How to get free rent house sitting

How to get free rent house sitting

Maybe you’re dying to travel and are starting to dream about the places you’d see, sights you’d visit and foods you’d try, but one question niggles at the back of your mind…how the heck can you afford traveling the world?!  One answer: house sitting.

But what exactly is a house sitter?  What do they do, what are the expectations of both home owner and sitter, and how can you get started?  We’ll answer all those questions and more in this article, and point you to resources with more in-depth information. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is a house sitter, and what do they do?
  • Who can be a house sitter?
  • Why house sit?
  • How to become a house sitter
  • Tips for a positive experience and what to expect
  • Wrap up
How to get free rent house sitting

What is a house sitter, and what do they do?

House Sitting Magazine has a great definition of the house sitter and their role.

Essentially, a house sitter lives rent-free (by mutual agreement) in exchange for taking on house sitting responsibilities such as taking care of pets, performing general maintenance duties and ensuring everything runs smoothly – just as if the owner was at home.

House sitting is the practice where a homeowner entrusts their property, possessions and pets for a period of time to one or more “house sitters”.

This arrangement should leave the homeowner, the house sitter and pets happy. If expectations of both parties are clearly stated and met, there should be no problem – and by providing reliable, consistent customer service, you’ll probably leave with a glowing reference and maybe even an invite to return.

Who can be a house sitter?

Excellent house sitters have certain personal qualities that make them good at their jobs. MapTrotting has a detailed list of the seven traits all pro house sitters have in common, but in a nutshell, they’re:

  • Great communicators and respectful
  • Travellers or nomads who love exploring the world (and whose full-time jobs permit them to do so)
  • Reliable, neat and trustworthy
  • Animal lovers or pet owners (if you opt to sit for clients who have pets you’ll be watching)
  • You’re probably a good candidate if you have these qualities, and can use them to your advantage when filling out your online profile and meeting clients (more on that later).
How to get free rent house sitting

Why house sit?

There are many reasons people choose to house sit, including the fact that you get to travel rent-free, meaning you save on accommodations and travel at a slower pace than you would normally – you’d actually get a chance to unpack and meet new people! Plus, the barriers to entry are low. You don’t need to earn a degree – you just need the right personality, a police check and a couple of references. “Sits”, or assignments, typically last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

How to become a house sitter

Do your homework

As Of Life + Lisa notes, becoming a house sitter is a simple process – the main qualifications are that you’re an honest, professional and respectful individual who’s trustworthy enough to be left in charge of people’s property and/or pets. You can boost your credibility by:

  • Creating a well-written resume with a solid list of references
  • Getting a full background check
How to get free rent house sitting

Join a house sitting website

Join a house sitting website, where you pay an annual membership to search for sitting gigs. Popular sites include:

House Sitters Canada 




Thrifty Nomads has a comprehensive roundup of house sitting sites, from international to region and country-specific, and costs to join each.

When you create your profile, keep in mind you want to show off your personality, but also present yourself as professional and trustworthy. The old storytelling mantra of ‘show, don’t tell’ applies here, says Natalie Sisson, the entrepreneur and adventurer behind the Suitcase Entrepreneur.

Tip: New to housesitting?

The key words here are “transferable skills”. What skills, qualities or hobbies do you have from years of work and volunteer experience that homeowners would find valuable? Have you taken care of pets (many gigs include pet care)? Are you handy around the house? Ever looked after a friend’s place while they’re away? Do you have a passion for gardening?

Keep in mind that applying for house sitting gigs is like applying for a job, and many of the same rules apply:

  • Write personalized emails that show you read the listing thoroughly and spell out why you’re the best candidate.
  • Be quick to apply and respond.
  • Go the extra mile to impress your host so you get a fantastic recommendation.
How to get free rent house sitting

Round up references

Even if you’re new to house sitting, you can still get skill and character references that will wow your hosts from:

  • Friends who have hired you to pet sit (or who’ve agreed to serve as references in exchange for your services)
  • Airbnb hosts, landlords, etc.
  • Staff at organizations you’ve volunteered for
  • Employers and colleagues
  • House Sitting Magazine has published an in-depth guide packed with information on how to get your first house sitting references.

Arrange an interview and look at photos

Look out for your own comfort and safety as well. Always have a Skype interview so you can talk to the owner face to face as you’ll both have questions and want to get to know one another. Ask for photos of the house if you haven’t seen any yet, and be mindful of red flags and deal breakers. Visa-Vis Travel published a great post about how to prepare for a house sitting interview.

Tips for a positive experience

As fun as house sitting is, remember your commitment: you’ve promised to take care of your host’s property, possessions and beloved pets. They’ve often based important (expensive) plans on your arrival and are hoping for a hassle-free experience just as much as you are. Here’s how to make that happen:

Plan for what you’ll tell customs officials at the border.

Nomadic Matt brings up an important point: for international house sits, it pays to plan ahead since some customs officials may give you a hard time as the gig might be considered “work” that a local could do. He suggests mentioning you’re visiting friends and even preparing a story about how you two met, just in case they call to check.

Use tools to define responsibilities and expectations

If a problem crops up between you and your host, it will most likely be because of a mismatch regarding expectations. Don’t let that happen – clarify everything from dates of the arrangement, tasks you’ll perform and how many pets you’ll take care of to what you should do if accidents happen or pets need medical care.

There are all kinds of tools out there to help you make sure your house sitting experience goes smoothly, from templates for agreements  or Book of the House, which contains all the details of your home and expectations. See example checklists here and here.

Schedule time with the homeowner before they leave.

Book some face time (ideally, a day) before the homeowner’s departure date so you can meet in person, they can show you the home and where things are and you can ask last-minute questions. Travel blog Notes of Nomads has a rundown of questions you should clarify and tips  for before, during and after an assignment.

Get contact details for the home owner and one or two emergency contacts.

You don’t want to be searching the house for these should you need them if you have questions or anything urgent pops up.

Clarify which amenities you’ll have access to and which you’ll need to pay for.

This can vary widely from host to host. If you’re lucky, sometimes you’ll have food taken care of and be offered access to the homeowner’s fridge while you’re sitting, or even access to a vehicle, but this is not a given, and you’ll often need to contribute to utility bills and pay for your food. Always check with them about what’s okay to use and what’s off limits.

Send regular updates

Notes of Nomads suggests negotiating a time for you to send an update  via email – perhaps a day or two after they first arrive at their destination, then once a week after that for longer term assignments, to let the homeowner know everything is okay. Then keep the agreed schedule.

How to get free rent house sitting

Wrap up

Traveling the world and living rent-free in a different home every few weeks or months might sound like an unachievable dream, but it’s not! If you can put together a solid application and list of references, and are willing to put the work into finding a suitable match, house sitting could be the solution you’re looking for. If you remember to clearly define everyone’s responsibilities, plan for hiccups you can anticipate and send regular updates to the homeowner to stay in touch and put their mind at ease, you should be on your way to a five-star recommendation – and more house sits!

Learn more about how to get free rent house sitting

How to use Nomador to house-sit around the world – Hike Bike Travel 

How to find house-sitting jobs – even paid ones – The Penny Hoarder

Bad experience house sitting – this may happen to you – Life’s Endless Adventures

How to travel without spending a dime: 12 ways to make your travel dreams happen 

Proven tips to get your first house sitting job – Great Big Globe 

Where’s the best place to find house sitting jobs? – Nomad Wallet

House sitting: Everything you need to know – Zero to Travel 

How to prepare for your house sitting interview – Nomador 

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