Why You Should House Sit Your Way Around the World

And how to do it successfully.

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Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Find a Membership Match

With a growing number of global housesitting services as well as country-specific sites available, getting started can be overwhelming and expensive, with memberships ranging from $20-100. Take advantage of trial periods to assess which sites feature listings in destinations you most desire before joining.

For travelers hoping to round the globe by housesitting, multiple memberships may be worth the investment to reap long-term savings. For most travelers, however, membership with just one site offers more than enough potential sits.

Score a Sit?

Think in terms of three P’s: profile, pets, and persistence.

When creating a profile, showcase skills like you would for a job application; yet don’t be afraid to get creative. Hosts are looking for trustworthiness as well as personality. Ian White, founder of HouseCarers, encourages applicants to include as many references as possible. “If you don’t have ones that are housesitting-specific, then include community and character references,” he says.

Ferrari recommends choosing images and a username with care. “The ideal photograph should reflect the values of a trustworthy house-sitter,” she says, and suggests selecting shots that convey friendliness and a love for pets. “Avoid sunglasses, not to mention bathing suits or cocktails glasses.” When it comes to an alias, she cautions, “when an owner receives notifications, as you can imagine, ‘Michael sent a message,’ sounds better than ‘Batman sent a message.’” Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

With a whopping 80 percent of listings including pet care, Peck says, “for many house sitters, it’s less about the properties they look after and more about the pets.” Sites encourage members to get specific about experience and preferences when it comes to pets and include photos of your own.

Sits in coveted locations fill quickly, sometimes within hours. White recommends sending an inquiry as soon as you see a listing of interest with questions to assess the host’s needs, not a litany of your requirements.

Once the host replies with interest, ask specific questions about scheduling and responsibilities. Is there public transportation or do I need a car? Do pets need any special care or medications? Is yard work expected? Is Internet available?

Ask to see photos and request a video interview with visual tour of the home. Don’t be afraid to ask for references before committing.

Meet Expectations

Living in someone’s personal space, no matter how luxurious or dumpy, is different from staying in a hotel or hostel. There are no rating systems when it comes to cleanliness, comfort, or safety. The dynamics are different with every house, neighborhood, and host. After seeing photos of the home and learning more about pets, you may realize it’s not a fit.

If you do accept, treat it as a binding contract as canceling for any reason leaves the host in a serious bind. Be sure to have a clear understanding of what to do and who to call if something goes wrong before beginning. Setting clear expectations on the front end will ensure when a host arrives home, the welcome is all about tail wagging and smiles.

Jess is a writer chasing a dream of slow travel through a fast world. Her work has appeared in Paste, Mental Floss, Bustle, aGypsyGene, and Birmingham magazine.

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