Why Housesitting May not work for you

We hear it all the time, ‘You should try housesitting!”

We know. Friends have told us about being the boss of Irish castles and living in mansions on a Thai island for free. “Give me some of that!” we screamed.

But, housesitting has not worked for us.

We’ve housesat plenty of times before for our friends. It worked out perfectly for us in Melbourne and Perth when friends let us sit their house while they went away on holidays.

Ahh, home comforts!

Why we don't do housesitting (but why you should)

Housesitting at our friends place in Bright, Victoria

But, the actual housesitting strategy, where you pay a monthly fee to join a housesitting membership site and apply for housesitting jobs, just hasn’t worked.

That’s not to say it’s not fantastic. Before people start jumping out and saying we’re ruining the housesitting reputation, hear us out.

House sitting can be a brilliant strategy to travel around the world on a budget and save on one of your biggest travel costs. But, it hasn’t worked for us (yet) and it’s useful for you to know why.

Let’s see why house sitting did not work for us.

Organized travel route

Possibly the biggest reason housesitting hasn’t worked for us, especially during our recent 18-month road trip around Australia, was because we were trying to find a place that fit into our pre-determined travel plans and time frame.

This makes it an extremely difficult strategy to make work. I think you need to be flexible and go where the housesitting deals are.

So when we were heading to Melbourne for three weeks, it was so challenging to find something that fit that exact time frame and place. Trying to find one in even smaller cities was almost impossible.

We considered applying for a housesit for six months on the Gold Coast. Again, we couldn’t find one to fit those dates and where we wanted. And with Kalyra going to school, we certainly didn’t want to be moving every month or so.

Last-minute travel

Now, on the flip side of having a definite travel route planned, is the fact that we often travel last-minute. We may have the journey mapped out, but the routes to get to the end can change very quickly. This never left us with enough time to grab a good housesitting deal.

Travel with kids

Housesitting appears to be way more attractive to home owners if you are single or a couple. Unfortunately they don’t look too favorably upon young children and I can understand why. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of houses available for families, they’re just much harder to find.

We’re too fussy

We travel for the freedom and adventure. A chance to explore when we want, eat out, sleep in, and take weekend getaways.

Many of the housesitting opportunities we looked at came with too many obligations. We don’t want to mind tons of pets, I tend to kill any plant that comes within three feet of me so gardening scares me a little. Although, Kalyra and Savannah did a stellar job of watering Mike and Ang’s plants when we house-sat for them in Perth.

Since we had so many restrictions due to the above, once we narrowed down our options we’d be left with one house that fit our criteria, and then we had to try and get that house in a competitive market. Which brings us to…

Competitive market

I think the secret to housesitting is out so the market is flooded with people taking advantage of this strategy for getting free accommodation.

Applying over and over again for housesits makes me feel like I’m out trying to find a job. I currently don’t have the time or energy for it.

Expensive membership prices

I find housesitting memberships expensive. Now, if housesitting works for you and you get some free accommodation, then of course the membership fee is nothing.

But, if it’s not working for you, then it’s another cost to carry.

I was tired of paying the membership fees for a few different sites and not getting anything out of it. It feels too much like playing the pokies – a total gamble. To me, I was wasting my money, not to mention my time, chasing down places to stay.

On some housesitting sites, you can search for places without being a member, which was useful. But, you have to become a member to apply.

I’d like to see one of these come up with a more innovative approach so that people only pay once they receive their first yes, or something like that?

Too time-consuming

It just took too much of our time to investigate housesitting options.

If time is on your side, then absolutely follow this strategy to get some amazing free accommodation stays. We’re time-starved so just could not put in the time to researching for properties, applying for them and then waiting to hear back.

It was just easier for us to cough up the money to rent an apartment or camp. Once we realized housesitting wasn’t working for us, we decided to buy our camper trailer and have a home on wheels instead.

Time is essential to us and since I’ve been travelling nomadically for almost 17 years, I’m getting a little fussier and don’t want to sacrifice certain things. That’s why I’d prefer to do things that suit better like apartment rental, camping, or housesitting for friends.

But, having said all of that, now we are no longer on our epic road trip around Australia, we have more flexibility to travel to where the housesitting deals are, rather than trying to make them fit our square hole. So we might just look more into it.

Is housesitting for you?

Well, I think you can determine that based upon what we’ve outlined above as to why it doesn’t work for us. It totally depends on individual travel styles, expectations, likes, dislikes, and flexibility.

But, hundreds of travelers are saving thousands of dollars through housesitting. So you’d be mad not to try make it work. Grab that flexibility and run with it. You might just end up staying in an English manor for free!

Grab that flexibility and run with it. You might just end up staying in an English manor for free!

You might want to check out some more useful tips in the following posts:

Stack the housesitting odds in your favor

Our blogging friends, Dalene and Pete from Hecktic Travels have also written an excellent housesitting guide – How to become a housesitter and see the world.

how to be a housesitter

Pete and Dalene have been traveling the world for years following the housesitting strategy so know what they are talking about.

They’ve had 14 house-sits in 9 countries, and saved over $50,000 in the cost of accommodations as a result.

That’s pretty awesome. Who says you need thousands of dollars to travel?

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Why we DON"T do house-sitting. And why YOU maybe should.

21 thoughts on “Why Housesitting May not work for you”

  1. Megan | Traveling Nine to Fiver

    Interesting point of view. I am considering looking into house sitting on my next trip and appreciate having your take. Not sure if it’s for me. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, no kidding? We were stunned at how steep the competition is to get a decent house sitting gig. The best jobs get filled within a couple of days (or even hours) of being listed.

    We think we have a pretty solid profile (professionals, former home and pet owners, with house sitting experience) and it still took us months of daily effort to land an acceptable assignment. And even then, I wouldn’t call our experience perfect.

    To have a good shot of beating the competition you really have to be super flexible in terms of the when and where and what you’re willing to do. And like you, that doesn’t normally fit our preferred travel plans.

    I guess, though, if you do it often enough you can build up a portfolio of house sitting clients who come to you when they need a sitter. That would take a long time (like building any freelancing book of business) but would certainly be a pretty sweet asset to have.

  3. Hey guys- Really good points in this post. We are just starting our second house/pet sit. We’ve actually been really lucky with getting assignments, applied for three total and got chosen for two. It works for us but I don’t know if we will ever get to the point of traveling to a specific country just to sit. If something comes up that fits with our travel plans we’ll be all for applying.

  4. Well, I am a travel consultant. I was thinking that I am doing a difficult job. Today, I realized that there are even more difficult jobs like house sitting. Thanks a ton!

  5. I have generally had quite good experiences for housesitting, but still I almost never do it anymore. To me it’s due to the hassle and time consumption before the trip – finding the right place at the right time, no pets to feed, kids allowed etc. It’s just so much easier booking a hotel and knowing it will work out. For me it’s worth the extra cost nowadays. Thanks for an interesting post!

  6. House-sitting seems like such a good way to travel…if you have a particular travel style. I have looked into it for my upcoming RTW trip but I don’t see it being a feasible option. I’m hoping to keep my trip going indefinitely and using house-sitting as a way to get to know a place in an affordable way!

  7. I’ve never been a housesitter, except for friends, but I have used one. We had a lot of applicants and you could pretty soon tell who was just in it for a free place to stay. We wanted someone to dog sit and having a rapport with dogs was #1. We didn’t even consider the applicants that sounded good on paper but we couldn’t meet face-to-face.

    That was only for a short term housesit too so I can imagine if it’s longer term and in a desirable location, you’d practically have to be perfect.

  8. My partner and I have been house sitting around Australia for the last two years. The key is in the planning. We sometimes book great house sits a year in advance. And now we are getting repeat clients. We’ve spent less than $1000 on accomodation in the last two years. We use Airbnb to find places when we have a few days in between house sits. House sitting definitely isn’t for everyone. Like you said, you must have flexibility, and people with kids and pets of their own will have an extremely difficult time securing a house sit. The secret is definitely out. We scored a house sit a few months ago, and the owners said they had 94 responses before they deleted their ad two days later.

  9. This is why I haven’t tried housesitting yet, it does seem like you need a bit of luck to find somewhere suitable at the right time. Would be great if it does work out though!

  10. Housesitting sounds like it’d be a good idea, though I agree with you that those membership fees just don’t sound worth it! Plus, I feel that you’d be limited to whenever someone needs their house looked on, which would probably be during usual vacation peak times, right? Doesn’t leave you with a lot of freedom!

  11. I totally agree about house sitting with children being difficult, if not impossible. We house sat around Australia for two years before we became pregnant unexpectedly (oops!), so we cancelled our last sit and came home to settle down. Before that we’d moved every one month, two months, three, we’d never dream of doing that to our daughters now.

    However to singles, childless couples or the retired, we highly recommend it as an inexpensive, varied and exciting way to travel. It was a very happy time in our lives.

    We share all our housesittng tips, checklists and forms on our website of any of your readers decide to give it a shot. Hope they find them useful.

    Good luck for any future travels!

  12. Your title grabbed my attention. Housesitting definitely requires a lot of pre-planning to land a good spot and you often have to make a commitment to stay longer than you’d probably want. I’ve definitely enjoyed housesitting but you really need a solid profile because as you say the competition for the good properties is intense!

  13. One other point that should be made about the glamour of seeing the world “for free.” That’s the cost of travel to the location of the house-sit. If we wanted to house-sit in our own backyard, this would be no problem. But, we want to house-sit where everyone else wants to house-sit, usually during the same time frame. Yes, winter in exotic climes, summer in Europe, which are very expensive flights. On the upside, we did a house-sit 4 years ago in a wonderful warm city on the sea and fell in love with that area. We made friends there and have been back every winter house-sitting for these friends and their friends. So, now we spend some time each winter there, with “free” accommodations with people we know and pets we love. (Oh, and by the way, that first house-sit in the beautiful city–it was a house with few walls and even less furniture, two very ill dogs, and hostile neighbors. It never occurred to us to ask if the house had walls! But we stuck it out and it paid off in the long run. We still miss those dogs.)

  14. This is a great list of reasons why house sitting is just not for every one.

    One other thing I would add, that most people seem to forget. House sitting can be a lot of work! If you work 40/week remotely, house sitting may be out of the question in some cases. I’ve certainly seen a number of sits where dogs need to be walked 3 or even 4 times a day or sits with large properties that need to be mowed and maintained.

    If you go into house sitting understanding that there’s work involved – and that works for your schedule – everyone ends up happier in the long-run.

  15. Thank you for your complete and utter honesty. YOU hit the nail on the head. My gripe on the Pet Sit Platform sites, is that most Homeowners are not paying for membership fees and often expect a free pet/house service. Seems pretty one sided to me and in my humble opinion, completely unfair. We house/pet sitters provide far better care than thier neighbours/freinds & family would. With constant security, energetic affectionate care, cleaning, feeding running walking for their pooches & felines in thier own stress free environment. But they dont expect to pay for the service we provide? (So they can fly off to God knows where knowing full well they got a free ride) for thier most “Precious Commodeties”. I don’t seek free accomodation I pay my own rent and bills and travel expences. But I provide a service just like kennels, caterers, cleaners and baby sitters. Thus homeowners need to be educated and pay for services provided. If they want exceptional professionals, expect to pay for it.

    1. That’s a really bitter response. No one is making you be a house sitter, so if you think it’s an uneven arrangement, just….don’t do it. Also, homeowners usually have to pay for membership as well.

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