House sitting is officially my new favorite way to save money on travel expenses. Not only does house sitting equal free accommodation, but it offers an opportunity to live in a local’s home and become part of a community in another country. As I write this, I’m sitting in the garden at my home for the next 6 weeks in Southern Spain. Brent and I are living in a town called Los Barrios – a typical small Spanish town where beers cost 1 Euro each and come with free olives. So how did we end up here?
How Does House Sitting Work?
In many cases, house sitting goes hand-in-hand with pet sitting. For homeowners going on vacation, arranging a house sitter is an alternative to leaving their pets in kennels, which can be expensive for them and stressful for the animals. This said, not every house sit involves caring for pets. Sometimes the homeowners might just want a house sitter to maintain their garden while they’re away, or simply be a presence in their home to deter potential burglars.
Most of time, house sitting exchanges are free for everyone involved. The house sitters get to stay in another country for free and, in return, the homeowners get to have peace of mind knowing that their house and pets are well-cared for. For longer sits, homeowners may ask the house sitters to pay for utility bills, but this is much less common. Typically, Wi-Fi, cable, and sometimes even a car are all free for the house sitters to use.
House sits range in length from a few days to several months, so I think they’re an awesome option for unique short trips or for helping to save money during long-term travels.
Where to Sign Up
There are a few different websites where you can search for house sitting assignments. Typically, it’s possible to browse these sites for free, but you need to pay a membership fee in order to actually contact any homeowners. Here’s a quick overview of the house sitting sites I’ve tried:
Trusted Housesitters (aff link): This site seems to be the heavyweight of the bunch, with dozens of new house sit opportunities posted every day; but, it also comes with the highest membership fee ($90/year). From my experience, this site is the most popular among house sitters, which means a lot of competitive for sits. Brent and I have applied for at least 20 different house sits on this site, and nothing has panned out for us. Typically the only response we get from the homeowners is a mass email sent to all applicants describing how overwhelmed they are with all the applications!
Mind My House: There are fewer new sits posted here every day compared to Trusted Housesitters, but I often find I like it that way. Sometimes reading through the huge number of sits posted daily on Trusted Housesitters is kind of overwhelming, and I actually kind of prefer the compact little email of four or five house sits that I get from Mind My House every afternoon. The membership fee is less than a quarter of the fee charged by Trusted Housesitters, plus Brent and I scored our current sit through this site.
House Carers: While I’m pretty certain I’ll renew my membership for both Mind My House and Trusted Housesitters when they expire, I can’t say the same for my House Carers membership. Most of the sits posted here are for homes in the US or Australia, which is perfect if you’re hoping to travel to these areas, but neither are what Brent and I are really looking for right now. Plus, the website is easily the most poorly designed of all three.
Landing Your First House Sit
When I first signed up for these house sitting memberships, I imagined I’d see a lovely house sit in Costa Rica, send off a quick message and start packing my bags. It’s not exactly that easy. Or, I guess, it actually is that easy if you’re ready to be persistent about it.
Initially, you’re competing against other house sitters that already have references and experience, so it’s understandably difficult to find a homeowner who’s willing to take a chance on you and give you your first sit. Trusted Housesitters actually allows friends and family to submit references that you can add to your profile, which is a good step towards convincing homeowners that you’re a sane, reliable person. You can also start by doing a few locals sits because the ability to meet the homeowner in person can definitely give you an edge over the competition.
It’s also smart to keep in mind that a listing for a villa in Bali is obviously going to generate a lot more responses than one in the rural UK. A lot of people apply for the awesome sits and they get taken very quickly. So, it helps to remain open to destinations you might not have considered before. Our current sit in Los Barrios doesn’t seem especially glamorous at first, but we quickly realized that this small Spanish town puts us less than hour away from British Gibraltar and Morocco as well. We’re at the crossroads of three very different cultures which is actually pretty amazing, and a factor that we could have easily overlooked.