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In this blog post I’ll be talking about the joys, financial and otherwise, of house sitting and pet sitting, a new way of life I discovered when I moved to Australia from the UK in 2015. Australia is a notoriously expensive country to travel and live in, particularly in terms of accommodation and rent.
House sitting across Australia during my road trip from Perth to Brisbane not only allowed me to live rent free in the cities and save thousands of dollars on accommodation, but gave me the references and experience to now get paid to live in amazing Sydney homes in return for taking care of people’s treasured pets.
People are always curious about how I got into house sitting with no experience, so here’s my story on how I’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars on accommodation over the last two years and stayed everywhere from city-centre apartments to waterside mansions.
Find out which house sitting websites in Australia I use, how to get paid house sitting jobs and on how you can become a house sitter too!
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An Early Taste of House Sitting in Australia
I actually took on my first house sit back in 2004 when I was a 22-year-old backpacker freshly landed in Perth. Armed with little more than a rucksack and a copy of Lonely Planet Australia, I’d planned on staying in hostel dorms before setting off up the west coast towards Darwin.
Next thing I knew, a friend of a friend had booked a last-minute family holiday and needed someone to look after their dog. The following day two friends and I moved into a comfortable three-bedroom bungalow in Perth, complete with swimming pool, free use of a van and permission to go nuts on the fridge-freezer contents!
Having spent the previous three months staying in ramshackle guest houses in Southeast Asia, with no air-con or hot water, this was luxury indeed and seemed too good to be true! I grew up with dogs and have always been fanatical about them, so to have a beautiful Old English Sheepdog (a “Dulux dog” if you’re British!) that demanded constant cuddles was an absolute dream.
Too Old for Hectic Hostels
I didn’t even think about house sitting again until I migrated to Australia from the UK eleven years later and landed, once again, back in Perth – this time with plans to camp across the isolated Australian south coast. In fact, I didn’t even know house sitting in Australia was a thing; I just thought it was a lucky opportunity I’d come across once as a cash-strapped backpacker!
I quickly realised on my arrival in Perth that at age 33, busy hostels didn’t hold the same appeal they had in my early twenties. I moved into a share apartment but even that wasn’t ideal.
After some online research I discovered a multitude of house-sitting websites with hundreds of adverts from people requiring someone responsible to look after their pets and home during their upcoming holiday. I ticked all the boxes for what people needed in a house sitter: reliable, trustworthy, obsessed with furry animals… It seemed house sitting in Australia was booming, and I was the woman for the job!
How I Got my First House Sit in Australia with No References
“…the obvious love of animals I showed when I went down to visit them landed me the job straight away.”
I wanted to stay a bit longer in Perth, but with my flatmate Aisling soon to depart and leave me living with two middle-aged men who seemed to think they were still 18, coupled with the discovery of bedbugs in my room, my need for better living arrangements became pretty urgent!
I quickly paid the $65 annual fee to join Aussie House Sitters (about the cost of two nights in a hostel) and was delighted to land my first house sit within a few days: a three-bedroom house in Rockingham, a city about 40 minutes south of Perth. The owners, a lovely British couple, were going on a two-week trip to Japan and needed someone to care for their three gorgeous cats and tank of tropical fish.
Despite not having any references or experience (within the last 12 years at least!), the obvious love of animals I showed when I went down to visit them landed me the job straight away.
I moved in a couple of weeks later and instantly swapped traffic noise for birdsong, partying neighbours for butterflies, an overlooked balcony for a private garden and a silver-haired landlord who liked to walk around in his underwear for my own beer belly-free space complete with Netflix, fancy coffee machine and fireplace to warm the winter nights. Bliss! And all with the huge added bonus of no longer paying rent!
TIPS TO GET YOUR FIRST HOUSE SIT
- Consider house sits that aren’t in premium locations as you’ll have less competition. Only one other person applied for the first job I got as it wasn’t in central Perth.
- Offer to travel over and meet the owners and pets before the sit, even if they live quite far away. They often choose the first person they meet if they like them and cancel everyone else. Stay safe though: let someone know where you’re going and take a friend if possible.
- Focus on your love for animals as this is the owners’ main concern. The other applicant for my first house sit talked only of his experience in property management, which was of no interest to the owners.
- Get a police certificate to put owners’ minds at rest; they’re not expensive and you can apply online.
Collecting References and Experience in Perth
“…with a reading room, movie room, swimming pool, energetic dog, two cats that hated each other and four chickens I was never short of entertainment!”
It took no time to line up a second house sit. Also in Rockingham, this home was a plush, newly built four-bedroom bungalow with all the mod-cons you could wish for. My friend Mirka stayed too, and we had a wonderful time enjoying the luxury of a double bedroom and bathroom each. Gemma, a cute Cavoodle puppy that wanted all the hugs she could get, provided us with two weeks of constant entertainment!
After Rockingham, we returned to city life when we cat sat for a young couple in a modern two-bedroom house close to the trendy cafes and restaurants of Victoria Park.
Mirka left for the east coast (to a working homestay as she couldn’t bear the thought of hostels after our Rockingham luxury!), and I finished off my house sitting in Perth with a bang when I landed two weeks in a sprawling country home on six acres of land in the Western Australian bush.
The property was extremely remote, but with a reading room, movie room, swimming pool, energetic dog, two cats that hated each other and four chickens I was never short of entertainment! There’s no warmer welcome than a group of animals waiting eagerly outside your bedroom door every morning, ready to jump all over you!
When I eventually left for my Perth to Adelaide road trip, my tent became my temporary home. But with the experience and great references I had, my house sitting Australia journey was far from over!
TIPS TO INCREASE YOUR HOUSE-SITTING OFFERS
- Always ask for a reference at the end of each house sit; you can usually send requests directly through house-sitting websites, and the reviews will show on your profile.
- The wider range of animals you can gain experience of looking after the better. Don’t stop at cats and dogs; be adventurous and add some chickens, fish or farm animals to spice up your portfolio!
Christmas House Sit in Adelaide
After five weeks of camping across the south coast of Australia from Perth, my travel mate, Michi, and I arrived in Adelaide and met up with Mirka again in time for Christmas. Luckily, I’d already lined up a house sit before we’d even left Perth.
While other backpackers forked out on peak-season prices for bunk beds in noisy dorm rooms, the three of us spent the hottest Christmas and New Year us Europeans had ever experienced in an air-conditioned Adelaide bungalow. This was all in return for looking after Diesel, a gentle giant of a German Shepherd, who wanted nothing more than to play with his teddy bear and the hose pipe!
Our youth stood in our favour for this house sit as the owners didn’t think the elderly people who’d applied would cope with such a large and boisterous dog! Being out in the suburbs meant the house had plenty of space to clean out the car and camping gear, ready for our next adventure.
TIPS FOR HOUSE SITTING IN AUSTRALIA DURING THE HOLIDAYS
- DEMAND: Australia is a very popular place to spend Christmas and New Year, and competition for house sits is fierce. Apply early to find yourself somewhere comfortable and avoid over-inflated holiday prices. I spent the following Christmas in Sydney and it took months of sending out applications before I finally snared a house sit, despite having lots of experience and brilliant references.
- SUPPLY: the school summer holidays fall at Christmas time in Oz, so even though lots of people want them, there are actually tonnes of available house sits. Now I have experience I’m actually inundated with paid offers at Christmas time and get booked almost a year in advance.
Room with a View – City House Sit in Melbourne
We said goodbye to Adelaide over a lovely thank you dinner that the generous house owners took us out for. Then Michi and I set off across the Great Ocean Road, reaching Melbourne in the height of summer. Accommodation was heavily booked-up and heavily priced, and house sits were being snapped up within minutes.
We’d underestimated the demand for accommodation and kicked ourselves for leaving it so late to apply for house sits. A bit of luck came our way when we managed to snare a few days in a city centre apartment in Southbank with stunning views of Melbourne’s skyline, a gym and a lovely cat called Mouse!
TIPS FOR CITY CENTRE HOUSE SITS
- We snared this house sit as it had no parking, which put other house sitters off. Consider leaving your vehicle out in a residential suburb if you can go without it for a while. Just don’t leave your valuables in the car.
- Centrally located house sits tend to be heavily in demand, particularly in high season. Keep a keen eye out for new house sit adverts (you can usually set up email alerts on the websites) and apply immediately. Even leaving it a few hours can mean losing out to the early birds.
Jet Lag Cure in the Melbourne Suburbs
After a road trip around Tasmania and a visit back home to the UK, I landed back in Melbourne in the depths of winter (I’m talking 2 degrees; the permanent sunshine in Neighbours is a massive con!) and headed straight to the centrally heated house I’d conveniently lined up only 20 minutes away from the airport.
I organised it quite last minute, and from the UK, but with it being only three days long – the perfect length of time for me to get over my jet lag – no one else had even applied! In addition to having a peaceful place to adjust to the time difference, I got to look after two adorable cats, one of which liked to play football with a ball of tinfoil! Once the three days were over I felt refreshed enough to head off towards Sydney for even more house sitting in Australia.
TIPS FOR ORGANISING HOUSE SITS FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY
- Very short house sits are less in demand, especially if they’re not near a city centre, so they’re a great option for organising from another country when you have the disadvantage of not being able to meet up with the owner first. Plus, they give you a chance to settle in before finding something longer term.
- Offer to call or Skype the owners when you apply to make up for the fact that you can’t meet in person.
House Sitting in Sydney
Before reaching Sydney I joined a second house-sitting website, Happy House Sitters, to increase the number of house sits I could apply for. I’d already organised my first house sit in Sydney while I was back in the UK, so after my week-long road trip from Melbourne I moved straight into a funky Victorian house in Lewisham with wrought-iron balconies, loads of cool artwork and a friendly pooch called Spencer.
A little bit of luxury followed when I landed a five-bedroom, state-of-the-art home in North Balgowlah (where my gorgeous picture at the very top of this article was taken) that could have come straight out of an interior design magazine.
With a swimming pool, funky sculptures and very fancy bathroom with heated floors, I felt like I was staying in a five-star boutique hotel! And the two little Shoodles I took care of were no trouble (and matched the colour scheme very well)!
Next came a serene house in St Peters with three extremely affectionate Miniature Poodles that competed for a place on my lap as if it was the last drop of water in a desert! We had a medical emergency when Ava’s back problem flared up from some over-enthusiastic bird chasing, but all was resolved after a trip to the vet for some anti-inflammatories.
After Sydney I whizzed up the east coast to Brisbane (a mere ten hours or so), where I’d lived as an exchange student at The University of Queensland back in 2001-2002, then returned to tent life as I reunited with Michi for a two-week road trip back down Australia’s east coast.
Long Term House Sitting in Australia
On arrival back in Sydney we checked straight into a beautiful Federation-era home in Ashfield, packed with original features, where we spent a month playing with two very energetic and lovable Miniature Schnauzers that would squeal and jump up in the air like jack-in-the-boxes every time we arrived home! With the comfiest bed ever and a beautiful en-suite, once again this felt more like a plush hotel than a house!
Michi continued down to Melbourne for work, but Sydney was always my end destination. I’ve now completely caught the house-sitting bug and have been house sitting long in Sydney back-to-back since August 2016.
I now solely take bookings though Mad Paws, where all house sitters charge a fee to home owners and the website takes a cut and provides insurance, and I’m booked up almost a year in advance! This site only really works for local sitters though, rather than travellers.
House sitting in Australia has been an amazing way to experience life in the many varied suburbs and meet the locals. Plus, with Sydney being the world’s second most expensive city in terms of accommodation, it’s a dream not to pay any rent. My friends pay hundreds of dollars a week for rooms in share houses – often full of cockroaches and inconsiderate flatmates – while I have spacious houses all to myself with amazing animals and sometimes even swimming pools and sea views!
As of February 2018, the total amount I’ve saved on accommodation from house sitting in Australia, plus the amount I’ve earned from it equates to over $30k! House sitting isn’t something I’ll do forever – at some point living out of a suitcase will wear thin – but for now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So if it ain’t broke…
To sign up for Australia’s largest house sitting website yourself, follow this link:
To learn how to get into house sitting in Australia or find out more about what it involves, check out the following blog posts: