Housesitting: how to live rent free around the world
We are sitting at an outdoor dining table with the sun on our faces. A Great Dane lies languidly at our feet, relaxed after his morning walk.
For one month, we have been given the responsibility of caring for a family's home and pets, at no cost. We pay no rent or bills and get to enjoy lazy weekends in the pool.
How? We are housesitting.
With average rent in Sydney hitting $500/week, we couldn't afford to base ourselves there, especially when we first landed and were trying to find work. Housesitting gave us the opportunity to live in one of the world's most expensive cities for a fraction of the cost, and looking after some very cute animals made it one of the best ideas we’ve ever had.
WHAT IS HOUSESITTING?
It is usually a mutual agreement whereby the homeowner agrees for the housesitter(s) to live in and look after their home and often care for their pets whilst they are away. Money is not often exchanged, but the homeowner may ask for bills to be paid, especially if their home is in a sought-after area or if the housesit is for a long period of time.
HOW TO BECOME A HOUSESITTER
FIND A WEBSITE
The majority of housesits are listed on dedicated websites, which charge an annual fee. Whilst you may find housesits listed on Craigslist or Gumtree, which don't cost, the most secure and reliable websites will charge a small amount. Trusted Housesitters, Mind a Home and House Carers are three sites worth considering, but as we are only housesitting in Australia until March 2017, we are just using Aussie Housesitters for now. It costs $65 (AUD) for a year of membership, which is very fairly priced. Many sites charge around double this.
CREATE YOUR PROFILE
A well-written profile with ample pictures will ensure that you stand the best chance of being noticed. Explain who you are, why you want to housesit and what you can offer the homeowner. Ideally, upload pictures of you with animals, as most housesits involve looking after pets.
ASK FOR REFERENCES
If you're new to housesitting, you obviously won't have any relevant references. Instead, get as many references as you can from different sources; we had some employer and landlord references for both of us. Make sure you can list their contact details as some homeowners will want to reach out to verify the information you have given them.
As soon as a housesit is listed which fits your requirements, act fast and message the homeowner. Housesits are popular, especially in cities, and many homeowners are keen to settle on a suitable sitter as soon as possible.
HOW TO BE A GREAT HOUSESITTER
Before your stay, make sure all details of the housesit are clear and that all questions have been answered. Ideally, meet face-to-face with the owners and the animals.
It goes without saying that you should leave your homeowner’s house and pets as you found them, or better. Throughout your stay, keep things clean and tidy, and replace anything you use a lot of (e.g. dishwasher tablets, cooking oil etc).
Communicate with the homeowner whilst they are away (many like pictures of their animals) and always be easily contactable.
Finally, be honest. If you break something or a pet gets injured, let the homeowner know. It will be far better for them to know that you’re dealing with the situation responsibly than for them to be none the wiser.
AFTER YOUR HOUSESIT
Most homeowners will be extremely grateful for your help and will be pleased to write you a reference, which will assist you in securing future housesits. Many websites offer you the chance to write a review back, which gives other potential housesitters the chance to understand what to expect if they are chosen by the homeowner.
Finally, keep in touch! The homeowner may recommend you to their friends or family, or you may be asked back to housesit again.