House sitting is our favorite way to stay when traveling. Doing so helps us get a local perspective on a destination that you just don’t get staying in tourist accommodations. We talk about house sitting on the blog a lot and are asked many questions about all aspects of it because of that. We also belong to different housesitting social networking sites and read even more commonly asked questions in those groups.
You could say we house sit full time as what we’ve done so far adds up to over a year of consistent house sits! We have experienced a lot of situations as we’ve dealt with different homeowners and cared for many types of homes and pets. We have kept track of helpful information we’ve read and the many learning experiences we’ve had and thought we’d write them all down in one post!
Here’s a list of answers to more popular questions about house sitting based on our experiences.
1. Is it hard to get started house sitting with no prior experience?
Getting started house sitting without any experience can definitely be intimidating. But with a compelling profile and a variety of professional references like employment, landlord, or character references there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be selected over other candidates. We even used our Airbnb reviews when we first started out. If it’s professional proof that you are responsible and trustworthy it’s just as good as prior housesitting experience.
An easy way to get a reference specific to house sitting is to get an assignment close to home. Offer to house sit for friends or family or apply for assignments you see that are in your hometown. We offer a free course specific to getting started in house sitting you can sign up for in the sidebar and I wrote a post about ways to create a compelling profile as well if you want a bit more detail.
2. Do families/solo travelers/older or younger people have a harder time landing assignments?
First let me start by saying there are a lot of house sitting opportunities out there! And a wide range of families, single, older and younger homeowners that need care for their home pets while they vacation! There are lots of listings that specify preferences for all types of house sitter’s. Most times responsibilities for property care, house size, and pets behaviors will influence a homeowner’s preferences. We have helped homeowners who wanted families to house sit because they had kids and thought getting a family with smaller kids to care for their home would make their pets feel more at ease.
On the flip side, we’ve also house sat for homeowners who didn’t think small kids in their home was a good idea initially. We overcame the homeowners objections in both instances and ended up fulfilling successful house sits for both of them. The key is really reading the listing for the house sit, being realistic about your own strengths and limitations, and working to overcome objections when you feel you’re the best candidate for the assignment.
3. Does it feel weird living in a stranger’s house?
This is really a personal decision only you can make. To us it doesn’t feel strange, we were chosen to care for the homeowners property and pets. They invited us into their home and we’ve always felt like special guests because of that. Homeowners want you to feel comfortable and understand you are a tourist in their hometown. If you think it would feel weird, maybe house sitting isn’t right for you.
4. Are you paid to house sit?
Some house sitters, usually people who house sit locally charge to care for people’s homes and pets. Most of the members of the international house sitting sites we belong to don’t charge. International sites serve as a way to connect homeowners with housesitters around the world to exchange accommodation for the care of property and beloved pets. There is value in free house sitting for both parties as house sitters receive accommodation and homeowners save money on kennel costs and get peace of mind because their home and pet is being well cared for in their absence.
5. What happens if a pet dies during a house sit?
What to do in case of a pet emergency is something that should be discussed with the homeowner before they depart for their trip. Make sure you have the phone number and address for the Vet and any other emergency contact info. Ask if the homeowner will be reachable via phone or email if a pet emergency should arise while they’re on vacation. If they won’t be reachable make sure you have a plan to deal with emergencies that both you and the homeowner are comfortable with before the homeowner departs.
6. Should I insist on a contract? What are the benefits of doing so?
We don’t insist on a contract, we leave the decision up to the homeowner. However, we do suggest the homeowner looks at a contract and if they feel more comfortable with one we use one. We always come prepared with specific questions and take detailed notes in any discussions be it via email or Skype with homeowners early in the application process. We will review our questions and notes in person with the homeowner before they depart to make sure we have a clear understanding of a homeowner’s expectations. The decision to use a contract depends on what you are most comfortable with. The biggest benefit to having one is the agreement between homeowner and housesitter is clear and in writing.
7. If there is a problem with the home or property while under my care am I responsible for the cost to fix it.
We operate on the theory if we break it we pay to fix it. If there is an existing problem in the home, damage due to regular wear and tear, or something happens that’s beyond our control we expect the homeowner to cover the cost or reimburse us for the money if we need to pay initially.
8. Does it cost money to house sit? Would I be expected to pay rent and/or utilities?
A lot of times it does not cost money to house sit. You are responsible for your airfare and daily living expenses like food and entertainment but the cost to stay in the home is usually free. Sometimes, especially if it is a long term house sit the homeowner may expect you to pay utilities, the internet, or a portion of other property fees. The expenses can be stated in the listing but it’s always a good idea to confirm all responsibilities, financial and otherwise with the homeowner before committing to an assignment.
9. I travel with my pet. Would homeowners accept my little dog and me?
This decision would be up to the homeowner but we feel it would inhibit your chances to land assignments. Not all pets get along even if yours is very friendly. Bringing your dog, no matter how small or gentle can end up being stressful for the homeowners pet. Homeowners will consider all angles and we feel most wouldn’t want a strange animal in their home.
10. Which countries have the most house sits?
The areas of that world where house sitting is most popular are western Europe, North America, Central America, Australia, and New Zealand. House sitting opportunities are very limited throughout Africa, Asia, and South America. Time of year can influence the number of house sits available as well. For instance, there are a lot more opportunities during the summer in Europe as most Europeans vacation in the warmer months.
11. What are the best sites to join? Should I sign up on more than one platform?
We think signing up for a few different sites is a good idea. It gives us the chance to spread our net a little wider when applying. This gives us a better chance to get the assignments we want during specific time frames. Different house sitting sites specialize in house sits in different parts of the world as well. Some are more global and others focus more regionally. We belong to a mix of big international sites and more specialized ones too. The ones we have had success on are HouseSit Match, Trusted Housesitters, and House Carers. We have just recently joined Nomador to expand our opportunities a bit more.
12. Do homeowners cover any costs like airfare or some meals?
Usually, house sitters are responsible for transportation to and from the assignment and food costs. Homeowners have provided us with essentials for a day or so and they’ll encourage us to eat anything that’s perishable in the fridge. We buy our own consumables and consider leaving a homeowner without things like toilet paper and provisions in the fridge to be bad house sitting etiquette.
We always strive to leave the home as we came to it or even a little better for the homeowner.
13. Are there restrictions or is it like living at home?
Every house sit is unique, but our assignments so far have felt like “home away from home”. Homeowners have been warm, welcoming, and genuinely wanted us to enjoy our time in their homes. The important thing is to relax and feel comfortable but remember you’re a guest in someone’s home. Be respectful of their belongings and honor any requests they have about things that are off limits.
14. What are some unforeseen things that have happened house sitting? What do you do to avoid unpleasant surprises?
Our first house sit was six months long. With longer sits, unexpected things are more likely to happen because there’s more time for things to wear out or go wrong somehow. We learned a lot during our six-month assignment in Panama because of unexpected challenges due to weather. The unforeseen things we experienced there included a month of wild lightening storms and rampant mold.
I wrote a post about our experience and what we do now to prepare ourselves for things that can happen that a homeowner may not think of mentioning before their departure. Now we ask a few more questions inspired by our experience in Panama before homeowners depart. Doing so has helped us catch destructive things that can happen in any home like a slow leak in the basement. We find out about ongoing and past pet and property problems, not just immediate issues that homeowners are more apt to educate us about.
15. How much work is involved? Will it feel like a vacation or a job?
It is really important to read the listing for the house sit you’re applying for closely. Having done that, write down anything you have questions about and have a clear idea of the things you need to be happy. Some house sits can be in remote areas, do you prefer more hustle and bustle? What about yard work, do you hate doing it? If you dislike certain things, make sure those types of tasks aren’t part of your responsibility.
Also, make sure the environment in and around the home suits your needs too. Will the homeowner provide you with a car? If the answer is no can you walk to get what you need or are you prepared to rent a car for your stay?
Knowing your preferences, limitations and the responsibilities for an assignment will help you decide on the most enjoyable house sitting experience for you.
16. Am I required to be at the home 24/7 or can I take day trips or spend a night away?
This depends on the homeowners preferences. Homeowners enlist housesitters because they need care for their pets and someone to watch over their home and property. But, most won’t have a problem with you taking day trips. We’ve even had homeowners that have encouraged us to leave for a couple of days and explore. They said they could arrange for a neighbor to check in and feed the pets in our absence. Always ask if day trips or a couple of days away is okay with the homeowner when discussing their expectations of you.
17. House sitters get a free place to stay, what are the benefits for the homeowner?
The clear benefits of enlisting a house sitter for a homeowner are saving money and saving their pet the stress of staying in a kennel. Homeowners can also relax a bit more knowing someone is staying in their home keeping an eye on their property. House sitters save homeowners money on extra insurance that may be needed if a home is left empty for too long and help them avoid having to cancel mail and other subscriptions that can be a pain to disrupt.
I wrote a post about the benefits of getting a house sitter for homeowners. You can read it here if you would like more details.
18. How long are most house sits? What happens if a homeowner decides to extend their time away?
House sitting assignments can be for a few days or several months. Our shortest house sit has been one week and our longest has been six months so far. We’ve found most are at least a week.
One of the homeowners we were house sitting for decided to extend her trip. She asked if we could stay on longer but we weren’t able to at that time. The homeowner took care of finding other house sitters to take over when we had to depart.
It would be the homeowners responsibility to take care of any arrangements should they want or need to extend their time away.
19. How long should it take to get your first assignment?
It can take anywhere from a week to six months (or longer) to land your first house sit. It really depends on your situation but being flexible is definitely the most important thing for success. Cast a wide net, apply on more than one platform, apply a lot and be flexible with destinations. Start with a broad area where you want to visit instead of a specific city. We applied for many house sits unsuccessfully over the course of six months. Then we bought a very helpful book, How to Become a House-Sitter and See the World. We landed our first assignment, six months in sunny Panama right after applying the application tips offered in the book.
20. How do I get started house sitting?
We have created a free seven-day e-course, Travel the World-Stay for Free that can help you with the process to begin house sitting. Here are the first steps distilled down to give you an idea what getting started entails.
- First, figure our what your preferences are when traveling. House sitting is not like staying in a hotel or at a resort. You need to decide if house sitting will fit how you enjoy traveling.
- Second, sign up for a couple of sites.
- Third, start building a compelling profile. Collect professional references(see question one) and quality pictures of you. Some sites allow you to upload short videos. Uploading one of your own is a great way to introduce yourself to homeowners.
I hope we answered some of your questions about house sitting! If you have one that was not addressed in this post please feel free to ask it in the comments. We’ll get back to you with an answer or if you are a house sitter and have some insights to share please do so below as well.