After completing three work stints, each based on volunteering a few hours of labor per day in exchange for free accommodation in an exotic destination, the time seemed right to sit. Housesit.
As with services designed to connect travelers willing to work for lodging with jobs, platforms to pair sitters with host homes are a powerful tool for travelers looking for value along with a unique vacation experience. Every year, more travelers sign up for membership with sites like HouseCarers, MindMyHouse, and Nomador.
Mariannig Ferrari, founder of Nomador, estimates the average age of their users is 45, with 50 percent being millennials. One of the biggest players, TrustedHousesitters, has facilitated over a million nights of housesitting since 2010 and reports 100 percent growth every year.
The popularity of sitting sites is a prime example of how the sharing economy is revolutionizing travel. Ferrari says progress in technology allowing for verified profiles and internal messaging systems is giving more users confidence in engaging in “collaborative consumption,” when it comes to travel arrangements.
The value proposition is clear. For travelers, you stay for free in a comfortable—sometimes even luxurious—home and experience an area from a local’s perspective.
For hosts, you leave for a trip with peace of mind knowing pets and belongings are in capable hands. There’s none of the stress of boarding the furballs. The house is occupied and less vulnerable to crime. Your insurance may even offer incentives for the added security.
No money is exchanged, yet both parties gain, creating what Andy Peck, co-founder of TrustedHousesitters, calls a “care-oriented dynamic.”
While most sits extend one to two weeks, listings run the gamut from a three-day to full year commitment. Sits range from a cozy caravan in Spain to a palatial estate in Vancouver and everywhere in between. For our first housesit, my husband and I chose to apply for a one-month gig in a highly coveted destination. Like flowers to the Tuscan sun, we were attracted to the description: a charming 300-year-old farmhouse, three lovable pets, and mountainous countryside in northern Tuscany.
Over the moon at being chosen from 50 applicants, we anticipated living la dolce vita rent-free for four weeks. In reality, Tuscany is a bit rainy and cold in January. While there wasn’t a sunflower in sight, the experience was overwhelmingly positive. We met neighbors and connected with locals, tried on a different life for a short time, and saved on lodging and meals. The pets were low maintenance—yet when the couple’s energetic dog bolted during a woodland walk, we were quickly reminded of the immense responsibility.
Being a house sitter requires caring for someone’s most personal, and often most valuable assets. It’s serious business. So while the roof over your head may be free, it’s important to remember your time and attention are not. The dog will need to be walked, plants watered, and house maintained.
Having a clear understanding of expectations up front is key before taking the leap—here are some tips for house sitting your way around the world.