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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Mellor

What is House Sitting?

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

An introduction to the cheapest way to travel

 

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Simply put, house sitting is the "unicorn" of traveling. Stay at someone’s house, usually taking care of their pets and plants, without money exchanging hands.


Photo of a belltower in front of the town and ocean in the background.
Taken at a housesit in Scalea, Italy.

In my eyes, house sitting has hit a “second wave.” Although it’s always existed in some form whether in the back of magazines or word of mouth, more people than ever now know about it. Each year, more and more websites pop up to help homeowners and house sitters alike find connections. More than that, it seems like everyone is talking about it, usually in the same breath as “budget traveling.” Or they’re writing books (ahem) and articles on it, like this Guardian article written in the first year I went traveling.


So, what is it?


House sitting is exactly what it sounds like. You’re taking care of someone’s house, and everything that would normally entail. Walking their pets, feeding them, occasionally bathing them if it’s a longer house sit. Watering the plants is also a typical chore. As is bringing in the mail. There are some house sits on farms that will ask you to take care of farm animals. If you have the training, these can be an amazing opportunity. If a house sit on a farm appeals to you, there’s a good chance you’ll get the job since these house sits will typically get very few applicants.


I want to urge those of you that read this, if you don’t like animals, house sitting may not be for you. Almost all house sits have animals, and if you’re not an “animal person” or you don’t want to walk a dog three times a day while you’re trying to explore Rome or Paris, it’s probably best to give it a pass.


Can this pay me?


Typically, no money will exchange hands. We have house sat a few times where the owner leaves “incidental” money that could be used on things like gas money or having the grass cut. Apart from that, the house sitter is getting a place to stay, and the homeowner is getting someone to watch their house and animals.


There will be times that a homeowner asks you to cover costs like utilities. (If you aren’t from Europe or haven’t rented here, utilities typically run 150-300 euros a month. This depends on country and location within that country.) Darcy and I don’t take house sitting jobs like that. We do understand that someone wants to cover their costs and not be left with a huge heating bill. In fact, we have seen some ads that specifically ask for Americans not to heat the house past a certain temperature because of the cost of gas and Americans' relative ignorance of the heating costs.


The way we see it, a decent kennel or “pet hotel” will run between $25-$50 a night where we are from. Since we only house sit for a minimum of one month, we find that we are saving the homeowner a fair amount of money. So we tend to have philosophical differences when it comes to also paying the homeowner for the pleasure of staying at their home.


Where can I sign up?


Later, I will go more in-depth into each of these websites. To get you started, here’s a list:



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