Since our arrival in Australia in August 2016, we have been fortunate enough to have spent ZERO dollars on accommodation. Zero.
Obviously, this can save serious bucks. It’s no secret that Australia is an expensive place to travel. A bed in a noisy dormitory costs around $35 and hotels are more than double, so cutting out that expense saves a good chunk. We spend most of our money on car expenses, including speeding tickets. Yes, plural 😦 Not to mention petrol, food, activities. Oh, does my wallet miss Asia at times!
Luckily, we’ve been able to keep costs low (yes, still maintaining our $15/day!) in Australia by saving on accommodation. The main ways we can sleep for free while having an enjoyable time include volunteering/help exchanges, camping at free camp sites, CouchSurfing, and housesitting.
I already wrote a guide on CouchSurfing and a few separate posts on our stories of volunteering in exchange for accommodation. This post will dive deeper into housesitting.
Housesitting in Australia
We only started taking care of people’s homes and pets since coming to Australia, but we have thoroughly enjoyed the experience so far. We absolutely love CouchSurfing and HelpX for cultural exchange and meeting people, but after being on the road full-time for so long, having a space to settle for a week or so at a time is much appreciated. Plus, we get to cuddle some adorable animals!!
Another perk is that we’ve had the chance to catch up on personal projects, practice creativity (such as learning the guitar), exercise regularly, work on our resumes, and research the next steps of our journey. It also affords us the opportunity to travel slowly, explore neighborhoods that we otherwise wouldn’t have visited, and experience how others live. We already learned a great deal about what we like and don’t like in a home, so this is kind of research for designing a home if and when we decide to settle.
So without further ado, here is a basic guide on getting started with housesitting!
What is Housesitting?
It is pretty self-explanatory. You take care of someone’s home while they are away. Each and every situation varies, but you will very likely be taking care of pets. The animals would be more comfortable at home with a petsitter rather than in a kennel in a petboarding facility, so homeowners see this as an opportunity to keep their pets happy for free.
What do I do?
Most of the time, you will take care of animals – cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, chickens, horses… we even took care of a baby possum! You may also water the plants, clean the pool, fetch the mail. The owners usually want someone there for security purposes. An empty house is a vulnerable house to break-ins, so having someone physically there can prevent this.
Who are housesitters?
All kinds of folk! Students, young couples, retired folk, digital nomads. Housesitters should be trustworthy, honest, and responsible. If taking care of pets, obviously they should love animals!
How long do I housesit?
It totally depends on each situation. It may be a weekend or up to a year!
Where do I housesit?
There are jobs all around the world! Since we have only done so in Australia, most of the places are family owned in the suburbs or quiet neighborhoods. But again, it depends. You could be out in the bush or in the city central.
Do I get paid?
Usually, no. Housesitters tend to work in exchange for free accommodation, so think of it as a free vacation home! Ultimately, compensation is something that the homeowner and sitter should agree upon before. That being said, we do not personally ask for monetary payment for our services since we feel that free accommodation is a fair exchange.
Sounds good! How do I get housesitting gigs?
There are loads of membership websites that cost a small annual fee to use. The fee pays for itself within one gig. The free ones are just not as good as there’s an oversaturation of housesitters. People who are serious about housesitting should be willing to pay the small membership fee.
There are so many housesitting sites! Which one is the best?
I know, it’s overwhelming, right? Well, like most things in life, it depends.
I did some research on the different housesitting websites – there are dozens of them! Of course, there are pros and cons to each of them. The most important thing is how active the websites are in the countries of interest.
Here in Australia, I found Housecarers to be the most active with the lowest fee in Australia at $55AUD per year, so it was the best deal for us. The site sends notifications when housesit jobs are posted in the areas that we selected, so we have benefited from being the first to apply.
TrustedHousesitters is supposedly one of the most active housesitting sites, but the $129 yearly membership fee turned me away from it as we were just getting started. I would consider joining the site if activity slows down on Housecarers.
MindMyHouse is also another popular site with a low membership fee of $20, but I cannot vouch for it personally.
OK, I have an account. What do I do next?
Fill out your profile thoroughly! Include lots of clear photos and information. Don’t be afraid to show your personality to stand out. As always, BE HONEST.
If you have references, do include those. We did not have many housesitting references at first, so we included references on CouchSurfing as a way to show our character to potential homeowners.
A police check is also something you should share if you have one. Remember, you are total strangers given the responsibility to live in someone’s home, so they are understandably cautious in who they accept.
If you are serious about housesitting, I would recommend making a simple website. The owners mentioned liking our housesitting website. It certainly makes you stand out from the other housesitters. If you would like help in making a simple, clean, easy-to-manage professional website, contact Adam. He’d be happy to help you.
I applied for a gig and they want to “hire” me! What next?
Set up a Skype or telephone call to get to know each other. They want to make sure you’re a “real” person and you also want to learn more about the job you are commiting yourself to.
Have some questions prepared and confirm what time you should arrive to their home. Sometimes, they like it if you come the day earlier so they could show you around and you have time to get to know each other a little better.
Some information you might like to know:
- Are there neighbors that you can contact should an emergency arise?
- What about the vet (if you are petsitting)?
- What do they do with organic waste?
- When’s recycling and garbage day?
- Would they like us to answer the phone or let it go to the answering machine?
- Do they prefer to leave the lights on or off if out for a few hours?
We tend to leave these nitty gritty details for when we meet them rather than on the phone/Skype, but the time you meet them face-to-face may be limited. Most likely, the homeowners would be happy for you to contact them should any urgent question arise.
Okay, I’m at their home now housesitting! Any advice?
Most of it is common sense. How would you like your home to be looked after? Clean up, don’t leave the fridge empty, offer to do some other housework (mow the lawn, organize, paint, etc.). Some owners like to receive updates and photos of their pets, but others would rather be left alone while on vacation.
Make a checklist of things to do daily and weekly. We also set an alarm if we have to feed the animals at certain times.
It’s a nice gesture to have the home cleaner than how you found it. I also like to make the owners a meal or some baked goods because they may feel tired after traveling upon returning home. It’s up to you, but it is a small gesture that leaves a nice impression.
Any other advice?
Remember to be cautious on which housesitting gigs you accept. Yes, you are getting free accommodation, but the owners are also getting free security and petsitters, so you can be picky on which job to accept because if you find that you do not like the area or that you actually don’t like cats enough to take care of 17 of them, then it would be too late to back out. It’s not like CouchSurfing or volunteering where you can decide to leave at any moment that you feel uncomfortable – you have to commit to stay the full term when housesitting!
Housesitting is an excellent way to relax, have some personal time, save money, and work on projects while traveling full-time. We take the job seriously – strangers are trusting us to dwell in their lifelong homes, after all! We look forward to taking care of more homes and animals while we are on the journey to location independence.