How to Become a House Sitter and stay for free
House-sitting can be a great way of keeping the cost of travelling in Australian cities to a minimum. It implies taking care of a house and pets while the homeowners are away on their travels. In a few words, it means having a home for yourself and staying for free.
As a solo traveller, you have to pay high hotel room rates with single supplements. Private rooms in hostels are not always cheap. It is where house sitting comes in as a great way not only to save money on accommodation in Australia but also to experience a more intimate stay while you immerse yourself in the local community.
I had heard – and read – a lot about housesitting from fellow travel bloggers, but it's only in 2014, that I finally got my first housesit in Sydney as a solo traveller.
The rise of house sitting in Australia
It has been hard for me to get started. I didn't have any house sitting experience, and no house sit references nor a police check. While there is a huge demand for house sitters in Australia there is a fairly high number of people willing to housesit, so competition is high.
After replying to many adverts, I stumbled upon a suitable advert, and within a few days, I got my first house sit. The homeowners were looking for a single, mature, reliable house sitter, and a cat lover 🙂 I was lucky enough to be at the right place, at the right moment and be the perfect house sitter for them.
In 2015 I had the opportunity to house sit in Australia a couple of times. In Perth's surroundings and on the northern beaches, in a beautiful home overlooking the Indian ocean.
All in all, it has been a learning-by-doing-it experience with lots of trial and error along the way. I have learnt many things that are crucial to getting a suitable house sits in Australia. This is why I want to share my house sitting experience with you now.
These tips are for a single person, especially for women travelling alone in Australia on long-term and wanting to try out something different in their solo trip.
How to get started with house sitting and choose a website
There are a few reputable house sitters websites that operate online, but some are overpriced, and some are not targeted on House Sitting in Australia. After robust research early this year I, decide to sign up for Aussie House Sitters, an Australian website which specialises in house sitting only in Australia and New Zealand. I use this website. I like the functionality; the platform is easy to use, clear and practical.
What you need to know before signing up for a house sitting website
There are a few things that you need to check before deciding where to sign up. Most sites offer a free sign up that allows you to browse through all housesit adverts, but if you want to contact homeowners, you need to pay for a yearly subscription.
What is an excellent subscription for a house sitting website? It depends on the website functionality and services. In average the rate is between 40-65 USD/year. And I wouldn't invest more.
Functionality is critical, and a key to finding the right house sits, you will not need any fancy techie platform. What you need is a profile where you can upload your photo, write your bio, add your contact details (including phone numbers and Skype-id) your interests, your skills, your availability and the desired locations.
How to set up a compelling housesitter profile
The house sitter profile is the most important thing because it is what gets the eyeballs of homeowners, and what sells you as a trusted house-sitter. Your profile is what your potential homeowners see first and what makes them choose you or not choose you. Like for a job search, you must get the attention of the prospective employer. Some people worry about being too selective or not bringing experience. Well, you will be surprised, but it does not work that way. Homeowners do have in mind the type of person that is a good fit for them
- Check carefully what the house sitting websites offer concerning functionality and services (profile set up, personal details, alerts) and make sure Australia is the targeted market. Her is how my house sitter profile looks like.
- The more specific you are in your profile, the better. Don't be afraid of being too selective.
- Be honest and be yourself. Being new to house sitting doesn't necessarily mean no one will offer you a house sitting job. Reality is that you don't need any special skills nor previous experience to house sit. Everyone can do it. The only thing homeowners look for is a good fit. They want to have a good feeling about handing over their home and beloved pets to a stranger. They must be sure they will have peace of mind where they are away. So your character is what counts, how reliable, committed, and trustworthy you are what counts in the end.
- Be personal and honest in your bio. Say why you want to house sit, why someone should pick you and what you expect from house sitting too.
Hot to get the attention of prospective homeowners
First, you need to create a compelling profile. Then you need to find suitable house-sits and browse through all house sitting adverts.
- Be flexible. Create your specific alerts with the desired locations and timing. For instance, if you are planning to stay in Sydney, make a map of which areas you are prepared to house sit in Sydney by adding surroundings areas too and set up alerts for the desired period. House sit alerts allow getting automated notifications into your mailbox whenever new adverts that match your criteria enter the website database. It is the best way to access adverts before they go live.
- Read carefully through the advert and reply with a short mail. As a general rule, you shall reply when the advert is fresh, within 2-3 hours, after that chances to get a reply decrease rapidly. Attractive house gigs will go quickly. Unfortunately, there is no magic rule on how to make it work. You don't know how many competitors for that house sit are there. The homeowners will get dozens if not hundreds of emails, and they will have to wade through. So bear in mind that out of hundreds of emails, they may pick only 3-4 potential suitable house sitters to which they will reply.
- Write a compelling house sitter title on your mail. It is what makes your letter stand out and what homeowners read first and also what makes them click through. It only takes maybe 10 seconds for the homeowners to shortlist house sitting candidates. In the beginning, my reply rate to adverts was low. I was hoping to get the attention of homeowners and get contacted directly by them to skip the tiring read-and-reply cycle. It is how got two of my house-sit assignments. At first, I thought my profile is not compelling because I prefer to take care of the cats. On the contrary, this proved to help me.
- Less is more. Write a short reply and always add your references.
What if you don't have any house sitting references?
It is the issue all would-be house sitters face at the beginning (me included). I would use good references you have collected over the years from landlords, from B&B hosts, or from volunteer work etc. Review from friends is also useful if you have taken care of their house or pets.
My AirBnB reviews helped me to get my first house sitting job in Australia.
Engage with the potential homeowners
Engaging is critical, but it is also the hardest part. You must try to break through the email barrier. Try to get hold of homeowners on the phone and talk to them. People naturally tend to trust house sitters who are in the country or maybe on the spot. They can speak and also meet them in person. However, thanks to the digital world, phone and skype do help us all break that wall.
- Be available for a chat on the phone (better) or on Skype (if overseas). You can add your phone number every time you write a reply to an advert. Now that you have clicked on the Send Button you've got to wait, and you'd better arm yourself with patience. It will not happen straight away. It took me a few weeks before I started getting some replies. Usually, I get a response within 3-24 hours. Sometimes it may take longer up to 3 days. And after that, it means you will not get any. Don't be discouraged if you don't get replies at the beginning, that's normal. Keep trying. It will work; it's just a question of time.
- Be polite, don't be pushy. Don't follow up emails unless they have come back to you first.
What if homeowners offer you to house sit
So, what happens when you get your first house to sit job. Once you have accepted it, show your commitment and add the booked house sit dates to your profile. This way, you will not be available any more during the reserved period. It shows them that you are taking it seriously!
I still remember the excitement when I got my first house sit. I couldn't believe it that I got it. 🙂
- Show commitment and show the homeowners that you have taken your house sit job seriously. Make an appointment to meet up before starting. If you overseas keep in touch via mail or skype and arrange to arrive a few days before the house sit starts.
- Keep in contact with the homeowners while they are away, give them updates about the welfare of their pets, send them photos, tell them how you are going, etc.
- Keep the house tidy and clean and return it to the homeowners in the same state or even better.
- Stick to the arrangments with regards to the house sit tasks, i.e. feeding pets, walking dogs, collecting mail, watering the garden, etc.
Between 2015 and 2019, I have been house sitting in Australia five times. One housesit for six weeks on the Gold Coast and five housesits in Perth suburbs. I have been fortunate in getting amazing homes to look after from beautiful people with lovely pets. I am very excited and can't wait to house sit again and discover new corners of Australia.
Either ten days or several months, the house sits in Australia are a rewarding way of staying for free, thus saving big on the accommodation expense.
But it's not only about the saving-money aspect, but it's also about being able to live in a real home, living immersed in a new neighbourhood, become part of a community for a while and see Australia from a different perspective of the typical traveller routine.
It is something exciting and different to do in your Australia Solo Travel Adventure.
If you want to start to dig deeper and get to know all the tips and tricks from expert housesitters, you can also get the complete Housesitting Guide and start house sitting around the world.
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