How to become a professional house sitter and travel the world
After 5 years of housesitting and more than 10 assignments where I took care of beautiful homes and even more beautiful furry creatures, I realized what being a professional housesitter really means, and that I have always been one. It is very simple really but not many people have a clear idea.
So in this post, I will explain how to become a housesitter (a professional one) and where to find assignments, besides many other important aspects of being a house sitter that you should know.
I have been working as a housesitter for the past 5 years since I left my job and started my journey on the road but I never understood what being a “professional” housesitter really meant.
Every time I would read “I am a professional housesitter” I would always wonder, what differentiated me from a professional one. Do I need a certification? do I need to have a certain number of assignments to declare I am a “professional”? How do I know if I am a professional sitter?
After reading and learning about other housesitters’ experiences and after reading the flattering reviews from my previous homeowners, I realized I am indeed a professional house sitter, no doubt, and I have been like that from day one.
And that’s why I have decided to write this post after so long.
So in this post, I am explaining what you require to become a professional housesitter, from my own experience, and where to find housesitting opportunities. It’s a no-brainer, really, but I can see it’s not that clear for many people.
No certification is required, or any special career, or specific qualification, but there are a few things that are a must, including some common sense and genuine love for animals and other elements that you should be aware of, before deciding you want to be a house sitter.
Because not anybody can do it.
So if you want to become a housesitter, I suggest you continue reading this.
What is a housesitter?
A housesitter is somebody who looks after a home and pets when the homeowner is away. In some cases, homeowners don’t have pets and just need somebody to look after the house.
This last one is usually the case of big luxury homes where the owner needs somebody to manage workers such as gardeners or cleaners or just wants you to take care of their plants.
It can be anywhere in the world and it’s usually an exchange, with no payment involved, so the housesitter lives in the house in exchange for looking after the pets and home.
So basically even if you don’t get paid in cash, you save money on rent, which is in a way a form of payment, if you don’t have your own house.
And that’s why financially it is more convenient for people who live on the road and work from anywhere, the so-called digital nomads.
However, there are many situations, especially in the US and Australia housesitting is a full-time job where there is payment involved. But in order to do that you need to be eligible to work in the country legally.
I have recently found out about paying housesitter gigs and there are specific websites where to look for those, but I will talk about it later in this post.
This happens especially in cases of remote areas that are not particularly attractive and where nobody would want to go for the sake of traveling, but also in more popular places, for luxury homes that involve management and full-time care of the premises.
I have started housesitting in Mexico and I am presently in Guatemala as I am writing this article, and I have never seen paid housesitting gigs here, and probably for a reason.
In fact, there is such a high demand for housesitting positions that anybody would do it for free just for the sake of having a free stay in Mexico or Guatemala for example.
In this post, I am talking about housesitting as an exchange because that’s what I know about and what I do.
Usually, housesitters are digital nomads or remote workers who travel the world and want to save some bucks on accommodation. That’s how I started looking for housesitting gigs.
When I left my job in Cancun and I started my journey through Latin America, being a housesitter allowed me to stay in great places while saving money for my long-term journey.
But although it is a great way to save on rent, you need to keep in mind that while you are housesitting you don’t always have the freedom to explore the surroundings as you would have if you were just traveling and paying for your own rent.
You have responsibilities and you need to keep the interest and care of your pets your priority, and even your hunger for exploring comes after. Of course, it’s not always the case.
There are situations in which pets don’t really require much attention but this is a very important matter that you need to discuss with the homeowner before accepting the assignment in the first place.
Although I have to be honest I never like to leave the pets on their own for too long, even when I know they are used to it.
I will talk about it in the below section of this post in detail.
But it is very important to understand that there is a time for exploring and a time for housesitting. So I use my housesitting time to work on my business while the dogs and cats and I are keeping each other company and I leave exploring when I am not housesitting.
In doing this I assure the pets have all the attention while I focus on my work. This is a win-win situation and it helps me to have a balanced life on the road.
You may find it hard to believe, but traveling full-time can be exhausting. So housesitting allow me to stay in a comfortable house without having to think about my next move, but create a healthy routine instead, with home-cooked food and exercising and lots of time spent on the computer and with the pets.
Both cats and dogs get used to me easily because I am around all the time and we get along from day one.
Oh well, maybe cats require more time, you know how picky they can be. But they will come around more easily if I am a constant presence.
I realized that from my very first housesitting gig on the Yucatan coast, near Merida. I was so grateful that I was given a chance with no previous experience.
I was looking after two beautiful dogs (both of them now passed, RIP sweet babies) and I was never comfortable leaving them at home alone, I just could feel they didn’t like it. So even when I had to go grocery shopping I tried to rush it.
And even with all my next sitting assignments I just loved and cherished all my time with those loving furry creatures and it was natural to put their needs first. That was the reason why I was there in the first place. And that will take us to the next point.
How to become a professional housesitter
Are you still with me? If you have come that far, it means that you are still interested in becoming a housesitter and you want to know what are the requisites, I guess. Well, it is very easy indeed and you may have already guessed from the previous lines.
It takes lots of love, a sense of responsibility, commitment, and common sense, but it all comes down to understanding that you are there for the pets and not for a free place to stay. It’s an exchange and you’ve got to do your part.
The thing is if you love animals it won’t feel like a job because spending time with them and taking care of their needs would be exactly the main reason why you are housesitting in the first place.
I had never had a pet when I was living in Italy, and I am not sure where this love for animals comes from. It may be because when I was very little, even before I can remember, my grandfather had a German Sheppard who was very protective of me.
One time my father pretended to hit me just to see the dog’s reaction (her name was Mirka) and she bit my father on the calf. Of course, I don’t remember, my dad told me. I want to think that my love for animals is subconsciously coming from there.
The thing is that they are an important part of my life and when I am not housesitting I miss having them around.
That’s why I like to alternate housesitting/working time with traveling, which, for the records are two different things. If you are wondering why I don’t have my own, the answer is because I am “allergic” to long term commitments and I am traveling full time so it wouldn’t really make sense, but I will have my own once I decide to settle somewhere in this world if I ever decide so.
That’s why housesitting is for me the perfect way of compensating my need for pets’ love.
Do I need a visa to work as a housesitter?
I don’t believe there is official immigration law on that. However, using common sense, I would say that you would require a visa when you are receiving a payment for your service.
However, if it’s an exchange and you don’t receive any monetary compensation you are not technically employed, and therefore you shouldn’t need a working visa.
However please consider that in most of countries, you are allowed to stay on a tourist visa for a maximum of 3 months, now even in Mexico.
After that, you either go in and out of the country (depending on the country’s regulations) or can stay and pay a fine when you go out, or you can extend your tourist visa. You will need to enquire with the immigration office of the country you are housesitting.
Another option that has become very common in many countries is the Digital Nomad visa, which allows you to stay for a year or more “legally” but you have to prove that you are not being employed locally.
Requirements for Becoming a housesitter
Following up on what I mentioned above, here are a few of the requirements for becoming a housesitter, a professional one, I mean. Or at least what I consider essential.
Love for animals
If you don’t have a genuine affection for animals and you just want to do it for the sake of a free home, forget about it. They will feel you don’t care and they will suffer, which means that you are not doing what you are supposed to do. I have talked about it already but it’s always a good reminder.
Usually, housesitters, either are retired or have an online job or are just on a break. In any case, you need to have the flexibility to adapt to the pets’ schedule for walks and prepare their meals, and sometimes manage their medications or be available for any emergency.
So, if you have a remote job with a specific schedule you need to be clear about that with the homeowner before accepting the job.
Some homeowners have a flexible routine themselves and you would be able to arrange your routine around your own working schedule, but it’s not always the case.
From my experience, I was happy I didn’t have a regular job when I was housesitting because I had the flexibility to be there for the pets and adapt my business hours to their needs.
The irony is, one time I accepted a housesitting position while I had a job with fixed working hours and I thought I could handle it perfectly. I was happy that due to the pandemic I was let go before I get to the house to sit.
It would have been too stressful to handle it, and not feasible.
If you are working as a freelance or you have your own business and you can perfectly manage your time and that would be a perfect situation.
Commitment and honesty
You need to consider that the homeowner has just met you or maybe only talked to you on the phone or via email, and decided to trust you enough to let you live in her home alone and look after their precious creatures. This is a big leap of faith if you think about that. The least you could do is follow her request, instructions, and rules.
For example, in most of cases, you are not supposed to leave the house for more than a certain amount of time, let alone leave the dog alone overnight.
Also, most of the time you are not allowed to have guests over unless you ask first. It is important that you go through the pets requirement and house rules before accepting the job, in order to be clear and start this partnership on the right foot.
Once learned and accepted, those rules and requests need to be followed. It’s a matter of respect first, but also for the sake of the animal’s well-being. Some dogs are more sensitive and would go through a lot of stress if you leave them alone for too long.
While I am writing this I am looking at Galla, one of the sweet dog girls that I am presently looking after. She is staring at me with her usual smile on her face and loving eyes.
It just melts my heart. Not to talk about when I come back from the grocery and I have been out 2 hours, as soon as she sees me, she wiggles and smiles as if I have been away for a month.
Too much cuteness! These are some of the reasons why I love housesitting so much, the special connection you can have with those god-sent creatures.
Be comfortable with being on your own
It’s not always the case but in some of the houses where I sat I was pretty much isolated, literally and I couldn’t have been happier, to be away and have time for myself.
But I am a kind of introvert. If you are somebody who loves to go out often and be among people you need to make sure you choose a home located in a city or close enough to be able to hang out but always without affecting the pet care, of course.
When I was sitting in NYC, where distances are long, I asked the homeowner what was the maximum time I could be away, for the pet not to be in distress.
I wanted to explore the city of course, but I made sure I didn’t stay out too long for the dog to miss me too much. It was a cute old dog and sometimes I left while he was sleeping and I would return to find him still fast asleep. That was a relief.
Sometimes homeowners have specific requirements for the sitters either because they have animals with specific medical conditions that require more professional care or because they have other kinds of animals, such as horses for example that may require previous experience.
This is why it is always very important to clarify all the needs and requirements before accepting.
That is valid on both sides of course since it’s also the duty of the homeowner to assure that the candidate is a good fit for their pets and home.
Your duties as a housesitter?
The duties of a housesitter may vary from household to household. Generally speaking, you will need to:
- feed the pets
- walk the pets
- give the pets love and attention
- give them medication if that is required
- plant watering
- keeping the house clean and tidy
- send owners pics of the pets and updates, if they want.
As you can see it’s not a difficult job and it doesn’t require a lot of time, well…if you don’t count the time I leave my computer to cuddle the pets.
I admit they are my biggest distraction, but I love it. One time I had to take care of two kittens among many other cats.
I had the time of my life although I didn’t get much done because I would spend most of my time playing with them or watching them doing their shenanigans. I was very well entertained.
As for house cleaning, the majority of the home I sat for had a cleaner, which was nice, especially when the house was very big. I didn’t really want to spend the day cleaning, besides the fact that I am not really good at it.
The house cleaning cost is normally taken care of, but not always, so you will need to ask if this is a deal-breaker or an important factor to you.
I always say that housesitting is a part-time job that requires full-time care and love. The thing is that you actually don’t require much time but you still have to be there for them.
You cannot just go out and mind your own business as if you were on a vacation. Think about it as being always on call. But you can spend that time working from your laptop, of course.
What a housesitter is not supposed to do
Well, this topic is very broad and it depends on the situation. In theory, the housesitter duties are limited to what is stated above, but there may be other minor duties that the owner may request.
There is one request that I came across once and I was a little annoyed by how some people really don’t have the least respect for others. It was in Lima, Peru.
In that case, the owner was looking for somebody to manage his Airbnb, besides the regular housesitting duties, and that was, obviously for free. That is a no-go for me. It’s a lucrative activity and a responsibility and you should get paid for it.
On another occasion, I met a girl at an event, and as soon as she knew I was doing housesitting she asked me if I could take over her business while she was going on vacation for a month.
First of all that implied managing employees and money, and again for free.
A business that I didn’t know anything about. Besides she didn’t even know me enough to hand me over a business. That time I was kind of shocked and I politely refused.
What you should expect from a homeowner
The most important part that I am considerate about is having a good connection with the homeowner and being on the same page.
I was fortunate that it has been always the case, except with one of the people I contacted for a housesit, where I didn’t have a good feeling from the very beginning of our conversation and I was happy it didn’t go through although it was in a place where I would have really loved to sit.
But for me having a good relationship and understanding with the homeowners is essential. After all, you have got to stay in their house and look after their beloved pets.
Even before accepting you need to have a clear vision of what you are going to do and where you are going to stay, what are your duty and expenses and every single aspect that you consider essential.
So it’s important that if the homeowner is not super clear about it you must ask in order to avoid surprises.
I have never had any issues but I have heard some horror stories of situations that I hope I will never have to deal with.
Housesitting as an exchange
Let’s talk about housesitting as an exchange because I have never done a paid one.
I don’t think there are specific written rules, but according to my experience and what I have heard, all the utilities should be paid for by the owner, and so the cost of cleaner and other workers if any.
The housesitter is just responsible for paying for her own food. There are some owners that love to leave some money for food or a taxi as a courtesy gesture, especially if the home is in a remote area with no public transport, which is nice. But I never expect that and I am happy to pay for those expenses.
They should leave some emergency money in case anything happens, such as a veterinary emergency, for example, or bills to pay.
Also, the owners should let you know if they want to receive daily updates and pictures/videos of their home and furry kids or not. I used to do it, but some owners don’t want that.
I have even opened an IG account where I would post daily about the pets’ life and they can check out all the time they want. In this way, I am not spamming their WhatsApp with pets’ photos but they can check on them any time they want.
Pros and cons of working as a housesitter
The pros and cons of working as a housesitter can differ from person to person, depending on your needs. But here are some general ones
Pros of working as a housesitter
- living with cute pets
- saving on rent
- (in some cases) living in a beautiful house
- a great environment to focus on your business while keeping each other company with the pets
- having the chance to live in a city or region where you may not be able to afford it otherwise
Cons of working as a housesitter
- you are not totally free of doing what you want with your time, as you are tight to the pet’s schedules and needs
- sometimes it’s in places where you don’t really want to be
- sometimes it’s in very touristy places where there are plenty of things to do but you can’t do anything because have to look after the pets and you cannot stay away for too long. (In this case, I normally stay a few extra days after or before the housesitting assignment to explore the area on my own)
Where to find housesitting assignments
There are many sites where you can find housesitting requests. However, for some destinations, you can find a lot of requests on specific Facebook groups. Just do a search for housesitting in [name of the country] and you may find something, especially if it’s a common destination for housesitters.
I have started housesitting in Mexico and I found all my assignments in the Mexico housesitting group. There are many opportunities for housesitting in Mexico. There is also a group for Housesitting in Central America but I have never found many opportunities there.
I have recently signed up to the Trustedhousesitter website, one of the first and the most popular site for housesitters and homeowners to meet, which also has many opportunities all over the world. I haven’t used it yet although I have been sent out a few requests.
Actually, I need to share this story. I was looking for a housesitting opportunity in NYC I found an amazing one exactly on the dates that I was looking for. I wrote to the couple a nice letter explaining my experience and offering references (which I didn’t have on TrustedHousesitters because my account was new) and I have never received a reply, just a decline of my offer.
How rude, I thought!
Then I read some blog posts about housesitting in NYC and they say it’s the most competitive city where to find opportunities.
Besides, New Yorkers, because they live such a frenetic life, don’t bother replying. Oh wow, I thought, I didn’t know being busy meant being disrespectful. I guess I am being too sentimental.
Anyway, if you are looking for housesitting in NY as your first gig, you know now what to expect. Just make sure you build up some experience and reference on TrustedHousesitter first. That will give you more chances to get picked for sure.
Normally more remote and less attractive destinations are in lower demand and easier to get.
I am listing here more housesitting sites for your convenience. It doesn’t hurt trying. Also usually on all those sites, you can find many useful resources on how to be a professional housesitter or what to expect and how to deal with difficult situations.
House sitting websites
- Trustedhousesitters – The most popular website to find housesitting opportunities all over the world. Subscriptions cost 129 USD per year for the basic plan. The higher plan includes also insurance, but I just used the basic one. If you use this link, you can get a discount.
- Mind My House $20 /year
- Nomador – a free option for up to 3 applications or a paid registration that is $42/3 months or $99/year
- Housecarers – free for a limited number of request – $45/year for unlimited search
- House Sit Match from 69 GPB/year
Once you sign up on any of those sites, it is very important to fill out your profile as much detail as possible with information and pictures of your past experience.
Paid housesitting jobs
There are also some websites for paid housesitting opportunities. I have never done anything like that, and the main reason is that you must be eligible to work in the country. So if you are from the USA, Canada or Australia, you will find many opportunities. Here are the sites that I know of.
- Housesitting in Canada and USA only.
- Cost is from 26 USD (1 month) to 90 USD (1 year)
- You will need to fill in a form indicating your hourly rate.
Rover.com – It’s a website and also a phone up to find housesitting and different kinds of pet care in many states around the world.
But as I mentioned before you need to be eligible to work there, so you may want to check it out to find opportunities in your own country of residence. It’s free to subscribe but the site gets a percentage of your earnings.
HousesitterAmerica – On this site, you can find paid housesitting opportunities in the USA.
Agreement between the housesitter and the homeowner
Lastly, I am sorry to repeat myself, but it is very important that the housesitter and the homeowner are on the same page and have a clear understanding of each other.
In some cases, there are contracts in place with all the major points laid out and signed off. It never happened to me. It was all the time a very informal but genuine mutual understanding.
Here below I am sharing the main questions that a new housesitter should ask before accepting the job, but those are also information that usually the homeowner shares when they are looking for somebody to look after their home. But since it’s not always the case, here are some guidelines
- pictures of the house and pets
- if the pets have particular medical conditions
- what is the pets’ rutine
- what tasks are required from the housesitter
- where is the house located, are there transports to the city or main shopping centers
- are the utilities covered?
- are there any expenses that the housesitter is required to cover?
- what’s the cost of living in the area?
I always believe in every good relationship communication is king, and so it’s in housesitting especially when you will live in a house of a stranger. Or at least it is for me, if I don’t connect I would feel uncomfortable.
I believe I have said everything I wanted to say about housesitting. I hope this post was helpful but please let me know if I forgot anything or if you have any questions.
And good luck with your first housesitting experience!
About the Author
Hello there! This is Isabella, the author of this blog, and a cat lover. I am an Italian expatriate with a Mexican permanent Residence. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my job and explore my beloved Mexico and the rest of this beautiful world, starting from South America, while sharing my travel stories and offering useful travel tips about traveling as a solo female traveler and digital nomad.