Who wouldn’t right? Well, for some travellers house-sitting is the answer.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of house-sitting, it is pretty much what it sounds like. A house-sitter agrees with a home owner to stay in their property for a set period of time (ranging from one week to one year in some cases) whilst they are away…for free. In exchange, the house-sitter agrees to carry out the usual household duties – cleaning, weeding, pool maintenance. However, the most common duty is looking after the home owner’s pet(s).
Bearing in mind the nature of a house-sitter’s duties, home owners look for people who are responsible, animal lovers, and who aren’t afraid of a little housework.
If you’re thinking this sounds far too good to be true, partly at least, you might be right. House-sitters may be required to pay a deposit (usually refundable) in case of any damage, pay for utilities during their stay, or even a low rent if the house is in a particularly desirable area or there are not many duties to perform. As you would probably expect, house-sitters will usually pay for their own food and transport. However, as accommodation can be the most expensive part of a trip abroad, house-sitting may still be an affordable alternative to the traditional options.
Also, as you might imagine, home owners can be quite particular about who they allow to live temporarily in their home. It is therefore expected that potential house-sitters will have multiple references and in some cases a criminal records check.
Benefits of house-sitting
For a growing number of travellers, the benefits of house-sitting far outweigh the duties, costs and paperwork mentioned above. This type of arrangement can allow people to stay in accommodation they could not otherwise afford – in fact some people might even save money.
House-sitting also opens up opportunities to experience the area like a local, rather than a tourist. Staying in an area which is not just for tourists enables people to immerse themselves more fully in the local culture. Especially since many of the house-sitting arrangements seem to be for longer than an average holiday, this allows a routine to be formed. For many, house-sitting fits in with the slow-travel ethos and digital nomad lifestyle.
Disadvantages of house-sitting
In terms of drawbacks, I struggled to find any major ones. Due to competition and the need for references, prospective house-sitters often have to wait to be chosen – especially those who are just starting out. With my lawyer head on, I would say it is important to discuss all requirements (of the house-sitter and home owner) and to set these out in a clearly-worded written agreement signed by both parties before you leave. The agreement should set out what exactly the house-sitter is required to pay for and what exactly they are expected to do as their house-sitting duties – and what not to do. If anything seems a bit vague – clarify it before signing to avoid problems during or after the stay.
Are you a house-sitter? Have you had any particularly good or particularly bad experiences?
If so, please leave a comment below.