House Sitting – A Beginner’s Guide

house sittingHouse sitting is a very simple concept: homeowners (and often pet owners as well) invite somebody to live in their home and look after it while they’re away.

In the past, most house sitting was done by ‘house sitting agencies’ which charge a daily fee for looking after houses with additional fees for any other responsibilities such as look after pets. The internet has changed how house sitting is done and these days most people who house sit do it in exchange for free accommodation, allowing them to live in another part of the world for a week, a month or a year at very little cost to themselves.

Typical Assignments

Looking at the latest housesits on gives a good indication of what a typical house sit involves.

Most house sits last for 2-3 weeks while the home owners are away on holidays. The vast majority involve some pet minding work, such as dog walking or cat feeding and perhaps looking after some household plants.

Most people take on a house sitter because they don’t want to put their pets in a kennel or cattery. This isn’t just because they feel that kind of lifestyle won’t give them enough exercise, but they want someone to look after their pets who will give them a lot of one-on-one attention. As such, if you decide to take on a house sit with pets, you should expect to spend a lot of time playing with them and you should expect these pet to want a lot of attention of you. If you’re not a serious pet lover, then perhaps this lifestyle isn’t for you.

house sitting

Medium to longer term house sits often don’t involve pet care, the owners are simply concerned about leaving their house vacant for such a long period of time and want somebody to look after it. Most home insurance policies are also void if the house is left unoccupied for more than 30 days and having a house sitter in the home helps to keep them valid.

House Sitting VS WWOOF-ing, Home Exchanges, Couchsurfing Etc

House sitting is often compared to WWOOFing and home exchanges, however while each of these types of travel are based around the idea of free accommodation, house sitting is slightly different.

  • House Sitting VS WWOOFing: With WWOOFing, the volunteer works on an organic farm for several hours per day in return for their board. With house sitting the sitter is left to mind the house by themselves. Responsibilities vary, but usually don’t take more than an hour or so per day.
  • House Sitting VS Home Exchanges: With home exchanges two home owners swap homes. With house sitting the sitter doesn’t swap anything except for their time and commitment to looking after the home owner’s house and pets.
  • House Sitting VS Couchsurfing: With couchsurfing, a ‘couchsurfer’ stays on someone else’s couch whereas with house sitting, the sitter gets to look after the entire property while the owner is away.

Getting Started

House sitting is all about trust and most of the work involved in getting started as a house sitter and landing that first house sit, involves building up your profile and making sure you are trustworthy.

A few tips for making this happen:

  • Fill out your profile as thoroughly as possible.
  • A picture is a thousand words, so be sure to add a few of those as well.
  • Get a police background check. These cost around $10 USD in most countries and is nothing more than a piece of paper that says you’ve no criminal convictions but it gives home owners that extra piece of mind when choosing you.
  • Build up your references. You may not have taken on any house sits yet but you can still add character references and references from previous employers. If you have any friends or family members that have pets offer to house sit for them – it could land you your first housesit and more importantly, your first house sitting reference as well.


James has house sat all over France, Spain, Portugal and the UK looking after more than fifty animals including dogs, cats, turtles, ducks and alpacas! Follow him on Twitter here.

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