House sitting is a game-changer for travelers and homeowners.
But information about house sitting—who it’s for, how it works, and how to get started—is impossible to find in one single resource.
That’s why we created this guide.
- Overview of House Sitting
- How to become a house sitter
- Finding a house sitter (for homeowners)
In March 2014, my husband and I sold everything and became professional house sitters.
Since then, we’ve house sat in:
- the English countryside;
- an upscale Vancouver neighborhood;
- California’s Sonoma Valley wine country;
- downtown Denver;
- Ashland, Oregon (home of the Shakespeare festival); and
- a Moroccan seaside home with views of the Atlantic
And here’s the best part: since March 2014, we have lived rent-FREE, made several new friends, and seen new parts of the world—all thanks to house sitting.
House sitting is when someone (the “house sitter”) cares for a home while the homeowner is away.
It’s an exchange of services:
- the homeowner gets peace of mind having someone look after their home and pets while they’re away; and
- the house sitter gets a place to live, usually for FREE.
Most homeowners require you look after their pets, too. Some assignments don’t have pets—for example, we’ve had two sits without pets, out of 9—but if you love animals, you’ll get the most opportunities. Either way, it’s a fun and FREE way to travel the world and meet great people.
Several websites connect homeowners and house sitters from around the world.
Here’s how it works: Similar to a job search website, a homeowner creates an assignment (like a job posting) and a house sitter creates a profile with their experience (like a resume). A house sitter can apply to an assignment, or a homeowner can reach out to a house sitter if they like their profile.
There are loads of house sitting sites online, but you only need to join one (to start) and branch out if you want access to more assignments.
We personally have profiles on these websites because they’ve worked well:
- TrustedHousesitters.com is, in my opinion, the largest and most well-known house sitting website. They’re based in the United Kingdom and have a lot of assignments in Europe, but there’s quite a few in Australia, Canada, and the Unites States as well. They charge a subscription fee for both homeowners and house sitters to use the site.
- HouseCarers.com is another reputable company with house sits in the United States and Canada. They charge a subscription fee for only house sitters. Homeowners can post their assignments for free.
Note: On most websites, you can search house sitting assignments and profiles before you create an account.
Most house sits are a FREE exchange of services. However, this changes on a case-by-case basis.
Some, but not many, experienced house sitters will charge, especially if there is pet care involved. Their fees may range from $10-100 per day.
For long-term sits (more than 3 months), homeowners may ask you to pay for electricity, utilities, water, garbage, internet, cable, etc.
You are responsible for your own travel expenses getting to the house.
Important: Be sure to discuss the costs (or lack thereof) before agreeing to an assignment.
You’ll routinely see house sits available in:
- Great Britain;
- New Zealand; and
- The U.S.
And occasionally you’ll see sits available elsewhere, like:
- South Africa;
- Russia; and
For example, here’s a map of available house sits on TrustedHousesitters:
And here’s a map of assignments for Australia and the Americas:
Note: House sitting is more popular in Europe, Canada, and Australia than the United States.
You can still get house sits in the U.S.—we’ve had five over the past two years—but there just aren’t as many to choose from as Europe and Australia.
Build a trustworthy, credible profile. This helps homeowners learn more about you and your house sitting experience. If you don’t have any experience, don’t get discouraged; homeowners want someone they can trust.
Here are several ways to build your profile and inspire trust:
- Write your profile as if you were writing to a friend. Be personal and include the following:
- An introduction of who you are (i.e. name, age, location, work, etc.)
- Information on why you want to house sit (e.g. I’m looking to write a book, I love to travel and meet local people, I’m taking a sabbatical from my job to recharge my batteries, etc.)
- Your house sitting, pet sitting, and/or relevant experience.
- Additional information to build trustworthiness (e.g. work experience, personal interests, etc.)
- Upload friendly pictures of yourself with animals. If you don’t have animals, visit a friend or relative’s house to take a picture with their pets.
- Get references from your friends, relatives, co-workers, employers, etc. to show that you’re trustworthy.
Here’s our profile on TrustedHousesitters:
Here’s our video profile:
Getting the best assignments (say, in Hawaii or Bali) is very competitive. Apply quickly, because homeowners are bombarded with applicants and may never see your profile.
Most house sitting websites have email alerts, but you can also check the website every day. Once you see an assignment you like, apply immediately.
It’s helpful to have an email draft ready you can customize.
You’ll want to:
- Be specific. Restate why you’d be a good fit for the assignment, and include specific details. For example, if the homeowner says their dog, Spike, needs to be walked, then reply with “I’d be more than happy to walk Spike twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.”
- Summarize your experience. Tell them a little more about experience and yourself in case they don’t read your entire profile.
- Ask them to take the next step. Suggest a few days of the week and times that you’d be available for a Skype call so guide them to the next step.
- Tell them how to get a hold of you. Include your direct contact information (email, cell phone, home phone, Skype name, etc) so they can reach you outside the house sitting website.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the house sit. It happens to everyone. If you continually apply to assignments and aren’t getting any traction, try modifying your profile and keep trying.
When a homeowner contacts you, schedule a time to Skype with them.
It’s extremely important for both homeowner and house sitters to discuss the assignment before proceeding.
Video Skype calls are super-important: You discuss the assignment and see if you’re a good fit for each other. Remember: You must trust the homeowner as much as they trust you. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting involved with nightmare assignments, such as looking after a messy home, the homeowner changing the agreement last minute, or the two parties not getting along.
Unsurprisingly, most of these horror stories are from people who didn’t speak with the homeowner beforehand. (And to be honest, these are the exceptions, not the rule.)
Here are some questions you’ll want to discuss:
- Have you used a house sitter before? If so, what went well/what didn’t?
- Where are you traveling and for how long?
- Can you describe the home (number of bedrooms/bathrooms/levels)?
- Would you like me to check the mail?
- How would you like me to relay phone messages?
- Are there indoor plants that need watering? If yes, can you describe your watering routine?
- Are there outdoor plants that need watering? If yes, can you describe your watering routine?
- Do you have a lawn that needs mowing? If yes, what kind of mower do you have an how often does it require mowing?
- Do you have a pool or Jacuzzi that needs care? If yes, can you describe the care required?
- What will the cleaning entail and how often?
- What’s the best way (and how often) would you like me to check in with you?
- Are their local contacts (neighbors, family members, etc.) in case of an emergency
- Can you describe the surrounding area (e.g. closest grocery store, library, pharmacy, points of interest, etc.)?
- When would you like me to arrive for the walk-through?
- When would you like me to leave (before you arrive or after)?
- Do you plan to pay for all the bills while you’re away?
- Will there be a car available?
- Will there be a bike available?
- Is there anything else I should be aware of?
- What additional questions do you have for me?
If they have pets, be sure to ask:
- How many pets do you have?
- What are their names and ages?
- Can you walk me through your daily routine (feeding, watering, walking, cleaning, brushing, etc.)?
- What is their overall personality like (nice, aggressive, etc.)?
- Do they have any medical issues?
- Do you plan to purchase all the pet supplies (e.g. food, litter, etc.) needed for the assignment before you depart?
If you’d like to proceed, thank the homeowner and provide your references.
The homeowner may take a few days to interview other applicants and/or check your references before they contact you with a decision.
If you are offered the assignment, the homeowner may ask you to sign a house sitting agreement.
Keep in mind, house sitting is a two way street. Just because you are offered a house sitting assignment, doesn’t mean you have to take it. If anything about the homeowner or assignment made you feel uncomfortable, don’t take the assignment (or, if you’re unsure, schedule another call to discuss your concerns).
Most house sitters arrive a day or two before the assignment starts.
This gives you a chance to:
- meet the homeowners a little better and to help them feel like they won’t have strangers living in their home;
- do a walk-through of the house;
- get settled in and unpacked; and
- learn more about the area (e.g. grocery store, library, pharmacy, etc.).
After the homeowner leaves, it’s your responsibility to care for their pets and home—and enjoy your new surroundings!
Note: homeowners are usually nervous during the first few days. To give homeowners peace of mind, proactively update them—whether they ask for them or not.
If any issues arise, contact the homeowner immediately.
If you want a good referral—and you most certainly do!—the home should be in better condition than when the homeowner left.
- Clean the house and yard;
- Put fresh sheets on the bed and clean towels in the bathroom;
- Stock up the fridge; and
- Cook a meal for the homeowner’s return.
References are the key to your success. About five to seven days after you’ve completed the assignment, ask the homeowner a reference.
Here’s an example:
Thank you again for allowing me to care for your home and pets. I had a wonderful time and look forward to caring for your home in the future (should you need a sitter).
Would you mind writing me a reference that I can add to my profile?
References are very important in helping me get future house sitting assignments. You can be as brief or detailed as you like, although detailed is usually better. Feel free to write what you thought of how I handled the assignment, pet care, cleanliness, communication, etc.
I’ll be requesting this through [ENTER HOUSE SITTING WEBSITE] so it’ll show up on my profile. You’ll get another email request from them.
Thank you so much again for the opportunity and we hope our paths will cross again in the future,
“There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home.” – Rosalynn Carter
Your assignment is a way for house sitters to get a feel for you and your requirements.
Here’s a checklist of what you may want to include:
- Start and end dates (include a day or two earlier than you depart so can do a walk-through)
- Location (city and country only, do not include your full address)
- Introduction with a little about yourself, your home, and your pets (if applicable)
- The type of sitter you’re looking for
- Description of the home (e.g. apartment, house, condo, and number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and levels)
- Requirements (cleaning, plant care, gardening, mail, communication with you, etc.)
- Description of the surrounding area and why a house sitter would want to visit
- Indoor and outdoor pictures of the house (block out the street address if visible on the exterior of the home)
- Pictures and names of your pets (if applicable)
Once your assignment has been posted, you’ll receive email notifications from interested sitters. If you’re home is highly desirable, be prepared to receive anywhere from 50 to 100+ applicants. If you’re home is not as desirable (e.g. Alaska in the winter), you may get fewer applicants.
If you start getting too many applicants, some websites (like TrustedHousesitters) let you change the posting status to “Reviewing Applicants” so new applicants won’t be able to apply. Note: Only do this when you are certain that you have a short list of five sitters.
Once you have a short list, reach out to the house sitters to schedule a Skype call to meet them and discuss the assignment in further detail.
Meet your potential sitter face-to-face via a Skype video call. We highly recommend video calls: you get a feel for who may be living in your home.
Here are some questions you should ask:
- Can you tell me about yourself?
- How long have you been house sitting?
- What’s your house sitting experience?
- Why do you want to house sit?
- Do you plan to have visitors?
- Do you plan to take any trips away from the home?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you charge for house sitting?
- Will you bring your own vehicle?
- When can you arrive and leave?
- Has anything ever gone wrong on a house sit? If so, please explain.
- Can you provide references?
If you have pets, ask the following:
- How many pets have you owned or cared for?
- Are you familiar with cat/dog pet care?
- How often can you (walk the dog, clean the litter, etc.)?
Once you’ve selected a house sitter, contact them and offer them the assignment.
Some homeowners ask their sitter to sign an agreement. You can create your own or use TrustedHousesitters’s agreement template here.
After you have a confirmed sitter, notify the other applicants that you’ve chosen a different sitter.
Create a document with the house sitting requirements, contact details, and pet care (if applicable). This ensures the sitter has everything they need while you’re away.
Here’s a list of what to include in your house sitting document:
- Homeowner travel itinerary with dates, flight info, hotels, and hotel contact info
- Homeowner contact information while traveling (email, phone, Skype)
- Home phone
- Keys and security system
- Internet (username/password)
- Contact with homeowner (e.g. we’d like to schedule a Skype call once every two weeks to check in)
- Checking mail
- Paying bills
- Answering and relaying phone messages
- Front yard work
- Backyard work
- Garden tools
- Pool maintenance
- Indoor plant care
- House cleaning and special instructions
- Vehicle use / maintence
- Bicycle use
- Water (main shut off)
- TV and cable
- Visitor policy
- Home Owner Association (HOA) rules and regulations
- Off limit areas of home
- Pet name
- Pet age
- Indoor/outdoor routine
- Waste clean up
- Neighbor(s) names and contact info
- Local family names and contact info
- Cable/Internet/Phone Provider
- Gas Provider
- Water Provider
- Handy Man
- Locksmith (or someone who has spare keys)
- Local hospital/ER
- Police Department
- Fire Department
House sitter contact information
- Email, Cell, Skype
- Emergency contact
In addition to completing the house sitter document, you’ll want to:
- Contact your insurance company to let them know you will have house sitters
- Contact neighbors
- Set up new user for security system
- Make spare keys
- Buy enough pet food and supplies for while your away
- Document contents in your home (take pictures)
- Store any valuables in a safe
- Set up online bill pay
- Clear a space for house sitter (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc.)
- Clean the home
Ask the house sitter to arrive a day before you depart. This gives you time complete a full walk-through of your home. Be sure to give them a printed copy of the house sitter checklist (see the link, above) so they can take notes during the walk-through.
After you leave, you may feel a little nervous about your pets and home. It’s completely normal. Feel free to schedule a Skype call to check in with the sitters to make sure everything is okay.
Overall, don’t worry too much and just enjoy your vacation!
The house sitters should have everything ready for your return, including:
- cleaning the house;
- packing their belongings; and
- getting ready to leave.
Be sure to get copies of all keys when they leave and thank them for their help.
So what do you think? Let us know your questions or comments below.
We’ve been house sitting for nearly two years and it’s changed our lives. We are continually inspired by the amazing people (and pets) we’ve meet around the world.
We hope this inspires you to try something new!
Who knows, you might fall in love with house sitting and never look back. 🙂