7 Drawbacks of Housesitting

An abandoned house four years after the big earthquake in Christchurch

An abandoned house four years after the big earthquake in Christchurch

In my last post I described the positive aspects of housesitting. Here is the flipside of the coin with some potential negatives to consider.

  1. Flexibility required
    Since housesitting arrangements usually have a set time frame, you need to plan around the end dates.
  2. Chores
    Housesits come with basic chores and maintenance to perform, at a minimum. Most of it is regular stuff you would do anywhere like feed the pets, check the mail, water the plants, keep the place clean, etc. This is usually not much trouble, but important to stay on top of.
  3. Responsibility
    If anything goes wrong, you are responsible. One time in Cambodia I accidentally left the back door unlocked and the cat I was looking after snuck out during the night. Since it was a young indoor cat and had probably never been outside before, I feared the worst when I realized my mistake. Luckily he didn’t run away, but it would have been hard to tell the owners “I lost your cat”.
  4. Lack of mobility
    For obvious reasons, housesitting requires you to be physically at or near the house the entire time. This can prevent you from taking side trips, although I’ve been very lucky with homeowners allowing or even encouraging me to take side trips for up to a few days. It’s also much easier to take a day or weekend trip with cats as opposed to dogs.
  5. Time and energy spent finding a housesit
    For me it only makes sense to do longer term housesits. At least two weeks in length but ideally a minimum of one month. That means I need to constantly scan the e-mail alerts to look for housesits that meet this criteria. If I see a good one, I will send a message expressing my interest. (I have a template for this that I modify slightly each time.) I’ve had luck with getting responses and landing desirable housesits, but realistically it may take a while to find a housesit that suits you.
  6. Availability not always great
    Depending on the country, the housesitting “inventory” can be sparse. English speaking countries around the world tend to have the most listings.
  7. Costs
    The site I use, TrustedHousesitters, is not free. It costs around $95 for a yearly membership, with a slight discount if you can find a coupon code. And of course membership doesn’t guarantee that you will find anything. It just gives you the option to message the homeowners. There can be also be other associated costs like airfare and some housesits require you to pay for utilities during your stay.

Overall, housesitting has been a great experience and I would recommend it to anybody who likes the idea. It really is a win-win for both the house-sitter and homeowner. I’m not sure how many more of these I will do, but it’s a great tool to have in your travel arsenal.

6 Benefits of Housesitting

View from the balcony in Christchurch, New Zealand

View from the balcony in Christchurch, New Zealand

When I first heard about housesitting, it sounded too good to be true. You mean, somebody will let you live at their house for FREE?

Now that I have some housesitting experience under my belt, here are some thoughts about what I see as the positives of housesitting.

  1. Save money
    This is the obvious one. Living somewhere rent-free definitely qualifies as a good thing. This is especially true in places where rental and hotel prices are higher.
  2. Access to a kitchen
    This is one of biggest pluses for me since I like to cook my own meals or at least have the option to.

  3. Live like a local
    Housesitting helps you get off the tourist path and live in a more “settled” way. Living in someone’s house is a great way to enjoy the comforts of home while traveling. The homeowners also usually like to show you around and tell you about the local area.
  4. Meet nice people
    The homeowners are from different walks of life, but in my experience have all been welcoming and genuine.
  5. Pets
    Living with pets is a plus for me. I prefer cats because they are less work, but dogs are cool too.
  6. Makes you more organized
    Usually at the beginning of a housesit the homeowner will show you around and tell you what you need to know about. Details about their pets, watering the plants, Internet passwords, garbage collection times, local contacts, etc. There can be a lot of details to remember so I make sure to take notes to avoid forgetting anything. Then I review these notes and make them into some kind of checklist. This ensures that nothing will slip through the cracks, like forgetting to water a plant for over three weeks (it happened). I also like to get supplies such as toilet paper, soap, paper towels, etc. Taking care of all this planning upfront saves a lot of time and energy down the road.

By the Numbers: A Year of Housesitting (So Far)

Driving in the New Zealand countryside

Driving in the New Zealand countryside

After spending the first eight and a half months of 2015 in Southeast Asia, I now find myself on New Zealand’s southern island. In the city of Christchurch to be exact.

How did I end up in this most Christian-sounding city?

The answer is housesitting.

I’ve used the website TrustedHousesitters, which connects homeowners in need of home and pet care while they are away with people like me that offer just this service.

It’s basically a win-win for both parties. The homeowner can go on vacation knowing their home and pets are safe and tended to while the house-sitter gets a rent-free place to stay.

It’s also a great way to live “like a local” and meet nice people along the way.

Here are some of my personal housesittings “stats” for 2015:

4 – Number of housesitting assignments I have had. (One by myself and three with Heidi, my travel companion since June.)

3 – Number of countries in which I have house sat. (Cambodia, twice in Malaysia, and New Zealand)

6 – Number of pets I have looked after.

6 – Number of male pets I have looked after.

5 – Number of cats I have cared for. (Pepper, Lucky, Emmett, Whiskey, and Brandy)

2 – Number of “indoor” cats.

3 – Number of “outdoor” cats.

1 – Number of dogs I have cared for. (Luke)

186 – Number of days, by the end of this current housesit, I will have spent housesitting. This includes 50 days in Cambodia, 56 in Malaysia, 80 in New Zealand and amounts to over 6 full months in total!

Even More Pictures from Malaysia

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Entrance to Tower C of Verve Suites in the Mont Kiara neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur. My residence for about three weeks while British homeowners Emma and Karl are away on holiday.

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The roof of Tower C with its greenery and “aqua gym”. There are four towers at the Verve: A, B, C and D – also known as Viva, Vogue, Vox, and Vibe.

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Inside the Sky Lounge at the top of Tower A.

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The restaurants and cafes at the bottom of the apartment complex.

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Inside the grocery store at the bottom of the Verve Suites.

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Tennis court at night. The Verve has a lot of amenities like this including a basketball court, gym, reflexology pool, and meditation garden.

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The local Starbucks is about a 15 minute walk away. Along with Coffea Coffee, this is my favorite spot to work.

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A roadside durian stand. Durians are notorious for their strong smell and are very popular in Malaysia.

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Emmet the cat. He is the pet for whom I am sitting.

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One of the several pools at the Verve.

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The infitity pool at the top of Tower B.

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This is what it looks like over the edge.

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This is what it looks like over the other edge.

Some More Pictures from Malaysia

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Mom came to visit!

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Looking up at the Petronas Towers.

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Washing windows at over 558 feet in the air. Somebody’s got to do it.

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Taking pictures of swords at the National Museum.

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On the way to the Genting Highlands, a large resort and entertainment complex outside Kuala Lumpur.

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At a casino in the Highlands. There were lots of Chinese people here and no Malays.

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The windy roads heading back from the Highlands.

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At the Chin Swee Caves Temple.

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A man paying his respects.

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Patiently waiting for our affogatos at Starbucks.

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Waiting some more.

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Still waiting…

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At the entrance to the Batu Caves. We didn’t go up the stairs because it was really hot and had already been a long day.