Nicola (See Nic Wander) has been traveling full time and house sitting for the last two years. She has house sat all over Europe and Asia and is currently exploring Europe with plans to travel more around North America soon! In our interview, Nicola shares what house sitting is, how to house sit, the best locations, and tips for having the best experience.
Before we dive in, let’s get to know Nicola and learn how she became a nomadic house sitter!
How and Why Did You Start House Sitting?
Before I started traveling, I was a middle school science teacher. I loved teaching and I loved my students, but I had the travel bug. After three years in the classroom, I knew it was time to see more of the world.
Initially, I thought I would teach English abroad. I had a background in teaching, so it made sense to look into teaching jobs in foreign countries.
During my job hunt, a friend asked me if I’d heard of teaching English online. I hadn’t, and when I started researching it sounded perfect for me. As an online English teacher, I’d be able to teach anywhere with good WiFi.
The pay was actually higher than the in-person teacher salary in many of the countries I was researching, and I could sign up before I started traveling to save some extra money.
I felt like I had the world at my fingertips, but with this liberating realization came a difficult question: where to go?
I started researching places where my teaching income would go farther and I read dozens of long-term travel blogs. Along the way, I started reading about a family who traveled by house sitting. As house sitters, they took care of people’s pets and homes in exchange for a free place to stay.
I thought that sounded pretty perfect, so I signed up with a popular house sitting website and applied to every house sit under the sun. In two weeks, I landed my first house sit in the UK, booked flights, and was on my way.
Since then, I’ve house sat all over Europe and Asia. I’ve befriended dozens of cats and dogs, two rabbits, two guinea pigs, and four chickens who escaped at least five times.
It’s a great option for anyone who wants to travel long-term and save money at the same time.
What is House Sitting?
House sitting is when you take care of someone else’s home and pets while they’re away. You get a free place to stay and they get peace of mind knowing their home and furry friends are in good hands.
House sitting is perfect for flexible travelers who want to travel slowly and don’t have strict timelines. It’s also a great way to explore cities and neighborhoods you might not have considered before.
And did I mention there are pets? Who wouldn’t love getting to meet new pet friends around the world?
How Can I Sign Up? How Much is it?
I use TrustedHouseSitters to find house sitting opportunities. It’s one of the biggest platforms and there are dozens of new sits added each day.
TrustedHouseSitters has an annual fee of around $120. I know that can sound expensive at first, but if you do even one house sit in the year you’ll make that money back in what you save on accommodation.
To decide if TrustedHouseSitters is right for you, I’d recommend going to their site and browsing available listings to see how many listings are in your ideal location. While you won’t be able to apply, you can get a feel for the platform before signing up.
TrustedHouseSitters is the biggest platform, but there are other solid options out there too. Most of these sites will allow you to browse options before signing up so you can see what kinds of listings they offer.
- Nomador – Approx. $70/year – You can sign up for free and apply to your first three sits before paying the annual fee. Most sits are in Europe on Nomador.
- House Carers – Limited Free version or Premium paid version for $50/year – Like Nomador you can access some features for free and upgrade for their full program.
- Mind My House – $20 to sign up – Less options that other sites but a good place to start if you don’t want to pay as much upfront and are flexible.
Who Can House Sit?
Anyone can be a house sitter as long as you love pets and are committed to taking care of someone else’s home as you would your own. When you sign up with most of the major house sitting websites, you’ll have to put in some kind of identity verification. You’ll also have a better chance of getting accepted for house sits if you have character references you can add to your profile.
Before taking a house sitting job, you should ensure that you’re able to commit to the full duration of the sit. If the house sit is in a foreign country, check how long you’re allowed to stay in that country before signing up for longer sits.
What is the Application Process Like?
For most of the house sitting websites, house sitters will make a profile about themselves that highlights their experience. This should include a detailed description of your background with pets and home care, photos, and character references.
A host will create a listing with a description of the house sit, photos of the home and pets, and the required dates.
House sitters can browse the listings and apply to any sits that fit their dates and travel desires.
To apply, you’ll send the host a personalized message letting them know why you’re interested in the sit and why you’re a great fit. I recommend making this message as detailed as possible since it might be your only chance to make an impression. Many listings get dozens of applicants, so you want to say more than just “I’m interested in your listing.”
If the house sit host thinks you could be a good fit, the next step is to schedule a Skype call. This gives you a chance to “meet” the host, see the home, and see the pets before committing to the sit.
A skype call isn’t required by the house sitting platforms, but I strongly recommend you do this to make sure that you and the host are on the same page about duties. This is a great chance to ask any questions you have too.
Once host and house sitter have agreed that it’s a good fit, you’re ready to make your travel arrangements to get to the house sit.
How Long is the Stay? How Quickly Can I Start House Sitting?
House sitting opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve done some that were only two nights and some that were six weeks.
Since I like to travel slower and save money along the way, I usually don’t apply for sits unless they are at least two weeks long. This gives me time to explore without feeling rushed and without spending too much money on transit between sits.
In my experience, most listings are added to the house sitting websites about a month before their start date. This isn’t always the case though. Sometimes you’ll see short notice sits that are a day or two in advance, and sometimes people will make a listing for a sit several months in advance.
There is always a boom of house sits around the holidays as well since people are visiting family. If you wanted to spend Christmas and New Year in Europe, you’d have your choice of house sits!
House Sitting Duties?
Your duties will depend on the pets you have and the kind of property you’re looking after. Usually, the duties are written very clearly in the listing, but it’s always a good idea to ask lots of questions before committing.
If you’re taking care of dogs, you’ll need to walk the dogs, feed them, let them out, and groom them according to the owners requests. Cats usually have fewer responsibilities since they don’t have to be let out, but you’ll still need to feed them and change the litter box.
Household duties involve keeping the house tidy, taking care of the lawn, collecting mail, and other tasks specific to the home.
Again, the duties should be discussed in detail before you commit to sit, which is why I recommend an introductory Skype call. If the homeowner requires something that you’re not comfortable doing, like taking care of a pool or administering medicine to pets, it’s better to find this out upfront.
How Much Freedom Do You Have While House Sitting?
This depends a lot on your pets and your host. I’ve had sits with more energetic dogs that meant I had to be home most of the day, and I’ve also had sits where the host left an automatic cat feeder and said I could go away for a night or two if I wanted. This is rare though.
Usually, you’ll be expected to stay at the house every night of the house sit. It’s best to plan weekend trips or longer excursions for the days before or after your house sit officially starts.
As a rule of thumb, sits with dogs will require you to be home more often than sits with cats since the dogs need to be let out. If you want to spend the day away from the house often, stick to sits with cats.
Your Favorite House Sitting Experience?
One of my top house sitting experiences was a six-week stay in Cologne, Germany. I was taking care of two cats who had wonderful personalities and my apartment was in a beautiful eco-friendly neighborhood. This meant that everyone got around on bikes and there was no car traffic.
I also happened to arrive in February just a few days before the world-famous Cologne Carnival. I had no idea I’d be in town for the celebration and I got to experience one of the best street festivals of my life, just steps from my free accommodation and new furry best friends.
What Are The Best Countries to House Sit?
House sitting opportunities are more abundant in North America, Europe, and Australia.
At the time I’m writing this, on Trusted House Sitters there are over 900 listings for house sits in the UK, over 500 in the USA, and over 200 in Australia.
While these countries are most popular for house sitting, you can still find good options in other countries. You’ll have less selection, but if you’re a good fit and apply early, you could find yourself with some unique opportunities.
House Sitting Tips Before I Get Started?
When you’re first starting out, my best piece of advice is to apply to anything and everything that looks appealing to you. It can be very competitive to land house sits. Some homeowners report getting over fifty applications for a single listing.
Especially if you’re new and don’t have any reviews, you should cast a very wide net and apply to any sits that look interesting. You probably won’t get a Parisian city center apartment on the first go. But you could end up exploring a cute town in the British countryside for a few weeks with your sweet new dog friends!
Another way to help your chances of getting a good house sitting gig is by applying early. Since some of the best sits get dozens of applicants in a matter of hours, you want to be one of the first ones in the hosts inbox. I check the house sitting sites every day for new listings, especially if I’m traveling somewhere with less house sitting opportunities.
If you’re unsure about house sitting, start local. Sign up for one of the programs listed above and search your own town to see what house sitting opportunities are nearby.
Hosts are more likely to pick you when you’re local since you can meet up beforehand and there’s a level of familiarity. You can get some practice house sitting and also get your first good review with the platform of your choice.
House sitting is a great way to travel longer, explore different places, and do it all with adorable pet friends. Go in with an open mind and an open travel plan. I have no doubt you’ll find something awesome.
To learn more about house sitting and teaching online, head over to Nicola’s blog: www.seenicwander.com. She just launched an Etsy shop with teaching online props, check it out on her blog!
Special thanks to Nicola for all the great information! I foresee house sitting in my future. *heart eyes* Anyone else?!
More house sitting questions? Have you ever house sat? What was your experience like? Comment below!
Want more tips and opportunities for free travel? Check out How to Travel the World For Free
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