House sitting: stay for free – and make life-long friends

House sitting: stay for free – and make life-long friends

Imagine waking up on the other side of the world in a place you’ve always wanted to visit…

And then imagine that the place where you’re staying isn’t costing you a penny.

Then imagine further that, while you’re there, you’re taking care of someone’s most precious possessions – their home and also their pets.

It’s a pretty nice arrangement – and the bond of trust is something very, very special. If you do a good job you may also be invited back to do it again.

I love house sitting. I’ve been doing it since 2014. And I love cats, so catsitting gives me the opportunity to spend time with my favourite animals, to meet really lovely homeowners and also to travel.

In my first five years of house sitting I spent time in 11 different countries across three continents, looking after mainly cats, the occasional dog – and two fish.

But you don’t have to go to the other side of the world – or even leave your own country; you can house sit in many places much closer to home – possibly even in your own home town – and it’s a whole lot of fun.

How it works:

  1. You decide where you want to house sit.
  2. You register on a house sitting website; there are lots – see below.
  3. You search for a suitable house sit.
  4. You apply, showing why you’d be the ideal choice.
  5. If your application shines, the homeowner will say yes – and you take it from there.

Obviously there’s also a lot of communication that goes on between the homeowner and the house sitter in between, but those are the nuts and bolts of it.

I find most of my house sits through the global site, Trusted Housesitters, which covers house sits on every continent (with the possibly exception of Antarctica!). You set up a profile that shows why you want to house sit and what makes you suitable and what experience you might have with pets, and then you apply for the house sits you want to do.

You gradually build up your references and reviews on your profile, and that then makes it increasingly easy to secure the house sits you want.

Several of my house sits are now repeat ones, which is great, and many homeowners have now become friends.

When I first started, I began by asking friends and contacts for character references, then I applied for a last-minute house sit close to home, where the homeowner didn’t have time to wait for an experienced sitter, and I did a really good job so she gave me a great review. I continued to build my reviews from there.

I also looked after a friend’s cats initially, and she gave me a good review too – and so I was able to build my reputation and look further afield.

I always look after cats, but there are all kinds of house sits. If you’re able to look after dogs as well as cats – or even horses, chickens and even sometimes sheep and goats! – you’ll have a lot more choice.

There are several other  more location-specific house sitting websites, for example Housesitters Canada and specific ones for other countries, such as Aussie Housesitters in Australia and several in the USA.

Most house sitters who use the sites I’ve mentioned here house sit for free, as I do – so there’s no exchange of money – and it works really well that way. The house sitter stays for free, and the homeowner has the peace of mind that their home and their pets are being really well looked after.

Occasionally there are housesits available that don’t involve pets, i.e. it’s just a house/apartment that needs looking after – but those seem quite rare.

If I had to list the top three things you need to demonstrate as a house sitter, they would be: 1) good communication; 2) being well organised; 3) 100% reliable and trustworthy. The house sit process works a lot on trust both ways, and that’s also what makes it such an enjoyable experience.

Have you tried house sitting? Leave a comment below.


(Main photo above: Rusty Brown, who lives with his humans in England.)


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