If you’re wondering how to get started as an International House Sitter, this page has advice and recommendations based upon our years of experience!
We’ve Been International House Sitters for Several Years
When we decided that we wanted to travel more, the big question was how to do it inexpensively as we are far from wealthy. Housesitting has been a good answer. By exchanging our services for a place to stay we are able to significantly reduce our living expenses while getting to know other places around the world. Since we began this “journey” four years ago, we’ve visited better than 40 countries caring for homes and pets in many countries including China, Fiji (one of our favorites), United States, Belgium, England, Germany and even spent four months in Australia. We are writing this guide from Panama where we’ve put together a string of three housesits giving us a continuous six month stay in the wonderful mountain village of Boquete.
Like any other endeavor, experience generates success. With so many housesits under our belt, we are finding more and more of our housesits are from referrals of other housesitters we’ve gotten to know and from homeowners we have sat for. We are frequently asked back by homeowners we’ve worked with.
House sitting does not have to be full time. In fact, most house sits you find listed on housesitting websites are for a week or less. Just right for a short kind of “busman’s holiday“.
We are frequently asked “How do you do it?” and that has been the inspiration for this page . . . to have one place with plenty of information and links to help those who have an interest in learning more about housesitting.
What Does a House Sitter Do?
The first thing to understand if you’re wondering how to get started as an international house sitter is what a house sitter does. Simply, a house sitter is on site at someone’s home while they are away, caring for any pets, keeping things tidy, providing a presence and oversight during the absence. The nature and scope of responsibilities are as different as there are different types of properties: from a city apartment with a single kitty to a sprawling estate with numerous animals.
Many a traveler will get started as a house sitter in order to experience a location in more depth than a traditional vacation or short stay might allow. There is appeal to living like a local and trying different ways on for size. House sitters are generally animal lovers: they truly enjoy getting to know the pets at a sit, providing care and companionship while the pet’s main human is away.
Sometimes you are not just sitting pets. One recent housesit had us taking care of goats and chickens in addition to a dog, cat and parrot. It was actually quite easy and good fun. Plus the daily fresh eggs were marvelous. Other times, like this current five month sit in Panama, there are no pets. Our responsibilities are to oversee the gardeners two days a week and ensure the property is secure.
House sitters can be full-time or part-time, depending upon their own circumstances. Many do not retain their own residence, and are nomadic travelers. Some prefer longer term sits, and others like to help out on a short term basis. Some will travel long distances to do a sit and experience a different culture, others prefer to stay local.
Is it Accurate to Think of House Sitting as Free Lodging?
Many people who love to travel look for information on how to get started as a house sitter because they’ve heard it’s a great way to travel for free. But this assumption isn’t technically true. While it is true that house sitters do not pay for accommodation, but the correct way to think of it is that you are providing a service in exchange. There is value to what you do. The largest online site serving homeowners and house sitters – Trusted Housesitters (US) – doesn’t allow any monetary exchange between the parties.
There are house sitters who do choose this as a career for which they are paid. We prefer a different relationship: we don’t ask to be paid (although we do accept tips) and in exchange for staying at someone’s home and caring for their pets, we receive a place to live with whatever amenities are associated with it. This is a shift in thinking for some people which may be a bit of a challenge to grasp. We do not wish to be employees or independent contract workers (and in many instances, immigration issues would arise were we to accept financial compensation); we are more like visitors with responsibilities. Our job is to maintain whatever routines are already established with the pets and act as a homeowner surrogate on matters pertaining to them and the home itself.
Staying in someone’s home and caring for their beloved pets is a bigger responsibility than you might imagine. The very first day we were on our very first international house sit in Fiji, a bush fire threatened the property. We returned to that sit several times, the last of which we were on site during Cyclone Winston, which slammed the islands with Category 5 strength. When the pets and the premises are in your care, it’s vastly different than spending time on vacation at a resort where you don’t have to worry about anything except when your next cocktail will arrive.
Is There Any Training or Preparation on How to Become a House Sitter?
Yes, fortunately! Our friends, Nat and Jodie, have an outstanding set of courses at their House Sitting Academy. We highly recommend you take this course. We did.
The benefits are numerous: you’ll get a comprehensive basis of knowledge and skills to differentiate yourself from the big numbers of other potential house sitters, and you’ll have access to an Inner Circle of Academy graduates who support each other and refer awesome international house sits among the small group. Learn more here.
How Can I Get Started as an International House Sitter Quickly?
There’s a quick start option available with the House Sitting Academy called “Setup to Stand Out.” This is a good option if you’re raring to go with mini-courses and checklists to help you create your house sitting profile and video, gather your references, select a platform and evaluate potential house sits.
The Setup to Standout kit provides just the right balance of information to ensure you get started as an international house sitter with confidence that you’ll choose just the right house sit. You’ll quickly get up to speed, and then you can build on your base of knowledge later with the Academy if you prefer. Click here to learn more.
Is it True that International House Sitting is Super Competitive?
International House Sitting has become a lot more competitive since we first began several years ago. The word is definitely out! But. . . that shouldn’t deter you from jumping in. The truth is that many potential sitters aren’t properly prepared in terms of experience or outlook to be successful at international house sitting over the long term. That’s good news for those who can bring a mature outlook, draw upon their life skills, and take the responsibilities seriously. You’ll find that there are many platforms where good opportunities are advertised in which you can stand out if you’re properly prepared.
What if I am Unsure About Becoming an International House Sitter?
You might want to test the waters with a series of short term sits close to home. This is always a good way to gain experience and see whether things are a fit. When we first started out, we took a local sit on the island of Kauai, where we were living at the time. It was a good experience and we were able to land our first international sit with knowing confidence that we had a quality reference to give potential homeowners during the application process. We went on to book two more international sits from there in short order. And the rest, as they say, is history . . .
How Do I Apply For a Housesit
As full time housesitters, finding housesits that meet our timing, needs and geography is obviously very important for us. To give us as many options as possible, we have joined all the major housesitting websites (Some are linked below). These memberships generally run from $20 – $100 per year and are where you will find most housesitting opportunities across the world. Take a look!
Once you have joined a site you will be able to contact homeowners who have posted the dates, responsibilities and locations of their housesits. We have a somewhat standardized introductory eMail we send that lets a homeowner know who we are and that we are interested. They will also be able to review your profile which you completed upon purchasing a site membership. If they like what they see, they will write back.
From there, we do a video interview via Skype or other service. This interview is for both parties to get know each other and feel confident about any arrangement. We like to feel some sort of chemistry between us and the homeowners. It can also be an opportunity to meet the pets if there are any and have the homeowner give you a quick property tour if they have a portable devise. Usually they do and they are happy to show you around.
More Resources for International House Sitting
Here are some additional resources we recommend. By no means is this a complete list, but you’ll be able to get a good start in the community of international house sitters, and expose yourself to what could be some very rewarding international sits. Best of luck!