I've been getting a few questions lately about all the housesitting I'm doing – especially from people outside of New Zealand where it seems less common. So I thought I'd write a blog post to demystify the concept and answer some of the questions I’ve been getting.
Housesitting is fairly common here in New Zealand and has gotten more popular in recent years. Or maybe it just feels that way to me because now that I'm part of the community, I know many others who do it regularly...
How it works is pretty straight forward. House owner, usually ones with pets, want someone to look after their house and pets while they go away. The thing that makes housesitting so great is that it is such a win-win-win for everyone. The house and pet owners don't have to pay for a kennel, the pets can stay in their familiar environment, and housesitters like me get a place to stay for free and get to be pet owners for a while. Everybody wins!
So as you can see, it's a pretty simple concept. House owners go on holiday, and I get to stay at their place while they are away. In exchange for the free accommodation, I look after the pet and the house. Simple! But let me try and answer some of the questions I've been getting.
Do you get paid?
No! Usually, no money exchanged hands. As a housesitter, I get free accommodation, and the owners get a free pet sitter. The exception to this is when there is a lot of work that needs to be done. For example, I know of a couple of people who have done more extended farm sits where they not only look after the house and dogs and cats but the whole farm. Given that's essentially a full-time job, they usually get some money in addition to a place to stay for free. Other examples I've come across are kennels and small hotels or rest homes where the house sitter has to do some work looking after the guest, residents or animals. But that is the exception. Most of the time, housesitters don’t get paid.
What do you have to do as a housesitter?
It’s usually pretty simple. Most of the places I have stayed at have cats and/or dogs that need to be fed and dogs need to be walked. In addition, there are sometimes minor things to do around the house like watering plants, looking after gardens, taking the mail in and of course generally keeping the place tidy.
What are the benefits?
A free place to stay
I think it's pretty obvious what the main benefit is: A free place to stay. That one is obviously huge. Right now, I've been housesitting since April (since Josie has been out of action). I will be housesitting till the end of August, so that's five months. Even a room in a shared house in Auckland would be at least $250 per week including expenses, and that would be a small room in a basic home, probably shared with at least 3 or 4 others. So I have saved at least about $5.5k this year through housesitting. If I wanted my own apartment in Auckland, I would be looking at at least $400 for rent and related expenses per week, which would be over $8.5k for 5 months.
Pet’s to cuddle with
But it's not just about the money. I also love looking after pets. I love having animals around but given my lifestyle at the moment, I can't commit to getting a cat or a dog (especially given there are a lot of parks and beaches in NZ where you are not allowed to take pets). So housesitting is a great way for me to have pets for a while.
You get to live in different areas and houses
I also like that it means I get to live in different areas and different kinds of houses. You learn a lot about what and where you like and don’t like. So if I ever find myself in a positive where I want to rent or maybe even buy my own place, I know what to look for and what to avoid.
Are there any downsides?
YES! After reading all that, you might be inclined to give up your permanent home and join the housesitter community. Who doesn't like the idea of not having to pay rent or a mortgage? Well, before you make the jump, there are some things you should be aware of.
You give up some of your freedom
Probably the biggest downside for me is that it means giving up some of my independence and freedom. Looking after pets, especially dogs, means you have to be home at certain times to feed them, you have to take them for walks regularly, and you can't just go away for a weekend anytime you want to. While housesitting this year and last year, I've missed out on a few weekends away with my friends because I couldn't leave the pets alone.
I think it is really important to understand that responsibility before committing to looking after pets. If you are looking after a dog, you can't just spontaneously decided to go out for dinner directly after work. You need to go home first to feed the dog and let him/her outside (otherwise you might come back to a smelly surprise). Owners rely on us to look after their pets, and I think given we get free accommodation, we owe it to them and the pets to take it seriously and be committed.
You’ll be moving a lot
Another downside of housesitting, especially as a long-term solution, is that you are moving a lot. And I mean A LOT! I’ve already moved nine times this year. And I’ve been lucky to have mostly longer-term housesitting jobs, most of them being 3-4 weeks. It’s rare to see people looking for housesitters for more than a months. It happens occasionally, but it's not the norm. So even if you get lucky and find several long ones, you will still be moving a lot.
I don’t mind it much. Having lived in a van for 18 months, I was already used to having little stuff with me. However, I do miss having my own space and a place I call home, so I'm definitely looking forward to having a van again. And I can see how this would be even more of an issue for people who like to have a lot of clothes or other stuff available anytime.
You need a plan for where to stay between housesitting jobs
There is one more thing to consider. You need a place to stay in between housesitting jobs. I've been pretty lucky this year that my ones are lining up pretty well, but there are always a few days in between. It would be very hard (almost impossible) to find back-to-back housesitting jobs over a longer period of time. Chances are, there will be a few days between one ending and the next one starting. For me, that is not a big issue. It was no problem at all last year when I had the van. But even now that I don't have that option, I have several friends that would take me in for a few nights. And given the money I'm saving on rent, I also wouldn't mind if I have to pay for a hotel or Airbnb for a few nights. But it is important to consider this part and have a plan.
How do you find housesitting jobs?
This year, most of my housesitting jobs found me instead of me finding them. Word got around, and several friends and friends of friends reached out and asked if I could look after their place and pets. So if you're looking for housesitting jobs, make sure you get the word out to your friends family!
If you have no (or not enough) luck with that, the internet is your friend. If you’re in New Zealand, there are three main options:
Kiwi Housesitter - https://www.kiwihousesitters.co.nz/. This is the website I have used in the past. As a housesitter, you pay $84 for a 12 months membership and can then look for and apply for as many jobs as you want.
The Housesitting Company - https://www.housesitters.co.nz
The Facebook Group House Sitting New Zealand - https://www.facebook.com/groups/509127345899332/
I've only used the first option so far and would absolutely recommend it. I don’t have personal experience with either of the other two but have heard good things about them.
I don't have any experience with international housesitting websites, but a quick Google search came up with some options that might be worth checking out:
Is it easy to find housesitting jobs?
For me, it has been so far. I think in New Zealand, there are still more people looking for housesitters than there are housesitters, so it has been relatively easy to find places.
However, I think there are a few things that can make a big difference:
Whether you are flexible location wise. If you're willing to travel and go rural, you will probably always be able to find something. If you're set on being in one of the bigger cities, it might be a bit harder.
Your work situation – house owners often want people who are home a lot, especially when there are dogs involved, which rules out anyone who works long hours off-site.
I think it is easiest to find housesitting jobs as a couple or a single female. It’s probably a trust thing as well as people not wanting a bunch of kids wreaking havoc in their house.
Your profile and phone manner. House owners are leaving their home and pets in the hands of strangers so, understandably, they like to see a nice photo a bit of a profile and some references on your profile page. If they like your profile, they usually give you a call and, well, if you don't manage to win their trust on the phone, they won't leave their furbabies in your hands.
I think the main reasons I’ve been able to find housesitting jobs fairly easily so far is that I’m single and female, I work from home which means I will be around a lot and I have great references.
Alright, that ended up much longer than I thought it would. Guess there is more to housesitting than I had realised. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions that I haven’t answered :)