Out of all the fun and easy gigs to rake in extra cash, house-sitting ranks right up there alongside getting paid to eat cereal and taste-test chocolate (Yes, those are actual side hustles). As a house sitter, you get to enjoy a free place to stay, whether that’s doing a staycation in your city or getting a taste of life elsewhere and house-sitting at a location you’re traveling to. Free accommodations, plus the potential to rake in some extra cash? What’s not to like?
Before you get too wrapped in fantasies of traveling the world or staycationing while getting paid for it, let’s take a look at the realities of being a house sitter — the good, the bad, and the ugly and how to get paid to be a house sitter. In this A-to-Z guide, we’ll shine a light on what exactly it means to be a house sitter, how much it pays, its advantages and disadvantages, and how to get started:
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What is a house sitter?
In a nutshell, a house sitter is someone who is trusted to look after a house while the owner is away. An agreement is made between the house sitter and the owner on the period of time. If you happen to land such a gig, you agree to tend to a handful of responsibilities for some cash.
How much to pay a house sitter?
How much a house sitter pays can vary by a ton. In some cases, you’re getting free accommodations. In other cases, you’re offered a free place to stay, plus usually a day rate.
According to the Economic Research Institute (ERI), the average house sitter salary in the U.S. hovers at $32,004, which breaks down to $403 a day, or $15 an hour. Here’s the thing: rarely are you working year-round as a house sitter. You might work for a few weeks here and there. Or several months out of the year.
Other factors that can play into how much you can earn house-sitting include:
- Amount of time
- If you’re staying overnight or only house-sit during the day
- If tasks involve pet sitting, watering plants, gathering mail
- Monitoring home security cameras for suspicious activity
- Washing the car, and taking it for an occasional spin around the block
Pros and cons of house-sitting
As you know, there’s a good and bad to everything. House-sitting is no different. Here are some advantages and downsides:
Pros of house-sitting
Get paid to travel. This is probably the sweetest perk to house-sitting. Here’s how it usually works: You get free room and board in exchange for your services — and check out the local sights and cuisine while you’re at it. And depending on the arrangement, you might get paid on top of that.
Can “stack” side hustles. What is stacking side hustles, you ask? Stacking side hustles is a technique I came up with throughout my years of being a side hustler. It’s a tactic to boost your earnings, and it’s when you’re able to make money by doing two hustles at the same time. For instance, house-sitting and doing online surveys or freelance proofreading.
Cons of house-sitting
Tied to someone else’s schedule. While house-sitting may indeed seem like a sweet gig — and in many ways, it is — it’s still a job at the end of the day. “It’s not for everyone,” says Kelly Hayes-Raitt, a professional house sitter and author of How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva. “Recognize that you’ll be living with other people’s schedules, routines, stuff, pets, and energy.”
Pandemic challenges are a struggle. The pandemic has upped the complexities of housekeeping, no doubt. You’re looking at potential flight delays, cancellations, and last-minute shake-ups should someone test positive for COVID-19 days before a scheduled trip.
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How to become a house sitter:
Kelly Hayes-Raitt knows a thing or two about the art of house-sitting. Having made a professional go of it since 2009, she has pretty much globe-trotted a la house-sitting and has stayed in China, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand, the U.K., Europe, and throughout Africa. Here are eight tips from Hayes-Raitt on how to get your feet wet:
1. Prepare for some stiff competition
“As you might imagine, landing a house-sitting gig can be super competitive,” points out Hayes-Raitt. “We’re talking about some online listings on popular platforms such as Trusted House Sitters, House Sitters America, and Mind My House getting anywhere from 30 to 40 applicants — and upwards.”
With such stiff competition, the odds of grabbing the attention of the homeowner are pretty slim. So you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and tap into a few tactics.
2. Begin with your network
That cliche “It’s who you know” bears a ring of truth here. To get your foot in the house-sitting door (both literally and figuratively), reach out to your social circle to see if anyone is in need of house-sitting. Even if it’s for a few days, you’ll get some experience under your belt.
3. Start local
“Getting a chance to meet the potential hosts and their pets and see their home in person really helps you see what you are getting into,” says Hayes-Raitt. “And you’re more likely to land the sitting assignment if the homeowners have had the opportunity to meet you face-to-face.”
Plus, it gives you a chance to meet the homeowners and any pets ahead of time, explains Hayes-Raitt. In turn, this gives you a leg up on sitters from other countries.
“Especially during these times when airlines are still regaining their footing following the pandemic, your proximity provides an extra layer of peace of mind for the homeowners that their sitters won’t get caught up in airline delays and cancellations,” says Hayes-Raitt. “Also, since you know your area, language, and culture, a local house-sit reduces the variety of new things you’ll need to adjust to.”
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4. Have recommendations in tow
In an age when online reviews can make or break a business, any reviews or testimonials about you as an awesome house sitter are gold. Once you have your first gig under your belt, don’t be shy to ask for a short testimonial. To make it easier for the homeowner, show them a few examples or offer suggestions on what they include in their testimonial about your services.
5. Post a house sitter profile online
While it might be tough to land a gig from an online platform from the get-go, creating a house sitter profile can help you get into the habit of marketing your services. And like anything you’re trying to do for the first time, it’s all about persistence and keeping at it.
Pro tip: Be sure to include anything that might help you stand out from the crowd. For instance: are you familiar with X parts of the world, have a love of gardening, or have pet sitting experience under your belt? Add it to your profile.
6. House-sit during high season times
Hayes-Raitt recommends looking for house-sitting opportunities during peak travel. “The summer and winter breaks are when a lot of homeowners travel and fewer sitters travel — reducing your competition,” she says.
7. Be honest about your limitations
It’s also super important to be up front — to both yourself and your host — about your limits and needs. As Hayes-Raitt explains: “Are you looking to sightsee and explore a new location? Don’t apply to sit for a puppy who needs walks every three to four hours. Are you looking for a quiet writing retreat? Don’t choose that city to house-sit that’s conveniently located near the train station.”
8. Discuss handoff and safety protocols ahead of time
You’ll want to sit down with the homeowner and see if either party is concerned about COVID-19 exposure during traveling. If so, what rules should be set in place to minimize contact before and after a house-sitting gig? Also, you’ll want to figure out if guests are allowed while you house-sit. If so, do they need to be vaccinated or wear a mask while indoors?