Stay in Other People’s Awesome Homes for Free: How to Find House-Sitting Gigs
Imagine sipping your morning coffee on a beautiful balcony looking out over the ocean. Later, you water the plants and clean up a bit before taking a dip in the pool. Oh, and you're getting paid for taking care of this house!
It sounds too good to be true. Can you really find house-sitting jobs that pay?
Yes and no. Yes, caretaking gigs that pay a salary or stipend in addition to providing you a place to stay do exist. But no, there aren't many that fit the description above.
Most house-sitting opportunities fall into one of these two categories: standard house-sitting gigs, or more demanding caretaking jobs. If you’re curious about getting free accommodation in interesting places (and maybe earning a little cash as well), here’s how to get started.
Basic House-Sitting Jobs
Many websites list house-sitting gigs, and a quick glance at the listings tells you right away that not many people are offering to pay their house sitters much -- if anything. Normally, you get a nice place to stay, rent free. In fact, if you're caring for the home for months, you're usually expected to pay some or all of the utilities.
This might not sound like much of a money-making opportunity, but it depends on how you look at it. If your current lease is ending and you’ll get free rent somewhere for three months before moving into your next $1,000-per-month apartment, you're $3,000 better off, right?
Here are some of the online platforms where you can find the opportunities, along with their subscription rates:
- House Sitters America ($30 per year)
- Mind My House ($20 per year)
- Housecarers.com ($50 per year or free limited membership)
- Luxury House Sitting ($25 per year)
- Nomador ($89 per year or limited free membership)
Some people make a lifestyle of house-sitting. Canadian couple Dalene & Peter Heck sold everything in 2009 to travel the world, staying in other people's homes. Among other stays, they spent six months house-sitting in Honduras, and at the moment they're caring for a home in Paris, France. They say, "We’ve had 14 jobs in nine countries, and saved over $50,000 in the cost of accommodations as a result."
Sometimes you can get paid for basic house sitting. As House Sitters America explains;
The bottom line is it's all negotiable between you and the homeowners. In most cases it's just a straight swap; the house sitter cares for the house and pets in exchange for free accommodation... However there may be times when a homeowner will offer some money for the house sitting job.
They offer examples of times a homeowner might pay you, including:
- When the house is in an undesirable location
- For short sits (such as a few days)
- When there are many pets to care for
They add "Of course, there are also many professional house and pet sitters who actually do this for a living, and they will charge a fee for their services." How do these professionals get paid? Usually they offer a bit more than simply staying in the house and making sure no one breaks in.
In general, you'll get a stipend or salary if you're doing more than just watching a home. In these cases you're more of a caretaker than a house-sitter.
One of the best sources for these types of jobs is The Caretaker Gazette, which has been around for more than 30 years. They have the usual listings of free place to stay, but they also host advertisements from people who are willing to pay you. In their archives (which you can see for free) I found the following three examples in one issue:
- In a small town in Alaska, someone was hiring a caretaker to manage a small store and two apartments and do monthly home heating oil deliveries.
Pay: A small apartment with all bills covered, TV, Wi-Fi, salary (unspecified) and bonuses.
- Near Colorado Springs, Colorado, an add requested a couple or single person to care for a ranch with five horses.
Pay: Salary (unspecified) and a furnished apartment.
- An ad from Nassau, in the Bahamas, wanted a "house couple" to keep house, plan events, run errands and much more.
Pay: A place to stay and "$100,000 to $120,000 per year."
Clearly these are jobs, not just house-sitting, but they suggest the variety offerings found in the Caretaker Gazette. Of the 100 or so postings in that one issue of their newsletter, there were opportunities all over the U.S. as well as in a dozen other countries, including Peru, Australia and Iceland.
Are You Qualified to House-Sit?
A good house-sitter is responsible, reliable and adaptable. If you're looking to get more than just free accommodation, it helps to also have some mechanical skills. For example, more than one caretaking gig I found in my research required someone with basic plumbing skills, like being able to fix a leaking sink drain.
You’ll have competition, by the way, even for the basic house-sitting jobs. At the moment Mind My House shows 243 active house-sitting assignments, but more than 4,300 "sitter available" listings.
In other words, clients get to be choosy, so experience is a plus. To build some, you might start by house-sitting for family and friends. Be sure to get glowing testimonials from them to add to your resume.
Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).