When Snow Birds Fly North Make Money Watching Their Condos
If this past year taught us anything, it’s that side gigs aren’t going anywhere. From grocery delivery, to online tutoring and homeschool assistance, there are a lot of side hustles that will continue to be in demand, even in our post-pandemic world.
But another side gig we can’t help wondering about is house-sitting, or more specifically condo-sitting. After all, what happens to all those empty condos during the summer when the snow birds finally return North?
People may think of Florida and Arizona as being the home of seasonal condo populations, but you will find part-time residents in many Southern states, especially coastal Georgia and South Carolina. And where do Florida retirees flee when it’s too hot in the Sunshine State? Mostly the mountains of North Carolina. Somebody has to watch their N.C. condos when they return to Florida.
Condo-sitting has a lot of promise to be the next big side gig, so we spoke to a few experts to get all the details. Here’s everything you need to know about starting your own condo-sitting side hustle.
Much like a house-sitter, the responsibilities of a condo-sitter can vary greatly. For some owners, condo sitting might simply mean checking on their condo, bringing in mail or more likely packages since so many have mail held or redirected to another address, and watering the plants.
For others, it might also incorporate pet-sitting service if someone will just be gone for a short amount of time, or even helping with a service call should something go wrong while the owners are away.
If they’ve left a car, they might want you to start it occasionally to keep the battery working. In states where hurricanes threaten, owners might hire you to put down storm shutters or bring in outdoor furniture and plants. (They could leave the shutters down for the entire time they are gone, but that can create its own problems if there’s a moisture problem: Mold loves the dark.)
“Condo-sitting is primarily a service where the property owners pay someone to keep their condominium unit clean and tidy while they’re away,” says real estate expert Marina Vaamonda of Property Cashin. “They might also need someone who can oversee a project such as a plumbing repair, if they can’t physically go to the appointment.”
Because many people use their condos seasonally, they may not require any condo-sitting services for months and then all of a sudden need help for several days in a row. This is where it helps to have some flexibility in your schedule if you plan to pursue condo-sitting with any regularity — especially when you’re just starting to build your client base. So how much can condo-sitters actually earn? We’ll dive into that next.
How Much Can You Make Condo-Sitting?
Condo sitting is definitely one of the more lucrative side hustles out there, with rates varying widely based on location and how much time is spent at the property. According to Housesitter.com, most house sitters set their starting rates somewhere between $25 and $45 per day, with rates increasing to at least $50 for overnights. According to the gig economy experts at Thumbtack, the average cost of a 30-minute pet-sitting visit is $25, while overnight pet-sitting costs $75 to $85.
As you can see, these rates vary considerably — especially depending on where you live, and what’s involved in watching each owner’s property. Keep in mind that spending a full day or overnight at a client’s condo probably doesn’t mean you’ll be working the entire time.
For example, you might find that some owners just want someone physically in their condo at night or for a few hours everyday— either for security reasons, to look after a pet, or both. Depending on the kind of requests you get, you should plan on charging different rates for different kinds of jobs. There are a lot of smart ways to maximize your earnings as a condo-sitter, here are a few more to consider.
How to Maximize Your Earnings
Like any other side hustle, you want to be sure the time you’re investing is worth it. Here are a few ways to ensure you’re earning as much as you’d like to while working as a condo-sitter.
Advertise Your Services
In order to get your client base started, you’ll want to advertise your services. This might mean hanging flyers around the condos you’re targeting, or even talking to condo owners and asking them to spread the word. Just be sure you have the permission of the condo manager before you get started (we’ll get into that later on).
Set Your Rates
Before speaking to a single client, you should decide how much you’d like to charge. This can be harder to do after the fact, especially once you start talking to people. Come up with a scale of rates that you’d like to charge. Start with a flat fee for basic services rendered, then tack on add-ons like pet services or overnight charges. Having this in place will help lend credibility to your business, and will also help you avoid having your rates negotiated down.
Offer Deals & Discounts
A great way to get first clients interested in your services is by offering them a new-client discount. Everybody loves a deal, and sometimes saving a few bucks can make the risk of hiring someone new feel worth it. Just be sure that whatever discount you set doesn’t devalue your time on the job significantly.
Ask People to Leave you Honest Reviews
After you’ve had a few customers, ask them to write you an honest testimonial about their experience. If you don’t yet have a website or online presence advertising your business, that’s OK — simply have them send these testimonials in an email. Once you’ve collected a bunch of them, you’ll be able to repurpose these statements on flyers, or a website, and they’ll help you gain future clients.
Join an Organization
If you’re having a hard time finding clients, you might consider joining an organization. Sites like Thumbtack, TaskRabbit, and Housesitter.com all offer ways for people like you to quickly get started house or pet-sitting. While it’s true these sites often take a cut of your earnings, it can also be a good way to gain some experience (and gather up those testimonials) before striking out on your own.
Things to Know Before You Start
Unlike house sitting, condo-sitting comes with a bit more overhead to be aware of. For starters, you’ll want to ask your clients to get in touch with the condo manager to get on their list of authorized visitors.
“If someone wants to get into the condo sitting business, they’re going to have to get the condo owner to register them with the condo association as someone who can stay in the unit, enter and utilize the building,” says Sep Niakan, founder and managing broker of Blackbook Properties. “This means the person doing the condo sitting should expect to have a background check conducted on them, along with an application, which can sometimes be a bit intrusive.”
Niakan says that for some temporary gigs, condos may allow owners to register the condo sitter as a guest, but that this might also come with certain access restrictions to common areas and amenities. As a general rule, you’ll want to be sure that the people running the condo properties know who you are, and aren’t surprised to see you around.
You should also check with them before posting any flyers, or approaching other residents to advertise your services. While condo policies will vary a lot from place to place, it’s good to ask your clients what the security and rules are like, and then be sure your name is on the right lists so you don’t encounter any issues.
Another thing to keep in mind when getting started with your condo-sitting side gig is the competition. “We see a lot of part-time residents, many of whom are snowbirds, using condo-sitters,” says Niakan. “But they also sometimes use management companies — so a condo-sitter would need to understand what a property management company is offering that they can do better.”
If your clients have worked with property management companies before, be sure to ask them about their experience. Anything you can do better as an individual will help you secure more clients, and guarantee that you always have a creative edge over the competition.
The Final Word
Condo-sitting is a lucrative side hustle for anyone willing to take the time to learn more about it. Start by finding some condos in your zip code that might need extra care or seasonal services. Then set your rates and start advertising your services. Remember, you might do well to start by working with a company rather than striking out on your own. But once you do have your business established, condo-sitting has a lot of potential to be a rewarding side hustle that can help fuel your future financial goals.
Contributor Larissa Runkle specializes in finance, real estate and lifestyle topics. She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.