Having just spent the last ten months house sitting and working remotely, I feel I’m in a good position to give an overview of what house sitting is and the pros and cons of house sitting for people who work remotely.
First off, what is house sitting?
House sitting is basically looking after someone else’s home and pets while they’re away on holidays. For homeowners having a house sitter living in the house is a great deterrent to burglars, it keeps the home insurance valid (some policies are void if the home is left vacant after several weeks) and if they have pets it means the homeowners doesn’t have to send them to a kennel or cattery. In return for looking after the home and pets, the sitter gets a chance to live somewhere else rent-free, often in a far more luxurious property than they would have rented for themselves. As an example, one of the houses I looked after in the summer (five bedrooms with a pool) has been rented out before for GBP2,000 per week.
Free Accommodation: The most obvious ‘pro’ of house sitting is getting free accommodation abroad, that one’s obvious. No matter how well your business is doing, not having to pay rent is a godsend for anyone. Australia has two of the world’s most expensive cities, Sydney and Melbourne, according to CNN. However – and thankfully for anyone travelling on a tight budget – it has plenty of house sits, 125 open opportunities at the time of writing.
Ease of Accommodation: Another related but often overlooked pro of house sitting is the ease this type of accommodation provides. One of the hassles of trying to work and travel is sorting out apartments, bank accounts and everything else in each new country or city that you visit. With house sitting, you walk straight into a home that’s up and running. There’s usually even (although be sure to check with the homeowner beforehand to be certain) internet so that means no figuring out who you can get a short-term contract with or playing around with frustratingly-slow dongles. Some remote properties have internet but it’s not great, so do be sure to ask what the quality is like before committing to anything.
A different kind of travelling: With house sitting, if you’re a long-term freelance worker, you go where the house sits are. This is good fun as you end up staying in all kinds of places, especially very rural locations, that you wouldn’t normally end up in where you staying in hotels or hostels.
Challenges of house sitting for remote workers:
Looking after Pets: I couldn’t decide whether to put ‘pet sitting’ into a pro or a challenge, in fairness it’s a bit of both. Having pets while travelling is fantastic – if you’re a pet person of course – there’s no other type of accommodation that has you working with a Labrador at your feet and a cat curled up sleeping on the bed nearby. I love getting up in the morning and taking the dog for a walk; it clears my mind and I feel better for it however pets can also be a challenge.
Although something like dog walking might not seem like that much work, it’s a responsibility and when you’re house sitting, you have to put your house sitter responsibilities before your own work. If this involves a one hour dog walk a day and you’ve suddenly landed a load of projects with extremely short deadlines this can be tricky, but it’s just something that comes with the territory. As a tip, try to work out roughly what work will be involved with the house sit (email the home owner if you want more specific details) and try to work out whether you can afford to give that time beforehand, rather than accept something that’s going to stress you out in the long run.
Wanderlust & Itchy Feet: A second challenge for some, but one that hasn’t been an issue for me is the fact that you’re tied to one place. If you have clients that want regular visits, or you’re prone to itchy feet, this could cause problems especially if you take on a long term house sit (6 months +).
Handovers: The final challenge for remote workers – depending on your line of work – is handovers. Most house sitting assignments typically involve a handover, at least a day either side of the house sit. This is to get you introduced to the pets, show you the quirks of the house and how things work and sometimes to introduce you to a neighbour or someone who can help you out if things go wrong. Handovers are a very sensible idea, but if they fall on a weekday (and you work Monday to Friday) this can make things difficult. Clients might be emailing and deadlines due whilst you’re being shown how the pool filter works.
It’s a challenge and it’s up to you to make it work; to plan your handover days and your work around each other and to catch up on the rest of the work whenever you can. And learning how that pool filter works will be worth it when you’re heading off on your daily swim a few days later!
Having spent almost a year house sitting, it’s worth mentioning that I’m continuing to look for house sits in the future. I think this type of travelling lends itself well to people who work remotely and even though there are some challenges, they’re manageable and the benefits house sitting provides means it’s well worth working hard to find solutions. Just my two cents.