One of the questions people ask me the most about being a digital nomad is how we constantly find new places to live. I have already talked about my general strategy to find long-term accommodation around the globe in an earlier blog post. Today and want to explain one concept of this method in more detail: House Sitting Abroad. Maybe you have heard about it before but weren’t really considering it as a potential option.
One thing I can tell you: It is a great option! In my opinion house sitting is massively underrated because it’s such a fantastic way to find accommodation while traveling. Learn what this method is about, how you can profit from it and how you can find the best places for you in this article.
What is House Sitting?
When a person has to leave the apartment or house for a while, for example because of a vacation, he or she often needs someone to take care of the property. These caretakers are called house sitter. A house sit can have any length – from just a weekend to weeks or months in a row. It can be a stylish city apartment or a cozy country house.
Usually, house sitters get to live in the house for free and are allowed to use all or most amenities the place has to offer. In return, the house sitter has to fulfill certain duties which can include:
- Taking care of pets, e.g. walk the dogs, feed them, or wash them
- Watering plants
- Performing smaller maintenance work, e.g. lawns, or controlling pool filter systems
- Readdressing the mail
- Keeping trespassers off the property
It is always up to you and the homeowner on what you agree on. In some houses you don’t have to do anything but to be present. Other places require a bit more effort.
The places I have sat so far required me to take care of cats and dogs, accept mail and water the plants. So very simple tasks that you can easily do next to your remote job.
What’s in there for the Homeowner?
Just in case you are still wondering why people would let strangers into their house and live there. For free!
Well, basically for the above mentioned benefits that you will get. If they are away for a few days, weeks or even months, they need someone to take care of their property and pets. Family and friends might live somewhere else or they have jobs and can’t stay in the house every day.
A perfect solution is to let someone in who can live and work from everywhere. Someone who likes to see new places, meet new people, enjoys a free stay and likes to take care of houses and pets.
In addition, if they keep the house empty, potential housebreakers might notice that there is no light on and no one is at home. So having someone live in the place, reduces the risk of house breaking a lot.
What are the Benefits of House Sitting Abroad?
I’m a huge fan of house sitting and I think it’s a great way for digital nomads and long-term travelers to find accommodation. Here are some of the advantages:
- It’s for free! Especially, when you are just starting out as a digital nomad and are on a tight budget, this is the perfect way for you to save a lot of money. A friend of mine managed to house sit for 9 months within one year. Just imagine how much money she saved!
- You get a fully equipped house. Don’t underestimate that! I have stayed in so many places where I had to buy stuff like duvets and pillows or cutlery and pots for only a short stay, like 5 weeks – super annoying! You even get to enjoy things that you normally wouldn’t find in a holiday flat, let alone in a hotel hotel, for instance a blender a washing machine.
- You have internet. The most important thing for a digital nomad. In many long-term rentals you will have to organize your own internet access. Of course, you can always buy mobile data for your phone. However, this will soon get expensive and it might not be fast enough for your needs. And for broadband in your new place: Many providers offer 12-months plans only and they need up to a couple of weeks to install it. Often they are just not flexible enough for the life of a digital nomad.
- You live like a local. You move to a new country for many reasons. One of them is surely that you want to get to know the local culture. To live like a local is a perfect starting point to do so. How do their houses look like? What’s important to them? What are their daily routines? These are all insights that you won’t be able to get in a usual rental apartment.
- Experience new areas. You won’t stay in the typical touristy areas but get to see completely new city districts and places you normally wouldn’t go to. Be off the beaten track and experience the authentic local life.
- Take care of pets. Yes, that is a huge benefit for me. I grew up with pets and have always been surrounded by them. Being a digital nomad makes it hard to have little fluffy friends with you and I really miss that. So I thoroughly enjoy every minute I get to spend with them. Plus, pets keep you active, healthy and happy. Reason enough to spend more time with them.
- You meet new people. For one, you meet the homeowners and will probably get an extensive introduction to their home. You will also most likely get to meet curious neighbors who want to get to know the person from abroad. And if you want to, I’m sure many homeowners are happy to connect you with friends, just in case you need help with something.
What are the Challenges of House Sitting Abroad?
As with everything, house sitting can have its challenges, too. Here are the potential downsides:
- Competition can be tough. House sitting abroad is a constantly growing concept. Unfortunately, there are often way more house sitters than there are house owners. Especially in popular cities it can be harder to score your desired house sit opportunity.
- You have responsibilities. Something that you can’t argue with. When you house sit a place you have to do whatever your duties are. You can’t simply go on a weekend trip and leave the dog behind. The home owners trust you to take good care of their house and pets. Whether you always feel like it or not.
Where to Find House Sitting Places?
Luckily, there are quite a few websites out there today, that connect home owners with potential house sitters. I have tested some in the past 10 years and liked TrustedHousesitters and HouseCarers by far the most.
TrustedHousesitters launched in 2010 and has since grown into the potentially biggest community of house sitters and home owners. They offer house sits all over the world and let you filter your search results for countries, dates and pet types you like to take care of.
HouseCarers is one of oldest players on the market. They started connecting home owners and house sitters in 2000 and have now an extensive worldwide house sitting directory. You can filter for countries, regions and the period you want to stay.
Both are very popular and well reputed house sitting websites. You have to pay an annual fee to be able to get in touch with potential home owners, which is 119 USD and 50 USD, respectively. That might sound like a lot of money for a membership but trust me, it’s worth it!
Just imagine what you would spend when you had to rent a place somewhere. Depending on the city maybe 400-1.200 USD a month? So if you only do a few house sitting days a year, this money was well invested and saved you so much in rental expenses!
How to Become a House Sitter?
As mentioned before, house sitting abroad is getting more and more popular. To find and get accepted to great places you should follow these steps:
- First you need to start by building a great profile. List all your experiences with pets or house sitting. Let people know why you are qualified to take care of their homes and mention your characteristics. Make sure to make it as personal as possibly. Potential home owners want to get a feeling for what kind of person you are. They need to like you.
- Include the right photos. You don’t need to be in a suit and tie. But photos of you in a bikini at a busy pool party might look like you are only interested in fun and can’t handle the responsibilities and duties. Happy photos with pets are always great to show that you like animals and they like you, too. If possible, upload a video of you. That helps a lot in gaining trust!
- Add a police check. Although it is often not required, many home owners might feel better, having that credibility. In many countries you only need to go to your next police station and ask for it or you can even do it online. In the UK it costs about 10 GBP. So it’s not that much of an investment.
- Another great advice regarding your profile comes from fellow digital nomad Kristie, who is a frequent house sitter for TrustedHousecarers:
“This isn’t like a resume where you just list your skills and attributes. If people are going to ask you in to their home to stay there without them and trust you with their pets then they need to trust and like you. Let them know about your personality, your interests, your background. Think of this site more like a dating site rather than a job search site, let potential sitters get to know you a bit.”
- Build up references. This is hard in the beginning. It’s easier for homeowners to trust sitters who already have great reviews. It is a good idea to apply for house sitting opportunities that are normally not of interest to you, either because they are only a couple of days or because they are in a city you are not interested in. Your chances of scoring this sit might be bigger and the good reference you get (hopefully) will help you a lot in getting better positions later on.
- Be quick and write a personal application. As soon as you see a new opening that you like, apply for it! Don’t send out standard emails, though. Make sure you include details about the position, for example the pet’s name (“My family had a Germany Sheppard, too, when I was little so I’m very familiar with this breed. I can’t wait to meet your Henry.”).
- Be communicative. Don’t sit around and wait forever to respond to messages. Also be willing and prepared for video calls with Skype or such so homeowners can get to know you even better.
- Be patient. Especially in the beginning, when you don’t have any references to show or apply for popular locations, it is can take longer to get a place. Don’t be discouraged. This is normal and it will soon get faster after you’ve been to a few places.
- Make sure you have a visa that lasts your entire house sitting stay. It would be a nightmare if you score a position for 3 months and after 4 weeks you realize that you can’t extend your visa and have to leave the country. This would be very irresponsible so make sure your visa is sorted.
- Check out the location and logistics. Some house sitting options are right in a city center, others are not. If that house is in the middle of nowhere and there is not public transport available, no car or bike you can use, you have find out how to get there and you have to be ok with being stuck at the place for the entire time.
- Before you agree on a house sit, clarify every potential payment. Who pays for utilities? What about maintenance costs? Pet food? In my experience the home owner takes care of these expenses (unless you keep the shower and heater running 24/7, of course). But make sure to talk about it early enough.
- When you move in, one of the most important things to find out are emergency numbers. If the pet gets sick you need to know who you can contact. Or if the toilet breaks. Who is the plumber you should call? Get these numbers!
- It is a great idea to stay in contact with the house owners, during your stay, too. Send them photos of their happy dogs playing in the park or their blooming orchids. Knowing that everything is alright and you have the situation under control gives them a good feeling, which will increase your chances of a great review.
- Something that you don’t have to do but I think it’s a very nice idea: When the house owners return, place a bunch of flowers on the kitchen table and buy some basic food (bread, fruits, maybe have a tasty dish prepared). This is a small way of saying “Thank you for letting me stay in your wonderful house and welcome back home!”. And again, it increases your chances of a nice review.
Rock Your First House Sit
As you can see, house sitting abroad is a brilliant option for digital nomads and long-term travelers. You get to live like a local in a fully equipped house and don’t even have to pay a single dollar for it! The duties you have are usually very small and sometimes more pleasure than work.
There are two websites to find house sitting opportunities, which I can highly recommend from my personal experience: TrustesHousesitters and HouseCarers. Both have been around for many years and have an extensive directory of open house sitting options around the world.
Click here to create an account with TrustedHousesitters today!
Click here if you want to find places with HouseCarers!
Make sure your online profile is informative and charismatic. If you send out individual and unique applications and rock online communication with your potential homeowner, you will surely have your first place to sit in no time.
A truly fantastic way of traveling on a budget and getting to know the local culture, all while working in your online job as usual.
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