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We Are House-Sitters.

by J. Money on Thursday, April 18, 2013

old irish manor

(Guest post by Dalene Heck of HeckticTravels.com)

Picture this:

  • 6 weeks in Manhattan in a luxurious 2-storey brownstone.
  • 3 weeks in London in a multi-million dollar home in the heart of Kentish Town.
  • 6 months on the tropical island of Roatan, Honduras in a new 3-bedroom house with amazing views of the Caribbean Sea.

Imagine living there without paying one penny for rent, mortgage or lease payments.

We have discovered the last frontier of budget travel: house-sitting

We joyfully hop around the globe, taking care of others homes in exchange for free rent. Besides the above, we’ve spent 2 months in a 10th century Irish manor, 3 months in rural Turkey, and more. Every few months we wake up in a new locale, exploring exotic cultures, tasting different foods and stretching our foreign tongues.

In the process we’ve saved well over $30,000 in accommodations, and have been able to keep our cost of living so low that we foresee doing this indefinitely. Those 6 months in Honduras? We spent just under $6,000 in total, including our return flights to Canada.

In return we’ve watered plants, mowed lawns, fed pets, and shoveled snow. We’ve disposed of dead chickens, chased dogs through muddy fields, and even tracked a fat escaped cat through the narrow alleys of Harlem. There is really little difference to our previous existence of owning our own home (minus the mortgage and insurance payments, or fixing that broken step or fence). Most of the time we just bask in our good fortune and the decision we made to adopt this lifestyle.

And it’s not just for us digital nomads who are able to work from various locations. We’ve had house-sits for as little as 9 days, which for some would be an ideal vacation period. Allow for some flexibility in your plans and you can find house-sits just around the corner, the country, or the world! Explore a new locale by living like a local and get a perfectly un-touristy experience. Forget stuffy and lackluster hotels as well, find yourself surrounded by the comforts of a home – maybe even with a cat to cuddle with during your downtime.

All the while, save thousands. Book yourself two vacations a year, or go a little farther than you intended. Your travel budget will be well-padded to allow for it.

How to Get Started as a House-Sitter

If you’ve never house-sat before, the best place to start is within your network. Put the word out to family, friends and colleagues on what you are looking for. Chances are that someone is taking a vacation soon. Offer to take care of their home and/or pets in order to bag that first, all-important reference that will help you get many more.

Beyond that, there are several websites set up for exactly this: matching home-owners with house-sitters. We’ve tried nearly all of them, and there are two stand-outs that we currently subscribe to:

  1. TrustedHousesitters.com – The fastest growing site on the web with the best functionality. Their annual membership fee is slightly higher ($75), but is well worth it for the extensive number of house-sits available worldwide (they are heavy on European sits, but growing rapidly in the USA and Australia/New Zealand)
  2. MindMyHouse.com – Only $20 for an annual membership, with a well laid-out website and a decent number of house-sitting opportunities.

The best part about these sites is that you are free to peruse them before you buy a membership.

My husband and I have also put our extensive house-sitting experience into an eBook. It’s jam packed with information that includes examples of successful profiles and application letters, tips on how to be a good house-sitter, as well as a membership discount to their favourite website that almost covers the cost of the eBook! You can check it out here: How to Become a House-Sitter.

Other Things to Consider:

House-sitting is quickly becoming a hot topic for would-be vacationers. Competition is getting fierce, so when getting ready to apply for your dream gig, make sure you keep the following in mind:

  • Each website will allow you to write a profile – your face to all potential home-owners. Make it killer. Highlight your experience as a previous house-sitter or home owner. Exude your love for all sorts of fur-babies (if applicable), mention special skills like your expertise with foreign languages, and use lots and lots of enthusiasm in your draft.
  • Apply to each job specifically, taking tidbits from their listing and incorporating them into your application letter. Make it personal!
  • Attractive house-sits go fast. Being one of the first to apply can greatly increase your chances. Sign-up for email alerts in your desired areas and then make it speedy.
  • References, references, references. Make them good. Ask former landlords, veterinarians who can attest to your love of pets, bosses and colleagues. Ask those who can best vouch for your reliability and trustworthiness.

We are always surprised that more people don’t know about house-sitting as a means to seeing the world in such an inexpensive way. Not to mention the potential for experiences you’d never get from a tour. It has become our favourite way to travel and we are sure it could be for you too!

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Dalene and Pete Heck have been traveling the world non-stop since 2009. They run their travel website at www.HeckticTravels.com, telling readers about all their adventures from abroad. They also have an eBook out on how to house-sit as well. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/hecktictravels and twitter @hecktictravels.

(That pic above is the 10th century Irish manor Dalene and Pete house-sat in!)


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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Greg@ClubThrifty April 18, 2013 at 7:32 am

Brilliant idea! I wish I would have thought of this when I was younger. I’m afraid there won’t be too many people wanting me to housesit with two little ones.

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2 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Greg – you would be surprised! I know several families that have been successful in getting multiple house-sitting jobs. It can be a little harder, for sure, but it is definitely possible!

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3 Christopher @ This that and the MBA April 18, 2013 at 8:22 am

Wow this sounds like it would be cool….I agree with greg we have 2 little ones as well, I do not think we would get many takers. It would be nice to get away by myself :-)

I heard people do it for friends and relatives, I had no idea there was a market out there like this for it. Very interesting.

I am sure you have some interesting stories…

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4 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Heh. Interesting stories – OH YEAH. :)

Like I told Greg, I know several families who have been successful in getting multiple house-sits. It will be harder to find ideal opportunities, but it is definitely possible.

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5 J. Money April 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm

That’s what makes me nervous about it all too – roaming around w/ a baby. But it would surely make for an adventure!

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6 Michelle April 18, 2013 at 8:33 am

Very interesting! I have thought about this before but I don’t know why I never looked into it any further. Sounds like a great way to stay at an awesome place. Great post :)

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7 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I hope you look into it Michelle! It really is our favourite way to travel (and saves us a boatload of money, of course).

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8 John S @ Frugal Rules April 18, 2013 at 8:40 am

Wow, that sounds really neat. I would love to do something like that and would just love the possibility of so much diversity. However, I join Greg & Chris with three little ones. I doubt we’d be asked back after staying for a few days. ;)

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9 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Haha! Well, if the destructive factor on your three kids is high, than maybe! But I do know families who have had success in getting multiple house-sits!

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10 Elvin Peria April 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

This is great idea. I’m surprised that such concept exists and with a lot of websites available too. I wonder if this also exist for Asian countries. I guess this means Google time. :)

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11 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Elvin, Asian house-sits are a little harder to find, but they are definitely out there. In our eBook we break down which website is the best by region of the world! But it is a great idea to start searching through several house-sitting sites, to get a feel of which ones look suitable for you!

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12 Jacob@CashCowCouple April 18, 2013 at 10:03 am

My wife and I have looked into house sitting before. Sounds like a sweet gig. Get to see the world without having to pay for housing. Heck, we might give it a try before we have children…

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13 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm

It is definitely a great way to see the world! And some house-sits are kid friendly as well, so you can keep the trend going. :)

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14 My Financial Independence Journey April 18, 2013 at 10:17 am

When I was in grad school, one of the professors would hire students as house sitters for several weeks while she went on vacation. The pay was great plus there were some other goodies involved, like food and booze. The catch was that the was nuts, so only a handful of students were brave enough to take the job.

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15 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Haha! We’ve had to deal with a couple of nutty home-owners as well. :)

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16 Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget April 18, 2013 at 10:34 am

These things would be nice:
1. Own a home.
2. Take month(s)-long (6 months?!!) vacations/excursion.
3. Necessitate that someone watch your house for them in your absence.

Admittedly, I’m not all that familiar with house sitting. I’m definitely intrigued, but I’m mostly just flabbergasted that a need exists. Then that flabbergast-ation turns into depression that other people have more money than I do. :)

We probably missed our window after acquiring a mini human and a cat, but I’m still interested in reading up on it more. Thanks for opening the eyes of this naive American.

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17 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Hey Johnny – most home-owners we’ve dealt with are retirees who have a little more time and money on their hands. :) And mostly it is people with pets, as it’s cheaper to have someone come and house-sit then to put their pets in kennels (which is also much less stress for the pets). We’ve house-sit for as short as 9 days, so it is for regular people vacations too. :)

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18 Canadian Budget Binder April 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm

My mum and dad do this around the UK only but Love it. I’m sure I’ll blog about it one day. They are retired but they house sit in huge mansions and castles for the rich who don’t have a staff or a staff that handles other areas of the home. It’s the next best thing to vacationing they said. It doesn’t pay much but they do it more to get out of the house when they are not travelling Europe.

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19 Dalene April 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I once read somewhere that someone had house-sit around the UK only for two years straight in order to not pay rent. :) There are SO many available there, it is a real hot-bed. Glad your Mum and Dad are enjoying it!

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20 J. Money April 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I would LOVE to house-sit a castle!!! Man that would be fun!!

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21 @debtblag April 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

This sounds incredible. That’s really the only contribution I’ve got. And I thought I was getting a good deal by using AirBNB :)

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22 Dalene April 19, 2013 at 2:24 am

We like to use places like AirBNB, Wimdu, etc. when we’re in between house-sits. ;)

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23 Crystal April 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Sounds amazing! I don’t like travelling that much, but I am totally suggesting this to my more roaming-friendly friends! :-)

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24 Jake Erickson April 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm

This is incredible. I’ve never thought about house sitting in order to get free rent on a vacation. This sounds like a great idea if you’re retired or your job allows you to be anywhere. Neat story!

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25 KK @ Student Debt Survivor April 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Sounds great. I didn’t realize there were actual professional websites for this sort of thing. When I was in college a family contacted the career office looking for a house sitter. I figured, why not? When I got to there home it was a gorgeous 5 bedroom home with an in-ground inside pool and hot tub in Newport. Talk about a score!

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26 J. Money April 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Sweet!!

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27 Michelle April 18, 2013 at 11:38 pm

I love this!! It’s so timely as I almost got scammed in a housesitting scheme. Really. But, I am really interested in pursuing this in the future and will use the information that was provided. Thanks for a great post!

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28 Dalene April 19, 2013 at 2:26 am

Scammed? Eesh, sorry to hear that Michelle, glad you managed to avoid it! One of the biggest things about house-sitting is trust – you gotta trust your gut, and only take a job if you feel like you can trust the home-owner and vice versa. Good luck! :)

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29 Mike Carlson April 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

This one’s looks so cool for a job. You get to have a free rent while on travel. Wish I could try this one someday.

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30 Shafi April 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm

We tried that once. When we came back, we found our house ransacked as if a tornado had passed through and we live in the Northeast.

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31 JC April 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm

My hubby and I are currently housesitting right now.. We’ve been there since August and will be moving out in June/July when our house is ready. We would have never been able to buy a house if we didn’t have this opportunity so it worked out perfectly. We save $1,350 a month just in rent

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32 J. Money April 20, 2013 at 10:18 am

Wow good for you guys!! That is so freakin awesome.

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33 KC @ genxfinance April 30, 2013 at 9:13 am

That’s ingenious! I’ve always wanted to travel, see the world, and it would be great not to pay for the accommodation.

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34 Lauren@GreenGlobalTrvl May 16, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I have always wanted to house sit as a way to travel the world. What a great idea! However, someone must really trust the individual who will be staying in one’s multi million dollar home for months. I bet the experience must be unimaginably great! Good luck in future house sitting and thanks for the tips!

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35 J. Money May 20, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Yeah, that would worry me too actually – a TON of trust is involved!

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