Ultimate Guide to Pet and House Sitting
As long-time travellers and lovers of pets, we were quite late to the house sitting gig, despite it being a fairly obvious choice for us in terms of combining the things we love. It was actually a good friend of ours in Tokyo who pointed us in this direction. Since we’ve started, we’ve been met with hefty amounts of confusion and general disbelief that this kind of lifestyle is even possible.
People are also surprised when we suggest that it’s not just for ‘nomads’, that you can use this to have cheap weekend getaways around your local area whenever you want. Our first sits were in the UK as we got a feel for it, and we know people who have seen every corner of their home country, and cities that are often too expensive for locals to stay in, like London, Paris, or Manhattan.
As with all things, there are a fair few myths floating around about it so we’re here to clear things up, point you in the right direction in terms of getting started, let you know what to expect, and how to make a profile that stands out.
How did we start?
So up until this point (for five years now), we’ve been teaching abroad and loving it (you can read our teaching posts for tips there if you’re interested) and we’ve looked after our friends’ pets and rescued our own kitty from China who now lives in merry old England. We wanted to move towards a freelance lifestyle and have time more time to focus on this website, so we wanted a way to live very cheaply but still have free time, and an opportunity to travel. Housesitting has worked well for us – feel free to follow along on Instagram!
Must Know House Sitting Tips:
Think of this as the house sitter’s bible to be followed at all times.
- Don’t agree to sit lightly – cancelling is frowned upon and reflects badly on you. Make sure you’ll be available and only cancel if something dire has come up. You can’t control them cancelling on you but it hasn’t happened to us yet (using one of the paid-for services reduces the risk of this since the homeowners and sitters tend to be more invested).
- Make sure you’re clear with what you need – The homeowner should be as ideal for you as you are for them. Do you need high-speed Wi-Fi to work? Any accessibility issues that you need to ask about? Is it close to public transport if driving won’t be an option for you? Do they leave a car if driving is an option or will you have to rent one? These are all great things to discuss beforehand.
- Expect to be skyped or called – They’re letting you stay in their home so they’re going to want to know you a little (and you them). We’ve skyped every person we’ve sat or prepared to sit for. It’s generally quite fun and it’s a nice ice-breaker for when you meet them for real. We’ve made friends with many of the people we’ve sat for.
- Don’t eat all their food (or use their products in general) – Unless they’ve said you can. We’ve been treated incredibly well by people we’ve sat for, told to eat everything, even treated to lunch and an Airbnb the night before, but never take liberties with people’s homes. One bad review could cost you far more in the long run than doing some grocery shopping.
- Make sure you know what you’re doing – This is a biggie, this can be discussed on Skype, in the welcome guide, and when you meet them, but make sure you know their pets and house needs. What’s the routine of the dog, cat, parrot etc? Do they need meds? Are they indoor/outdoor pets? Know when the rubbish days are, ask where the hoover is etc. You get my drift… don’t make their pet sad and don’t leave their home filthy.
- Spend time with their pet – Following on from that, spend as much time with their pet as you’ve both agreed upon. So many house sitters treat this as a free opportunity to travel (and it is in a lot of ways) but it does come with responsibility and that’s worth remembering. Lots of the owners we’ve spoken to have mentioned that their dogs have been left alone too long and gotten stressed, barked and annoyed the neighbours etc. Remember why you’re there people!
- Always be polite – even if you’re rejected. We’ve been rejected for being a couple, for not being a couple, for being too young, for no reason at all. People have a picture in mind of what their ideal house sitter looks like and you might not always fit it. Keep friendly and let them know that you’re still interested if anything falls through or in the future. We’ve had dream sits just because we were nice and their original house sitter fell through. We have no beef with being someone’s sloppy seconds.
- Be prepared for gaps – If you’re doing this full time then be prepared for the odd day where you have to stay in a hotel unless you’re lucky enough to have friends or family nearby. You can also try couchsurfing if you’re trying to keep costs as low as possible. If you’re working, then this can take some meticulous planning in terms of access to WiFi or only travelling from place to place on weekends etc.
Don’t forget out discount codes if you need somewhere to stay between house sits. Here’s our Airbnb ($40), our booking.com ($20). You can also use ebates to get cash back on lots of your purchases including travel and transport sites (get $10 free) I love this site!
Where to get House Sits
These are the housesitting sites we’ve had the most success using (we’ll keep updating this with new news):
By the far the biggest and the easiest to use interface. New ‘sits’ pop up daily and checking becomes an addiction (you have been warned). We’ve had the most success with this site overall.
How it works:
Simply enter in the dates and city you’re looking for or just generally scroll through and find suitable sits. Then hit the apply button and SELL YOURSELF, it sounds dramatic but your letter to the owner (and your profile – we’ll come to that later) are very important. It needs to be well written (get our free letter template below), show that you’re trustworthy, and interested in their home, and most importantly their pet, more than travelling.
Once you’ve formally agreed on a sit (both parties have to hit an agree button), those dates on your calendar get blanked out and it’s added to your dashboard. The owner will send you a guide book and you’re good to go. They’ll probably check closer to the time with details of your arrival and where to go from there.
It does come with a hefty annual membership of 79 or $119 which puts people off (it did us for a while) but there is a refer a friend offer available (here’s ours) which gets the sitter two months free and a discount for the ‘friend’. For every friend, you refer you’ll get two months extra free on your contract so it’s worth sharing around.
It’s the most popular site and there are many people using it, it’s hard at first to get the ‘best sits’- these tend to be the longer ones, the ones in desirable cities, the idyllic ones with swimming pools, and the ones with the least work involved. Once you’ve got a few successful sits and reviews under your belt, things become a lot easier (people even reach out to you!).
Our tactic for this was to do some close to home in places that weren’t that desirable so that we looked reputable when we went for the more exciting ones. Other tactics have involved simply getting there first, if you see a sit you like don’t hesitate in applying because it’ll probably be gone later.
Also very big, and the original house sitting site, but far less crowded than Trusted Housesitters, there are more long term sits on here and they have much less competition.
How it works:
Much in the same way as Trusted, they even have similar interfaces, you create a profile to sell yourself. Your profile works kind of like an ad and once you’ve set the dates you’re available you have the added bonus of people messaging you if they like the look of you far earlier than this would happen with Trusted due to the lack of competition (we were approached on there with zero reviews).
You’ll find ads in the same way as Trusted – just click on the ‘find a house sit’ button down the bottom. We’ve noticed that there are more sits in off-the-beaten-track locations here compared to Trusted which are predominantly (though not exclusively) in the UK, USA, NZ, and Australia.
They’ve also got a lovely community going on, bloggers can write for them about their experience and you’re generally encouraged to interact and ask advice of other sitters.
Far cheaper than Trusted, you can join for $24 and it lasts for the year and owners join for free. There are no discount codes or referral options at this point.
There are less sits in general but less competition too so that works well. The fact that homeowners don’t get charged could mean they take it less seriously though we’ve seen no evidence of this yet.
If you’re interested in particular countries, then many have their own specific sites.
For Australia – Aussie House Sitters is by far the most popular website to use. A simple interface and lots of homes available, it’s a perfect option for those wanting to explore Oz.
For New Zeland – the super friendly Kiwi House Sitters is the one to go for, with as many city-based as rural sits, this is a really good option if your travels are primarily focused in NZ.
For America – House Sitters America is a very good choice if you don’t want to sign up for the more expensive Trusted.
These are all perfect for if you’re looking at one specific country and are all cheaper than Trusted Housesitters.
There are so many Facebook groups that promote the latest sits in specific countries. When I was living in Japan and Korea I was part of the local pet sitting and housesitting groups and plenty of options came up.
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Jess is the creator and editor of Books and Bao. She's passionate about the world, it's literature, food, culture, and people. She enjoys sharing her travel tips with others and capturing those perfect moments.