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How to Become a House Sitter (I Haven’t Paid Rent in 4 Months!)

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For the past four months, I’ve been a full-time house sitter—which means I haven’t paid rent since then! I first started house and pet sitting in 2014 through TrustedHousesitters. Below, I share everything I’ve learned from firsthand experience to help you learn how to become a house sitter.

What is a house sitter?

A house sitter is someone who (paid or unpaid) stays in your house while you’re gone to take care of your home. Their duties may include:

  • Taking out the trash
  • Collecting mail
  • Caring for your pets and plants
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Keeping the house clean
  • Ensuring your house is safe from intruders, pests, and damage while you’re away

Do house sitters get paid?

It depends! To be clear: I do NOT charge for house and pet sitting. I know that may seem shocking, but:

  • I make a living as a writer, so I don’t need the money from house sitting.
  • I house sit because it saves me money (I don’t have to pay rent), AND I get the companionship of pets without the long-term commitment of pet ownership.
  • TrustedHousesitters does NOT allow its members to charge for their house and pet sitting.

However, there are professional house sitters who DO get paid, as they should, because it is their job.

Why would people PAY for someone to stay at their house?

Think of it this way: If a homeowner couldn’t get a house sitter, they’d pay a TON of money to board their pets or hire someone to check in on them. I have a friend who was a professional house sitter in D.C., and she charged about $50/NIGHT to sit 3 pets—and this was 20 years ago!

Pet owners know that boarding is expensive. House sitters are doing them a huge favor. In the reverse, pet owners are doing house sitters a huge favor by giving them a free place to live. It’s a win-win. That’s why I do not charge.

How much does a house sitter earn?

Let’s look at Miami, Florida. I looked up professional house and pet sitting service websites, and this is what I found:

  • Company A:
    • Overnight sitting for dogs or cat starts at $55/night
    • Walking dogs or checking in on cats starts a $15 for 15 minutes.
  • Company B:
    • Dog walks: $22 per 30-minute walk
    • In-home cat visits: $22 per 30-minute cat visit
    • Overnight pet sitting: $120 a night for up to 2 pets
  • Company C:
    • Dog walking: $24 for 25 minutes
    • Overnight stays: $125/night

As you can see, you can make a TON of money as an in-home pet sitter because overnight stays are crazy expensive. Plus, most of my sits are at LEAST one week long. My longest sit? 2 months!

Now, granted, those companies are large, professional bonded and insured ones.

For one-person shows like me, you’d probably charge far less. As an example, Lisa of Dreaming of Down Under said that, in Australia, she started off charging $35 AUD a night and increased it to $50/night plus $10 for each additional pet. $50 AUD converts roughly to $36.40 USD.

What will I be expected to do as a house sitter?

While some house sitting gigs do not have pets, the vast majority of house sitting gigs primarily are for you to take care of pets. In fact, I have never done a gig where I didn’t need to take care of a cat, dog, or fish.

Here are some of the things I’ve been asked to do as a house sitter:

  • Send photos of the pets via text message every day
  • Email updates to the homeowner every couple of days
  • Care for 5 cats by letting them outside into their catio during the day and then bringing them back in at nightfall
  • Replenish the cat feeder
  • Scoop litter boxes every day
  • Walk two dogs twice a day (morning and evening)
  • Bathe one dog once a week
  • Collect mail and store it in a box for the owner’s return
  • Mow the backyard lawn
  • Administer medicine to a cat via pill pockets twice a day
  • Administer medicine to a dog via her food twice a day
  • Give two dogs dental chews every day
  • Drive a cat to the vet because it was sick
  • Water 80 plants inside the house every couple of days
  • Water the vegetable garden every day, unless it rained
  • Play with cat at least 10 minutes per day
  • Feed fish in aquarium every morning
  • Change out aquarium water when it got cloudy
  • Monitor one cat’s chronic UTI condition
  • Wash bedding and make beds upon checkout
  • Make sure house is as clean as the owner left it

How to Become a House Sitter

Join TrustedHousesitters

Believe me, I have tried other housesitting sites (including MindMyHouse), but TrustedHousesitters is the ONLY place I’ve ever gotten gigs.

After building up a solid reputation with my TrustedHousesitters profile, I have been able eto snag other sits by showing people my TrustedHousesitters profile.

So trust me when I say: Joining TrustedHousesitters will MORE than pay for itself.

I highly, highly recommend the Premium membership (which I have) because it includes the criminal background check and makes you look way more professional than the other basic profiles.

Gather references

When filling out your TrustedHousesitters profile, you’ll have a chance to collect references from people for character, house sitting, and pet care. Get creative here if you have to. Think hard. For example, did you check in on a friend’s dog while she was out of town? Ask her if she can leave a reference for your pet care. Did you stay at a friend’s house while she was out of town? Ask her if she can write about how well you took care of her place.

For my references when I first joined TrustedHousesitters, I asked a woman who owned the guesthouse I’d lived at in Peru if she’d leave me a reference. She was able to write about how well I took care of my room and how responsible I was when babysitting her kids.

Basically, you just want people who can speak to how clean, reliable, and friendly you are. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never officially house sat before.

Apply for your first gigs

The first gig is THE most important one—it’s also the most challenging to get. Because you won’t have any verified TrustedHousesitter reviews yet, you’ll need to really prove yourself. Ensure you completely fill out your profile, get lots of references, and write a solid application to the homeowners.

Your ONLY goal for this first house sit is this: Get a stellar review. That means, it doesn’t matter if this is your dream house sit or not; it probably won’t be. Even if it’s only a 2-night sit in your hometown—take it if you can get it. You want to get a good review as fast as possible to start building your credibility.

Aim for EXCELLENCE at your first sit, and ask for a review

So you snagged your first house sit; congrats! The work isn’t over though. You want to OVER-deliver on this sit. Be responsive and communicative. Text the owner photos and updates about once a day. When the owner responds or asks a question, reply quickly. Be sure to follow the instructions they left you.

When the owner returns, leave them a thank-you note and ask them to leave you a review. Be sure to tell them something like, “When owners leave a good review, it helps me gain even more sits with awesome pets.”

Build from there

TrustedHousesitters has a sort of snowball effect: The more you get, the more you get. After that first excellent review, you should find that you more easily land the next one.

Promote yourself!

On TrustedHousesitters, you can search for house sits all over the world. But the BEST ones are often the ones that find YOU first. Sometimes, this happens because homeowners will search the TrustedHousesitters database for housesitters they like.

But, the best way is to promote yourself. Post to Facebook groups in the area you want to sit in.

I’ve done this and landed a week-long sit this way!

You can also let homeowners know that if they have friends who need a housesitter, then please share your information. I’ve landed TWO sits this way, and they were awesome.

Network and promote yourself. Share your TrustedHousesitters profile.

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Advice for Millennials shares real-life advice from real-life millennials about all the things they wish they'd known—from finance to health to careers.

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