House-sitting: the lowdown

House-sitting: the lowdown

Cool city-centre apartments, countryside cottages, eco-homes and heritage houses. House-sitting comes in all shapes and sizes - sometimes it’s better than you expect, sometimes not and usually a win-win. And there’s often, but not always, a pet involved, and sometimes a car you can use. It’s a cheap accommodation option but it comes with responsibilities too.

The best-known website is but others include, and There may also be posts about house-sitting opportunities on Listings are usually free for the homeowner while potential house-sitters pay a registration fee to search the site.

What’s expected?

Homeowners specify who they’re looking for, how long for and how many people. Keeping the house clean and secure is essential – there’s a reason it’s free. Many owners have pets so you could be looking after dogs, cats, birds, fish or more exotic species. If there’s a garden, there may be gardening duties or perhaps plants to water. Some may ask you to open their post and keep them updated on anything urgent. Make sure everything that’s expected is in writing – and read it!

Keep in mind

If you’re not a ‘pet person’, don’t let the idea of free accommodation lure you. Pets’ welfare is often the key reason the owner is looking for a sitter, so be responsible. Whether it’s pets, gardens or other tasks, ensure your duties are clear, so both parties are happy after ‘check-out’. If the owners have specified certain things e.g. not to use a certain room or a quirk of the washing machine, pay attention.

And it works both ways too. Speak to them on the phone so you get a feel for who they are. Once you’ve said yes, get their mobile number and email so you can contact them while they’re away. They may ask for your references, but you can also check them out e.g. ask who last house-sat for them or read any reviews on the website. Remember to ask about internet, if that’s important to you, and if you other guests can stay. It’s better to ask more questions than miss something in the agreement.

With most house-sitting jobs, there’s no money involved but an owner may offer a certain amount if there are several jobs to do. It can be the other way round too, especially for a long-term house-sit, where a sitter may be asked to contribute to bills.

If you’re travelling solo, it may feel isolating but it depends on the location. In a block of flats, you could end up with local friends and neighbours.


Aside from the fact it shouldn’t cost you much, living in a house or flat can be great for getting to know a place. The owners may offer you insider tips, even introduce you to local friends. Many house-sitters make friends for life. If you’ve been on the road for a while, a chance to escape the hamster wheel of hostels and dorms can be welcome. If you’re on a budget, house-sitting can mean you stay for longer, with no costs other than cooking meals.

Use your house-sitter profile to sell yourself and of course, once you’ve done a few and had good feedback, your track record will speak for itself.


Meera Dattani
Added 08th December 2015

Hi Jakob. Glad you found it useful. I apologise for any confusion about the house-sitting section. I believe people post as and when if that's what they're looking for (e.g. Hope that's useful. Yes can be trickier in Latin America but hopefully that will change. Air B&B where there's a local host is probably a good bet for now.

Jakob Gibbons
Added 04th December 2015

Great advice! This is such a great tool for budget travel and language immersion. I've only discovered it myself recently and hope to jump on the bandwagon some time this year! It's a bit difficult though, as there don't seem to be too awful many options in Latin America.

Are you sure Couchsurfing has a house-sitting section, by the way? I'm a very active member of the CS community and have never heard of that, and can't seem to find it anywhere on their website...

Great tips, I'll definitely be sharing this with some language learners who want to go abroad!

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