This article is not sponsored, but I have a referral link that will give you 25% off (and give me two free months, which I could use).

We love to travel full time, but finding affordable housing can often be a challenge. This summer we spent three and a half months in Spain, Portugal, and France, but we only paid for 16 nights in hotels and Airbnbs. Instead, we took care of six dogs, 18 cats, three chickens and six houses – and lived for free, thanks to housesitting! This allowed us to save money and experience different cultures in a unique way.

In this article, I go over the basics of housesitting, what to expect, and how to become a house sitter. I also share my best tips and tricks for the application process and give my verdict on whether I’d recommend housesitting or not.

What is housesitting?

In my opinion, housesitting is an absolute win-win situation for both the homeowner and the house sitter. The homeowner can have the peace of mind knowing that a reliable person is looking after their pets, property, and home while they are away. The house sitter on the other hand gets a place to stay for free.

We loved that it combined very well with our style of traveling: We alternated between vacation and house sitting. On our “vacation days”, we explored new cities and restaurants and did all the exciting things we wanted to do. On the days we were house sitting, we were very boring and would catch up on work, look after the pets, and take long walks with the dogs. It was the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure!

We felt that most of the homeowners really appreciated our way of traveling. Many are concerned that sitters abandon their pets and only are out and about exploring during the day (and night), and they are only housesitting to have a free place to stay. None of the pets I have met could have accompanied us on a sightseeing trip or a restaurant visit and some of them can only be left alone for short periods of time, so this is a necessary consideration. There are house sits without pets, but they are rare and highly sought after.

That being said, if you are still interested in being a house sitter, here is more information about how we have successfully landed a few sits on Trusted Housesitters.

How to become a house sitter

Step 1: Sign up for a platform

The platform we use is called Trusted Housesitters, and while the membership fee may seem expensive, it’s actually less than the cost of two nights in a hotel. Plus, not only do you get liability insurance and a 24-hour emergency hotline with a vet, but you also get the peace of mind that comes with both.

This article is not sponsored, but I have a referral link that will give you 25% off (and give me two free months, which I could use).

Once you sign up, you need to create an attractive profile to increase your chances of being selected as a house sitter. To accomplish this, collect pictures of yourself with various pets, share your experiences with animals and the motivation behind your desire to travel.

If you want to get an idea of how we set up our profile, here is our profile on Trusted Housesitters.

Step 2: Be ready to apply

From what we saw, house sits in good areas with nice houses and nice pets were in high demand and received countless applications quickly. To increase our chances, we created a template with an appealing message that we could customize and quickly send to potential house sits as soon as they became available.

We also set up filters for the areas, countries, and times we wanted to go so that we were notified immediately when a house-sit became available, and we could apply right away.

But be sure to check for red flags and only apply to places you really would like to go. Despite the urge to be fast, it’s important to be mindful and pay attention to potential warning signs:

  • Clutter in the background: I always watch for clutter and dirt in photos. If someone does not care enough to clean up for a profile picture on the internet, they probably will not bother when they receive a guest. I know that hygiene standards can vary, but for my husband and me, a cluttered apartment for three weeks would be hard to bear, so we try to avoid that.
  • Vague descriptions: Very vague descriptions of responsibilities and pets are a no-go, such as “take care of my dog”. They do not mention that they expect you to cook elaborate meals four times a day, that their dog has medical problems, and that they want you to walk their “princess” five times a day on a strict schedule. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to such descriptions.
  • Working during stay/paying bills: Sometimes you will be asked to work on the farm for a few hours a day in return for free accommodation or to pay the electricity bill; however, this is against Trusted Housesitters’ terms and conditions (which you should always read!)

However, to avoid unnecessary stress and frustration, I would not even bother applying to these places.

Step 3: The „courting“ phase

At first, it can be challenging if you do not have any reviews or experience on the platform when trying to find a house sit. However, once you have some positive reviews, this can make a big difference; you are more likely to be hired, and you may even be contacted without applying. Therefore, it might be a good idea to start with a house sit in a less popular area or perhaps in your neighbourhood to get some reviews and get the ball rolling.

When a homeowner is interested, they usually get in touch and ask for a video call (via WhatsApp) to get to know each other better.

During a phone call, we try to get all of our questions answered:

  • About the pets: Generally, we ask a series of questions about the pets: What is their daily routine; what do you feed them and when; questions about their personalities; do they have special needs; and do they need to take medication
  • House and Garden: We talk about the house and garden, discussing what needs to be watered and what regular maintenance the homeowner expects. Also, we always ask where we will be staying, if there is a guest room, or if we stay in the master bedroom.
  • Other people: We always clarify if other people will be coming into the house while we are there. There are many horror stories of homeowners who have left for two weeks while they scheduled maintenance on their home, or who have family members living there and have brought house sitters for their pets, even though that is against the terms and conditions. Many people have cleaners, gardeners, or pool cleaners, and we are obviously not going to say no to that. But to avoid an undesirable situation, we always ask this question.
  • Privacy: We always ask if there is a security system in the home or property, and especially if there are cameras.
  • The handover: To ensure a smooth transition, it is important to clarify the handover process. There is usually a time overlap with the current owner, which can range from a few hours to two days. During this time, the owners will show you everything related to the house, the pet’s routine, walks, etc. Therefore, it’s good to clarify what to expect during the handover process.
  • Internet: We always ask about internet speed as it is crucial for us to work.

After the conversation, we want to have a clear picture of the tasks and responsibilities that will be required of us during our stay in the home.

In addition, carefully read through the reviews of previous sitters and how the homeowner reviewed them (and read between the lines) – this will give you many insights.

We treat this like a job interview – but we are the hiring party and we ask many questions. We are not applying for a job here. We come as volunteers and free of charge, so we want to find out if they are a good match for us and if the sit is something we would enjoy doing.

Step 4: Invitation to sit

If you have been invited to house sit for a homeowner through Trusted Housesitters, the last step is to accept the invitation.

It is important to make sure you have no doubts before you accept (because often the gut feeling is right). If there are numerous animals, make sure you are up to the challenge because it can be a lot of work.

However, if you are confident in your abilities and are looking forward to staying in the house and taking care of the animals, then you should accept the invitation.

Step 5: Before the sit

Before the stay, we always make sure to stay in loose contact and keep them informed about our travel plans. On the day of arrival, we always reach out with the exact arrival time given by your navigation system.

Before arrival, request and read the Welcome Guide from Trusted Housesitters. This is a document with useful information about the pet, emergency contacts, the house, etc.

Tip: Don’t forget to ask the owner to free some space in the fridge and especially in the freezer, especially if you’ll stay a few weeks.

Step 6: The handover

As mentioned earlier, there is usually some overlap time in the beginning and the end of a sit. Some hosts stay around a day or two to explain everything to you and even introduce you to the neighbours, while others just show you around and leave.

At first, we found the idea of being so close to strangers a little uncomfortable, but ultimately it was one of the highlights of our trip. All the homeowners we met were always fantastic people, and we often had meals together and good conversations.

We also always asked about their travel plans and offered to take them to the nearby train station or airport if needed.

Tip: Before they leave, ask where the spare key is, just in case.

Step 7: During the sit

To be honest, it was sometimes a bit chaotic during the first few days: We had to get used to new pets, some of them were missing their owners very much. We were in unfamiliar houses with solar systems, pools and other things that were new to us.

Usually after a few days we managed to settle into a sort of routine and things went smoothly.

All the owners were available via WhatsApp, so if we had questions or required help, they were just a message away.

We also sent them regular updates about the house and fun pictures of their pets – often either daily or every few days – to let them know everything was going well.

Occasionally, we rearranged a few things during our stays, such as clearing out a bit of space in the kitchen to store our groceries, a table to use as an office desk, or placing a lawn chair somewhere else. To keep track of the original condition, I always took a few photos and wrote myself a to-do list of things that needed to be returned to their original condition after our stay. This proved to be extremely helpful.

And finally, I have one last tip that was very useful: We had a dog that liked to go off by himself when we went for walks. To make sure we could always find the dog again (can you imagine having to tell the owner that you lost their dog?), I took an AirTag that I had on my car key and attached it to the dog’s collar, and it worked perfectly!

Step 8: End of the sit

At the end of our stay, we always set aside some time for cleaning to restore the house to its original condition or even better. I think this is a basic courtesy.

If our hosts arrived late, we offered to cook them dinner or a snack and make sure they had something to eat, also because most of them had kindly left us something to eat when we arrived.

To make sure everything was returned to its original condition, we used the list and photos we had made at the beginning.

And then, sadly, it was always time to say goodbye. This was often very hard, especially after we had spent five wonderful weeks with two lovely dogs … That was very hard for me.

Before leaving, we always asked the homeowners if they could leave us a review (and we left one for them as well).

Would we do it again?

In conclusion, after three and a half months of housesitting, we can say that we enjoyed it very much. It was an excellent match for our travel style, and we especially enjoyed getting to know the homeowners and their beloved pets, even if the goodbyes at the end were always bittersweet.

But in my opinion, housesitting is not for everyone. Occasionally, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and help out when necessary. For example, when we were caught in a terrible storm, we tried to make sure the animals, the property, and the homeowners’ car were safe. Then we spent a few days cleaning up the mess after the storm. If you just want to go out to party, visit restaurants and sightseeing every day, House Sitting may not be the right choice.

However, if you want to spend more time in one place and have pets for company, it can be a great experience – especially if you are working remotely because it’s a nice change from staring at a screen all day.

We were glad we were traveling by car because it allowed us to stay in many remote places, some in the middle of nowhere, and we liked that.

We are now seriously considering doing it again next summer… 🙂