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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:


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.


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!


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 ;)


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.


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.


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,

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? 

Have you done any house-sitting? I’d love to hear about it! 

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Chaitanya Shah

Saturday 6th of December 2014

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! :)


Saturday 6th of December 2014

These are great tips for me, I have been considering to house sit but I wasn't too sure what to expect. It doesn't sound half bad!

Kach Mu

Tuesday 18th of November 2014

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?


Thursday 13th of November 2014

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 :)


Monday 29th of September 2014

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!

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