. House sits are usually a week or longer. For just a few days, it’s likely that home owners will ask a friend or neighbour to watch their animals. Before researching how to become a house sitter, make sure you’re prepared to commit the time to house sitting.
Remember that you may be agreeing to stay in the same area for quite a long time. If it turns out that you’re not as keen as you thought you would be to stay there, you can’t just leave. I’ve heard some terrible stories of house sitters cancelling on home owners because they suddenly decide a house is too rural or they didn’t like the place as much as they thought they would. That’s absolutely not okay, and anyone who decides to become a house sitter should be 100% committed.
Each House Sit is Different
Some house sits will have pets and some won’t. Some home owners will want you to clean around the house, others will have a local cleaner come in. You may need to tend to a garden or even grow vegetables. There will be a number of chores and responsibilities for you to take care of as a house sitter. If there are some things which are deal breakers for you, then be up-front about it with home owners. We’re personally generally happy to take care of any “around the house” jobs. However, we prefer not to get involved in any maintenance work beyond changing lightbulbs.
Check with the home owner about which tasks need to be done in advance. Be clear if there are any jobs you’re not keen to take care of. This way everyone knows exactly what will be taken care of, and where the responsibilities of the house sitter end. It’s a great idea to make a list of services you offer on your website too.
Do Your Research
As with all things, do your research. Know what you’re getting yourself into before you take on any house or pet sitting work. Before you consider a house sit, it’s essential to know about the area that you are going to. Even more important is to know yourself. The idea of living a simple life one a secluded beach front property might sound like a dream, but is it someone else’s dream?
GMany people find that life without a nearby bar or coffee shop, for instance, is simply not for them. Others find the inner city house that they are sitting in too noisy for their tastes. Compare your potential house sits to your previous experiences. We’ve backpacked, hosteled and Couchsurfed on five continents in all manner of different conditions. This meant we had a good idea of what we could handle as house sitters.
Are You Thinking of Becoming a House Sitter?
Deciding to become house sitters and travel the world slowly was one of the best travel decisions we ever made. We’ve had some amazing house sits in Central America. We’ve lived in local communities,seen neighbourhoods we probably would have never known about or explored otherwise and enjoyed local life. Those local, slow travel experiences have been really valuable for us as travellers and as people.
Have you decided that you definitely want to become a house sitter? If so, good luck.
Perhaps You’ve Ended Up Here because You Need a House Sitter Yourself?
Well, maybe we can help you there. If we’re in the right part of the world at the right time, we’d love to help you out. We’ve been house sitting for two years and have some great references. Have a look on our house sitting website to see where we are in the world. Get in touch with us to ask about house sits.