Mow the lawn and take a daily walk around the castle, and you can stay for free near Thuré, France. Just feed the cats, and you can have a two-month break in the mountains near Barcelona, Spain. Or how about a few weeks in a cottage on the wild west coast of Ireland in return for keeping the vegetable plot tidy?
These are just some of the genuine offers of free accommodation you can take advantage of when you housesit.
From Singapore to Sydney, Athens to Auckland, hundreds of opportunities exist for travel to exotic places, without paying for accommodation. Just take care of the morning paper, the pets, or the garden and you can stay in homes when the owners are away…at no cost.
55-year-old Mike Hopkins is a veteran house-sitter who loves the Caribbean. He says he saved $3,000 on the costs of accommodation while on Caribbean island of Antigua, house-sitting for a month in a home that was on the market for $1.5 million. During another four-month sit on the eastern coast of the island, Mike maintained a pool and in return saved around $8,000 in costs.
To increase the chances you’ll land a gig like that, position yourself like a pro. Here’s how –
Create an online ad: A number of websites have popped up where house sitters advertise their availability and homeowners express their need for a sitter. Two of the most popular are HouseCarers.com and MindMyHouse.com. Basic registration on House Carers is free. But I suggest signing up for premium membership ($50), which gives your ad more visibility and allows you to upload photos. An ad on Mind My House costs $20.
Think about your ad as if it were a job interview. List your experience taking care of a home, be it your own or someone else’s. Outline your time availability. Mention what types of pets you’re comfortable taking care of. And most importantly, be positive. Don’t start your ad saying, “I don’t have any house-sitting experience….” Instead, focus on the benefits you bring to the table. Homeowners are trusting you with their most valuable asset. Make sure you paint yourself as serious, qualified and professional.
Subscribe to Caretaker Gazette: Published since 1983, this newsletter is the old daddy of the house-sitting scene. A yearly subscription costs $29.95, which includes a bi-monthly newsletter with house-sitting opportunities around the world. You also receive email listings of new opportunities when homeowners need a sitter quickly.
Provide references: Get references together before you start your search. These can be from friends, colleagues, or landlords. Ever house-sat before? If so, ask that person to write a reference. Other people vouching for you increases credibility and heightens the chances of landing a gig.
Police background check: Along with a reference, a police background check is a good way to convince homeowners you can be trusted. This shows homeowners you’re serious about house-sitting and not just dreaming of a free vacation. Processing a background check takes about one week. Head to your local police department for more information.
Build a house-sitter website: In addition to an ad, an easy way to increase your credibility is to make a website. In about 20 minutes and for $17, you can create a basic site with your own domain, thanks to a blogging platform called WordPress. On your site, describe your qualifications and references and provide a picture of yourself.
Contact homeowners: Once you’ve completed the steps above, begin the hunt for a house sit. A good place to start is by searching House Carers and Mind My House. Filter by the countries you’re interested in visiting. Some homeowners prefer to find you, so not every available job will be listed. That said, my quick search revealed houses available in Normandy, Sydney, and Sicily.
Network with Facebook and email: Have friends abroad? Send an email and post to your Facebook wall asking if anyone’s planning a trip in the foreseeable future. You might be pleasantly surprised that your friend in France has a three-week vacation coming up and is looking for someone to look after the cat.