Housesitting: The Secret to Free Accommodation Around the World
When people ask me where I live, I always pause. I can easily tell you where I’m from- a super small town in the state of Massachusetts, but where do I live? Well, technically everywhere. I’ve been fully nomadic for over a year now- slowly bouncing around from country to country and doing my best to keep my costs reasonable. So far, the best way I’ve found to do that has been housesitting.
One of my first housesits in the north of Spain
What is housesitting?
It's exactly as the name implies. We all know what babysitting is, and I assure you, housesitting is much more manageable.
You’re taking care of a home in an owner’s absence, and in many cases, they have some furry friends they’d like you to feed and walk as well. In short, you are taking responsibility for another person’s home and/or pets, free of charge, in exchange for free accommodation. It’s a win-win! I'm actually writing this post mid-housesit in beautiful Bath, England. Three weeks, two cats, and not a penny to pay for comfortable accommodation in one of the country's most charming cities.
Who is housesitting it good for?
Well, everyone...but it is particularly convenient for some more than others. I’ll explain:
Housesitting is PERFECT for digital nomads and also for retirees. Anyone who has extreme flexibility in his or her life is a prime candidate, basically. Housesitting opportunities can range from a short weekend to 6 months to a year! Imagine, rent-free accommodation for a whole year? Yeah, it can happen. In some pretty freakin’ cool places, too. I once saw a listing for a 6-month assignment in Fiji. FIJI!
Ok, so maybe you’re not a digital nomad, and maybe you aren’t over 65. How can housesitting work for the normal, vacation-planning person? Well first of all, you need to be a bit open-minded. You can’t have specific dates AND places in mind and expect that you’re going to find an opportunity to match. What you can do is hone in on one or the other. If you have fixed vacation dates, you can plug those into one of the sites I’m about to tell you about, and see what countries/cities need a housesitter. Planning ahead is key, as you most likely won’t be the only one applying. But let's say you search dates for a week in December when you happen to have vacation time…you might find that someone needs a housesitter in London, the countryside of Spain, a resort town in the south of Turkey, or any other number of places and apply to what appeals to you. There’s a bit of uncertainty that comes with all of this until you lock down the housesit, but consider this. If you get a housesit in London for a week, you’ve just saved yourself hundreds of dollars (if not more) on hotel costs. #worthit
Where Do I Find a Housesit?
To find available housesitting opportunities, these are the websites you need to check out. The membership costs vary, but it is money well spent. Once you snag your first assignment, a few nights of free accommodation will more than compensate for your fees.
Of my three recommendations, Trustedhousesitters is my favorite. It’s also the most expensive. The housesit I’ve currently got in Bath, England? Scooped that up on this site. The annual membership is a one-time fee of $120, but they often run discounted memberships throughout the year. Keep an eye out for holiday and special occasion sales and you can usually snag a membership for 25% off. My membership fees have already been paid back tenfold with this one housesit. A hotel in this city for three weeks would cost AT LEAST a grand!
If this was Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Housecarers.com would be justtt right. With a $50 annual membership fee, this is your middle of the road option price point wise. If you're a newbie to the world of housesitting, I think it's a pretty good place to start. The website is user-friendly and it's not a huge investment to throw down if you're not sure you're going to use it. The good news is you can browse the opportunities that are available, and sign up when something catches your eye!
Mindmyhouse has a place in my heart because it's where I started with housesitting. The website is pretty terrible and you constantly have to keep inputting data because it doesn't like to save preferences, HOWEVER, you can't really beat a $20 annual price tag. The other sites are less of a headache and have a lot more opportunities, but if you want to dabble, this could be a good option for you!
How to Create the Perfect Profile
While each housesitting site is a bit different, there are 3 key elements that stay the same when it comes to impressing homeowners with your profile.
1. Photos, Photos, Photos!
I've found that a mixed bag of photos is best. Show off the bright and shiny individual (or couple!) that you are with photos that express your personality. Put up shots of you doing something that you love, or just simply looking like a presentable and friendly person. If you're aiming for a housesit with animals, you best get some photos of you with animals. If people are going to leave you with their furbabies, which they oftentimes love more than anything else in the world, it is your job to make it clear that you are going to love them, too. Some examples of shots I included:
Quite a mix, I know- but the take home point is supposed to be this: I'm friendly, adventurous, love to travel, and clearly love animals!
2. A Solid Bio
Each site will give you the chance to introduce yourself. You'll most likely end up with a Skype interview or similar with an interested homeowner, but this is the text that helps get you that Skype interview in the first place. This is where you want to describe yourself briefly, and also mention WHY you're interested in housesitting as well as anything that will make you stand out (experience with animals, for instance.) Here's what I wrote:
If you've never housesat before, hope is not lost. I personally had no experience and was able to land my first sit without any references. That being said, they definitely help! Have you ever watched a friend's pets or home? Ask them to whip one up! Any kind of experience that can attest to your skills as they are related to caring for a home or a pet will definitely give you an advantage over other housesitters.
And that, my friends, is my two cents on housesitting! Please feel free to throw any questions you may have in the comments, and I hope you're able to nail down a housesitting gig soon!