House-Sitting: What to Expect

As I’m writing this, I’m on a house-sitting assignment in Nancy, France caring for two cats and a lovely apartment in the city centre. All this for (almost) free!

House-sitting is a great way to get to know a city/area really well. When you’re considering your first house-sitting assignment, it helps to be clear on what’s expected from you as a house-sitter.

What to expect from house-sitting:

  • PAYING [clear h=8]

No matter which house-sitting website you use, you’ll typically have to pay – either one-time or a monthly fee.

Additionally, the house owner has the right to ask you to cover any other fees – usually it’s for utilities. Not all owners do that, and it’s usually specified in the house-sitting listing. It’s better to count on paying a few bucks for utilities, just in case.

  • PET-SITTING [clear h=8]

Most home owners use house-sitting as a war to have their pets cared for while away. You don’t have to be a professional pet-sitter to get the job. However, you must be comfortable with pets, be ready to attend to their needs and even make it to a vet if an emergency arises. I’m currently caring for two cats and they have quite some unique personalities..! One of the cats has asthma and it’s sometimes scary to hear it cough really hard, but the owner informed me about all this, so I was not worried when it occurred. I got a little notebook with all the necessary pet info, including what each of the cats loves and hates – very useful!

  • CLEANING [clear h=8]

Although you’re not there as a cleaning lady/gentleman, you’re supposed to leave the house at least as clean as it was when you moved in. Basically, you just need to clean up after yourself and the pets, in case they made mess during your stay. Cat hair is a pain to get rid of but the cuddles are worth it ;)

  • SHOPPING [clear h=8]

Basically, you should just buy groceries and whatever you might need for yourself; pet food should be provided. It’s good to leave some basic items for your hosts when they come back, so that they have something to eat after their journey back, especially if they plan a late night arrival.

  • MAINTENANCE [clear h=8]

Obviously, if you were not hired to do maintenance work you don’t need to do any. If an emergency happens, you better figure out how to repair things or leave them in a reasonably decent state. This is not to say that people without DIY skills would be bad house-sitters. Just be ready to solve any situation that might come up. A water pipe can break even in the most perfectly maintained apartments.

  • GOING THE EXTRA MILE [clear h=8]

Sure, house-sitting is an awesome way for travelers to have a free accommodation but that shouldn’t be how you approach the whole thing. It’s good to realize that it’s primarily a service that you provide for the homeowners in return for staying at their house for free. Any house-sitter should think about how to go the extra mile – don’t leave an empty fridge when you leave, feel free to prepare a little ‘welcome back’ treat – e.g. a freshly baked pie would make every host happy.[clear h=15]

House-sitting fully conforms to the idea of slow travel. You’d have enough time to get familiar with the area you’re staying in, perhaps even meet some neighbors and blend in with the locals. It’s definitely not for everybody but it’s a nice alternative to ‘normal’ travel, don’t you think? [clear h=15]

Have you done any house-sitting? I’d love to hear about it! [clear h=10]

To pin this post for later, here you have an image:

House-sitting

15 thoughts on “House-Sitting: What to Expect”

  1. I’m not sure I could look after an asthmatic cat – like you, I would be so worried any time it coughed or breathed heavily.

    How long do you usually spend house-sitting in one particular place? Is it just while the owner is on holiday?

    • Hey Chris, it’s really individual, it depends on the owners and on what you agree upon. Sometimes they have a big house and they want you to come earlier and even let you stay few more days if you want. I experienced just a small apartment so the first night I stayed in a hotel as the owners were leaving early the following morning and there wasn’t really space for more than 2 people in the apartment.
      Btw. I learned that the cat had asthma only once there :D So it’s worth to ask in advance about any health issues of the pets.

  2. I’ve been looking at house sitting jobs for about four months now and still haven’t found the “courage” to start. Maybe next summer. I’d gladly hire a pet/home sitter though for sure, if I didn’t have friends or family around to look after things. Most people suspect this “line of business” but the truth is that I’ve heard more good stories than bad ones. And for me it beats couch surfing – although a nice concept, it’s not really my thing.

  3. I never thought of house-sitting but i’ve heard of it quite a bit. It was interesting to read your guidelines. Cat cuddles are something of a bonus i’d say but not sure how i’d feel living in someone else’s house. Can you really feel comfortable? i’d be too afraid to break something or i’d feel like i was intruding on someone’s intimacy (i’m a very private person behind the blogging persona). I guess everyone is different.

    • Hi Jameela, if you’ve tried Airbnb then that’s just the same thing. It feels strange till you try it. The hosts prepare the apartment so that you feel comfortable there. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to offer my own apartment, though :)
      I’d say it’s definitely worth trying, at least once!

  4. I really want to try this for when we go back to CR next year. It seems like a good experience and a great way to travel around for a reasonable trade off. Plus I always miss my dog when I’m traveling so it’d be nice to have a furry friend areound!

  5. It´s one of the things I´m planning to do in the future, still haven´t decided where but it´s on the list. I think the idea is pretty good and it is good for both hosts and house-sitters!

  6. I have been house sitting for over a year now in various places, and I have to say it is by far the best way to travel the world for (almost) free. One thing I would say though is to always have a contract in place, especially when it comes to paying for anything. I have never paid for utilities and would not recommend doing it because you are doing the house and pet owner a big favor, and it should be seen as a win/win situation in my opinion :)

  7. Thanks for this list! Been couchsurfing, helpx but never housesitting! We are planning to sublet/housesit our apartment soon here in Peru! Can you recommend a good website for us?

  8. Hmm.. this is surely an eye opener. While house sitting isn’t really an option for Indian travellers it is a great concept none the less! :)

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