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If you’re going on holiday and don’t know what to do about pet care, a house sitter could be the ideal solution. Not only will your pets be looked after in the comfort of their own home, but your house will be kept clean and secure too.

It’s technically very easy to find a house sitter through established websites such as Trusted Housesitters and Aussie House Sitters. However, there are important steps you need to take to find a pet sitter that is trustworthy and reliable.

I’ve completed over 170 house sits in Australia and have been running a professional pet-sitting business for eight years! Keep reading this guide to learn how to find a trusted house sitter using my extensive experience in the industry or watch my YouTube video below.

How to Find a House Sitter: Contents

To jump to a particular section of this guide, click on the relevant link below.

1. Choose a Reputable House-Sitting Website

The most popular way to find a house sitter is to use a reputable house-sitting website. Make sure you choose a site with a good review system and mandatory ID checks.

The house sitters on these sites will each have a profile telling you about themselves and their house-sitting experience.

When choosing a house-sitting website, you’ll need to decide how much, if anything, you are willing to pay for a house sitter. Here are your three main options.

Option 1: Free house sitters on websites that are free for owners

Your cheapest option is to use sites that are totally free for owners. This means that only sitters (not owners) pay membership fees to the site and the sitters will accept accommodation in your home as payment for looking after your pets.

Sitters using these sites are often travellers, and they don’t charge a fee as they are saving so much money on travel accommodation. They also get perks that they wouldn’t get in a hotel, such as free use of your washing machine, kitchen, and of course, having an entire home to themselves.

While free house-sitting sites are a great choice for your bank balance, here are some of the downsides:

  • The arrangement is made purely on a trust basis, and the house sitter can drop out without any consequences.
  • There is usually no insurance to cover your home, pets or sitters’ public liability.
  • Some sitters may only be interested in free accommodation rather than your pets’ welfare.
  • If the sitter is a traveller, a meet and greet may not be possible beforehand, and they may not have a car or knowledge of the local area.

I started off using this type of site in Australia when I was travelling, and my top recommendation is Aussie House Sitters. You can read my review of Aussie House Sitters to learn more.

Cat and staffy dog sleeping.

Option 2: Free house sitters on websites that charge owners an annual membership fee

If you want more security but don’t want to pay a house sitter, a site where sitters house sit for free but owners pay a membership fee is a great option.

You can usually use these sites as much as you like throughout your membership period, so they’re perfect if you travel a lot.

Trusted Housesitters is my recommended site in this category. It’s a popular, long-running company operating in over 130 countries. Pet owners can also buy a combined sitter/owner membership if they want to both use a house sitter and be a house sitter.

>> Click here to get 20% off an annual membership with Trusted Housesitters. You can also join for free to check out the site and sitter profiles before committing – just pay within 30 days to get your discount.

Owners on Trusted Housesitters can choose from three membership tiers that can include the following

  • unlimited number of bookings with sitters
  • home and contents protection up to $1 million USD (if you already have an existing policy)
  • money-back guarantee if you don’t receive any applications within 14 days of posting your first listing
  • free video calls with vets 24/7 for you and your sitter
  • house sit-cancellation protection (up to $150 per night for alternative pet care if your sitter cancels, up to $1500 per sit)
  • 2 global airport lounge passes
  • ID-verified house sitters
Cute grey kittens cuddling on a pet sit.

Option 3: Local pet sitters who charge a fee

Your third option is to use a local person who offers overnight pet sitting for a fee. Most sitters in this category have their own home, but pet sit to supplement their income or as part of a pet-care business.

Websites where local sitters charge are really growing in popularity. The sites don’t charge owners or sitters a membership fee, but when you book a sitter, the sites take 15-20% of the sitter’s pay and add a booking fee on top.

The owner usually pays upfront, after the sitter agrees to take the booking, and the website holds onto the money until the end of the sit. Sitters can also offer other services such as dog walking, home visits, doggy daycare or hosting pets in their own home.

Pug wearing a seatbelt in a car.

The pet-sitting website I’ve used since 2016 (and recommend) is an Australian site called MadPaws. Some of the benefits of using MadPaws, or other similar sites are:

  • nearby, ID-verified sitters who you can book regularly and meet in person
  • sitters with local knowledge (e.g. dog parks, ticks, laws)
  • accident cover for your pet
  • third-party public liability insurance for sitters
  • ability to book sitters for dog walks or visits to get to know your pet before the sit
  • your money isn’t released to the sitter until you confirm they completed the job

Find out how much to pay a house sitter and why in my post on how much house sitters charge in Australia.

2. Start Looking for a House Sitter Early

How to find a pet sitter blog post. Image of dog calendar.

Give yourself at least two or three months, if possible, to find a house sitter that you really feel comfortable entrusting your treasured home and pets to.

Note that very experienced house sitters may have a lot of bookings from regular customers already, so you’ll need to book them even further in advance. I’ve had people booking me up to a year before their holiday and planning their trips around my schedule.

Note that if you find a sitter too early (for example, a year before), the sitter’s life or plans could change in that time. If you feel it’s too early to advertise now, put an alert in your phone to remind yourself at a later date.

3. Decide What You Need from a House Sitter

Pet sitter cuddling pug dog in Sydney.
WANTED: affectionate female house sitter to watch chick-flicks with diva dog

Think about what qualities your house sitter needs to have and what sort of person would best suit your situation.

For example, if you have two large dogs that tug the lead a lot on walks, a young couple or someone who’s strong may be a good option. If your animals are scared of children or you only have one bedroom, a family of four will be a no-go.

Keep an open mind though, and don’t make too many assumptions on what certain people will be like; you may find a teetotal student who spends Saturday nights reading or an energetic retired couple who’d love to take your dog on hour-long walks.

If you prefer someone who’s home a lot, plenty of people work from home these days, so don’t assume that retirees are your only option. I’ve actually heard quite a few horror stories from owners about retired house sitters they used throwing huge parties in their home!

4. Create a Great Advert

If you’re using a house-sitting website that lets you place an advert for a house sitter, get writing! 

If you need help getting started, I’ve written a whole blog post on how to write an advert for a house sitter.

Make sure you include what animals you have, the tasks involved (how much dog walking, clearing litter, watering plants etc), what your suburb is like and whether they’ll need a car. You can mention what sort of home you live in too and any perks like a pool or nearby attractions.

If there is anything that might put a sitter off, such as dogs being extremely boisterous or sharing a bed and snoring, it is best to disclose this either in your advert or in a message to the sitter before they take the time to meet you.

I’ve had multiple house sits where I’ve hardly slept because the pets share the bedroom and wake me up all night snoring, walking over me, licking my face or jumping up and down off the bed every few hours. I couldn’t believe the owners didn’t ask if I was okay with that first.

I’ve known people whose sitters walked out after one night because the dog barked through the night, and they couldn’t sleep. It’s important to find someone who’s the right fit for you.

5. Read Through Applications & Reviews

If you’ve placed an advert or contacted a few sitters, hopefully you will have some applicants to choose from within a few days.

The interested house sitters will send you a message via whichever website you’ve chosen to use, and the website should provide a link to each applicant’s profile and any reviews that previous house owners have left.

If you’re using a site like MadPaws, where owners don’t place adverts, you’ll need to look through the profiles of sitters in your area and decide who to contact.

Have a good read through the profiles and make a shortlist of the house sitters you are most interested in. You should be able to read reviews from other owners who have booked them previously.

If you have a lot of applicants and want to spend a while looking through them all, consider sending out a message to let them know you’re currently looking through applications and will be in touch soon.

6. Police Check & References

Need pet care during your holiday but don't want to put your pets into overnight accommodation? House sitting could be the answer! Read my guide on how to find a reliable house sitter and keep your pets and home well cared for during your travels.

Do feel free to ask the house sitters to send you their police check; most house sitters have these and state so on their profile, but very few house owners ask to see them. Some sites, like MadPaws, allow sitters to upload their police check and there will be a badge on their profile to say it’s been checked.

Although house sitters’ reviews are shown on their profiles, don’t be afraid to ask the sitters for a contact number if you wish to speak to one of the referees in person.

Most house owners are happy to be contacted, and this can also put your mind at rest if it’s your first time using a house sitter and you want to chat about the process with someone who’s done it before.

If the applicant is new to house sitting, remember that everyone has to start somewhere; you could ask for a character reference instead. I do know a few people who’ve had bad experiences with house sitters but this has usually been when they haven’t checked references or they’ve accepted someone last minute who they weren’t entirely sure about.

7. Meet & Greet Potential House Sitters

Moodle dog being patted by a pet sitter on a meet and greet.

The next step is to meet up with any potential sitters in person.

I have accepted sits before where we just talked over the phone first or Skyped, because I was travelling, but meeting in person is always preferable.

It’s usual for the sitter to come to your house for the meet-and-greet but you can always arrange to meet in a public place like a dog park or cafe first; you are total strangers after all!

This isn’t a formal interview, but you can see how you feel about the person and introduce them to your pets. Any genuine animal-lover should be confidently approaching your pets, talking to them and stroking them, and generally looking excited to meet them.

If the sitter is standing back ignoring them or looking uncomfortable it’s probably not a good sign – unless your animal is a python or tarantula, of course!

Run through the pets’ routine and where everything is in the house. Also check logistics, such as what time they can arrive if they take the sit.

It’s also nice for the house sitter to view your home, pet and suburb before they agree to stay there.

Do let the sitter know if you’re going to be meeting other house sitters too and tell them when you’ll give them a decision by.

8. Choose a House Sitter & Finalise Details

Keys to give to a house sitter.

Decision time! Once you’ve chosen your house sitter, let them know the good news as soon as possible so they don’t accept anything else.

Make sure you have each other’s numbers and arrange a time and date for them to arrive, how they will pick up the keys if you won’t be home, and what time you’ll be coming back from the holiday. You may prefer them to arrive the day before you leave so they can observe your routines.

If you have the space and feel comfortable with the idea, do offer your house sitter a bed for the night a day or two either side of the sit if they’re travelling and don’t have anything else lined up. House sitters usually have gaps between sits so it’s incredibly helpful when owners offer this, though not at all expected.

It’s also lovely for your pets to get familiar with the sitter before you leave as it reduces their anxiety.

Click here to download my free house sitter preparation checklist and instructions template.

9. Notify the Unsuccessful Applicants

Message to tell a house sitter they have been unsuccessful.

Yes, this may feel a bit like dumping someone, but it needs to be done so that the unsuccessful applicants can stop waiting for your response and focus on finding an alternative house sit.

I can’t tell you how many house owners have ghosted me and left me hanging.

Just send a polite message thanking the sitter for applying but telling them that you’ve chosen someone else in this instance; house sitters are used to this and won’t take it personally.

If you genuinely liked them and it was a tough call, do tell them to apply for any future ads you may put up.

10. Take Your House Sitting Advert Down

Need pet care during your holiday but don't want to put your pets into overnight accommodation? House sitting could be the answer! Read my guide on how to find a reliable house sitter and keep your pets and home well cared for during your travels.

If you leave your advert up after you’ve found a sitter you are just going to get pestered with applications when you no longer require them.

It’s annoying for you, and it’s very annoying for the house sitters who are spending time reading your advert, getting their hopes up and taking the time to apply.

I can honestly say from experience that about 90% of the adverts on the house-sitting websites I’ve used are for house sits that are no longer available as the owners have already chosen someone.

From the websites’ point of view this is great: it makes it look like there are ten times more house sits available than there actually are, and it lures in sitters who pay them subscription fees. But from the house sitters’ point of view, it makes the whole process such hard work!

If you don’t want to take your advert down for some reason, then at least edit it and put a note at the top saying that you’ve found someone and aren’t taking any more applications.

Ok, time to begin your search to find a house sitter!

Once you’ve locked in a sitter, make sure you read my guide on how to prepare for your house sitter to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. It includes points like notifying your vet and a checklist of pet sitter instructions.

Browse all my house-sitting posts to learn everything you need to know about pet sitting!

Once the house sit is over, don’t forget to write a good review on the website if you were pleased with the sitter! It really helps them to get more jobs.

Lisa Bull
Written by Lisa Bull

Lisa Bull, founder of Dreaming of Down Under, has been living in Australia as a British expat since 2015. After travelling to every state and territory in Australia and living in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, Lisa knows from first-hand experience the best destinations to visit in Australia and the best budget travel tips. Her guides on this blog have been read by over 700k readers and helped thousands of people achieve their dream of living in or travelling Australia.