What is House Sitting? Beginner Q&A With a House Sitting Expert

Something I’ve been interested in for a while is the concept of housesitting, as now we have a toddler, I think this could be an effective way for us to take a sabbatical as a family.

So I decided to bring in an expert, to help me learn more.

Welcome to Brittnay Bailey.

Brittnay currently lives in Melbourne, Australia and has done over 50 house sits so far, and now runs a website dedicated to helping people with housesitting.

So grab a coffee and let’s learn the basics of houses sitting together.

Hi Brittnay, how long have you been house sitting for?

I have been house-sitting for the past 5 years and managed to look after 50+ homes in over 12 countries including New Zealand, Australia, Italy, France, Greece, Montenegro, Malaysia, Thailand, Ireland, The UK, and even in the Caribbean where I looked after after a cat on a catamaran!

How did you start house sitting?

I started house sitting when I lived in London.

I was meeting up with a friend one day in the park, and she showed up with a dog. I was intrigued as to where she got this dog from, and she told me she was house-sitting in a beautiful part of London.

The first thing I did when I got home was search for how to start house sitting!  

It took me a long time to get started, I made a lot of mistakes. That is why I wanted to share my knowledge because I see a lot of people struggling through those first few months and if I knew the things I know now, then it would have been so helpful.

How many house sits have you done?

I have done over 50 houses and as I mentioned before that’s over the last five years and over in 12 countries

What is house sitting, and how would you define it to someone who’s new to the concept?

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I think of house sitting as caring for someone’s home and/or pet while they’re away. It usually involves looking after pets, plants, a garden, or a pool but a majority of the house sitting does involve animals.

There are so many opportunities for house sitting, as many people need to travel for work, head away for vacations or visit family members. So there are always hundreds of new house sitting opportunities that you can apply for.

House sitting is a relatively new concept to many people including potential house sitters and potential homeowners. However, once they understand the benefits and the win-win situation there is for both sides, they are excited about it.

Homeowners don’t have to worry about putting their animals in a kennel and taking them out of their comfortable environment. The benefit for the house sitter is they get a place to stay for free while caring for animals an exploring a new place

How did you get started in house sitting, and what motivated you to pursue it?

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I began housing when I was living in London in 2015. I had planned to meet up with a friend at the park one day and she showed up with a dog. I knew she didn’t have her own dog so I kind of asked her what was going on and she told me she was house sitting.

At that point, we were all living in share house with 6-7 roommates, and she was living in this beautiful home in a lovely part of London.

So, I kind of thought maybe I could give house sitting a try, I knew my visa was finishing up soon and I wanted to continue travelling but as you all know living in London is very expensive so I didn’t have a lot of funds at that point.

Not only that when you’re travelling you really miss animal companionship. Growing up I always had animals and I really miss that when I was travelling.

So that’s one part I also loved about house sitting. I was able to explore a new neighbourhood with a dog or snuggle up on the couch with a cat.

To get started I started applying for a few houses sits, but I wasn’t really having any luck at that point. But then I got screenshots of my Airbnb reviews and included a link to those in my applications. I have more helpful tips on getting started here.  With that social proof, I managed to land to house it’s and from those I got 25 5-star reviews which really kickstarted my ability to apply for more competitive house sits throughout Europe and the world

I always recommend people use a house-sitting platform just because I find that it gives a little security for both the homeowner and the house-sitter.

Some other platforms do provide insurance which I think is important as well. You never know what’s going to happen. I touch wood that nothing ever happened with to me, but I’ve heard of other stories of things happening, so having insurance I think it’s critical.

EDITOR’S NOTE: My cousin also house sits and has used multiple platforms, but recommends Trusted Housesitters for their variety of sits and simple platform.

How does compensation or agreements work for house sitters? Is it typically a paid or volunteer arrangement?

I have always done house sitting as a volunteer arrangement because I was travelling as I didn’t want to have any issues with visas or taxes.

I also thought that it was a fair mutual exchange that I would care for their animals in return for somewhere for me to stay, so I never really wanted to take any kind of compensation.

I know many people who house sit do paid house sitting however I haven’t done before.

What are the primary responsibilities of a house sitter, and how do they vary from one assignment to another?

The primary responsibilities of the house sit really do vary from assignment to assignment, they are never the same!

You need to speak with the homeowner and understand what they’re looking for and what their expectations are. You might find that you’re not comfortable caring for large dogs or five cats or a certain breed of animal. So, you need to pick house sits that fit within your skill set or what you’re comfortable with.

The responsibilities may vary from walking, feeding, and giving medication to the animals or they could be caring for a huge garden, or it could be just bringing in the mail every day. As I mentioned before every single house is different you need to speak with the homeowner so you can understand all the expectations they have from the get-go

Can you explain the benefits of house sitting for homeowners and travellers alike?

I’ll start with the benefits for travellers (house sitters).

I’ve already mentioned a few things previously, but I think that when you’re on the move constantly you really do miss that interaction with animals so it’s nice to have that.

Also, when you’re travelling constantly and staying in hotels and hostels, it’s nice to stay in an actual home where you feel a part of a community and you can meet the neighbours. Many times, the homeowner has also told me about their favourite markets, cafes, restaurants and walk.

You really feel like you get to slow down and enjoy a location much more than if you came in for two or three days and then saw all the sights and then left again.

The benefit for a homeowner is that they can leave their animals in their familiar and comfortable environment rather than transporting them to a pet kennel.

Another benefit for the homeowner is they can pick a house sitter with a certain types of skills maybe they do have a huge array of indoor house plants and they can search for a house sitter that is passionate about caring for house plants and that way they can go away knowing they can relax on their holiday and know that things are taken care of at home

Can you share any interesting or memorable experiences you’ve had while house sitting?

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One of my most memorable experiences of house sitting has to be when I was in Greece. We were doing a six-week house sit about 45 minutes South of Athens on the coast.

It was his beautiful little town, and you would think you were in the Greek islands. Before the homeowner left she let us know that halfway through the trip she would need to return home for a few days and then head off again. When she returned she let us know that she had invited everyone round for Sunday lunch and she would like to know if we would be interested in cooking with her. We couldn’t believe our luck. We were going to learn how to prepare a true Greek feast.

Up early on Sunday, we headed to the market, and she showed us all of their favourite produce. We headed back to the house and prepared the feast. It was so lovely to sit around the table with this family and really understand the culture and how they interact with each other

What advice would you give to someone who’s considering becoming a house sitter?

If someone was considering becoming a house sitter I would suggest first seeing if any friends or family need a house sitter. This can be a great way to see if you enjoy house-sitting.

It can be hard going into someone else’s home and caring for some of the most important parts of their life, their animals and their home.

This also gives the opportunity to start building your references. Once you have finished the house sit, reach out and ask them to write you a written review. This will be so helpful once you start applying for more houses if you want to

What are the key qualities or skills that make a successful house sitter?

I think the key quality of a successful house sitter is being adaptable. Situations are constantly changing and nothing is guaranteed in house sitting, homeowners may have to return early or the house sit may get cancelled.

You constantly must adapt to the situation. There are the obvious skills that make a good house sitter, like experience caring for animals or experience cleaning a pool or plants but I think the best skill is understanding yourself.

You want to ensure you’re putting yourselves in situations that you are comfortable in and will be able to perform the duties to the highest standard. If you apply for a house sit that requires you to care for farm animals or a type of garden you’ve never looked after before you might find this extremely stressful and not enjoy this lifestyle or provide your best service.

This in turn might also prevent you getting further house sits as you’ll get a poor reference.

Where can we find out more about you?

You can find out more about me at thetravellinghousesitters.com.

I had so many friends and family ask me how they could also get house started house sitting so I put together lots of resources so that I can just direct them to those and ensure that they get the best knowledge possible

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Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie

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