How To Become A House Sitter & Travel The World With FREE Accommodation!

Well this post is long overdue, considering I’ve been house sitting on and off for 7 years now!

how to be a house sitter

I discovered how to become a house sitter shortly after moving to Australia in late 2014 as a scrappy backpacker on a work + holiday visa. House sitting allowed me to travel around Australia without eating too deeply into my savings, and bought me time to figure my shiz out as I transitioned to the digital nomad lifestyle.

I house sat my way across the country from Sydney to Melbourne to Perth, taking a break from hostels and share houses to live in other people’s homes and care for their pets while they went away.

professional house sitter

Then after a few years of renting an apartment in Bondi and a couple more years of floating around during C0VID, I jumped back into house sitting. Pete and I had been road tripping around Australia in a caravan for 10 months in 2021 and had gotten tired of living and working in such a confined (and frankly, not all that nice) space.

I was growing more and more concerned about his wellbeing and my bank account, as caravanning just wasn’t conducive to Pete building his coaching business, and I was having to pay for all of our living and travel expenses until he got it off the ground.

house sitting for free rent

So for the past year, we’ve been house sitting for free rent as we make our way down the east coast of Australia. From Townsville to the Gold Coast, we’ve completed 9 house sits so far, ranging from 1 week to 4 months in length. We’ve saved THOUSANDS of dollars on accommodation in this time, which has taken immense pressure off of both of us.

We went from sharing a caravan double bed (which is slightly smaller than a regular double bed and doesn’t even have room for Pete’s feet) to often having separate bedrooms, in addition to multiple bathrooms, living rooms, and often a pool. And what’s more, we’ve still been able to explore and go on adventures while house sitting.

becoming a house sitter

Ok, so what’s the catch?, you might be wondering.

Would you believe me if I told you that there IS no catch? Sure, there are a few things to consider, and a small fee to pay if you join a house sitting site (more on that later) – but they are far outweighed by the benefits of house sitting. FAR outweighed. To the point where it feels like I’m privy to this brilliant money-saving travel secret that few others seem to be aware of. Because if more people knew about house sitting, SURELY it would be much more popular than it is!

become a housesitter

So if you’ve ever wondered about how to become a house sitter, or how to save money on accommodation while traveling, this post is for you!

What is house sitting?

House sitting is exactly what it sounds like: you look after someone’s home, pets, and plants while they’re away, and in exchange you get to stay in their home for free.

The finer details of each house sit can vary, e.g. the house sitters might be asked to stay in their caravan rather than inside the home, or there might be someone else staying on the property at the same time (such as a housemate, tenant, or Airbnb guest). But in general, when you become a house sitter, you can expect to be able to stay in someone else’s home (or on their property) for free while looking after their pets.

what is house sitting

Who should become a house sitter?

ANYONE can become a house sitter if they want to, but it suits the below types of people especially well:

  • Digital nomads
  • Grey nomads
  • Remote workers
  • Retirees

Backpackers and travelers might also be enticed to try house sitting to save money if they’re traveling long term, which can work if they’re willing to put the travels on hold and stay in one place for awhile. If this is you, I recommend downplaying the backpacking aspect in your profile/messaging and instead, brand yourself more as an animal lover or world traveler. Home owners want a house sitter that’s reliable, trustworthy, and willing to love on their pets as much as possible, not someone who’s in their country to party and flit around from one location to another on a whim!

free rent for house sitting

Why should you become a house sitter?

The obvious answer is that house sitting is an amazing way to save money! Imagine what your bank account would look like if you didn’t have to pay rent or book Airbnbs and hotels?

The less obvious answers are:

  • It gives you a chance to live in different locations
  • You get to spend quality time with animals (great if you can’t have your own pets because you travel too much!)
  • You get to try different cities, dwellings, and animal breeds and see what you like and don’t like, which will help you figure out what you want for your future home
  • It provides you with stability and routine for awhile
  • You often have more space and luxuries at home than you would if you weren’t house sitting

READ MORE: 15 Little Things You Can Do To Save Money For Travel

how to become a housesitter

Who pays for what in house sitting?

The home owner pays for:

  • Rent/mortgage
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Pet food
  • Vet bills

The house sitter pays for:

  • Their own food

what is a house sitter

Many times, we’ve had home owners encourage us to eat whatever they left in the fridge, or help ourselves to pantry items. We default to buying and eating our own food and occasionally will use the home owners’ spices and random pantry items if we don’t have our own on hand. Depending on the length of the sit, we might use any toilet paper or paper towels that are left out when we move in, and then buy our own after that – but we always ensure there’s some still there when we leave.

A good rule to follow is: if you use up something of theirs, be sure to replace it!

Typically no money is exchanged with house sitting unless it’s agreed upon by both parties. If the home owner needs extra work done (such as extensive lawn mowing or gardening, pool cleaning, property maintenance, farmwork, etc), they might offer to pay the house sitter for that.

READ MORE: 35 Ways To Save Money In Australia

house sitting abroad

What are a house sitter’s duties?

House sitting duties can vary per house sit, and for this reason I will ALWAYS request that written notes be left for us to refer to while we’re at the sit. Anything and everything the home owner feels is important should be included, such as: emergency contact details, when/what/how much each pet gets fed, how to use tricky appliances and electronics, any pet health issues.

Especially if you’re doing lots of house sits, it can be very easy to forget some details when the home owners tell you about their pets and home and what they need done. Having everything written down is super useful when you can’t remember how much to feed the pet for dinner, or how to operate the oven. Also, if the home owner claims you didn’t do something they wanted you to do, your ass is kinda covered if it wasn’t mentioned in the notes.

professional house sitters

In general, when you become a housesitter, you can expect your tasks to include:

  • Feeding all pets daily
  • Walking the dog(s) daily
  • Cleaning up after the pets
  • Give medication to pets (as needed)
  • Collecting mail from mailbox
  • Watering plants/lawn
  • Mowing the lawn

becoming a housesitter

On certain sits, I’ve also been asked to:

  • Forward mail to them
  • Vacuum up leaves in the yard
  • Collect eggs from chicken coop (didn’t mind this one at all!😉
  • Take dog to groomer
  • Brush the dog’s teeth
  • Cook food for pets (e.g. meat, rice, pasta for dogs)

becoming a housesitter

Do you need a police check, or a house sitting contract?

I have completed dozens of house sits and have never once gotten a police check done or signed a house sitting agreement.

Mostly this is because I avoid any ad that makes mention of either of these things and won’t apply for that house sit. I know I’m a reliable and trustworthy sitter and I believe that this shines through in my profile and in all of my reviews. I like to think that I tend to attract home owners who are laidback and trusting because that’s the vibe I put out.

free rent for house sitting

That said, there’s nothing wrong with getting a police check or signing a contract, and if you feel comfortable doing those things as you’re becoming a housesitter, go for it! Once you’re more established and have several house sits under your belt, it will be much easier to secure the sits that you apply for. So it’s like… why would you waste time on these silly corporate-like rituals when you could easily get another house sit where they’re not asked for?

In short, police checks and contracts are NOT required for most house sits, but it’s really up to the home owners and what they feel comfortable with. The majority of house sitting ads I see don’t mention them, and I’ve only had a few people tell me they want them after we get in contact.

how to become a house sitter

Where to find house sits

There are Facebook groups for specific cities or countries where both house sitters and home owners can post what they’re looking for. But I wouldn’t recommend relying on them to find house sits because there’s not much for home owners to go off of without seeing a sitter’s profile, photos, or reviews. You want them to see what an incredible house sitter you are right off the bat, without having to hope that they sift through the dozens of responses to their post and decide to message you over most everyone else for more information.

Thankfully there’s a better way to find house sits, and that’s through housesitting websites!

becoming a house sitter

There are several out there, but the ones I feel comfortable recommending are Trusted Housesitters and Mind A Home. Both of these are worldwide, meaning you can search for house sits all around the world.

If you’re looking to be a house sitter in Australia, Aussie Housesitters is the site to join. This is the one I’ve always used and I’ve had huge success landing house sits all over Australia with it.


how to be a house sitter

How do house sitting websites work?

On house sitting sites like Aussie Housesitters, house sitters can create a profile and home owners can post an ad advertising the house sit they’re looking to fill.

House sitter profiles include photos, a bio, availability, and reviews from previous house sits.

how to be a house sitter

House sitting ads can include photos, a description of what they’re looking for, location, and reviews from previous house sitters. It’s pretty common for ads not to include many details or photos, and sometimes it’s due to the home owner not fully grasping how to create the ad or use the website – which is totally understandable if it’s their first time doing it (and particularly if they’re older and not very tech savvy).

As long as whatever details they’ve given have picqued your interest, it’s worth applying for the sit and getting more information once you start talking to them. Some of our favorite house sits had very bare-bones ads that didn’t do the best job at selling the gig, so you can’t always judge a book by its cover (or… a house sit by its ad).

become a housesitter

Home owners can search the site for sitters that will be in their area at that time and message them directly, asking if they’re available and interested in the house sit. In my experience, only a few have ever messaged me like this; the majority will just post an ad and wait for interested sitters to contact them.

Likewise, house sitters can search the site for house sits by region, sit duration, pet type, and date range (among other variables), and send a message for any they’re interested in doing.

what is house sitting

Typically house sitting websites are free for home owners to use, and require an annual membership fee from house sitters. As of October 2022, it costs AU$84 for house sitters to join Aussie Housesitters for 12 months. That’s about what it costs to stay 2 nights in most any caravan park in Australia (mayyyyybe 3-4 nights if you opt for an unpowered site). So really, even if you only do one house sit, it’s still worth the fee.

Just think of how much money you’ll end up saving in a year, house sitting for free rent!


professional house sitters

How much money can you save by house sitting?

How much money you’ll save depends on 1). How much you’d normally spend on accommodation or rent, and 2). How many days you house sit.

In my case, let’s say I spend $AU40/day on a campsite at a caravan park, or $AU$65/day on rent + bills or a long-term Airbnb.

  • One month of house sitting saves me AU$1200 if I’m taking a break from caravan parks, or AU$1950 if I’m in-between apartments or Airbnbs.
  • 6 months of house sitting saves me AU$7300 if I’m taking a break from caravan parks, or AU$11,865 if I’m in-between apartments or Airbnbs.
  • One year of house sitting saves me AU$14,600 if I’m taking a break from caravan parks, or AU$23,725 if I’m in-between apartments or Airbnbs.

I mean… the numbers speak for themselves here. Who WOULDN’T want to start house sitting for free rent?

READ MORE: How To Find Cheap Accommodation In Australia

how to become a house sitter

What are most home owners looking for in a house sitter?

Above all, home owners just want to know that their beloved pets and home are going to be well looked after while they’re away. So anything you can do to assure them that you are a trustworthy and responsible animal lover is going to set you up for house sitting success.

You can do this by:

  • Including several photos of you interacting and smiling with other animals in your profile
  • Communicating it in your profile bio and messages
  • Accumulating several positive reviews on your profile from past house sits

becoming a housesitter

I find that most home owners with dogs prefer to have their house sitters spend as much time at home with their dog as possible. They also tend to prefer having a couple, rather than a single person, house sit for them, because it means double the love and attention for their pup. Of course you can absolutely land house sits if you’re house sitting by yourself (I mostly house sat alone in my first year of doing it)… but Pete and I have been told on more than one occasion that they chose us over another house sitter because there were 2 of us.


becoming a house sitter

What to say when you apply for a house sit

I’m not sure what it’s like on other housesitting websites, but on Aussie Housesitters you just send a message to the home owner directly from the ad. There’s no actual application or form to fill out or anything formal.

When you message someone expressing your interest in house sitting for them, here’s a template you can use (filled in with your own details, of course):

Hi {home owner’s name},

Are you still looking for a sitter? If so, I’m available and would love to care for your pets!

I am a {positive adjective} and {positive adjective} house sitter and always treat the homes and pets I look after as my own.

{A few sentences that make the message more personalized and show them what you can do for THEM. You can reference their specific pets or any concerns they’ve mentioned, e.g. assuring them that it’s no trouble to give the dog meds or take them on 2 walks a day, letting them know you’ll be at home most of the time to cuddle with their pets, etc}

I’m in {city) right now on another house sit, but would love to arrange a phone or FaceTime call so we can discuss further.

Let me know!


house sitting for free rent

Do you have to meet with the home owner before accepting a house sit?

Not necessarily! We’ve been offered house sits after sending just one message to the home owner in response to their ad. We’ve also had to meet a home owner twice in person before being offered the house sit. Interestingly, the sits where we didn’t meet the home owner in person beforehand were super easy breezy, while the one where we had to meet them twice ended up being more trouble than it was worth.

Even though it requires more effort, I do prefer to meet the home owner and see their pets and home before committing to the house sit whenever possible. I’m someone who’s very much affected by energy and my environment, and I need to feel a good vibe from a house if I’m going to be staying there for awhile. If I can’t visit in person, I always ask if they can send me some photos of their house so I can get a feel for it.

what is a house sitter

Also, meeting in person before accepting the house sit minimizes any “surprises” you might encounter upon moving into their house… such as an overwhelming cat pee smell all throughout the home, or an ant infestation, or a dirty kitchen, or an aggressive dog that wants to use you as his punching bag (yep, all have happened to me).

If you’re unable to meet the home owner in person, you can offer to schedule a phone call or FaceTime call with them to find out more details and see if it’s a good fit. But as I mentioned above, I always try to visit them in person if I’m reasonably close by. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I have *always* been offered the house sit when I’ve met them in person, while my success rate when it’s been a phone call meet-and-greet is a lot lower.

house sitting abroad

So in short: you don’t have to meet the home owner in person before saying yes to a house sit, but I highly recommend it whenever possible!


How to secure your first house sit

You might be thinking… ok, that all sounds amazing, but how do I get my first house sit if I don’t have any reviews yet?

There are 2 things you should do to increase your chances of landing your first house sit:

free rent for house sitting

1. Make your profile the best it can possibly be. Ensure you’ve uploaded several quality photos of you with animals, ideally smiling and interacting with them. Include lots of details in your written bio and let your personality shine through. Make it clear that you’re responsible, trustworthy, and love animals.

2. Apply for the “less desirable” house sits (e.g. sits that are short, or in a not-so-great location). There will be less competition for these sorts of sits, which increases your odds of getting it.

Then after you’ve completed your first house sit, I’d aim to accumulate 3-5 excellent reviews as quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this is to take on a few short house sits in the very near future. The shorter the sit, the sooner you’ll get reviewed for it!

become a house sitter

Once your house sitting profile is padded with rave reviews, house owners will see them when you apply for their sit and it’ll give you an edge over many other applicants. I found it exponentially easier to secure the house sits I was interested in with just a few great reviews on my profile.

READ MORE: How I Saved $10,000+ On Travel In 2016

how to become a housesitter

How to land most of the house sits you apply for

I think there are 2 major things you absolutely MUST do to increase your odds of landing a house sit:

1. Make sure your profile looks amazing (as mentioned earlier – great photos, lots of details in your bio that showcase how amazing you are, and lots of rave reviews).

2. Be one of the first people to apply for a house sit after the ad is posted.

Number 2 is CRI-TI-CAL because home owners get inundated with responses when they post an ad on one of these housesitting sites. In my experience, home owners tend to respond to the sitters that message them first, and send an auto-decline response to everyone else.

professional house sitter

On Aussie Housesitters, you can set up alerts so that you are e-mailed as soon as any ads are posted that meet your criteria (location, dates, etc). I recommend having a couple of message templates saved that you can use to quickly send messages for the sits you want.

Apply for house sits ASAP, i.e. the second you get the e-mail alert. Seriously, DROP WHAT YOU’RE DOING and message that house owner! It’s quick and easy if you just copy/paste one of your message templates – just make sure you insert the home owner’s name and personalize it a bit (e.g. mentioning their specific pets and needs).

Honestly, this works so well for us that we have no problem lining up house sits back to back to back (to back…), AND being quite picky about them.

house sitting abroad


How to score rave reviews as a house sitter

Reviews are hugely important when you become a house sitter because they’re proof that you’ve already done a great job of house sitting for other people. A handful of rave reviews helps to put home owners at ease when they choose you to house sit for them.

Here’s how to ensure you earn an excellent review after every house sit you complete:

how to become a housesitter

  • Be an excellent communicator both before and during the house sit. Never leave them guessing or worrying about whether you’re going to show up or how their pets are doing by keeping in frequent contact.
  • Send them lots of photos of their pets during your stay.
  • Leave their house exactly as you found it when you moved in. Make sure you do a thorough job at cleaning and put back any furniture or items you may have moved around.
  • Leave them a note on the counter thanking them for trusting you to mind their home, and include any notes about the house or pets that they need to know (e.g. the light switch stopped working, the cat hasn’t been finishing her dinner, bed linens are washed and hanging out to dry).
  • For longer house sits, or for home owners who went out of their way to welcome you and make you comfortable in their home, you might also want to leave a little gift for them to come home to. Some nice chocolate, flowers, or a bottle of wine work well here.
  • Leave a nice review for them on the house sitting website, and they’ll be more likely to do the same for you.

what is a house sitter


What to ask before accepting a house sit

As tempting as it is to accept the first house sit that comes your way, you should really take the time to ask questions about the things that are most important to you before committing to a house sit. The more sits you do, the more clear it’ll become to you what you value in a house sit.

become a housesitter

These are the questions I often ask before I agree to house sit for someone:

  • Is there room to park our car and caravan?
  • Is there wifi and Telstra reception?
  • How many bedrooms are available to us and what size beds do they have?
  • How is your dog when left alone for awhile?
  • Is your neighborhood safe and quiet?
  • Can you share some more photos of your home and pets?

what is house sitting

What to ask before starting a house sit

Then before you start a house sit, you’ll want to ask more specific questions about the pets and house. If you’re lucky, everything you need to know will be spelled out in written notes that the home owner prepares for your arrival (I always ask them to do this).

Before they leave, I make sure I know the answers to these questions:

  • What does each pet eat, and when?
  • Where are all the pet supplies kept? (leashes, poo bags, toys, brushes, etc)
  • Are there any health issues or personality quirks the pets have that I should know about?
  • How does the dog act around other animals?
  • Is there anything I need to know about using the oven, TV, washing machine, and other appliances?
  • What’s the wifi password?
  • What day do the rubbish and recycling bins go out?
  • Who do I contact first in case of an emergency?

professional house sitter


When to arrive when starting a house sit

I find that arriving one day early is ideal, especially if the home owner is leaving early in the morning. Having one day of overlap is really helpful because it allows the pets to get used to having you around, and allows the home owner to show you around the house and explain things to you.

Otherwise, arriving the day they leave is fine.

house sitting for free rent

Are there any downsides to house sitting?

Of course there are a few downsides to becoming a house sitter, but the pros massively outweigh the cons in most cases.

For me, the major negative is being anchored to one location for awhile, particularly if there’s not much around to see or do. Location is hugely important to me, so I make sure only to apply for house sits in places I actually want to live in, with a beach and some nice coffee shops nearby.

become a house sitter

Along that same vein, often you’re not able to leave the house for too long if you’re looking after anxious or needy pets that don’t do well if left alone for an extended period. I try to find out if this is an issue before I commit to a house sit. If you’re hoping to take full day trips to explore the area you’re house sitting in, you’ll definitely want to find out whether it’s ok to leave the pets for that long.

One of the other bad things about housesitting is that sometimes home owners change their plans at the last minute and it inconveniences you. We’ve had a few return home a few days earlier than planned, which left us scrambling to figure out where we’d go next. Another one cancelled on us just a few weeks in advance, after we’d turned down other sits that overlapped with theirs. You’re pretty much at the mercy of the home owner unfortunately, and sometimes sh*t happens.

free rent for house sitting

Like when the dog jumps all over you and leaves bruises and scratches.


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How To Become A House Sitter & Travel The World With FREE Accommodation!
Pin it!
How To Become A House Sitter & Travel The World With FREE Accommodation!