A Touch of Home to Extend
Your Next Vacation
|House-sitting jobs abroad are
one mutually beneficial form of exchange, often a
very comfortable home away from home.
Travelers are often on the hunt for
places off the tourist trails in search of a slice of local
life. But “off the beaten path” locations can
be tough to find, especially if you stay in hostels or hotels
which are designed to be on such paths. If what you want
is to live like a local—with the added benefit of
staying somewhere for free—then house-sitting could
be just what your next vacation calls for.
I stepped off the train in Hampshire,
England, to find my house-sitting host waiting for me. She
gave me an impromptu tour of the area before taking me back
to her home to introduce me to the family—which included
the three dogs I’d be caring for while they were away.
After spending a day with the family,
learning the ropes and getting acquainted with the pups,
my house-sitting hosts left for their two week vacation
in Greece. So while they were enjoying the beaches and hotels
of Greece, I was enjoying all the comforts of home—their
I had full use of their car (they even
added me to their insurance policy), I was encouraged to
use anything I wished in the cupboards (with the understanding
that I generally replaced what I used), and I was invited
to kick my feet up and make myself truly at home in their
absence. I took advantage of their wireless internet, eclectic
library, huge cable TV, and formidable DVD collection. I
went for drives with the dogs, exploring the area and going
for hikes. At my hosts’ encouragement I even ventured
a little further to discover some of the area’s attractions
Winchester, and Southampton.
|You often live with a more local
feel when house-sitting.
In exchange for this free accommodation
and generosity with their home and vehicle, I was expected
to take care of the three dogs, water the plants and gardens,
and keep the house from falling into disrepair.
It was a great deal for everybody involved.
I was happy to enjoy free accommodations and experience
daily life in the English countryside. And my hosts enjoyed
their vacation knowing that their pups were comfortable
and cared for at home, the gardens were prospering, and
they were warding off any security concerns in leaving the
house empty for two weeks.
How to Find House-Sitting Jobs
Although an internet search can sometimes
reveal local house-sitting forums, there are a few reputable
resources for finding (and listing) house-sitting positions.
I found mine through House
Carers, which is a worldwide service that connects house-sitters
with home owners and arguably has the most house-sitting
listings of any service.
As a member (annual membership is US$50),
I set my preferences to which countries and cities I am
available for house-sitting and when. Whenever a listing
is created that fits my criteria, I receive a notification
by email. If I like the look of the listing, I use the site
to securely contact the owners and start a dialogue.
I also have the ability to search House
Carers at large for opportunities in locations that take
my fancy on a whim. Although I wasn’t looking to create
a notification for Ireland, out of curiosity one day while
perusing the site I found an intriguing position house-sitting
a B&B; an unconventional yet interesting opportunity.
Applying for a House-Sitting Job
There is a certain leap of faith that
any homeowner makes in inviting a stranger found via the
internet into their home to care for everything that is
important to them. Likewise, even the most intrepid of travelers
must do their due diligence in ensuring that the house-sitting
position is legitimate and safe.
So the correspondence/application process
is an important one in establishing compatibilities and
peace of mind for both parties. As a house-sitter, don’t
be afraid to ask lots of questions about what is expected
of you and, in turn, what you can expect of the home and
Home owners who post listings on House
Carers generally get swamped with applications, especially
if their home is in a desirable place. So in applying and
corresponding with home owners, you can increase your chances
of being noticed and accepted if you provide references.
These references don’t need to be from previous house-sitting
jobs if you don’t yet have that kind of experience
under your belt, although it helps to provide a similar
sort of reference (such as caretaking,
or even house-sitting for a friend in your home town).
Similar to any home-stay experience,
it is expected that you keep the home to a similar (or better)
standard as the home owners. Replace anything you consume,
and be sure to give the place a good cleaning before the
I also make notes of all the perishable
ingredients the home owners leave behind (which I try to
consume in their absence rather than let spoil), and I replace
those exact supplies in time for their return, as well as
to cook a meal for them so they needn’t worry about
their first meal. Although it’s unnecessary, it’s
a nice touch that helps the home owners feel “at home” right
away after their vacation.
The Mutual Value in House-Sitting
There’s obvious value for the
house-sitter in receiving free accommodation (and often
additional perks that come with staying in a well-appointed
home). It’s a chance to live a slice of local life
on foreign soil, and often to extend your vacation beyond
what would normally be affordable if you were to stay in
hotels or hostels.
But don’t forget that the home
owner is also receiving great value too. For example, if
my Hampshire home owners didn’t have a house-sitter,
they would have had to pay to house their three dogs in
a kennel for two weeks, which is no small proposition. They
would also have had to arrange for somebody to water the
garden daily, and they would have been subject to some security
concerns in leaving the house empty during their absence.
Beyond the financial outlay and security
concerns, there is value for home owners with pets in knowing
their critters can remain comfortably at home, rather than
cooped up in a kennel. And pets or no pets, returning home
from vacation to a clean and lived-in home is vastly preferable
to the dusty musty alternative.
Given the potentially tremendous value
that you as a house-sitter can provide, it’s all the
more important to ensure that you ask lots of questions
through the application process. If you are kept busy four
hours per day keeping the place up to the home owners’ expectations,
it would behoove you to know this in advance and ensure
that you’re comfortable with the value you receive
in return. House-sitting can be a fabulous way to extend
your travel dollars and get off the tourist trail; as long
as the arrangements are beneficial for all parties.
My House has a US$20 annual membership which
grants house-sitters access to worldwide listings
and an easy-to-use platform.
House Sitters gives you access to listings,
a secure communication system, email alerts,
and the ability to create references for US$96/year.
been around since 1999 and covers USA, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe. The
annual membership fee is approximately US$40.
Caretaker Gazette contains property caretaking/housesitting
openings in the U.S. and in countries worldwide.
Published since 1983, subscribers receive 1,000+
property caretaking opportunities each year.
Some caretaking and housesitting jobs offer
compensation in addition to the free housing
provided. Short, medium, and long-term property
caretaking assignments are in every issue.
See Nora Dunn's piece on Caretaking
Jobs Abroad for more related ideas on free
or low-cost accommodations abroad and read her