I’m in my sixth house sitting assignment, a studio apartment in a renovated 1800’s hotel in the historic railroad town of Livingston, Montana. Even though house sitting has become a popular and competitive form of travel, most people I meet continue to be in shock and awe when I tell them of my unique form of traveling and living rent-free. Many are curious to know more about it and how they could do it, too. So below I’ve shared my experiences, tips, and advice to get started in this wonderful way of travel.
Living as a mountain woman while house sitting in Ojo Sarco, New Mexico:
Living as a desert dweller while house sitting in Joshua Tree, California:
Living as a cowgirl while house sitting in Livingston, Montana:
THE JOYS OF HOUSE SITTING
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live remotely in the mountains? Or how about a desert oasis? Perhaps you always thought it would be cool to experience living in an historic pioneer town? By house sitting I have been fortunate enough to experience all three and more – rent free – and you can too!
House sitting provides the opportunity to explore new and unique ways of living while meeting interesting people and animals along the way. It offers a way to experience a memorable yet slow way to travel, and the ability to dive into new communities and live like a local instead of a tourist. It’s also extrememly budget friendly with the majority of expenses being only food and entertainment, which has given me the ability to stretch my savings and continue to live the long-term travel lifestyle. And for a vagabond like me, it provides a much needed sense of home and the ability to “play house” for awhile until I’m ready to hit the road again.
It’s not just for the single traveler, either. Many house sitters are couples, families, and retirees. Some even bring their own pets along!
House sitting an adobe mountain home in Ojo Sarco, New Mexico:
House sitting an 1800’s hotel turned apartments in Livingston, Montana, once a thriving railroad town and the gateway to Yellowstone National Park:
House sitting an eclectic home in the desert town of Joshua Tree, California:
House sitting a cute cottage in the small southern California town of Ojai, a haven for artists, musicians, and health enthusiasts:
SOUNDS GREAT! SO HOW DO I DO IT?
Easy. Sign up and create a profile on any or all of the popular house sitting websites such as:
The functionality of this site is great, and they deliver new opportunities straight to your email daily. It also has the most listings – but also the most fierce competition. Homeowners are known to be flooded with responses within minutes of posting. I have yet to score a sit from this site, and it’s the most expensive of the three, but I continue to use it because it’s one of the best.
(Use Promo Code: WENDY10 for a 10% discount!)
I scored my very first sit through this site so it holds a soft spot in my heart. It’s also the only site where homeowners have contacted ME multiple times from my profile, instead of me being the initiator, which is always a nice surprise.
(Use this link for a 10% discount!)
While it doesn’t have as many listings as the others, I’ve gotten some great house sits through it and you can’t beat the price.
BE PREPARED TO FALL IN LOVE
TIPS OF THE TRADE
Write a good profile
Include photos or videos, references and any past experiences. Remember, homeowners are taking a leap of faith by inviting a stranger to live in their home while they’re away so it’s best to make them feel as comfortable as possible by providing the best opportunity to get to know you. I always include links to my blog and social medias as well.
While not all house sits require pet sitting, most do, so it’s helpful to be an animal lover and care for the homeowner’s pet as if it were your own. Animals can become stressed from the absence of of their owners and the presence of a stranger in their home, so it’s best to stick as closely to their daily routines as possible.
Be clean, considerate, & respectful
No one wants to return to a dirty home. Keep the place tidy and clean and just as you found it – if not even better – for the homeowner’s return. Think about cooking a meal or baking cookies or leaving a gift of thanks upon their return.
Not ALL of them are free
Some homeowners will ask you to cover the cost of utilities. I personally never respond to these since I’m on a budget, but I could see it as a possibility for work-from-homers or retirees.
Some require work in return
Taking care of pets, gardening, household maintenance, etc. Each sit is different, so make sure you know what you’re getting into and are comfortable with the trade beforehand.
Communication is key
Communicating with the homeowners on how things are going is important. Sending photos/videos, Skyping, texting and calling are all easy ways to stay in touch and put the homeowner at ease. I often use Whatssap or Viber to keep in touch when the homeowner is out of the country. Make plans beforehand as to how you will communicate in their absence.
Choose the type of sit and length of time you’re comfortable with
I pick house sits for what they will provide depending on my mood at the time. A wilderness escape in the mountains or an apartment complex in the city will provide two very different experiences. Length of time is also important to consider: will you get bored and antsy after a week, or do you want a few months to a year to really sink your teeth in? Choose wisely, as the last thing a homeowner wants while away is the house sitter changing their minds!
Be flexible and adaptable
You’ll never know exactly what you’re getting into until you arrive. It’s good to have a sense of humor and a positive attitude in the case that things don’t turn out the way you expected – on the other hand they might turn out even better!
Use your intuition and common sense
Even though living rent free in exchange for house sitting is exciting, remember to look out for yourself and know exactly what you’re getting into beforehand. I’ve only had one bad house sitting experience where the house was left a disgusting mess and the homeowner turned out to be quite crazy. It was a last minute deal and I didn’t listen to my gut when I should have. To be honest it frightened me away from applying to new house sits for some time – but this is an extreme rarity – most house sits and homeowners are absolute dreams.
Don’t get discouraged
House sitting is highly competitive and you’re often beaten to the punch. Even with all my experiences and references I’m turned down frequently due to the overwhelming amount of responses each homeowner gets. What I’ve found is that the right match always comes your way in due time, leading to weeks, months, or even a year of free accommodation in a great location! Keep trying.
I will admit the very first time I considered house sitting I felt really nervous and awkward about it. But once you get the first one out of the way it only gets easier from there and I can now say I’ve fallen in love with the art of house sitting and the opportunities it provides. It’s a win-win situation for both you and the homeowner – you’re getting a free place to live and they’re getting a free service and the assurance that their home and pets are safe and sound in their absence.
So what are you waiting for? A great house is out there just waiting for you! Don’t hesitate to leave any further questions or concerns in the comments section. I’m here to help. I’d also be interested in hearing about your own personal house sitting experiences if you’ve had them. Check out this post for more ways I’ve managed to travel for so long and read more about my past house sitting experiences.