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Travel can be expensive. Between the cost of flights, rental cars, hotels, and daily expenses, a week-long trip can cost thousands of dollars.

Outside of plane tickets, accommodation is typically the biggest expense, with hotels and Airbnbs often costing hundreds of dollars per night.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution for saving tons of money on accommodation: house sitting.

What is house sitting?

House sitting travel is your ticket to seeing the world for free. Think about it —  most homeowners need someone to look after their house and pets while they’re away.

Boarding pets is expensive. Leaving a house unattended is risky. Finding a relative or friend to watch the house for free every time you go away is highly unlikely.

So traveling homeowners need someone to water their lawn, feed and walk their pets, and get their mail each day.

That’s where a house sitter comes in. You could take on these tasks in exchange for staying at the house for free.

As a house sitter, you could work for someone who lives down the street or even abroad. You could even find luxury house sitting jobs and stay for free in a mansion you could only dream about affording otherwise.

Suddenly, thanks to house sitting, you have opportunities to travel anywhere you could imagine and stay for free.

Where to find house-sitting jobs

House-sitting websites are designed to connect you with homeowners who are looking for someone like you. On these sites, you can find unpaid and paid house sitting jobs abroad, as well as luxury house sitting jobs.

Some house-sitting websites are free to use, while others charge a fee to search for and apply to opportunities. (But that fee is small potatoes compared to what you’d spend on hotels for a night or two.)

Here are three of the top sites to find house-sitting jobs.

  • Mind My House — global matching service that brings house sitters and home owners together. Assignments are primarily based in the U.S. and UK. The annual fee is just $20 for house sitters.
  • Nomador — international service that connects house sitters to homeowners. The site offers a free basic plan to help you get started. For more assignments and other perks, there is a comprehensive paid option for $89 per year.
  • TrustedHouseSitters — specifically made for pet sitting, this service connects house sitters to homeowners with pets. The opportunities are primarily in the UK and Europe, but there are a growing number in Australia and the U.S. The annual fee is $89.25 for both house sitters and homeowners.

With these websites, you’ll be able to find house-sitting opportunities to stay for free across the U.S., Europe, or Australia. And you might also make some furry friends along the way.

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What else you need to know about how to house sit abroad or at home

Before you decide to jump into your first house-sitting job, there are a few things you need to know. Unlike staying at a hotel, you have a job to do while you’re there.

By learning about all of these in advance, you will save yourself from unnecessary stress. The more you know about the pros and cons of house sitting before you begin applying to jobs, the better.

You’ll save a lot of money

Not only will you save a ton of money on accommodations, but you’ll probably also save on food. House sitting gives you access to a kitchen, so you have the opportunity to make your own meals. Eating out for every meal can become expensive, but this way, you can cook for yourself and use your money on other travel expenses (or to boost your savings account).

You can travel slowly

House sitting jobs range from a weekend to months at a time. Longer stays allow you to see more of the place you’re visiting. Without worrying about paying for hotel rooms to extend your stay, you can take your time exploring a new area.

Staying in a house rather than a hotel allows you to get a more complete understanding of what it’s like to be a real resident. This gives you the opportunity to meet new people and see things you might have missed as a traditional tourist.

You’ll get to explore new places

Another benefit to house sitting, especially abroad, is that you have the opportunity to stay in small towns or places that aren’t typically tourist attractions. You’ll become a temporary resident of a neighborhood, and get the opportunity to live in unique destinations all over the world.

You’ll have to be flexible with your destinations and dates

When you plan your own vacation, you have complete control over the location and when you go. As a house sitter, you have to be more flexible. You need to be willing to travel to different places and keep your availability more open.

After all, your house sitting job relies on someone else’s vacation plans.

You might be competing against other house sitters

The best house sitting gigs might come with a lot of competition. Lots of other people could be applying for the same house-sitting opportunity as you.

To come out ahead, make sure to monitor job boards often. Create a great profile that displays your experience and proves you’re trustworthy.

Make sure any house sitting employers leave reviews so you can strengthen your profile with glowing testimonials.

You’ll need to trust the housing situation

When you house sit abroad, you might meet the owner for the first time when you step through the door on your first day. Aside from what they’ve told you and what you found on the internet, you don’t know a lot about them.

Establishing mutual trust is key. As important as it is for them to trust the house sitter a house sitter should also trust the owner.

Hopefully they have references that speak to their good character. Plus, you should speak to them on the phone or video chat if possible before your stay.

Create a written contract for expectations, and trust your gut before agreeing to house sit. If something feels sketchy or off, decline the offer and look for a better situation.

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How to become a house sitter

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the pros and cons of house sitting, here are a few tips for getting started in your house sitting adventure.

1. Gain experience

First, you need to find a job. You might have an easier time starting local. Once you’ve added a few experiences to your profile, you’ll likely have a better shot at scoring house sitting jobs abroad.

2. Collect great references

Once you have experience, you can collect references. These will be the key to separating yourself from the thousands of other people competing for house sitting jobs.

Most house sitting sites work similar to Airbnb. You can read reviews of the employer, and the employer can read reviews of you.

By building up your testimonials, your profile will be even stronger when you apply to gigs.

3. Create a trustworthy online portfolio

If you’re using a job site to find house sitting opportunities, make sure that your profile is thoughtful and well-written. Clearly list your experiences and qualifications. You might also include some personal interests to give a sense of your personality.

4. Monitor job listings

Check the listings often. The faster you respond to a job posting, the more likely they are to pick you.

5. Send introduction letters and emails

Once you find a job you’re interested in, write a thorough letter of introduction or email. Separate yourself from the other applicants by explaining how your experience and skill set can help them have peace of mind while they’re away on their trip.

6. Interview

The final step is to interview for the position. By speaking over the phone, meeting face to face, or video chatting, you and your potential client can assess your fit for the job.

Make sure to prepare for the interview so everything goes smoothly. Talk about your past experiences, how responsible you are, and your knowledge of caring for animals (if pet-sitting is involved).

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What to do once you land a house-sitting job

Landing your first house sitting job can be exciting and a little scary at the same time. You have the awesome opportunity to explore somewhere new without paying for housing, but you also have the big responsibility of watching the house and even pets.

While this can be overwhelming at first, it doesn’t need to be. Take these steps to ensure your first house-sitting job runs smoothly.

Establish communication guidelines with the owner

Do they want frequent updates? Are weekly check-ins okay? Find out what their expectations are around communication.

Discuss a cleaning schedule

If you’re living in a place for a while, you’ll need to know basic information about cleaning. Find out where the vacuum is, when the trash needs to go out each week, if the yard or garden needs to be maintained, and any other questions related to home and landscape maintenance.

Talk about what to do with the mail

Find out if the homeowner expects you to collect the mail and if so, where you should store it until they get back.

Find out about a list of emergency contacts

Who should you call if there’s a problem? Do they have a trusted neighbor or relative? Can they provide a list of phone numbers and emails that you may need? Make sure you have all the contact information just in case something goes wrong for you or the pets.

Find out how to care for their pets

If they have pets, you need to know how to care for them.

When do they eat? How often do they need to go outside? Should you take them on daily walks? How should you clean up after them?

Don’t forget to get the number of their veterinarian, as well, just in case there’s a problem.

Learn how to house sit abroad and travel the world for free

If you follow these guidelines for how to house sit abroad, you should find your first house sitting job in no time. Once you gain experience and begin to collect great references, you’ll find it even easier to land new jobs.

Whether you start by working for family and friends or you dive into the online job market, you’re well on your way to traveling the world for free as a house sitter.