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If you’re considering becoming a house sitter, and you live Down Under, you might be wondering how much to charge for house sitting in Australia.
I’ve completed over 100 house sits in Australia; about 35 of those were for free accommodation only, and for the remainder I charged a fee and ran my own pet-sitting business.
While unpaid house sitting saved me lots of money in rent, I didn’t realise for a long time that because of the hours involved (particularly with moving house and attending meet and greets), I was actually worse off financially than if I’d worked those hours in a similar job like dog walking and rented somewhere affordable.
The experience itself was pretty fascinating: I explored stunning Sydney from top to bottom, lived in quite a few mansions, looked after beautiful and often hilarious pets and met some really interesting people.
But I also spent endless hours packing, unpacking, driving, attending meet and greets and grappling with unfamiliar electrical items. Not to mention sleepless nights due to noisy pets, cleaning up their toilet accidents, taking unexpected trips to the vets and being sent on unpaid errands by house owners. And while staying in a fancy home is a novelty, it’s not a financial income.
Coming from the UK, I also had no idea that service jobs in Australia are extremely well paid, and that the service I was providing was often worth much more than the rent I was saving.
I still highly recommend house sitting for most people, even unpaid, as a fantastic way to save rent, travel in style, enjoy animal company and explore new areas. It can offer opportunities to live in properties and locations that would otherwise be unattainable, and give some people a dream nomadic lifestyle.
But while it’s common for travellers to accept accommodation only as payment for house and pet sitting, it’s actually standard for locals to be paid for house sitting in Australia, despite the huge amount of false information on the internet by people who have never done it.
Many of these local house sitters actually live in their own homes and only take on occasional house sits, but I managed to get paid to house sit full-time in Sydney for years. There are plenty of house sitting websites in Australia where house sitters get paid, which I’ll run through further down.
This is the very honest, thorough and logical guide I wish I’d had when I started out, and it includes actual figures on rent, pay and standard hours involved. If you’re a traveller, it’s likely you won’t get paid to house sit, but it’s worth reading on to find out how much work is involved.
Read on to find out more about house sitting prices in Australia!
How Much to Charge for House Sitting in Australia: Contents
The information in this blog post should help you decide whether you should house sit for accommodation only or charge a house sitting fee, as well as how much to charge. I’ve covered lots of relevant topics and included numerical examples on hours and wages. To skip to a section, just click on the links in the table of contents below.
1. Why I Started House Sitting in Australia
I first started house sitting during my Australian road trip in return for free accommodation only, using Australian house sitting website, Aussie House Sitters. I found it to be a brilliant way to save money, experience life as a local and live in some amazing properties.
To read more about how I got started with house sitting without any experience, as well as the interesting properties I stayed at across Australia, have a read of this blog post:
After I finished travelling I began long-term house sitting in Sydney, but quickly felt that the hours involved and restrictions on how much time I could spend out of the house outweighed the rent savings.
After some investigation I discovered a few Australian house sitting websites aimed at locals rather than travellers, where the house sitters set their own fees and the websites take a cut to cover insurance and their running costs (more on these later).
2. What Does House Sitting Involve?
The main role of a house sitter is to look after the home owner’s pets while they’re on holiday. People without pets occasionally use house sitters to look after a high-maintenance garden, but that is extremely rare.
Standard house sitting duties involve feeding and medicating pets, walking dogs, cleaning litter trays, clearing dog poo from the lawn, collecting mail and watering plants.
So in essence, house sitting is a live-in pet care job. Some people (usually travellers, but also some locals who don’t currently have their own home) will accept accommodation as payment, and others will charge a fee for their time. While the term “rent free” is used for those taking accommodation only, you are technically working for accommodation, but instead of being paid and then paying the owner rent, it’s a straight swap.
You can read more about what house sitting involves in the blog post linked below.
3. Which House Sitting Websites Should You Use?
There’s an abundance of house sitting websites in Australia and worldwide, but there is a big difference between websites where house sitters do and don’t charge.
I’m planning another blog post where I will compare house sitting sites more thoroughly, but this post is already very long, so I’ve just provided links for now!
House Sitting Websites Where Sitters Don’t Charge
For these websites, the businesses that run them make their money by charging subscription fees to house sitters of around $60-$110AUD per year. The service is usually totally free for home owners but some sites charge a subscription fee for owners too.
House sitters each have their own profile and choose which regions of the country/world they are willing to house sit in. House owners can search through potential sitters as well as place adverts for sitters to apply for.
These sites are ideal for travellers as sitters’ profiles will show up in search results for all regions they’ve selected. Sitters can also apply for jobs anywhere they choose, so if you’re open to exploring different regions, these sites are perfect.
For the sites that I’ve used, every time a sitter logs on, their profile is pushed to the top of the search results when owners look for sitters. Sitters can also apply to as many adverts as they like. This means it’s fairly easy to be proactive and find jobs even with no experience.
Conversely, once you are experienced you don’t have any advantage in terms of getting to the top of search results, as less experienced sitters can simply log in and appear at the top. You will have more reviews if the site has these, so should still have an overall advantage.
The other downside is the heavy competition; there are thousands of other travellers, as well as some locals, using these sites. At meet and greets owners would often say they were meeting a few other people before picking a sitter, and I remember adverts for fancy houses having to state they couldn’t read any more applications as they’d received over 100!
I still managed to house sit full time in Sydney using these sites, but I spent a lot of time scouring adverts and sending out applications. I was also willing to stay out in the suburbs; it wasn’t all harbourside mansions and city pads!
To learn more about becoming a house sitter, check out my guide below:
Australian House Sitting Websites:
Aussie House Sitters: I started out with this one, got lots of work and found the site very user friendly.
Happy House Sitters: I also joined this one and got plenty of bookings, but found Aussie House Sitters easier to use.
Mind a Home Australia: founded in 2008, this Australian website is run by a couple who’ve been house sitters and pet owners themselves.
Worldwide House Sitting Websites:
Trusted House Sitters: this popular site started in 2010 and covers an enormous amount of countries. Note that it also charges owners a subscription fee, but provides them with an insurance guarantee for property damage and theft. I’ve never see that offered on any other sites. It also offers owners a combined owner/sitter subscription so you can both use house sitters and become one.
House Carers: this site has been running since 2000, and also offers house sits in a huge number of countries.
Mind My House: running since 2005, this website covers a smaller number of countries, but has an incredibly cheap membership at $20 US for 12 months (extended to 18 months during the Coronavirus).
Nomador: this website was launched in Sydney in 2014, and has the unique addition of a “stopover” service, where owners can host sitters for a night or two between house sit gaps.
House Sit Match: this site originated in Australia and the UK but now offers sits globally. There’s also a subscription fee for owners to join.
House Sitting Websites for Local Sitters Who Charge a Fee
These Australian websites work very differently, as they are aimed at locals who offer pet care services as a job. Pet sitters still have their own profile, but specify the exact suburb they live in so that when owners search, they can find sitters who live nearby and use them time and again.
Although search results are ranked by performance (number of reviews, star ratings, time to respond to messages etc) sitters will only be visible to owners who live within a certain distance from them. So these sites do not work for travellers unless you plan on staying in one place for a long period.
Pet sitters set their own rates and can also offer a variety of other pet care services including dog walking, cat and puppy visits, doggy day care or overnight pet hosting in their own home. Note that these sites are agents not employers, so if you work through them regularly you need to register your own business and get an ABN.
These house sitting websites usually have free registration, but a commission of around 20% is taken from each completed booking. They also provide liability insurance for sitters (a legal requirement for sitters who charge). Make sure you never accept payment for a pet care job in Australia without having insurance in place as you are liable for such things as animals causing a traffic accident.
The big downside I found with these sites is that it took ages to get regular requests from owners. The search results are ranked by performance rather than who logged in last, so before I had many reviews it was difficult to attract customers.
I mainly used Madpaws, which doesn’t allow owners to place ads; so you literally have to wait for owners to contact you. This meant I had a crossover year where I took a mixture of unpaid sits from sites like Aussie House Sitters, as well as paid sits through MadPaws.
The huge upside with MadPaws is that once I hit 20 reviews I was inundated with house sits offers. Twenty might sound a lot, but I also did lots of house visits to feed cats over Christmas, which quickly increased my reviews. I also got extremely good reviews and almost always five-star ratings; so being good at the job is crucial!
I was able to come off the unpaid sites then and had no trouble getting paid house sits full time, apart from occasional gaps and the odd cancellation. I spent zero time scouring ads and sending applications; the customers just came to me and never, ever said they were meeting other sitters. And by in demand, I mean people would book me up to a year in advance!
Here are some of the popular websites for paid house sitting in Australia.
MadPaws: I had great success with this site for over three years (over 100 bookings) and made extra cash by dog walking, cat visiting and puppy visiting on top of house sitting.
PetCloud: I also joined this similar site, but it didn’t take off for me and is not anywhere near as user friendly as MadPaws.
Pawshake: I haven’t used this one, but it works in a similar way to MadPaws and PetCloud.
4. How Much Time Does House Sitting Involve?
This is the crucial question if you’re trying to decide if it’s worthwhile for you, and it’s almost impossible to answer as every house sit is so different. While looking after pets might sound easy, remember that there are many other elements that will take up your time.
Since moving to a new house sit takes a lot of time, longer house sits are much less time intensive and less stressful, and many long-term house sitters will only accept sits of a month or longer.
Since I mainly wanted to house sit in Sydney, I had less options than those open to travelling afar. I also had no family in Sydney to stay with (I did stay with friends sometimes, but didn’t want to constantly land on them!), so I accepted shorter sits to fill gaps when necessary.
1. Time Taken to Move in and Out
My estimated average timings involved with each new house sit are:
1.5-hour meet and greet (including return travel);
1-hour return travel time for the actual sit;
30 minutes unloading the car and unpacking belongings;
30 minutes reading through instructions or going through duties with owners on arrival;
2 hours cleaning the house before leaving;
2 hours packing and loading car at the end;
30 minutes familiarising myself (e.g. searching for kitchen items/dog leads/cleaning items, researching the local shops and supermarket and trying to work TVs and cookers etc).
Average moving time per house sit: 8 hours
These times can vary greatly. I’ve had four-hour meet and greets because of traffic or public transport problems, much longer journeys to get to properties, and spent a lot more time packing at the end if I’ve really spread myself out.
Conversely, if it’s a place I’ve house sat at before, it’s quicker as there will be no meet and greet and I’m already familiar with everything. If it’s a very short sit of just a few days, there won’t be much cleaning to do, and with regards to instructions from owners, they can vary from a few lines to a literal booklet with pictures!
2. Daily Pet Care & Household Duties
The average time I spent on pet care and household duties each day is approximately:
40 minutes of dog walking;
10 minutes of feeding pets and scooping cat litter;
5 minutes sending pictures and updates to owners;
5 minutes collecting mail and watering plants.
Average daily duties: 1 hour per day
Again, these times can hugely vary. At some houses I’ve had to cook fresh meals for dogs as well as make vegetable puree or go shopping to stock up! Occasionally the dogs need two long walks per day, and with some I’ve had to bath them if they’re dirty, pull bindis out of their fur and check for ticks after each walk.
If I only have cats (quite rare for me) there’s usually less work because they don’t need walking, but they tend to be noisier at night!
Tasks like collecting mail and watering plants don’t usually take very long. I’ve occasionally had house owners wanting large gardens or lawns watered, but it’s very rare.
I’ve heard of house sitters spending hours mowing lawns and cleaning pools, but in over 100 house sits I’ve never ever been asked to do that! House owners usually use gardeners or relatives to mow lawns and hire pool maintenance staff for anything more than scooping leaves at the end of the sit.
3. Unexpected Jobs and Accidents
This is something you can’t estimate. I’ve arrived to find dishwashers absolutely crammed full, fridges full of mouldy vegetables, washing machines, dryers and lines full of clothes, dirty pans with food in, beds with unchanged sheets – all of which had to be sorted before I could use anything.
I’ve had to take six pets to the vets, once at 2am. I’ve had dogs with stomach bugs vomiting and pooing on cream carpets and mattresses, dogs with bad diarrhea from new medication (I’m talking ten loads a night!) and dogs projectile vomiting on furniture.
I had a huge, elderly dog lose the use of his legs, and had to spend the weekend cleaning poo and wee off him. I once had three dogs in a house that all came down with kennel cough in turn, vomiting up white liquid all day and night for two weeks.
And (skip this if you’re queasy already!), I once had a dog that got constipated from new medication and became caked in sticky poo. It not only got shaken up the walls and smeared all over his bed, but I had to spend half an hour hosing his bum in the shower and picking it all off whilst retching. Thankfully I had a pair of disposable plastic gloves!
And remember you don’t get paid extra for doing any of these things!
Unexpected jobs: limitless time!
5. Why House Sitting is Different for Travellers vs Locals
When I started house sitting, I thought all house sitters were travellers who were getting free accommodation as payment. I didn’t realise that thousands of people in Australia live in their own homes but also take on house sits in their local area as a paid pet-care job.
House sitting as a local and a traveller is vastly different. I’ll go through the three categories of house sitter below and the reasons why they vary.
House Sitter Type 1: Travellers
House sitting incurs a lot less sacrifices for those who are already travelling or living a nomadic life than they do for locals. These people are already living out of a suitcase, carrying minimal food, have no mailing address and will be finding their way around a new place wherever they venture to.
Travel accommodation generally costs a lot more than long-term accommodation in Australia, so travellers can make around double the rent saving compared to locals, as well as saving money by having access to a washing machine and kitchen.
Retirees or those on holiday may also be a bit more relaxed about their time compared with a local who is in the working stages of their life.
House Sitter Type 2: Locals Who Have Their Own Home
For these people, free accommodation doesn’t come into it, as they’re still paying their own rent or mortgage during house sits. They charge a fee for the time involved in house sitting as well as the sacrifice of leaving their home and living out of a suitcase.
These sitters can either be running their own pet sitting business as their main job (usually offering other services like dog walking or visiting pets), or be getting casual work through sites like MadPaws. They won’t usually be full-time house sitters.
House Sitter Type 3: Locals Without Their Own Home
There’s also a subset of people who house sit in their local area, but decide to sacrifice having a home of their own to house sit full time and save on rent for a while. This is what I did during my time house sitting in Sydney.
While I wanted the experience of exploring Sydney and found staying in other people’s homes fascinating, I also wasn’t a backpacker anymore and couldn’t warrant making myself worse off financially by house sitting just for accommodation. (I’ll run through the figures later.)
Some locals who house sit full time will use the “unpaid” sites, like I started off doing, but others will use sites like MadPaws and charge a fee.
Remember, thaas a local you have a huge amount of additional sacrifices that you wouldn’t be incurring if you had a fixed address, including:
No mailing address (I had to use a friend’s house and travel to collect mail);
No parcels delivered unless the sit is long enough;
Extra travel time to your local hairdresser/doctor/dentist/mechanic;
Limited clothing, food and belongings to fit in your car;
Permanently creased clothes (I pretty much lived in denim and stopped wearing clothes that would need ironing);
No overnight guests;
No weekends away with friends unless you schedule a gap in advance;
No credit rating benefit from paying household bills.
If you’re in this category, remember that you’re offering the home owner the exact same service as locals who have their own home, so you should be charging the same, particularly with all the extra sacrifices.
Also remember that if you’re house sitting to save to buy a house and aren’t charging, the rent savings will add to your deposit but won’t increase the amount you can borrow on a mortgage, since your “earnings” aren’t disclosed officially.
6. How Much is the Home Owner Saving by Using a House Sitter?
Remember that even if a home owner is paying for a house sitter, this is usually far cheaper than putting their pets into kennels and catteries, particularly if they have more than one pet. In Sydney kennels cost around $50 per dog per night, and catteries around $30.
With a house sitter the owner gets a private service with the sitter not only spending hours travelling and moving in and out but scheduling their day around the pets’ routines, forming a relationship with them and usually sleeping in the same room or even bed as them.
While paying someone to live in your house might sound crazy when you can get free sitters, it is still usually a saving and very good value for the service received. I’ve had owners tell me I’m undercharging and that they expect to pay sitters at least as much as they pay in kennels.
7. How Much do Service and Pet Care Jobs Pay in Australia?
To start calculating how much to charge for house sitting, as well as get an idea of the value of the service you’re providing, it helps to have an idea of wages for similar jobs in pet care and household services.
I only realised how high these were in Australia when I started passing on cash payments from owners to cleaners and gardeners during house sits. Here are some typical wages in Sydney based on my experiences. And no, I haven’t missed the decimal places; they really cost this much!
House cleaners: $45-$65 per hour
Bear in mind that cleaners have to drive to each job throughout the day, so would probably make more like an average of $45 per hour in Sydney including driving. Using agencies may be cheaper, but self-employed cleaners charge these kind of rates.
Gardeners: $60-$70 for a 30-minute lawn mow
Again, they’re driving around and bringing their own equipment, but I still couldn’t quite believe the cost of having your lawn mowed in Sydney!
Dog walk: 30 minutes on-leash, 1 dog only: $35
Dog Walk: 60 minutes off-leash, up to 4 dogs: $27 per dog ($18 for additional dog from the same house)
Note that these prices are for professional dog walkers who run their own businesses. You do get cheaper walkers on sites like Madpaws, but they are usually people doing it as a fun way of earning a bit of side income, not as their main job.
Again, the walkers are travelling to each house. So a one-hour group walk with four dogs from separate households would incur around one extra hour of driving, so $54 per hour.
House visits to feed cats and clean litter: $25 per visit
I do these, and get lots of business around Christmas time when people are on holiday. If I have multiple jobs and the houses are relatively near to each other I can do three per hour, so that’s $75 per hour. (Double on Christmas Day!)
For the purposes of working out how much I can earn per hour, I’ll assign a value of $54 before deductions (based on the group dog walking, since it’s the most similar job to house sitting).
That would be between $36 and $43 per hour after deductions, assuming I’ve already filled my tax-free earnings limit and this income is in one of the next two tax bands.
My pet care earning capacity: $36-$43 per hour after tax
8. How Much Rent are You Saving?
If you’re house sitting for the accommodation and don’t live in your own place, calculate how much your accommodation would cost each night if you weren’t house sitting.
Make sure you base this on the type of accommodation you would realistically choose, not the house you may be sitting at. Staying somewhere fancy is a nice perk, but isn’t an income.
The rent and bills for share houses in the suburb of Sydney’s Northern Beaches that I plan on moving to costs $250 per week, or $36 per night from my after-tax income. If I wanted a place to myself nearer the city I could be paying up to double that.
My rent and bills in Sydney: $36 per night
If you’re travelling in Australia, $36 per night would only get you a dorm bed in a hostel. You’d be looking at $100 upwards for a private hotel room, or a minimum of $60-$70 for someone’s spare room on Airbnb.
Remember if you’re a couple you’re paying half of what a single person would pay, so calculate your cost per person.
Comparing my daily rent to what I could earn per hour in pet care, I only need to do a maximum of one hour’s work per day to cover rent and bills.
Amount of pet care work needed to pay my rent and bills: one hour per day
9. How Much to Charge for House Sitting in Australia
Using my figures in section 4, I’ve worked out the average time incurred with a house sit below. Remember this can vary greatly from sit to sit, but will give you a rough idea to help with pricing.
Average house sit time incurred = 8 hours moving in & out + 1 hour of duties per day
As I covered in section 8, one hour of group dog walking, including the driving, would cover my daily rent and bills. This means that any unpaid house sit that incurred at least one hour of duties per day would be a monetary loss for me, as none of the moving time would be covered by my rent savings.
Conversely, I’ve had a five-week cat sit where the daily duties were minimal and my savings were way above the work carried out.
I’ve also had an unpaid three-week house sit with four hours of work per day and 14 hours of extra work because they wanted two very long meet and greets and lived quite far away! That totals a whopping 77 hours of unpaid work after excluding the one hour per day needed to cover my rent, or $4,158 before tax! (They also told me I would be put on trial to babysit their granddaughter two days a week – I don’t think for any pay – which I politely declined!)
Remember if you’re a couple you not only pay half the rent of a single person but have double the earning capacity as you could be working separate jobs rather than both attending meet and greets and walking dogs together etc.
Standard house sitting prices in Australia on websites like MadPaws are usually around $50 per night as a base rate, plus an additional increment per extra pet. Some people charge less, particularly if they have little experience and no reviews, but I’ve occasionally seen very popular sitters with great reviews charge up to $100 per night.
For sitters running their own pet sitting business as their career, their house sitting fees tend to start between $65 to $90 per night as a base rate.
Standard house sitting rate per night: $50-$90 base rate + increment per additional pet
That may sound a lot, but when you look at the eight hours of time involved with moving in and out, that’s $432 worth of work before the pet care even begins (based on my $54 per hour pet care rate before tax)! So even if you charged $100 per night, you wouldn’t even break even on a sit with one hour of work per day unless the sit is over two weeks!
I started off charging $35 per night as a base rate (remember MadPaws take a cut of that), but increased it to $50 plus $10 per additional pet. I should really have been charging much more, particularly as I had over 100 five-star reviews! I did save rent on top of my fees though.
To be a bit more savvy, I would recommend either only accepting longer house sits, or those that are very close to your home; limit your meet and greets to one per sit and make sure it lasts no longer than 30 minutes; consider charging extra for dog walks – some sitters do this and I should have too; discuss the work involved and charge extra if it’s above the norm.
10. Alternative Pet Care Jobs to House Sitting
For locals with their own home, house sitting can actually be the least lucrative of all the pet care jobs. Along with the time it takes to move in and out, remember you can only take one house sit at a time, and most people only go on holiday once or twice a year. This means you need a large number of customers to fill your year and your pay is capped at one customer at a time.
If it’s an experience you would enjoy, then go for it! But here are some other options.
Overnight pet hosting can be much more lucrative if you’re allowed pets in your own home. You can take multiple pets at the same time and have absolutely no travel time or upheaval. Since this is a service for when owners are on holiday, you would again need a large number of clients to fill your year and the work may be sporadic.
Doggy day care (where owners drop their pups at your place on their way to work and pick them up afterwards) is also quite a lucrative option, as you can have multiple dogs. But it would mean you need to stay home all day apart from walking them. It’s a great choice if you work from home though, and you’d only need a small number of customers as they’d be using you repeatedly each week.
Dog walking pays well if you take groups of up to four dogs on off-leash walks. You could either run your own business or work through existing dog-walking companies. Like with daycare you should have regular customers using you while they’re at work.
House visits to feed cats and chickens while owners are away are a great option for casual work, but it does involve working weekends and holidays. I make a fair amount over Christmas doing this.
Well done if you’ve read all the way to the end; this is my longest post ever! In essence, I think house sitting for accommodation only is great for travellers, particularly if you can hold out for longer sits and make sure the daily work isn’t excessive.
For locals, if you want to house sit full time for a short time only (say 6-12 months) to save money, I’d work through the unpaid sites to get started, but join a paid site (they’re free!) to try and get a few paid ones too. Make sure you do your sums in case there’s a more lucrative option like dog walking or doing extra hours in your existing job.
If you want to work with animals long term, start with sites like MadPaws for experience (or a dog walking company), then consider starting your own pet care business if you enjoy it.
To learn more, have a look through my other relevant blog posts:
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