How to Find House Sitting Jobs Abroad
Living Abroad: How to Find House Sitting Jobs
I'm currently writing this in a one-acre farm on top of the southern mountains of Ecuador. To get here, I had to take a 5-hour bus and then a 4x4 pickup truck for about 20 minutes, eventually reaching 1,900 m above sea level.
But I'm not completely in the middle of nowhere.
From here, I can see the entire village of Vilcabamba standing out amidst the green valley. Small but quirky, the village is the home of approximately five thousand people, including many expats who have chosen to settle down in this natural paradise.
Around me, a breathtaking variety of flowers and fruitful trees grow peacefully. I spend most of my afternoons looking over a natural swimming pool from a lounge area that could have been featured on design magazines.
My freshly brewed coffee comes from the plantation that is just outside of my bedroom window. Everywhere I turn, there's a view worth looking at.
This is currently the place I call home.
I have been here for three weeks, but I still have to pinch myself every day. In a week, I'll be taking a plane to a similar property. This time, though, instead of the valley, I'll have for a view Mexico's Pacific coast.
But how much has this cost me? Surely you're imagining a 5-star resort or a meditation retreat, both of which would be extremely expensive for a traveler's budget.
The thing is, apart from the tickets, I haven't spent a dime.
That's the biggest perk of house sitting.
What is house sitting?
To put it simply, house sitting involves taking care of a person's house and pets while they're away. Some people actually charge for house sitting services, but normally this is a non-payment exchange.
Although most assignments do involve caring for pets, this is not a rule.
You can find some listings where your top priority is maintaining the house. But in case there are pets to look after, the usual responsibilities are feeding them and keeping them company.
But what's in it for you?
Well, in exchange, you get to enjoy the owner's home for free.
The specific details of each house sitting job will be explained in the listing, but it's usually very straightforward. When you find an assignment you like in your desired destination, simply apply to the job by sending a message directly to the homeowners.
Apart from what is required - be it watering the garden or walking the dogs - you'll have all the time you need to explore the place you're at. It could be a big city such as Vancouver or New York; it could be Rome's countryside or the Caribbean coast.
There are plenty of house sitting opportunities out there, and the trend seems to be growing.
What to consider before looking into house sitting
As good as it may sound, house sitting is not for everyone. I'm sure you can imagine why.
Not all people are willing to care for a stranger's house during their two-week vacation, and that's totally understandable!
So if you're looking forward to a trip where you'll be 100% carefree, then perhaps this is not your ideal option.
But house sitter positions fit perfectly a lot of frequent traveler's needs, mine included. Since I travel full time and work remotely, I'm used to spending almost 70% of my income on accommodation.
So you can imagine how not worrying about my biggest expense takes a lot of pressure off of my back! Now, I can work less and enjoy more.
As a location independent worker, my situation might be different than yours. My schedule is pretty much open and I don't make plans too ahead of time. I'm totally comfortable staying at least a month in one place, and I don't normally go for the famous tourist spots.
Nevertheless, I do know a lot of people who are not nomads and can still take advantage of this kind of arrangement. A little bit of planning and determination is all it takes.
I listed below the most important things you need to consider before applying for house sitting jobs.
In order to find house sitting jobs abroad, a flexible schedule is essencial!
That's because the homeowner's dates and yours will have to coincide so you can meet them face to face before they leave their property in your hands.
Besides that, you'll find that most opportunities last one, two, three or even six months, which means that having flexibility is key. Of course, you don't have to house sit for three months if you don't want to!
There's always the possibility to negotiate dates based on your own interests.
Take my case as an example: I hold a Brazilian passport, which means I can only stay up to 90 days at a time in most countries I visit but this doesn't stop me from applying to 6+ months assignments.
I always explain upfront the time I'm willing to spend there and ask the owner what she/he thinks about it. For now, this has always worked in my favor!
As soon as you start scrolling through the house sitting jobs, you'll notice most of them are not in typical tourist destinations. Sure, you can find listings in Paris and London, but know you're going to face a lot of competition for it.
Truth is most assignments are in rural areas or small towns. If that's not a problem for you, go ahead and explore!
I've always said that I don't have a bucket list of places to see because I'm willing to see the whole world. Through house sitting, I have been to places I never thought I would, and so far I've enjoyed them all.
It also doesn't hurt that most houses are really to-die-for. I'm talking about luxury, high-end properties. You'll have to take a look to believe what's available out there!
Responsibility is key
This shouldn't come as a shock to you, but taking care of someone's home and pets is a big responsibility. You have to take that into account the moment you decide to apply for an assignment.
Consider that even if you are staying in a 4-bedroom property with a big pool and speakers, you won't get to throw parties or invite strangers in! Your main job is to leave everything exactly how you found it. You'll also have to meet all of the homeowner requirements.
Sometimes people will ask for non-smokers, references, or a couple instead of only one sitter. If you think about it, these are no strange requests at all. If you were hiring someone to take care of your home, what would you say is fundamental?
It's hard to find people who don't enjoy cuddling with a big furry friend, but I know for a fact they're out there. So if you're planning on applying for a pet sitting assignment, you have to be ok with being around pets and animals in general.
If you're not, that's fine, you can still apply for assignments that don't involve them.
It's worth mentioning that it's not uncommon to find listings asking sitters to take care of farm animals such as chickens, pigs, horses, and sheep. Naturally, this kind of assignment will require more time.
So if you're not willing to put in the work, don't apply.
How to find house sitting jobs abroad
Now that we've covered the basics, let's see where you can actually find house sitting opportunities.
Today there are several platforms specially designed for connecting homeowners to sitters. Usually, both have to pay an annual subscription fee to be able to post jobs or apply for them. But trust me, it's totally worth it!
In most websites, you can also browse listings without creating an account right away, so make sure you do that before committing to the fee. To find jobs suited to your preferences, it's possible to filter the results by dates, location, duration and pet types.
I listed below the top 4 websites for house sitting jobs that cover all continents. But you can also find a few others more niched as in luxury house sits.
The annual fee for sitters is only $20 and there are many listings across North America and Europe. I've joined MindMyHouse in May/2019 and already landed 3 long-term assignments.
The annual fee for homeowners and sitters is $119. It's a bit more expensive, but this site usually has more listings than all of the others combined.
House sitters pay $89 per year for an unlimited amount of applications.
An annual fee of $50 is required to apply for assignments.
How to create a profile in a house sitting platform
After paying the subscription fee, you'll need to create your profile as a sitter.
This is where you really have to step up your game. Showing that you're organized, trustworthy and reliable is key to succeeding.
Start by telling a little bit about yourself, what you do and why you think house sitting is a good idea for your travels. Upload some pictures and a police check, if you have it, because that's usually requested in countries like the US and Canada.
You'll be certainly facing competition, so try to stand out by sharing useful qualities that might be helpful. For example, in my profile I highlighted that I am super organized (Marie Kondo level), so keeping the place I'm staying in spotless is something I always do.
Above all, let it show that you're responsible. Once again, it helps if you imagine you're the one interviewing someone to take care of your house and pets. You'd prefer a communicative person, someone that pays attention to your needs and is good with details.
Remember you'll be taking care of a person most loved belongings and friends (in case there are pets), so show that you understand their concerns about their well-being and state how you can help.
If you have references of sits you did before, even if it's for family members, make sure to add them to your profile.
How to apply for House Sitting Abroad
When it's time to apply for a job, you'll send the homeowners a message letting them know you're available and fit all their requirements.
Causing a good impression right away will get you a long way, so make sure you mention specific things they brought up in the listing.
For example, if the listing says "Our dog, Toby, has to be walked 2 times a day, every day", write that you'd "love to explore the neighborhood with Toby". And don't forget to mention the dates you'd be able to arrive!
If they reply and it appears both of you are on the same page, it's customary to do a Skype call to get to know each other better and talk details.
Being available to the call is essential. To prepare, write down a few questions you have about the listing. This will help show the owners that you take this opportunity seriously.
Time to enjoy the views
If you got the position, now it's time to lay back and relax! Start planning your trip and count the extra dollars now that you don't need to worry about paying for your stay.
House sitting is a year-round option for people who prefer slow travel and have no problem handling a few responsibilities in exchange for the great perk of free accommodation.
The industry is growing steadily as more people travel for longer periods. In popular destinations, competition for a listing can be tough, but having the correct approach to the job and showing genuine understanding for the homeowner's needs can take you to wonderful places.
Dayanne Dockhorn is a writer and anthropologist born in Porto Alegre, Brazil. She is currently traveling with one suitcase. The destination? Wherever the wind blows. You can find her chronicles about life on the road on Medium and her personal website.
Contact her through e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Instagram.