what is house sitting?

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What if there was a way to travel the world, meet amazing people, and spend time with the sweetest pets, all without breaking the bank? As a house sitter, it’s totally possible!

House sitting makes it possible to explore new corners of the world and meet furry friends along the way, but you might be wondering, what is house sitting exactly? In this guide, we’ll look at how house sitting works and how you can get started too!

What Is House Sitting?

As a house sitter, you live in someone else’s house and look after their pets while they travel.

Homeowners, also referred to as hosts, get peace of mind knowing that their pets will be cared for in their own space. They know that someone is looking after their home, bringing in the mail, mowing the lawn, watering the plants, and just taking care of things.

Homeowners don’t have to worry about boarding their pets, which can be stressful for the pet and quite expensive for the owner.

In return, house sitters get a house or apartment to call home for the duration of the house sit. They also get to spend time hanging out with new pets and enjoying the new destination they’re visiting.

No money is exchanged for services so house sitters get a free place to stay and the homeowner gets free pet care. It is the very definition of a win-win scenario!

My House Sitting Story

I started house sitting in 2017 and quickly fell in love with this way of traveling. I was able to work from home with fantastic internet, cuddle with adorable four-legged friends, save money on food by cooking in my own kitchen, and have all the comforts of my own apartment, all for free.

House sitting introduced me to places that are off the tourist track and hosts who I still consider dear friends. Because I didn’t pay for accommodation, house sitting allowed me to travel longer than I thought possible while enjoying simple pleasures like taking my dogs to the beach or snuggling my cats during a surprise snowstorm.

If you’re interested in traveling slower, caring for pets, experiencing off-the-beaten-path destinations, and saving money along the way, house sitting might be for you!

Related Post: How To Decide If House Sitting Is Right For You

How To Become A House Sitter

The easiest way to start house sitting is to sign up to one of the big house sitting websites. These websites show you house sitting opportunities all around the world and they’re updated daily.

You will likely pay an annual fee before you can start applying for house sits and homeowners must also pay an annual fee to find house sitters.

I use a website called TrustedHouseSitters. It is easy to use and there are lots of sits available. You can filter house sits by location, date, and type of pet.

Once you find a house sit that looks interesting, it is easy to apply and communicate with the homeowner through the website.

On Trusted House Sitters, sitters must pay an annual fee of about $129 to make an account and start applying for house sits. Luckily, if you do even one house sit, the subscription pays for itself.

Use my referral link to save 25% on your TrustedHouseSitters subscription!

What is house sitting? Become a house sitter and travel for free with Trusted House Sitters

International House Sitting Sites

There are other websites you can use too! Here is a quick rundown of some of the top international house sitting websites.

  • TrustedHouseSitters This has been the best house sitting website in my experience because it has a wide variety of listings and lots of them. The basic plan costs $129/year. (Get 25% off when you apply through my referral link!)
  •  Nomador allows you to apply to three house sits for free before you have to pay the annual fee of $89.
  • Mindmyhouse has a more budget-friendly annual fee of $20.
  • Housecarers lets you make a free account to browse house sits and if you want to subscribe, you can sign up for $50/year.

All these sites let you browse house sits for free before making an account, so you can explore and see which one has the most listings you like.

I have only used Trusted House Sitters personally, but I did browse around on the other ones before deciding.

The Best House Sitting Websites For Specific Destinations

In regions of the world where house sitting is popular, there are destination-specific house sitting sites. If you know that you’re definitely interested in one of these places, it can be worth making a profile! The costs are usually a bit lower than the larger international sites as well.

what is house sitting? How to become a house sitter and start traveling the world for free

Are There Any Free House Sitting Sites?

To my knowledge, no. I have never come across a free house sitting website that seemed legitimate.

Sometimes, you’ll be able to find a house sitting opportunity on Facebook in various travel groups, but there is a risk in doing this since the host isn’t verified by any third-party site.

I’d recommend sticking to a paid site so you have an extra layer of protection when finding a sit. If you have a tight budget, stick to a less expensive platform when you’re first starting out.

How To Apply For House Sitting Jobs

Once you have a profile on one or more of these sites, you can begin applying for house sits. Check the listings every day. Enroll in the email alert feature that will send you a daily rundown of all the new listings.

There are new listings added all the time, and applying early improves your chance of getting selected.

When you apply, you will send the host a message explaining who you are and why you want to house sit for them. Most hosts will get back to you quickly, within a few days or so. You should try to arrange a Skype call to get to know each other and work out the details.

After you talk on Skype and iron out the details, your host will confirm you as their sitter on the website. Then you can request access to a welcome guide that includes the address, emergency contacts, instructions for house maintenance, and pet care instructions. Time to book a flight!

Related Post: How To Write An Awesome House Sitter Application Message

How Can I Book A House Sit Without Any Reviews?

Since many of the sites allow the previous house sit hosts to leave reviews for the house sitter, it can be harder for someone starting out to land a competitive house sit. There are a few things you can do to help yourself stand out from the crowd, even when you’re just starting out

Apply Early. I can’t stress this enough. Many house sitting hosts get hundreds of applications to a single listing. You want to be among the first.

Write a thoughtful and detailed application message. You want the host to know exactly who you are, what you do, and why you want to spend time with their pets. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make your message stand out from the crowd.

Do some local house sitting before applying to international house sits. It’s easier to get started by house sitting closer to home. Being local has advantages since you can meet the host in advance and there’s less risk with travel delays. Start by applying to several nearby house sits to build up reviews and experience.

House sit for friends and family members to get reviews. If you can’t find a local house sit on the platform you’re using, the next best thing is getting experience with friends and family. After your sit, remember to ask for a review so you can provide it in your house sitting application message.

House Sitting Expectations

After you’ve found a sit you’re interested in, your next step is to work out the details with your house sitting host. It’s important for both parties to be extremely honest with their house sitting expectations to prevent future problems.

If a homeowner has specific tasks they need their house sitter to complete, such as shovel snow, maintain a pool, or give a pet medication, this should be disclosed from the very beginning. Homeowners should also let a house sitter know in advance if they’ll need a signed house sitting agreement.

Likewise, a house sitter should make their abilities clear from the beginning as well. House sitters are also expected to follow the pet care instructions left by the owner and be present for the duration of the sit.

Luckily, it’s usually easy to set up house sitting expectations from the beginning. Just make sure that you read the details of a house sit listing carefully and ask lots of questions about your house sitting responsibilities before committing to the sit.

Is House Sitting Safe?

I think of house sitting the same way I think of Uber or Airbnb. Yes, you are staying in a stranger’s home, but the house sitting community is largely based on trust and most people honor that.

As with anything, there’s always the small chance that you come across a disingenuous person. While I can’t make guarantees about the character of every host on every website, I can say that my experience has been very positive. All of my hosts have been generous, friendly, and wonderful people. I consider them friends.

Most of the popular house sitting websites have safeguards in place to make sure everyone is who they say they are. On Trusted House Sitters, for example, you can earn trust and verification badges for uploading identification information and getting references from friends and family.

When applying for a house sit, you can see how previous house sitters have felt about their experience through their rating and comments.

Finally, it helps that both parties – house sitters and homeowners – have to pay to be part of the program. This helps deter people who aren’t serious about finding a good match.

Also, it is always a good idea to Skype with your hosts before accepting a job. You can get to know each other a bit, ask questions, and see the house before getting there. If something doesn’t feel right, you aren’t obligated to accept a house sit just because it is offered to you.

Finally, you can always travel with a companion if you prefer. Just make sure to state this in your house sitting profile and application so your potential host knows you’re sitting as a pair.

how to start house sitting and travel for free
How Much Do House Sitters Make?

For traditional house sitting jobs, you don’t get paid. Instead, you get a free place to stay. With accommodation covered, it’s possible to live very inexpensively while traveling.

While it may be possible to get paid to house sit if you set up your own house and pet sitter business, most of the platforms I mentioned above don’t let you exchange money for your services.

Long Term House Sitting

There’s no limit to how many house sits you can do. You can string together long-term house sitting jobs for months at a time and travel as long as you want – all while experiencing new places with free accommodation.

If you plan to house sit long term, here are some tips to make things go smoothly

  • Look for house sits in regions of the world where house sitting is popular like North America, Australia, and Europe. It’s easier to coordinate back-to-back sits when you don’t have to worry about flying across the ocean to your next location.
  • When you’re lining up several house sits, remember to give yourself 2-3 days between each sit. This gives you time to actually get to your next location and have a day or two to meet your new host before they leave. Occasionally, a host might want you to arrive a day early so they can show you around and familiarize you with the property.
  • Most platforms will let you filter search results by duration. This allows you to prioritize longer house sits and spend fewer days in transit.

Final Thoughts On Becoming A House Sitter

House and pet sitting is a budget-friendly way to travel to places you might not have considered. It is also a great way to meet new friends, furry and human!

It’s also a unique way to experience a new town like a local. By not spending tons of money on accommodation, you can travel longer and see more parts of the world.

For long-term travel, house sitting worldwide is an amazing way to go!

Interested in House Sitting? The following resources will help you travel longer for free, all while making amazing furry friends!

How to become a house sitter

Cover Photo by Devon Janse van Rensburg on Unsplash

About the Author

Hi! I'm Nic. Let's chat about remote work and ways to incorporate more travel into your life. Whether you're here to find an online job or need some tips for planning your next trip, I've got you covered! More about me

18 thoughts on “What is House Sitting? How to House Sit and Travel for Free”

  1. How often do you rent a car when you are housesitting? Have some of the homeowners in the UK been able to loan you a car? It seems like they aren’t able to get insurance for a foreign driver. Or do you choose only housesits where a car is unnecessary? I appreciate your blog!

    • Thanks Betsy! I have always stayed in places where a car isn’t necessary – either because it is walking distance to amenities or because the area has good public transportation. At one sit in the UK, the owners were able to loan me a car but I don’t know how to drive manual so I didn’t feel comfortable taking them up on it. When I apply to a sit, I always let the hosts know I will be traveling without a car and I ask if this will be a problem. So far, I haven’t had problems 🙂

  2. That’s awesome Nice! Thank you so much. My husband and I are retired and traveling in a similar fashion. We didn’t do it in our 20s so we’re doing it now!! We started a travel business – (Euro Travel Coach – http://www.eurotravelcoach.com) and have been housesitting, WWOOFing and using Workaway.info. We have our TEFL certificate but haven’t tried to teach online yet — we hope to apply this summer…..I hope VIPkids doesn’t mind that we are in our 50s. We are career university teachers (music and business) so we have lots of teaching experience — and we have taught English to kids face to face through workaway.info…just haven’t done it online yet. We love TrustedHousesitters but have had to rent a car sometimes and the cost definitely does add up. Thanks for much for your insights! You run a great blog — we hope to learn from you!

    • Thank you! I am so excited to check out your site, that sounds like an amazing project! I would love to try WWOOFing at some point too. Finding free accommodation becomes a little addictive 😉 Feel free to send me an email if you have more questions about VIPKID and the hiring process. I’m happy to help!

  3. Yes, I totally agree — free accommodations IS addicting! We had a great experience with WWOOFing. I highly recommend it. Thank you for a great blog. I look forward to learning more as I ready through your posts. I’ll let you know if I have questions about VIPKID! Thanks so much!

  4. Hi Nic
    I am new to house sitting and only currently doing this in my home city to see if I like it. I have a question about house sitting applications. Because there are so many applicants applying for each job, do you apply for, or is it okay to apply for, more than one house sitting job for the same time period.
    I applied for heaps of jobs and didn’t get any so thought I would not worry so much about dates etc and just apply for all that appealed in the hope I might get one but then got offered two that clashed and I feel really bad about the idea of letting one of those people down.
    What are your thoughts and if you are applying for jobs where the dates clash, do you put that in your application. Thanks.

    • Hi Jenny! That’s a great question! It’s okay to apply to several sits that cover the same time period because you’re exactly right – sometimes you won’t hear back from everyone. If you apply to several sits and get a few different homeowners interested, just make sure you’re completely honest the whole time and let them know that you are considering other options so they can do the same. Usually, homeowners will also have a few applicants they’re interested in as well. Once you’ve decided which one works best for you, you can kindly let the other homeowners know you’ve committed to another sit that interferes with the dates but wish them the best of luck. The important thing is just to be upfront about having other sits in the mix and keep everyone informed about your decision as soon as possible. That way the other homeowner can interview/talk to other candidates in a timely manner. Best of luck! 🙂

  5. Hi Nic, this post was so helpful — thank you. I had a question about traveling while house sitting. What’s the etiquette on that? If you’re staying in the UK or France or Spain or somewhere you would want to see other areas close to it, what do homeowners usually say about that? If you’re traveling, I would expect they know you want to travel around the area. I’m not saying it would be for a week, but maybe a few days. Thanks!

  6. Hi Nic, this post was so helpful, thank you. What is the etiquette on traveling while house sitting? Not a week away from the house, but maybe a few days. Do homeowners understand that you are there to travel and see things, either in the area or maybe a little bit away? Thank you!

    • Hi McKenzie! You would have to work that out with the individual house sitting host, but typically you are expected to spend every night at the home. I’ve had sits where the owners had an automatic feeder for their cats and they said spending a night away was alright, but most sitters want you there every night. I’d recommend arriving at the destination a few days or weeks early and doing some exploring before/after the sit for farther away trips. 🙂

  7. Hi Nic, Is it usual that you pay your own fares flights etc, or do the homeowners pay for your flights to their destination? I’m a 69 year old male and was also wondering whether you think my age could be detrimental to me succeeding in landing home sits particularly in the Canary Islands. As you’ve probably guessed I’m looking into having a go at this exciting opportunity.

    • Hi Dave! Great question! In my experience, the house sitter usually pays for their own transportation to and from the sit. If you’re interested in house sitting in a particular area, most of the big house sitting sites like Trusted House Sitters and Nomador have location filters so you can see what’s available before signing up for an account. Nomador will even let you set up alerts for specific locations so you’ll get an email when a sit is listed. For more competitive areas, being one of the first applicants is a huge plus! 🙂 Happy travels!


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