When we decided to work remotely and travel full-time, we weighed out our options for accommodation. There was, of course, the obvious solution of staying in hotels or AirBNBs (which is what we usually do). But when we started to price it out and realised exactly how much we would be spending in a week, and then in a month, on accommodation alone, we thought that there must be another option.
That’s when we thought about housesitting. We had seen it advertised before, so we looked into it and dove in, purchasing a year long membership with Trusted Housesitters. And now here we are, three months later, and we’ve completed four sits and have another seven lined up!
So, how does housesitting work? Who do you housesit for? Is it safe? Does it cost anything?
Well, we’ve shared every tip that we could think of below to help you decide if it’s something you want to try!
What is housesitting?
When somebody goes away on holiday, they usually leave an empty house behind (barring any entertaining ‘Home Alone’ situations). For peace of mind, some people look to have a housesitter stay to keep an eye on things and make sure nothing goes wrong while they’re away. Most of the time, these people will also have pets that will need taking care of as well. So, to put it simply, a housesitters job is to care for someone’s home and pets while they’re away.
TIP: Always read the ‘responsibilities’ section of the housesit listing closely. Some housesits require you to do more than others, especially when it comes to taking care of elderly pets and older homes. Make sure you’re comfortable doing what you’ve been asked to do before applying for a sit.
TIP: While this guide focuses on the benefits of being a housesitter, remember that you can also sign up to look for a housesitter for your own home/pet while you’re on holiday!
Where do you find housesits?
There are a few websites out there to find sits on, but we went with Trusted Housesitters. We made this decision because we’d seen it advertised before and they looked well established with lots of users. After deliberating for a couple of weeks, we decided to take the plunge and signed up for a 12-month membership.
Tip: With Trusted Housesitters, you can see what housesits are available online before committing and signing up, so you can see if it’s worthwhile for your situation or not. New housesits are always being posted, so keep that in mind if you don’t see anything suitable straight away.
Is there any money exchanged in housesitting?
No. Not once you’re a member of the site. You stay for free, and the homeowners get their house/pets watched for free. It’s a win-win situation!
With that in mind, when pets are involved, you will have to consider if you want that additional responsibility or not. If you’re just looking for some free accommodation for a short getaway, we’d recommend you not take on a housesit with pets.
The membership for Trusted Housesitters is £89 for 12 months. It’s easy to think that it’s a bit pricy and that you have better things to spend 90 quid on, and you may debate if it’s worth the cost or not, but when you break it down, it’s worth every single penny. Think about how much you paid for accommodation on your last holiday. I’m betting it was about £90 for one or two nights? We made our money back before our first housesit was even finished – honestly, we think it’s a bargain.
Do I get to choose where I housesit?
Yes! You can filter housesits so you only see ones the ones most suitable for you. You can filter by date, duration, type of pet, number of pets, and location.
Sits on Trusted Housesitters are worldwide but tend to be mainly in the UK and North America. There are other websites out there, so if you’re looking for somewhere in particular then do a bit of research and see if a local housesitting website comes up.
The types of sits vary drastically. Some might have one outdoor cat that you never see, some have three dogs that you need to walk a few times a day, and some are remote countryside stays where you need to take care of sheep and horses (and will need your own car). Some are for one night and some are for months at a time.
So figure out what you want and what you’re comfortable with, filter the results, and go from there.
Is housesitting safe?
Yes. There are security checks done when you sign up so they can verify your identity, and you always have the option to talk with people face-to-face via video chat (more on that later). Even though you’re not meeting them in real life, you can gauge a lot about a person from a quick conversation.
It provides a great opportunity to find out more about them (and vice versa), and they will often show you their pet(s) on the video. We all know that a pet’s demeanour is a good indication of whether someone is a good person/owner or not. Every time we’ve seen pets on a video chat, they’ve been relaxed and have looked happy. If that’s the case, it’s usually safe to assume that the owners are okay.
In addition, you will likely only see the owners for a short period of time, anyway. At most, we have spent maybe 10 hours with one couple, and this was because they were kind enough to let us stay an extra night once they were back so we could miss the rush hour traffic of a Friday afternoon. The shortest amount of time we’ve spent with a homeowner was about 20-30 minutes. So, worst case scenario, you won’t see them for long.
Homeowners may also have people come in and out of the house while they’re away. For example, during our seven-week housesit near the Cotswolds, the owners had a cleaner come in every Wednesday morning for four hours. They assured us that this has been the case for over ten years and that she is fully trustworthy. During her first visit, we stayed in the house the whole time, just to be able to meet her and see what she was like. After that, we were comfortable being out while she was there.
If you were doing a stay and the owners mentioned that they had a cleaner or someone else who would be entering the home and you don’t feel comfortable with it, make sure you let them know. They will want you to feel comfortable so they may cancel the service for the time you’re there.
Lastly, if you don’t feel safe for whatever reason, get in touch with Trusted Housesitters. We haven’t had this issue, but I’m sure that they would be helpful in the event of anything happening. There’s also insurance coverage as a part of your membership, so have a read through their policy to see exactly what is and isn’t covered.
What are the benefits of housesitting?
Travel: Housesitting lets you explore places that you may never have considered. So far, we’ve ended up in Uckfield (where?) and Great Somerford (huh?). We’d never even heard of either of them. They’re both based in beautiful areas of the UK but are so small that we would never look at them on a map or decide to go on holiday there. Uckfield was great to explore the Sussex countryside, the coastline, and the Seven Sisters, and Great Somerford was great to explore the Cotswolds, Bath, and Bristol.
Connections: You never know who you’re going to meet. People often leave for their holiday early in the morning, so they usually ask that you arrive the night beforehand, if possible, which gives you time to chat, have dinner, and sometimes have a few drinks. We’ve met the nicest people, some of who we still keep in contact with, and we’ve been invited back to do another sit for them because of that.
We’ve also met some locals. We’ve had long chats with pub owners in small villages and we’ve met up with people for a beer after work. This actually ended up getting us another sitting opportunity in the same village later in the year! This may not happen for shorter sits, but it’s a definite perk for the longer sits.
The other connections that you make are with the animals that you care for. It’s amazing to meet so many animals and get to know all of their personalities and quirks. We’ve fallen in love with every single pet that we’ve spent time with during our housesits and have loved every minute of it. We’ve enjoyed the cuddles, playtime, the beautiful walks, and even the lap full of slobber at mealtimes!
If you’re like us and aren’t yet able to have your own pet, housesitting is the perfect happy medium between the two. You get a part-time pet when you want it and when it suits you.
Live like a local: Homeowners will know their local area like the back of their hand. They’re going to know all the best restaurants, all the best pubs, all the best hikes, all the best things to see, the way to get around on public transport, when to avoid certain areas because they’re too busy, etc, etc, etc. They’re going to know a lot more than Google can tell you. Once you meet them and sort through the essentials, pick their brains and ask for recommendations on everything and anything.
Plan for the future: Yes this sounds odd but bear with us. When you housesit you get to care for different types of animals, and get to stay in different houses, so it gives you an opportunity to experience things that you probably wouldn’t otherwise.
For example, we’ve learned that we want an AGA cooker in our kitchen (if we can ever afford one!). We also know that we want to live further out in the countryside, but no more than about a 20-minute drive to a bigger town/city. We know that we will probably limit ourselves to one dog at a time (this was decided after caring for three labs at once!) and one or two cats (you don’t want to know what James wanted before). We know that we care way more about living in a beautiful location rather than having a huge house full of unnecessary space and things to fill it. We know that we want a big fireplace in our living room. We know what general layout we would like for our future home, and we know what layouts we’re not big fans of.
We’ve been able to trial different coffee machines, different TV placements, different directions for houses to face, and different lighting systems. They’re all very random things, but we now have preferences for each of these when we eventually get our own home.
Saving Money: So far, we’ve been travelling and housesitting around the UK for three months. During this time, after our £89 membership fee, we’ve paid for two nights accommodation between sits. In total, as of right now and including upcoming sits, we will have had 29 weeks of free accommodation thanks to housesitting. We have no electricity bills to pay, no water, no internet, and no council tax. We have our phone bills and Netflix, and that’s about it.
We understand that not everybody is travelling full-time like we are. Most people will still have rent or a mortgage to pay back at home, and a nice stack of bills to return to after a holiday. But if you planned that holiday around a housesit, you could go away for an entire week for the cost of the £89 membership, rather than £500+ of regular accommodation. And, again, it’s a 12-month membership, so you can use it a few times throughout the whole year to get an even better deal.
Also, since you’re staying in someone’s house, you’ll have access to a kitchen and you’ll be able to do your laundry. Cooking your own meals will save a fortune on eating out, and being able to do laundry means that you can pack much less and not have to go to a laundrette.
TIP: If you want a Christmas and/or New Year getaway, Trusted Housesitters is the perfect place to look! Loads of people go away for the holidays and need their pets looked after while they’re gone.
Okay, we’ve gone on and on and on about the positives. Are there any cons to housesitting?
Responsibility: As much as we do love taking care of the pets and getting to know them, you are fully responsible for them. They need to be fed, walked, and let outside at certain times of the day. They may need medication, and the owners may not want them being left alone for a long period of time – whatever the homeowners ask of you, you do.
This means that you have to make your schedule work around the animals. You won’t have as much freedom as you would on a regular holiday. You may need to get up earlier than usual or maybe go out for a walk in the rain.
We absolutely loved our stay when we cared for the three labradors (that’s actually the sit that we’re doing again), but now we do our best to look for stays that involve one cat instead (ideally an outdoor cat with a catflap!). This gives us more flexibility and more freedom, although that’s not to say that we won’t do others. We have upcoming sits booked with dogs and even one with five indoor cats! Again, just decide on exactly what you want with your sit and make sure to find something suitable for you.
Attachment: Oh, you get so, so, so attached to the animals. We love them all and we still speak fondly about each and every one of them. It’s hard enough to leave after a one-week visit, never mind when we had to say goodbye to the cat that we looked after for seven weeks. It’s impossible not to have attachment issues!
Unfortunately, as we all know, animals also pass away. As we said, we’re going back to the same housesit where we cared for three labradors, except this time there will only be two. We’re very sad about this and it won’t quite be the same without the third, but it has to be expected when animals are involved.
TIP: We had one sit cancel on us the week before Christmas because their dog unexpectedly passed away. If you’re going on a sit with an older animal, keep in mind that this could happen. Some people may let you stay anyway since you made plans around the sit, but we weren’t given this opportunity.
Location: Don’t expect to be able to stay exactly where you want every time. If you look at a sit in London, they sometimes have upwards of 40 applicants, while a beautiful countryside home will often have 0-3 applicants. Be warned that if you had your heart set on a weekend in London and wanted a housesit to save on the accommodation, the chances of that happening, unless you’re very lucky and are one of the first to apply, are very slim.
We’ve found that countryside sits where you need a car are far less popular than big cities, such as London. So if you’re open with where you go or when you go you shouldn’t struggle too much.
Tips to help you get accepted on a stay
Right, so, you’ve bought your membership, you’ve made a profile, you’ve verified your ID, and you found a sit that you would love to do. How do you stand out from anyone else who applied?
Personalise your message. Use the homeowner’s and the pet’s names in your message. Reference other things from the listing to show that you took the time to read the whole thing before applying. Nothing is worse than getting a copied-and-pasted message when you’re looking for someone to stay in your house and care for your pets.
List your experience. This will already be listed in more detail on your profile itself, but there’s no harm in giving a quick summary of what you’ve done when you message someone. We usually say that we’ve completed ‘x’ number of sits and have great reviews on our profile, so please check them out. We also list what animals we’ve cared for, gearing that number towards whatever pet they have. For example, if someone has a dog that we want to watch, we will specify that we’ve done a sit with three dogs before. It especially helps if the breeds happen to be the same!
Focus on what you’ll do for them. Yes, you might have always wanted to visit the sunny, sandy beaches in Cornwall and yes, a sit might be able to give you the opportunity to do that while you get accommodation for free. But the homeowner really isn’t interested in that. In fact, if you mentioned that to them, they might get the idea that you’re going to neglect their pets and spend all day, every day on the beach. Instead, spend a bit of time telling them why you’re a good fit for the housesit. Focus on how you’re helping the homeowners rather than how the stay is going to be a great getaway for you.
Offer to have a video chat. We do this every single time. It shows the homeowners that we’re real people, we’re ‘normal’ people (we’ve actually heard this from homeowners we’ve spoken to – whatever it means), and we have nothing to hide. It gives both parties the chance to have a bit of a chat and be able to get to know each other a little bit before making a big commitment. Every single person has taken us up on this offer except for one, and we’ve immediately been accepted onto every sit once we’ve had a chat with the homeowners. We usually do this on WhatsApp but Skype would work fine too.
Have at least one review on your profile. Obviously this is easy once you’ve done your first sit, but it’s not so easy if you haven’t done one before. How do you get that first person to take the leap with you and let you stay in their house without having any reviews? Get someone to leave you one.
If you’ve watched your best friend’s house while she’s away or walked your brother’s dog while he was on holiday, ask them to leave you a review. When we first started, I asked my brother’s girlfriend to write us a review because we’d watched her two cats while she was away. I also decided to use her and not my brother because I wanted our last names to be different, so it didn’t look like we were related.
An even better scenario would be to look for a housesit in your local area. If there is one, get in touch with the homeowner and tell them that you’re new to this, you’re looking to get your foot in the door with your first experience and your first review, and offer to meet up with them and their pet beforehand. This will let them see how you interact with their pet and will build trust. After this meeting, hopefully they would ask you to do the sit. As a bonus, you’re still in your local area so you can still live your regular life, so you can do this even if you’re not on holiday at the time.
You got your first housesit – hooray! What tips do we have for when you get there?
Treat the place with the utmost respect. This is not your home! So keep it clean and leave it as you found it. Remember, these people will be leaving a review and you want it to be a good one! It’s also the least they will expect if they’re allowing someone to stay in their home while they’re away.
Ask where things are. If they forget to point something out, then ask. It’s so much easier to get this information when they’re standing right in front of you, rather than having to message them later when they’re on their holiday. On one sit we learned (the hard way) to always ask where the fuse box was. Other things to keep in mind are the garbage/recycle bins (and if/when you need to take them out), where the pet’s food/medication is, the vacuum, house keys, and the WiFi password. Oh, and how to work the TV! You will usually be provided with a welcome guide before getting to the house and it will have loads of information in it, so make sure you read through it before arriving and ask if you’re unsure of anything or if something was missed.
Remember to ask for recommendations! We already touched on this earlier, so let this act as a reminder 😊
Send them updates. Depending on the length of the stay, we like to send a minimum of two or three photos of the pets to the owners while they’re away. They’ll be more at ease if they can see that their pets are happy and safe. Bonus points if the animal is curled up on your lap sleeping or if they’re playing or out on a walk! It doesn’t hurt to send quick messages just to let them know that everything is okay with the home as well.
Tell them you’d love to come back! If you enjoyed the sit and would be interested in sitting for them again in the future, tell them. We do every single time we leave a place that we’ve enjoyed, or left a pet that we would love to see again (which is all of them). If they were happy with you, they will very likely get in touch with any available dates to give you the first chance to take the sit again since they already know you and trust you and know that your pet likes you, too!
Be honest with how often you’ll be in the home with the pet(s), be honest with your experience, and be honest about who will be staying in the home.
We always housesit as a couple and make sure that people know this. Both of us appear on our profile and we’re both always on the video call. Some people might prefer to have a couple stay rather than a single person, and some people may only be able to cater for a single person because they have a single bed.
Some people will also happily have families stay if you wanted to make a family holiday out of it. Just tell them upfront how many people are staying and who the people are. You don’t want to be caught up in a situation where the home isn’t child-friendly or the animal isn’t well behaved around children!
If it were your house, you would want to know exactly who was going to be living there during the stay, so give other people the same respect.
Lastly, and this one is very particular to us, but we’re both professionals who work from home, and people seem to really like this. We’re home quite often so we’re able to give their pets all the care and the attention that they need, rather than going out exploring the area for eight hours a day, every day. Of course we do go out and enjoy ourselves, but we do still need to work, and the owners will know that this time will be spent near their pet.
So, there you have it! Our complete guide to housesitting.
It’s safe to say that we have fully enjoyed our experiences so far and would definitely recommend housesitting to everyone who loves pets, who loves to travel off the beaten track, and loves to explore as a local. We’ve met great people, taken care of adorable pets, and had so many adventures in the few short months that we’ve been doing this. And we’ve only used a quarter of our membership so far!
If we’ve missed anything and you still have questions, please feel free to ask us. Or, if you’re an experienced housesitter and you think we’ve missed something important, please share your tip in the comments below.
If you are interested in signing up to Trusted Housesitters, please sign up using this link below or by clicking on any of the links in this post. DISCLAIMER: It is an affiliate link, so we do get paid if you use it, but at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting us!
We really hope that this guide inspires you to give housesitting a try!