How to Travel the World as a House Sitter

by | Feb 25, 2019

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I started my Pinterest business so I could travel more. I love spending time in Europe, and I was so excited when I was finally able to quit my job and travel as much as I wanted!

But travel is expensive. And since I still wanted to keep my home base in Pennsylvania (I have too many books to ever want to live completely out of a suitcase, and my family is here), and Europe is pricey – plus I had no desire to travel to ultra-cheap tropical locations and melt (I like 60F/15C days!), I had to figure out another way.

One of my clients travels the world full-time through house sitting, and recommended Trusted Housesitters. I love cats, but can’t have them in my rental home, so house sitting seemed like an amazing way to spend time with cats and see the world.

You can sign up for Trusted Housesitters for 25% off by clicking my link or using my coupon code: RAF177753 – Affiliate notice: I only recommend companies and products I trust! I have a paid annual membership to Trusted Housesitters and will get 2 free months added to my account if you use my link.

I browsed through some of the sits before signing up and was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of sits in the UK, my favorite place in the world! Given that the site was founded in the UK, the majority of sits are there, as well as other English-speaking countries like the US, Canada, and Australia. But there are a number of sits in other countries as well – from European countries like France and Germany to more exotic locations like Thailand and Dubai.

I realized that even one short house sit a year could easily pay for my membership – I would make it back versus paying for 1-2 nights at a hotel. So I decided to sign up!

Getting Started with Trusted Housesitters

The “trusted” part of the site’s name is vital, as verifications and reviews pay a key role in landing the house sits you want. I set up my profile with an indepth description of who I was, why I wanted to house sit, and my past experience (which was a little thin, only one time house/dog sitting for a friend of a friend). I completed the Basic and Standard verifications (you have to pay an extra fee for Enhanced, which includes a criminal background check, and it has never been available for me to get – possibly only for UK residents?) and asked my roommate and landlord to write a short recommendation. I added a few photos (you can also add a video if you want – I don’t currently have one) and I was ready to start applying to house sits!

Since I didn’t have any reviews on the site yet, I started small – applying to short house sits (a week or less) based in the UK. I drafted a long application letter, explaining that I was new and showing genuine interest in caring for the pet(s) and exploring the area.

Trusted Housesitters offers a number of options to help you search through available sits. You can filter based on the pets you prefer watching, the dates you are available, the length of sits, and more. They have a map option too if you’d like to visually see where the sits are located. They recently came out with apps for iPhone and Android, which have most of the functionally of the desktop site.

The user interface is far superior to the other house sitting sites I’ve explored, with tools to make finding a house sit as easy as possible. Update: one recent aspect I dislike is that the site now limits applications to 5 per listing. You have to be very quick to have any chance of getting a popular sit.

Landing a House Sit

You will generally hear back about the house sits you apply for within a few days, though some people may take a week or more to get back to you! Rarely, you may not get a reply at all. You’ll see “Reviewing Applications” when they’re still deciding, and “No Current Dates” if they picked someone already.

Another benefit of Trusted Housesitters is that home owners have to pay for a subscription, just like you. That means the listings are more likely to be genuine and the owners more committed to a booked sit. Other sites will sometimes let home owners join for free – which could mean more house sit listings, but you’ll sometimes need to wait longer for responses and perhaps do some double checking before making travel plans.

It’s very exciting to get an email back from an owner, saying that they’re interested in having you sit! They’ll probably have a few questions for you (depending on how thorough your profile and application were) and you can feel free to ask questions back. Some things you’ll want to consider:

  • What are the exact dates they want you to stay (sometimes they may want you to arrive the night before)
  • Flights and other transportation costs – you usually need to pay these!
  • Will you need a car or can you get by with public transportation?
  • House facilities (stairs to climb, washer included?)
  • Work expected (do they want you to mow the grass? How much work will their pets need?)
  • How long can you leave the house?

You don’t need to bring up all of these right away – just the ones that would make you turn down the sit if it’s offered. For me, I need good wifi and access to public transportation when house sitting in Europe.

In general, I’ve found that messaging back and forth is all that is needed for shorter sits, while longer sits they usually would like you to jump on a video call. Always try to be as open and transparent as possible – they are considering whether to trust you with their house and pets!

Once a home owner sounds interested in having me sit, I start to figure out if I can logistically make things work. Make sure you don’t agree to two house sits that overlap! Check travel times and other things you want to do around the house sit. Also, take some time to think things through – do you really want to house sit for this person, take care of these pets, and explore this area? Remember that you will be able to be more choosy about house sits after you get some reviews, but don’t take a house sit you have a bad feeling about.

The home owner will formally offer the sit within Trusted Housesitters’ messaging system, and you will accept it there as well. But you DON’T have to accept it right away, and you can still send additional messages without accepting. If it’s going to be more than a day before I accept, I let them know why (usually just making sure it will work for my schedule – which could mean you’re waiting for another sit you’ve applied to to get back to as well).

Don’t accept a sit unless you absolutely know you can make it work, aside from any unforeseen emergency coming up. The owner shouldn’t mind waiting a few days with it pending for you to make sure. And if you have accepted a sit and something does come up, let the owner know as soon as possible so they can find a new sitter in time.

During and After the House Sit

Congrats – you landed your first house sit! Now it’s time to book your travel! I always like to let the owner know when I book my flights/trains, etc. It will give them peace of mind that you are actually coming!

Your sitter should provide a welcome guide that walks you through the basics of things within the house and about their pets. Here’s when you can ask all those non-essential questions – if the welcome guide doesn’t answer them for you! You’ll also want to check how often they want updates from you, and how to send them. Sometimes, they’ll even give you lots of tips about things to see and do in the area – plus the best restaurants, nearby grocery stores, and the best way to get around.

Often, they’ll have a friend or neighbor listed in case you run into any problems during the sit. Sometimes they’ll welcome you with a meal the evening before the sit, especially if you’ll be staying in a guest bedroom for their last night in the house. They may even be willing to pick you up from the train station or airport! You’ll have a chance to meet the pets and be walked through their daily routine, and find out all of the little quirks of the house.

Try to ask any additional questions while they are there at the house. I like to phrase things like, “How do you usually do” whatever you’re asking about. I like to try to keep things similar for their pets and house if possible, but don’t feel like you have do everything exactly the same! Usually you will have been able to get a sense of how particular people are from their listing. Some things do have to be kept to a strict schedule, especially if pets need medication or special diets.

And then, enjoy the house sit! Make sure to take advantage of where you’re staying and explore the neighborhood and general area. But do spend a good amount of time with the animals, especially during the first few days as they get used to your presence.

Keep the owners updated with any issues and general status reports (you did ask how often they wanted to hear from you, right?). Snap a quick photo or two of their pet(s) as well if they seem likely to miss them. I also like to mention anything they seemed to be worried about before they left (yes, I did put the bins out on Wednesday night for garbage collection!).

Also, take advantage of the money-saving aspects of staying in a home. While you may want to go out and try the local cuisine occasionally, cooking at the house will save you a lot. You can also do laundry, and if you’re a digital nomad like me, get your work done with a steady wifi connection.

Try to keep the place relatively tidy while you’re there (you never know when an issue may come up where you need outside help, and you don’t want their repairman or neighbor to see 2 weeks of dirty dishes piled up!), and if you’re staying a week or more, be prepared to do a deep clean before you leave (if you’re very lucky – they may already have a regular cleaning service that comes by and you won’t have to worry about it!). I also like to throw my sheets and towels in the wash before I leave, to save them the trouble of washing them when they will already have a bunch of laundry from their trip.

Make sure you know exactly when they are arriving back, so you can be completely ready to go when they arrive. They will likely want to just relax and enjoy being back at home, but they may offer to let you stay the following night, especially if they will be arriving late. Or they may be okay with you leaving before they arrive if you have somewhere you need to be. Past owners have even given me a ride to the train or bus station when I’m heading out, but don’t assume this. You will also want to figure in a little time for a final report and to answer any questions they may have about their pet and house.

Reviews and Continuing to House Sit

Once you’ve finished a house sit, you can request a review from the owners on Trusted Housesitters, and give them a review in return. Hopefully, if you’ve followed all my advice above, you’ll earn a 5-star review! Try to be gracious and informative with your reviews of the house sit. You are staying in someone’s home, not a pristine hotel. I would not rate someone less than 5 stars unless they misled you about aspects of their home and pets, or if there were serious cleanliness or safety issues with the home that they did nothing about when you brought it to their attention. I like to include helpful bits of information for future house sitters in my review as well – walking distance to town or a bus stop, etc. – that aren’t already in the listing but could help them make a decision about whether the sit is a good fit for them. I also thank the owners and include a bit about the pets in my review as well.

And now that you’ve completed a successful house sit, you can start landing others! Just be careful to follow tourist visa rules as you start spending longer times abroad. As an American, I can spend 90 days in Australia, 90 days in Ireland, 90 days out of 180 days in the EU, and 180 days in the UK at a time, generally, on a tourist visa. While that does give me a lot of flexibility, I shouldn’t apply for a 4-month house sit in France. Also, if you are getting paid for house sitting, you will likely need a work visa. Many blogs about house sitting say you shouldn’t mention it during passport control, even if you are sitting for free, as some border officials will consider “accommodation as payment” and want you to have a work visa. I instead talk about my planned tourist activities and have a scheduled date of departure from their country or from Europe in general.

As you accumulate more reviews, you’ll find it easier to land new house sits, and you’ll be able to be more choosy about the ones you apply to. But popular areas will still get dozens of qualified applications, so be sure to check the site frequently to get the gigs you want!

Have you ever done house sitting before? I’d love to hear about your experiences! Also if you have any further questions for me about it, be sure to leave a comment below! And don’t forget to sign up for Trusted Housesitters so you can start traveling the world!

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