Tips, Travel Advice

Using Your Network to Housesit Around the World

38 Comments 01 April 2010

Maintaining the House

I’ve been back ‘home’ in the US for 4 months, yet I’m still living out of two suitcases, changing locations every week, finding unique adventures, experiencing new things. I’ve been staying on lakes, farms, and in suburbs; watching cats, dogs, chickens, horses, and pipes (so that they wouldn’t freeze); gathering mail, picking up dry cleaning, taking out garbage and transporting vehicles. All of this adventure was made possible through house sitting.

I know that many people consider house sitting as a way to travel and see the world, so I thought I would give it a go considering I really have no home and wanted to stick around the US for a while keeping my expenses minimal. I first looked into the typical house sitting sites around the web. There is a whole house sitting industry out there – but I quickly found anything which involves travel and free lodging is saturated; everyone wants to do it. The competition can be tough.

I realized not everyone who owns a house and wants someone to watch it looks to these websites to find sitters. In fact, many homeowners probably don’t even know they exist. In addition, most Americans only travel for a week or two at a time and don’t consider hiring a house-sitter through a website service as they think it’s overkill. That’s where I come in; the short term, flexible house sitter!

So, how do you go about house-sitting for short term engagements?

Be Verbal – Physically and Virtually
I decided to use my network of friends and family to put out the word that I was available to house sit, animal sit, vehicle sit or farm sit – all for two simple things; a bed and an internet connection. I’ve learned that one of the great things about being older and well traveled is that you are considered trustworthy. I put out updates on Facebook to all of my friends, I also put out updates in my monthly Ottsworld newsletter . Even in the electronic world of 2010, word of mouth is still very powerful. So when I found myself at lunch with my sister and one of her friends, the topic of my house-sitting came up and that launched into the friend needing someone to look after their house. Often people might not consider house sitting at first. But given the opportunity people prefer to have a trustworthy, referenced individual staying in their house with their pets rather than a neighbor simply looking in on the pets once a day. People feel more comfortable having someone stay with Rover or Fluffy and keeping them company. However, they don’t want strangers staying at their house – that’s why the friend of friends network becomes important; you’re not a complete stranger.

The long winter

Time and Place is Everything:
In order to housesit – you have to put yourself in places where people don’t want to be. For me this meant the Midwest in the winter. In the 90’s I lived in Minnesota for 4 years and was quite familiar with the long, cold winters. These winters make a winter getaway a necessity in the Northern US. In this part of the country, people have to be concerned with freezing pipes and other issues when they leave their house unoccupied. This is how I found myself moving from house to house in and around the Twin Cities and South Dakota for the last 2 1/2 months. In addition, if you have a network of friends that include families you can also take advantage of spring breaks. All schools have their spring breaks at different times and often families use that time to do a weekly get-away; and they leave their pets behind.

Curbside Service:
Parking in long term airport parking can be expensive. That’s where I come in. Not only do I watch the person’s house, but I provide airport pickup and drop off service; utilizing that person’s own car. Sometimes the savings of avoiding airport parking can be worth having me watch a house regardless of pets! I’ve made 12 trips to the Minneapolis airport in the last 2 months – yet I’ve never stepped on a plane myself!

Having a Home Base:
I have to admit – I was pretty lucky as most of my house sitting gigs this winter lined up perfectly on the calendar. I’d go right from one to the other as different families had different weeks for spring break. However there is bound to be a few days where you have no house lined up,which leave you homeless! You need a home base and for me I was lucky I had family in the Twin Cities. Between house-sitting I would stay at my sister’s house for a couple of days until I moved on to the next house. If you don’t have that luxury, then I suggest couch surfing or finding a local hostel or someone’s home at AirBnB for cheaper short term lodging.

Leave a lasting Impression:
While living in Vietnam for the last year, I never had to lift my finger to clean a thing. Cheap house cleaning is one of the great perks of SE Asia. However when house-sitting, my motto is to leave the house in a better condition than when you arrived. My goal is for my visit to appear invisible. I even go as far as bringing my own food to the houses so that I have very little impact on my stay. The last day of my house-sitting is always the cleaning day; sheets, towels, bathrooms, floors, kitchens, and don’t forget to take out the trash. As an added bonus I try to leave the owners a gift – the gift of photography. Since many times I was watching precious pets and animals, I used my time there and my photographic skills to capture their furry loved ones; something the owners seldom do themselves.

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Whether you are in your home country or traveling around the world, you can put these tips to use where-ever you have a network of contacts. Thanks to my travels, my network of friends reach all around the world. In fact, while in Vietnam, I also spent 3 months house sitting for expats. So, if your travels find you nomadic, but looking for something different – you may want to reach out to your family and friends around the world and try out short term house-sitting!

Your Comments

38 Comments so far

  1. Laura says:

    Sherry-
    This is such a good idea to save money and have a place to stay between your travels. Not to mention that it also takes you to new places. Very cool!

  2. I have GOT to try this. Great post with all the info anyone would ever need.

  3. Anil says:

    This never occurred to me, it’s a wonderful idea!

  4. Lisa says:

    Great post Sherry!
    How is it that we have so much in common?
    Through word of mouth I cat sat in Istanbul for 1 1/2 months.
    And then in LA too…a friend’s boss needed someone in the Hollywood Hills. Nice! I too, drove them and picked them up at the airport.
    Good going! Where to next??
    I’m back in Chicago now–i”ll have a futon for you to crash on when i move into my new apt in May!! Either way, see you in NYC in June.
    Lisa

    • admin says:

      Lisa I can’t believe you are getting an apartment of your very own again! Let me know when you need a house sitter! :)
      I don’t have concrete plans to come thru Chicago before TBEX as of now. I will be back n NYC in May and then house sitting in Boston for June/July (NYC for TBEX). After that I’m not completely sure.
      Can’t wait to meet you in person though!

  5. brian says:

    That is fantastic that you were able to do all of that via word of mouth and not use any of the websites set up to put people and houses together.

    Just goes to show if you tell enough people what you want, someone will know how to get it to you.

  6. Erin says:

    Great idea to use your networks to find house sitting assignments. We have recently left the UK to travel indefinitely and house sitting is something we want to try. There seems to be less opportunities in South America (where we are now) but in Central and North America it looks better. Not sure we could cope with those winters though!

    • admin says:

      I would suggest to try to find the expat communities in S. America and see if you can network within them. Often many expats travel and they would like to have someone watch their home short term. Good Luck!

  7. Useful information – don’t underestimate the power of personal contacts and word of mouth. However, I’m noting that you could end up house-sitting in places where most other people would rather not be which makes me realise that it’s not such an easy holiday option. But great for you if you want a comfortable and free base for a while.

  8. Many thnks for writing such a fascinating post. All too often you see the same thing over and over so this makes a refreshing change.

  9. Alison says:

    This is such a great idea. I will definitely try this as a cheaper option for visiting new places. If you’re interested in being in Brussels next summer, I have three cats that need looking after for three weeks :)

    • admin says:

      I’ve never been to Brussels! That actually sounds like fun! You’ve already planned a trip for summer of 2011 – wow – that’s takes some long term planning! :) If you’re serious – I would definitely love to talk more about the opportunity. I have no idea where I’ll be at that time, but can always make a trip to Europe work!

      • Alison says:

        Ah sorry, by next summer I actually meant this coming summer. (Well next summer 2011 as well probably). We don’t have exact dates yet but we usually go home to Canada sometime in August but normally we’re flexible. If you’re interested drop me an email. We’re centrally located and can probably offer a car as well.

  10. Excellent post! I’ve done house sitting for friends who have 7 dogs, so I definitely have a reference. I’ve tried the website to try and get a spot in Mexico, but no luck. I’ll have to figure out who I know there that might know someone……..Thanks for the idea.

  11. Janelle says:

    I love this article! As always, full of brilliant ideas. You continue to inspire me, Sherry.

  12. jessiev says:

    wow, you’ve GOT IT. anyone would be so happy for you to stay!! esp with the incredible pet photos. brava, you!

  13. bessiejulia says:

    Great post, Sherry! I appreciate the inspiration. I’m definitely going to start putting out the feelers for people that might be interested.

    And as it happens, we’re cat/ apt sitting for a friend, and I love your idea of giving the owner photos of their pet. I’ll be photographing Journey – I’m sure they’re treasured gifts!

  14. John Johnson says:

    Thanks for writing about housesitting. I have tried all the housesitting websites and have found http://www.caretaker.org to be the best for housesitting assignments. I recently started using http://www.caretaker.org and have found two housesitting assignments there so far.
    John

    • Sarah Ether says:

      You are also the business owner of said website and are clearly spamming! I’ve used several websites and have found the most comprehensive one to be http://www.trustedhousesitters.com – they have a space on your profile where you can upload references and it’s really easy to search for ‘live’ listings. I did one through them earlier this year to Spain and spent a fab fortnight in a stunning mountain home, no way could i afford to rent that for my hols!

      • Sherry says:

        Thanks for your input – but I dont actually email my friend and contacts directly about being available for housesitting. I simply put it out on my blog for whomever wants to read it and on my Facebook wall post for whomever wants to read it. Therefore I don’t consider it spamming my audience. However as I continue this travel I will look into various house-sitting sites too. Thanks!

        • Sarah Ether says:

          Hi Sherry, confusion! I was referring to John Johnson’s response, not you! Great blog by the way, its making me want to pack my bag and go further afield, just need to figure out how! You’re very inspiring! Thanks

  15. Kelsey says:

    I’m definitely considering trying this during the coming year. We live in Washington DC and for about 4 months this coming year neither my boyfriend nor I will be in the US (though we’ll be in different places). We don’t want to give up our amazing place, nor foist our cats into a new environment with friends, so housesitting may be just the ticket.

    • admin says:

      I’m sure if you throw it out there to your social networks – you’ll find some takers! No one ever paid me to housesit – and I never expected that – but it was a way for them to have their pets and home taken care of and it was a way for me to have a place to stay for a while and explore a new city/country! Good luck and let me know if I can help!

  16. Dalene says:

    Awesome post! Hubby and I are on our second housesitting stint (first one in British Columbia, now we are in Honduras!) and plan to make this our way of life for as long as we can. Have you ever used caretakers.org or trustedhousesitters.com? We haven’t tried those yet, wondering if it is worth signing up for…

    • Sherry says:

      How did you find the current housesitting gig? I haven’t yet used a website service – so far I”ve been lucky and found the opportunities through friends and my website and facebook streams! So I can’t really say if they are worth it or not – sorry!

    • Sarah Ether says:

      Hi there – I’d say def give it a go with http://www.trustedhousesitters.com It’s awesome for finding housesitting opps. Not tried any others yet but so far am enjoying success with this one. I’m probably going to sign up for all of them though so i can get as many chances to housesit so i don’t have to spend out on hostels haha!

  17. Dalene says:

    I’ve gotten both of my jobs thru mindmyhouse.com, although I am also on housecarers.com. This latest one (in the beautiful Caribbean!)…the homeowner actually found us. I think we might just do this for the rest of our lives!

    • Sherry says:

      Sounds fabulous! I will have to check that out when I need to find my next place to sleep! Right now I’m booked up with other travels until October!

  18. Ebi Atawodi says:

    Well if anyone just happens to be mad enough to house sit in Lagos. I have a beautiful minimalist 3 bed flat in Lagos with views of the lagoon. I’m in Paris at the moment and I do a lot of travelling generally! Every time I leave I loose a plant!

    Return flight to Lagos is about £600.

  19. remie says:

    Hi Sherry,

    I’m beginning to love you already! I have always wanted to travel and blog, exactly what you do but then no time yet. Can’t take off from work, need to work as of the moment. I love what you are writing and will be reading everything you write here for sure. I just read about you in MSN and I now wanted to be like you.

    You have been an inspiration, been reading your blog since I log in to work today and I am about to log out after an hour, I will visit your blog once I get home. :)

  20. Evelyn Germaine says:

    I’ve heard about housesitting but I’m also toying with the idea of lawnsitting. You basically get your tent, and camp in people’s backyards and give them free landscaping in exchange. Would that fly?

  21. Oriana says:

    Been there done that! Well nearly. Left home when everyone else did ….. I am now into retirement and have been on my personal journey for 12 years and loving it. I have worked as a ‘carer’ ‘house sitter’ and looked after B&B establishments. Always available to travel to far corners of our world for more.

  22. Can you provide some more information on the site it will helped.
    Thank you.

  23. Charlie says:

    Great advice, especially about the pet photos! I’m currently house sitting in Costa Rica and I take sooo many photos of the animals – they’re so cute :)


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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Where am I and Where am I going?

Wisconsin Cabin -> New Brunswick

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