Love the idea of slow travel but don’t have a huge budget? Or does the thought of spending time caring for animals during your worldwide adventures send a warm tingle down your spine? If you can answer yes to either of those questions, then you should give house-sitting a whirl. It’s a superb way of exploring new destinations at a leisurely pace, without having to fork out for accommodation fees.
In essence, it’s a fun way to travel the world, for free!
What is house-sitting?
House-sitting is a growing trend, especially amongst digital nomads, as it gives travellers the freedom to spend longer periods of time in once place. In exchange for what is essentially free accommodation, you will be asked to take care of the property during the owner’s absence.
Houses come in all shapes and sizes, so you could be in for a real treat, and something that money really can’t buy! There’s everything from historic farm houses with acres of grounds, to plush city pads with pampered poodles and views to die for. Whatever your style, you should be able to find something that floats your boat.
This could be anything from running the hot water during winter so the pipes don’t freeze, to taking the car out for a regular spin to keep the engine ticking over. You will need to tend the pool if the property has one, and maybe do a bit of gardening where required. Sometimes there are also minor maintenance duties to complete, but this will always be discussed prior to your arrival.
Most of the time house-sitting also involves caring for pets, and sometimes even larger animals, especially if the property is in a rural setting. This can be a really fun element of your stay, and will help you form a routine in your new temporary pad. You will be feeding, washing, and exercising the animals in the manner they are accustomed to, and even forming a bond during longer stays. Some house sitters return to the same properties time and again, so getting to know the pets and developing relationships is a huge plus on all sides.
Vehicles are sometimes provided by the owner, which makes exploring the local area a lot easier, but do check in the joining instructions, especially if the property is a bit out of the way. You will want to be able to get out and enjoy your time off after all!
Many travellers like to house-sit their way around the world, lining up new properties a few months in advance. And when your only costs are day-to-day living expenses without the outlay for accommodation, this can be a really cheap way to see all those places on your bucket list.
If you work remotely, you can enjoy a life of almost permanent house-sitting, hardly making a dent in your finances, which means this has the potential to be the basis for a rather lucrative career.
Would you make a good house-sitter?
Not everyone is suited to house-sitting, so it’s important you recognise whether this type of travel is really for you. House-sits tend to last anything from a week to several months, depending on how long the owners plan on being away for. This isn’t really a one-off experience, it’s more of a long term game, so wouldn’t suitable for someone who wanted one week in Morocco for their summer holiday.
If you like the idea of staying put in one place for an extended period of time, and really getting to know your new destination, then house-sitting could work well. Living in someone’s house, cooking for yourself, shopping at the supermarket and doing the laundry are all things that will give you a truer taste of life here than if you were just passing through for a few days, or staying in a hotel.
Pets are a massive part of many house-sitting gigs, so a love of animals and some knowledge of how to care for them is a big plus. If you’ve had animals yourself, from guinea pigs and cats to donkeys and even cows, then this will stand you in good stead for being able to cope with the responsibility of looking after someone else’s pets. But don’t worry, if you’re not a fan of dogs, or are allergic to rabbits, there may well still be house sitting opportunities for you – not everyone has a menagerie at home. Some people just want their homes to be lived in, and loved whilst they’re away.
How to find house-sitting opportunities
House-sitting is based on mutual trust between owner and house sitter, so it’s crucial to have clear communication and a steady dialogue before you turn up on the doorstep. It’s a big thing, turning your home over to strangers, and equally the responsibility of taking care of someone else’s pride and joy can feel a bit daunting, especially if it’s your first time. Expectations need to be defined by all parties, and any queries ironed out before the house-sit commences.
Which is why it’s really important to execute the whole process through a reputable agency or professional house sitting platform, such as Nomador. Here, house-sitters can connect with home owners and find the perfect match for their upcoming travels, as well as finding out more about what the whole process entails.
You can search for house-sits by location, so if you have somewhere in particular you want to visit, this is a good place to start. Whether you want to spend a month in the sun house-sitting in Spain, or a few weeks looking after chickens on Réunion Island, there’s always something interesting up for grabs. Or, if you don’t have a fixed plan when it comes to destinations, you can just see what tickles your fancy and take it from there. House sitting can be a great way to embrace spontaneous travel, taking you to places you never imagined you’d end up, even in your wildest dreams.
It’s important to build up a credible profile as a house-sitter, with positive reviews from previous owners to make you more attractive to future prospects. And being a user on a site like Nomador is a great way to do this, and showcase your excellent feedback to the world. It’s just like any other review site – the more positive reviews you receive, the higher your chances of being accepted on a sit.
Top tips for first time house-sitters
Tap into the community
If you’ve never been house-sitting before, your first gig can feel a little intimidating, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of help and advice to be had. Huge, ready-made communities of house-sitters are out there, on social media and on house sitting platforms.
Being part of it means you can swap stories, ask questions, and perhaps most importantly, not feel alone in your new venture. Never be afraid to ask what you may see as a silly question – everyone had to start somewhere and most will likely have gone through the same situation at some point in their house sitting careers.
Suck up to the home-owners
This actually just means being a pleasant and courteous human being, and doing all that you can to ensure the owners return to a clean and happy home. It’s a good idea to try and leave the property in an even better condition than when you left, and many house sitters like to restock the fridge with the essentials so the owners won’t have to dash out to the shops for that all important pint of milk when they arrive home, tried and hungry.
Want to go the extra mile? Then you could consider cooking an easy meal for the owners to heat up and enjoy on their first night back home. That will be sure to earn you some extra brownie points!
Stick to the existing pet regime
It may be tempting to change the current animal care routine to fit around your days of sightseeing, but this can upset the animals and even cause them stress. So make sure you adhere to the owner’s timetable, if there is one.
Take the dogs for a walk at their usual times, feed the cat the same food that the owner’s have stipulated, and ride that horse with the same regularity as it’s used to. Not only will this help the owners when they return, but it will make your life easier too as the animals are less likely to revolt!
We’re all human beings and occasionally break things, it’s just part of everyday life. But when it’s someone else’s property this can feel horrifying, especially when it looks rather expensive or has sentimental value.
Try not to use the fine china and stick to the everyday stuff, if you have that option. If you do break something, either replace it or offer to pay if it’s an item you are unable to source. A bit of goodwill goes a long way, especially when it comes to leaving you those reviews!
Have you done any house-sitting? What tips would you give to those wanting to try it for the first time?
This post was commissioned by Nomador. All words and opinions remain our own.