Sitting House: How to Get House Sitting Jobs AbroadWorking Abroad — By Sarah A on August 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm
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By Sarah Amandolare
LG Entertainment Editor
It sounds almost too good to be true: you live in someone’s home, experience a new place, pace and culture, all for the cost of a plane ticket. But house sitting can be done, and finding an assignment is not as difficult as you might think. In reality, house sitting is like any sort of travel: an attainable experience, so long as you’re willing to take a leap of faith. However, said leap shouldn’t be entered into lightly, and there are a few important pre-departure details to work out. Below, you’ll learn which online house sitting agencies to consult, find out what to expect from an international house sitting gig, and get advice for making the most of your experience.
Pre-Trip Research and Preparation
Payment and Responsibilities:
Most house sitting positions are unpaid, but not all. Before you begin searching for a position, think about whether you can afford to go unpaid for a stretch of time, or whether you’ll be able to work remotely; freelancers, of course, are in luck.
Many positions require the house sitter to take care of a pet, or do some light gardening or housekeeping. In other words, you’ll probably need to spend a large portion of your time at the house; if you’re looking for a position that will allow you enough time and flexibility to travel and explore nearby cities (or countries), make sure to discuss this with the homeowners before accepting a position.
Read as much as you can about a place before you go, advised Lost Girl Jodi Ettenberg in a Q&A with Gadling. Although the Legal Nomads blogger was referring to travel in general, her advice is most definitely applicable to house sitting. That’s not to say you should know everything before you arrive—part of the fun of house sitting is exploring your new surroundings—but, as Ettenberg notes, reading can “add an additional, important layer that will make your visit more satisfying overall.”
Consider Language Barriers:
Last winter, I spontaneously accepted a house sitting position in a tiny village where I didn’t speak a lick of the language. Needless to say, the experience was humbling, hard and nothing like the idyllic break I’d hoped for. Do yourself a favor and avoid repeating my mistake by preparing yourself with a few language lessons, if possible. Consider taking online language lessons, as The New York Times reported on recently.
Don’t Get Trapped:
I ended up weathering one of the village’s coldest, snowiest winters on record, which made driving nearly impossible for most of my stay. Public transportation also turned out to be more complicated than expected. Plus, managing a bus ride with the dog I’d been entrusted with ended up being more difficult than the homeowners had revealed. Lesson: consider your transportation options and the weather forecast before jumping into a house sitting position.
House Sitting Advice From a Pro
Writer and self-professed “jack of all trades” Tom Hill is something of a house sitting legend. In a 2007 article for The Guardian, he discussed how he and his wife have made house sitting into a career, building up their reputations by word of mouth and by establishing their online presence. “House-sitting is a win-win situation and should not be seen as a business – rather, as a liberating lifestyle,” Hill writes.
The couple has a website where they sell a downloadable guide to house sitting, and advertise their own house sitting services.
Agencies Offering House Sitting Jobs Abroad
Search for house sitting jobs online, and you’ll be hit with a multitude of options, many of which are not legitimate. The agencies below are well established, and although they charge small fees, you can trust that you’re paying for a worthwhile service.
Another less reliable option is Craigslist, where I found my house sitting job. There is no specific section for it, but some people post house sitting opportunities under “Housing Swap.”
Why Use It?
Mind My House launched in 2005 and is still going strong, a testament to its well-organized, affordable services for house sitters and homeowners. The site charges a fee of $20 per year for access to listings of international house sitting jobs, conveniently organized by country; home owners can join for free.
How Does It Work?
Members can create posts advertising their own house sitting (and pet sitting) services, which tends to be the best way to snag a job. According to Mind My House, “home owners rarely advertise their house sitting assignments, preferring instead to search our database of sitter available listings and contact house sitters directly.”
Before accepting a position, check out the FAQ section of the site for advice on legal issues, security deposits, and dealing with problems that may arise, such as pet illness or broken furniture. The site also provides a House Sitting Agreement form, which acts as a contract protecting both the house sitter and the homeowner. Before-You-Go checklists for home owners are also available.
A Look at Listings:
On a quick browse, I noticed only a few listings in most countries; as the site says, most home owners don’t advertise their positions. However, I did see an enticing position on a farm in Abruzzo, Italy, so do give the listings a once-over.
Why Use It?
This publication has been around for 28 years, and has listings of house sitting and caretaker positions around the world. Although membership is quite pricey ($29.95 per year for online access only), it does offer more than a simple service.
Each issue (released bi-monthly) contains a Caretaker Profile, offering insight into what it’s like to be a caretaker. Don’t be intimidated by the word “caretaker,” as it tends to involve the same duties as house sitting, such as light gardening or pet care. Some caretaker positions are paid, and require more involved work.
How Does It Work?
A subscription grants you access to the website’s short-term and long-term house sitting and caretaker listings around the world, updated daily. Throughout the week, subscribers are also emailed listings of last-minute “rent-free living opportunities.”
A Look at Listings:
Listings are quite varied on this site. For example, I noticed listings for a flat in Chiswick, London, with a small garden and galley kitchen; a cabin in coastal Hawaii, requiring care of orchards, a garden and cats; and an Alaskan homestead with hot tub and stipend.
Why Use It?
Based in Australia, this agency lists tons of house sitting opportunities in the U.S. and abroad, and goes out of its way to make your profile visible once you purchase the $45 yearlong membership.
How Does It Work?
Without a paid membership, you can receive notifications of house sitting opportunities. However, to apply for a position, reply to messages from homeowners, display your contact details or upload photos, you’ll have to pay the full membership fee.
Once you’ve registered, HouseCarers.com will email your profile to all registered homeowners in the locations you’re interested in. You’ll also get email notifications alerting you to new house sitting assignments in your locations of choice.
If you’re heart-set on a house sitting gig Down Under, you’ll find plenty to choose from here. I stumbled upon a house with two dogs in the Sydney suburbs, and a position at a home in Kuranda, a rain forest village outside of Cairns. If you can’t find listings in your destination of choice, don’t fret; the site warns that many homeowners don’t post listings, instead preferring to reach out to individuals based on their profiles.