The concept of housesitting is growing in popularity, and it is easy to understand why. As a house sitter, you may find yourself living rent free in a luxury apartment in Panama City, on a houseboat in Amsterdam or on a ranch in the Australian outback. The world is your oyster.
One of our charges and her owner
It is a perfect situation for pet owners and a great opportunity for those with a passion for travel. People choose to house sit for a number of reasons. Some are full-timers, housesitting their way around the world, often digital nomads who work location independently.
Then there are those who housesit on their holidays - as an alternative to paying for an expensive hotel, they prefer to stay in a comfortable house, self-cater, and become part of the local community for a week or two. Many retirees choose to housesit, and others do so to save on rent. What all these people have in common is a love of animals.
In most cases, housesitting involves the care of a pet, and occasionally a menagerie! Every now and again, it is possible to find a pet-free assignment, but they are in the minority. In these cases, the home owner usually wants someone to live in their property while they are away for security purposes, and often some gardening or maintenance is required.
From the home owner’s perspective, opting for someone to live in their property while they are absent, means that their pet can remain in the comfort and security of their own home. Some dogs and cats find being sent to a kennel or cattery extremely traumatic and housesitting eliminates this common problem. Routine can be maintained and additionally the property is not left empty for the duration of the owner’s absence. It is a win-win scenario for all those involved.
My partner and I have now completed over one hundred housesits and have primarily cared for cats and dogs. We have also come across pet owners seeking care for llamas, donkeys, rabbits, snakes and on one occasion, an ocelot!
The view from our cabin at Brighton Marina
We have mainly housesat in Brighton, UK between travels abroad. This has allowed us to live in our favourite British city rent free while planning and saving for our next adventure. In Brighton, we have lived in everything from multi-million pound houses to modest one bedroom flats. One of our more unusual sits was in a floating cabin at Brighton Marina. We have made friends with a vast array of animals and humans!
Our only foreign housesit to date was a five month stint in Toronto, where we looked after a lovely cat in a bungalow next to Lake Ontario. We enjoyed living like locals and exploring the city and surroundings. Because we were there for a few months, we experienced the change of seasons, Halloween, Christmas and New Year. Afterwards, we headed down to Mexico, where we explored the country by bus.
One of the downsides to housesitting is that you can become attached to the pet you are caring for to the extent that it is hard to say goodbye! Leaving Toronto was quite an emotional departure after being there for so long! With experience, you adjust to the constant arrivals and departures, but every now and again you do become attached, and it can be tough bidding farewell!
Blue the Cat
It is always necessary to establish exactly what is expected from both parties. Some housesits are paid, others are not. Occasionally, especially on longer sits, the property owner will request that the sitter contributes to bills. It is up to those involved to negotiate. The sitter will often be asked to water plants, receive deliveries and naturally the property should be kept in a clean and tidy condition for the owners return. When we have carried out unpaid housesits, many of our hosts have left us anything from a bottle of wine to a fridge full of food as a token of thanks.
So, how do you become a house sitter? The first thing you need to do is to build up a portfolio of testimonials. If you have ever looked after pets for friends, ask them to referee for you. To these, add any character references, which although not specific to pet care, will demonstrate that you are trustworthy and reliable etc.
You could start by offering a housesitting service to friends and you will then be able to build up your portfolio. Don’t forget to obtain a testimonial on completion of every house sit that you do. The more you have, the better chance you have of scoring your dream house sit!
It is also wise to obtain a police check, which gives property owners added peace of mind when assessing your suitability.
You can either advertise independently or register with a house sitting website, most of which charge an annual fee. Once registered, you can apply for any housesit featured on the website.
If you love travelling and animals, house sitting has the potential to open up a whole new world of opportunities you never knew existed. Happy House Sitting!