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In an age where more and more people are working online and becoming location independent, cheap or free travel accommodation has never been more in demand.
While Airbnb is still a brilliant way to immerse yourself into a local community when you travel, living rent free by house sitting is a game changer if you want to travel long term.
I started house sitting in Australia two years ago to save costs during a road trip, and loved it so much I now house sit in Sydney long-term. House and pet sitters in Australia are so highly in demand that I now get booked up at least six months in advance.
If rent-free accommodation with some lovely pets thrown in sounds like your sort of thing, this simple 10-step guide will teach you exactly how to become a house sitter even if you have no experience!
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1. Long-term house sitting – is it for you?
If you’re not sure what house sitting involves, first read my What is house sitting? blog post, which explains the whole process and answers lots of commonly asked questions.
You should also check out my blog post on the pros and cons of house sitting to make sure it’s an arrangement you’d be happy with, particularly if you’re thinking of becoming a house sitter for the long term.
Note that nearly all house sits involve pet care; the main role of a house sitter is to look after people’s pets while they’re away. So being an animal-lover is mandatory.
For the time you’re looking after those animals you are going to be their world. They will want to follow you, climb on you, stare at you, accompany you to the bathroom and try to kiss you on the mouth – a lot. So it is essential that you are comfortable around them!
You will also need to be reliable enough to feed and walk the pets at the required times, be respectful of the property and capable of keeping it clean. If this all sounds feasible, keep reading to find out how to become a house sitter and start reaping the benefits of free travel.
2. Join a house-sitting website
If you’re definitely up for the job, the best way to start house sitting is to join a house-sitting website where you can set up a profile and apply for assignments.
For house sitting in Australia, I started off using the biggest house sitting website in the country: Aussie House Sitters (registration fee $84 per year). I was living in Perth at the time, and saved six weeks’ worth of rent as I landed a string of house sits almost immediately.
I now only use a website called Mad Paws, which is totally free for house sitters to join. Every house sitter charges a fee of however much they choose to the house owners, and Madpaws take a cut and provide insurance.
It only really works for local sitters though, not travellers, as the sitters need to specify which suburb they live in so that house owners can search in their area. It also ranks sitters mainly by location and by reviews (Aussie House Sitters ranks sitters by however recently they last logged in), so it takes a long time to climb up the page and get noticed.
3. Set up a great house-sitting profile
This is the part where you really need to sell yourself. Think of all the qualities that a house owner would want in a person looking after their pets and home, and try and get these into your profile if they are true to you – things like being reliable, trustworthy, honest and an animal-lover.
Mention if you have experience of looking after animals or running a home of your own. They will also want someone tidy who will leave the house in a good condition and who’s willing and able to carry out household tasks like watering gardens.
Mention your profession and how much time you will be able to spend in their home (people with dogs often like someone who works from home, whereas cats need less attention). Write in full sentences and check your spelling – this is a CV of sorts! Check out other house sitters’ profiles for examples.
Make sure you add some great photos. Your main profile picture should be a clear, smiling head shot – bonus points if you can squeeze an animal in too.
It should not be a picture of you clutching a bottle of wine at a party, scowling like it’s a prison mugshot or pouting into the camera as if it’s a lads’ mag centrefold – believe me I’ve seen all of these!
Bear in mind that the typical person sourcing a house sitter is a woman over 40, so think about the type of person they would like to entrust their treasured pets and home to!
4. Collect references & get a police check
If you’ve never house sat before, I’d recommend asking someone you know to write a character reference for you. You may be able to add this to your profile, depending on which site you use; otherwise state in your profile and in any applications you send off that references are available.
I actually didn’t need mine in the end as the owners on my first house sit were happy enough once they’d met me in person, but it’s good to keep one in your back pocket just in case.
Many house sitters have police checks and state so on their profile, and some websites may require you to have them. I have to say I’ve rarely been asked to show mine, but they’re not expensive and a great way to put yourself ahead of the competition.
5. Set up house-sitting notifications
If the website you’re using allows you to set up email alerts when an advert comes on matching your criteria, take full advantage and get it set up. Desirable house sits can fetch a lot of attention, and you will want to know as soon as they come up and be one of the first to apply.
6. Choose suitable house sits for valid house sitting jobs
Assuming you’re using a website where the house owners put up adverts, you will need to start looking for suitable assignments. This is where it can get a frustrating.
Unfortunately hardly any house owners bother to remove their advert once they’ve allocated a house sitter. This means the majority of adverts – I would honestly say about 90% on the Happy House Sitters and Aussie House Sitters – are for assignments no longer available, which is beyond annoying.
I wasted so much time in the beginning sending out applications only to be told by the owners that they’d already found someone. After that I started sorting my house sit searches by the adverts most recently added, and only applied to those that went on in the last couple of days. If you see more rural ones or very short ones that might not be so popular however, it’s probably worth applying even if they’ve been on a while.
Less desirable locations can be great for your first house sit as you’ll have less competition.
Make sure you read the adverts carefully and understand the location, whether you’ll need your own transport, the animals you’ll be looking after and what exactly the owner expects of you. Don’t worry about applying for multiple house sits with clashing dates as there may be lots of other people after them too, so you’re not guaranteed to get them all!
7. Apply to house sitting jobs
To apply for suitable house sits, you will need to message the house owners directly through the website, which should automatically contain a link to you profile.
Bearing in mind that the house owners may have a huge amount of applications, I would recommend keeping your message relatively short (two small paragraphs) and to the point.
Read the advert carefully and tailor your message accordingly. I usually include the following information:
Age – just so they know I’m in my thirties and not a student or young backpacker.
That I love animals and have experience of looking after their type of pet. Mention their pet by name if they’ve written it.
That I’m clean and tidy and will be sure to take good care of their property.
That I’m happy to carry out the tasks they’ve listed.
How much time I can spend in their home each day. Tell them if you work from home, aren’t working or will be out all day.
I have great references and a police check.
I am available to meet them and their pets. Offer to Skype/call if you are not local.
I usually finish by asking them to take a look at my profile and to contact me if they’re interested.
8. Meet the house owners and pets at the meet and greet
If the owners like the sound of you and you live locally, they will usually arrange a “meet and greet” and invite you to their home. This isn’t a formal interview, but a chance to chat to the owners in person and meet their pets to check you get along ok – if the owners are retired you’re almost guaranteed tea, cake and a chit-chat for as long as you are willing to stick around!
Usually the owners go through all the things you will need to do on the house sit, but think of any questions you may have beforehand in case they don’t cover it (where the pets usually sleep, how many dog walks a day, whether the pets take medication…).
Be sure to be friendly, and confidently approach and stroke their pets; it is often ultimately the animals who pick a sitter! I’ve had a few owners who were really surprised that their unfriendly cat wanted to sit on my lap or their elderly, semi-comatose dog was excited to meet me! Pets know if you like them or not and will respond accordingly.
At the end they will either offer you the job straight away or tell you they’ll let you know as they are meeting other potential sitters too (if you’re unsure if they have other people to see just ask).
Note that they sometimes go with the first person they meet if they like them and cancel the other appointments, so do try and get in first! Chase them up if they don’t get back to you afterwards; I’ve had some people choose someone else and not bother letting me know.
9. Confirm details of the house sit
Once you’ve landed your first house sitting job (yay!), make sure you know what time you need to arrive at the house, what time they’ll be getting back and that they’ve written down all the information you will need while you’re there.
I’ve written a full blog post on how to prepare for your house sitter, which contains a list of information the owners should leave you. They may want you to visit again nearer the time to go through everything or arrive a few hours before they leave (or even the day before) to get settled in.
10. Get house sitting!
Time to move into your temporary new home and enjoy! Remember how important it is to do a good job and leave the house clean. I always tidy up, wash the bed sheets and vacuum. If the pets have enjoyed your company the owners will notice how relaxed they are when they return.
Getting great references is essential to house sitting long term; because of how good mine are I’m now able to get paid for house sits and have all the owners come to me rather than me applying for jobs (Madpaws don’t let house owners put adverts on).
People often book their holidays around when I’m free and even delay their holidays to the following year if I’m already booked up!
Hopefully knowing how to become a house sitter will open up a whole new world of (budget and luxury) travel for you!
If you want to start house sitting in Australia to cheapen your travels, follow this link to join Aussie House Sitters, Australia’s largest house sitting website:
For more information and plenty of tips on how to get house sitting jobs, check out my story of how I saved $30k house sitting across Australia! Best of luck with your house sitting search!