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If you’re wondering what the pros and cons of house sitting are, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve completed over 100 house sits in Australia and have honestly experienced it all!
While house sitting can conjure up images of plush waterside apartments and luxury beachside villas, the reality can be very different. I’ve stayed in everything from one-bedroom flats to five-bedroom mansions. I’ve also experienced house sits where everything has gone smoothly, and those where I’ve never wanted to see the house (or owners!) again.
You can read my story of how I ended up house sitting for over three years here: How I Saved $50k House Sitting Across Australia. (It’s full of tips on how you can get started too.) But in this blog post I’ll run through both the advantages and disadvantages of house sitting, including the things that most house sitters don’t talk about.
If you’re not sure exactly what’s involved, house sitting is a service where home owners entrust house sitters to live in their property while they are on holiday to look after their pets and home. The house sitters will usually walk and feed pets, collect the mail, water plants and make sure everything in the home runs smoothly. House sitters who are travelling will usually normally accept free accommodation as payment, but local sitters, who have their own home, will charge a fee for their services.
If you want to sign up to house sitting straight away, Aussie House Sitters is the site I started with in Australia. If you want the option to house sit worldwide, friends of mine have had great luck with Trusted House Sitters.
If you prefer video format, check out my YouTube video on the pros and cons of house sitting. Or scroll down the read the article!
Advantages of House Sitting
1. FREE TRAVEL ACCOMMODATION
The obvious benefit of house sitting, and what draws most people in, is of course the rent-free travel and living. House sitting saves you an absolute fortune, whether you’re staying put in an area or travelling the world. Rent, mortgage payments or travel accommodation is likely to be your biggest cost in life so being able to live rent-free is a huge money saver.
2. PURSUING YOUR DREAMS
Many people want to carve a new and more satisfying career but feel it’s too risky to leave a stable job when they’ve got rent or a mortgage to pay. House sitting is a great solution to keep costs down while you’re setting up a new business, writing a book, travelling the world or saving for a house deposit. Or even just to experience living in a new city for a while that would ordinarily be too expensive.
3. LUXURY HOUSE SITTING JOBS
While not every home I’ve stayed in has been a mansion, the houses are usually very comfortable. House sitting in Australia tends to be in large family homes with plenty of space and fully equipped kitchens, simply because younger people in apartments are less likely to have pets.
I’ve had luxury house sits with heated swimming pools, jacuzzis, home gyms, steam rooms and million-dollar views across Sydney Harbour. For those who enjoy luxury travel, this is one of the big advantages of house sitting!
4. CLEANING YOUR TRAVEL GEAR
If you’ve been on the road for a while you will most likely feel very grubby. I’m not even travelling any more and I still get an inexplicable amount of leaves in my suitcase! On a house sit you will not only have a private bathroom (perhaps even a bathtub – ooh imagine!) to perform a much-needed makeover in , but hopefully the facilities to wash and vacuum your car, deal with your build up of laundry and give any camping gear you have a good scrub.
5. NO HOUSE MAINTENANCE OR DECORATING
I spent five years renovating my house (whilst living in it) before I moved to Australia, and it’s so lovely to be able to go out and enjoy myself on the weekends without feeling like I ought to be at home painting skirting boards or sledge hammering edging bricks in the garden!
While you may be required to water a few plants or sweep a patio on a house sit, you will be free of major household tasks and gardening, leaving you with so much more free time and money!
6. ANIMAL COMPANY
Lots of people miss their pets while they’re travelling, or love animals but simply don’t want the responsibility just yet. House sitting, which nearly always includes looking after a pet or four, allows you to have constant animal company and do all the fun stuff with them – playing, walking, cuddling – but without any expensive vet bills.
7. MEETING LOCALS
It can be hard to get to know locals if you’re travelling and staying in hostels with other backpackers all the time. House sitting means you can get to know the owners before you start the sit and hopefully find out lots of local knowledge about the area you’re in. I’m good friends with some of the people I’ve house sat for now and even Christmas day with one lovely family!
8. ESCAPING TOURIST AREAS
On previous visits to Sydney I’d only got to know the tourist areas and had no idea what lay beyond. Now I’m living out in the suburbs I’m discovering places I wouldn’t have known existed. It’s a great way to test out areas in a new city before deciding where to settle down.
Disadvantages of House Sitting
1. MOVING HOUSE FREQUENTLY
If you are house sitting long term you will need to move house quite often, particularly if you want to stay in a high-demand city like Sydney. Some house sits are pretty long, occasionally up to 6 months, but they generally last 1-2 weeks to cover the owner’s holiday.
If you’re totally flexible on location though and happy to stay in rural areas, you’ll have much more choice and could probably choose longer house sits only. I try to book long house sits when I can, and then fill the gaps in with shorter ones. You will also need to find somewhere to stay when you’re not booked up.
2. EXCESSIVE TIME SPENT MOVING HOUSE
I eventually did some calculations and realised the huge time I spent moving house so frequently (packing and unpacking, loading and unloading the car, attending meet and greets and driving to each new house sit) added to the animal care meant I was actually worse off by house sitting than if I’d worked those hours as a dog walker and paid rent out if it.
The free rent is a much bigger saving to travellers than to locals since holiday accommodation is usually two to three times more expensive than long-term rentals in Australia. Even when I started to get paid for house sitting, I wasn’t much better off financially.
To find out more about paid house sitting and a breakdown of the hours involved, read my post on how much to charge for house sitting in Australia.
3. LAST-MINUTE CANCELLATIONS
This is one of the biggest pitfalls of house sitting. Most unpaid house sits are arranged on a trust basis only. This means that the house owner (and house sitter for that matter) is free to pull out at any time without repercussions.
I used to regularly see adverts from house owners whose house sitters have dropped out last minute when I used to use the unpaid sites like Aussie House Sitters. And I once had a house owner drop out on me the day before my house sit was meant to start as her visa hadn’t come through. House owners also sometimes come home early with little notice; I’ve had this happen more than once.
These scenarios are when paid house sits through websites like Mad Paws and Pet Cloud offer more security for both parties, as the owner has to pay the sitter’s fee upfront through the website, and the website only releases the fee to the sitter once the owner confirms the house sit actually took place. Owners are unlikely to pay for a sitter in advance if they’re not certain they’re going away.
4. LIVING OUT OF A SUITCASE
This is a big disadvantage of house sitting as a local rather than a traveller. If you’re travelling you’re already living out of a suitcase, and it will probably be a relief to have space to empty out your clothes and sort them out – even if it’s all over the floor! But living out of a suitcase long term instead of having your own home can get really annoying.
I pretty much lived in denim and t-shirts as a house sitter, as everything else was permanently creased! I also had to keep very minimal shoes, jewellery and beauty products purely because I had nowhere to store them.
5. BEING MESSED AROUND BY HOUSE OWNERS
Most house owners are a pleasure to deal with, but just like at school, there are always those who spoil it for everyone! I must say that since I’ve been house sitting through Madpaws I haven’t really been messed about as it’s more of a business arrangement and the owners seem to treat you with a bit more respect.
But back when I house sat unpaid and everything was based on trust I experienced all kinds of bad behaviour from house owners. This included them suddenly stopping replying to my emails with no explanation, deciding they didn’t want to go away/use a house sitter after all (why did you advertise? WHY?!) or not bothering to let me know they’d chosen another sitter after I took two hours out of my day to travel over and meet them.
Sometimes owners would assume my role was to carry out any job/errand they or their friends needed doing 24/7 for no pay. One time I even drove to a lady’s house for the meet and greet, and nobody answered the door. I spent half an hour sitting on her doorstep before giving up and going home, then discovered a few hours later that she’d been in all along but had got drunk and passed out on the sofa!
To read about what’s expected of house owners, read my guide on how to prepare for your house sitter.
6. BADLY BEHAVED PETS
I love animals. I love them as much as anyone could. But while many of them have been a delight to look after, I’ve also had some absolute terrors!
I’ve had multiple house sits where pets have gone to the toilet on the carpets, and many where they’ve kept me awake half the night.
One dog did a huge wee on my bed, and I’ve had a few dog divas decide they don’t want to walk any further and go on strike during walks. I’ve been bitten by a one-toothed Chihuahua. Oh, and one dog someone climbed up on the kitchen worktop and ripped open my bag of porridge oats!
7. RESTRICTED LIFESTYLE
The pets you’ll be taking care of, particularly dogs, will need to be fed and walked at certain times, and regularly let out for the toilet. While cats are generally low maintenance, dogs can be very restricting on your schedule, and a lot of dog owners want a house sitter who can be at home for most of the day to keep them company. You can’t nip off for any spontaneous weekends away or stay out all night either!
House sitting is very different to staying in a hostel, where you’re surrounded by other travellers all the time. If you’re a solo-traveller wanting to socialise and make lots of friends, house sitting probably isn’t something you’ll want to do long term.
It can be great for an occasional break though, just to get a bit of comfort and personal space (and cut costs of course). If you’re house sitting with a friend or partner or you’re willing to use other methods to make friends, such as meetup.com or a new job, it can work out perfectly!
Well, I’ve come up with more house sitting disadvantages than I expected, but I will say that the positive experiences hugely outweigh the negative and happen far more frequently!
For every naughty dog or scatty, alcoholic home owner, there will be ten amazing ones that you will be sad to leave! House sitting is definitely something to consider if it is going to give you the time and financial freedom to make long-term changes to your life or travel to places that you couldn’t ordinarily afford.
If you’ve read the pros and cons of house sitting and still want to give it a go, check out my post explaining exactly what house sitting involves. This will give you a clearer idea of the protocol and what duties are expected of you.
If you’re travelling and want to start house sitting in Australia, check out Aussie House Sitters, which is the site I began got my first jobs through. If you prefer to join a worldwide site, take a look at Trusted House Sitters instead.
Happy house sitting!