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So you want to know how to become a house and pet sitter and get free accommodation when you travel? Well, it’s as simple as signing up to a website et voila, you’re a house sitter.
However, if you want to bag a luxury house sit in the Greek vacation destination of your choice or join the digital nomads who get booked regularly, there are a few other things to consider.
In short, here’s what you need to do:
- Sign up to a house sitting site
- Fill out your profile in full, including an intro video and experience with pets and animals
- Get verified
- Apply for sits that you’re competent to do
- Complete a sit
I’ve been house sitting since 2017. I’m a fully verified member of TrustedHousesitters where I’ve completed more than 65 sits. So I have a few tips to help you stand out from the crowd.
You can read about my house sitting experiences as I was featured on their website. But in the meantime, here’s what you need to know.
Join a House Sitting Site or Group
People everywhere (including Greece) are desperate to find a good house sitter to look after their beloved animals while they’re away. But you need to find where home owners / pet owners are listing the opportunities.
House sitting websites like TrustedHousesitters and Nomador are popular for finding house sitting assignments
How House Sitting Websites Work
Normally, housesitting sites are for people who want a free place to stay in exchange for taking care of pets. They offer everything from an overnight sit to long-term house sits for people away on year-long sabbaticals.
Paid Housesitting Jobs
I have seen listings on some sites where you can apply for paid jobs and charge for your time. But that’s less common, and if you go that route of professional house sitter, make sure you have a way of declaring your earnings for tax.
House Sitting Sites for Free Accommodation
This article is more aimed at people looking for somewhere free to stay when they travel, and there are several housesitting sites you can choose from.
I joined TrustedHousesitters in 2017 because someone I know used it. It’s one of the most well-known sites and has many sits in the UK, Europe, the USA, and plenty of other countries. (Literally everywhere from Peru to Iceland.)
Nomador is another popular one that’s similar although their listings include “stop-over” options. Basically, a host puts you up for the night for free. I think the idea is it’s somewhat reciprocal and some (not all) hosts do it to experience the same in your country.
There are also country-specific sites like House Sitters America if you know you’re only interested in one area.
You can certainly join more than one site, but logistically, I found it easiest just to deal with one. To decide on the best house sitting site for you, read what each offers and sign up for a free account to look around.
One of the blind kittens I was pet sitting in Naxos
Types of House-Sitting Job
You’ll see all kinds of house sits in these listings, and new ones get added all the time. Occasionally, on TrustedHousesitters, I see some come up that are just to look after someone’s home. But 99% are looking for a live-in house sitter to care for the family pet(s).
And the pets can be anything from a goldfish or gerbil to sheep, horses or llamas. I did a sit at a working farm in France once. There were two dogs, five cats, two goats, two horses and chickens.
Of course, all the details are in the listing, so you know what you’re applying for. As you might expect, sits with cats and dogs are the most common.
When you’re ready to apply, most housesitting sites charge membership fees for either the pet sitters, house/pet owners or both. I think at one stage, Nomador gave you your first three sits for free, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.
Since things change constantly, you’ll need to look into membership options when you decide to start.
As I write this, both TrustedHousesitters and Nomador offer three levels of memberships for sitters and owners. The higher tiers include things like featured listings, protection for sitters if their sit gets cancelled and additional customer support.
At first glance, they can look costly. But as a sitter, annual membership gives you access to a whole year of free accommodation. You don’t pay for anything after you’ve signed up.
So even if you just do one week-long sit, think how much hotel rates are per night in the locations you want to visit. Getting a housesitting “job” is a great way to live rent-free since accommodation is one of the most expensive parts of travel.
Oscar Parrot, who I house sat for in Athens
Using Facebook Groups to Find House Sitting Jobs
I’m a member of a Facebook group called Happy Pets of Athens. Although it’s for all sorts of questions and support about pets, the topic of pet sitting comes up quite often.
People are allowed to post about their housesitting services to care for pets in the area. If you’re hoping to become a long-term house sitter in a particular place, it’s worth seeing if there’s a similar group.
The benefit is it’s a free way of finding opportunities, and in Athens, it’s quite an accepted way of doing things. The disadvantage is not having quite the same level of background checks that dedicated house sitting platforms might offer.
What Does a House Sitter Do?
Before we look at how to apply for a house sitting listing, let’s just make sure you’re clear on what a house sitter does.
Fundamentally, a house sitter lives in someone’s house as if it were their own home. That way, the property is safer and more secure while the normal occupants are away. It’s better than just having a neighbour pop in to collect the post and open the curtains.
As I mentioned above, there’s usually a pet involved. Having a house sitter means that pets don’t need to be put in the kennels or cattery which gives owners peace of mind because animals normally feel much happier staying in their usual environments.
Normal Tasks for a House Sitter
When someone books you for a housesit, you basically take care of their home in the same way you would yours. So, for most house sitting jobs, expected tasks would be things like:
- normal home care i.e. cleaning and tidying up after yourself
- feeding the pet(s)
- cleaning up after the animals e.g. emptying litter trays, mucking out stables, cleaning chicken coops
- walking the dog
- following instructions about where the pet is/isn’t allowed to go e.g. if it’s an indoor cat
- playing with and generally caring for the animal(s)
- taking the pet to the vet in an emergency
- bringing in post (and maybe being in for a parcel delivery but you’d usually agree that between you)
- watering plants in the house and in the garden during summer
Unless it’s a very short sit I generally take out the rubbish at the end of my assignment.
And I always strip the bed and put the towels by the washing machine. I don’t usually have time to stay for them to wash, but the people I’ve sat for are usually quite pleased with me just doing that.
Some house sitting listings mention additional tasks that are required. It’s up to you whether you want to apply for these types of sits. I generally don’t because I’m busy with other things and don’t have the headspace.
But other house sitters enjoy the extra responsibility and if you’re retired or travelling slowly you might enjoy it too. Just be absolutely clear on what your house sitting role is before you confirm the sit to make sure it’s a good match.
Additional tasks you might get on house sitting jobs:
- checking in on family members, e.g an elderly parent who lives in the granny annexe
- giving the pets medication
- property maintenance
- large amounts of cleaning or house keeping
Everything you’re expected to do should be in the listing, and if not, it should come up when messaging after you apply.
If you’re happy to do additional tasks know what the implications are. Like if you’re checking in on a relative and they’re NOT ok one day, what responsibilities do you have then?
Make sure that everything’s worth what you’re getting in return. Sometimes I think people expect sitters to do paid work for free.
If you’re staying in a completely outstanding place you might decide it’s worth it for a couple of hours’ maintenance on top of walking the dogs.
But don’t forget, that you could find the same standard of place without the extra responsibilities too.
A Note on Applying for What You Can Commit To
This applies for any house sitting gig, but it’s especially important to keep in mind when you’re eager to secure something at the start.
If a listing mentions that the dogs are used to an early morning walk at 5am can you commit to that? Or would you prefer not to do anything energetic until after 9am?
Those cute kittens you were desperate to sit are high-energy. They’re into absolutely everything, and they need a lot of attention each day to keep them occupied. (And in my experience, they’ll also scratch your legs to oblivion.)
Can you manage that if you’re working from home and need to be in serious video calls all day?
Consider what the sit will be like and decide whether it’s something you can actually commit to before applying.
Follow the Requirements
Don’t waste your time or the host’s by applying for something you’re not suited to. By which I mean some listings specify they’re looking for:
- a couple: because of the size of the property or the number of animals/amount of tasks
- a woman: because the pets are scared of men
- a solo sitter: because the pets aren’t used to lots of people or just owner preference
- driver with car: because of the location of the property
I specify I want a solo woman when I advertise for sitters for my cats. Several times I’ve had guys or couples applying, which is annoying. Plus, it makes me think they can’t follow rules. Therefore they’re not really people I want staying in my house or caring for my pets.
Applying for Your First House Sit
The aim of your first pet sitting job is to get some experience and a review under your belt. I’d take that attitude for your first few house sitting jobs, to be honest.
In recent years, house sitting has become much more popular, and you need to find a way to stand out on whichever house sitting website you go with.
Although you can get lucky from the beginning, the very best house sitting opportunities usually go to someone with more great experience and reviews than less.
Which House Sitting Gigs to Apply for First
In popular areas, you’ll be up against lots of other housesitters. So some of the best ways to get started are to apply for house sitting jobs in your local area or in less popular areas of the country.
Having the flexibility to accept a last-minute pet sitting opportunity is another good way to get your first few sits secured. Look for short stays like a weekend sit close to where you live that you can move faster than others on.
Busy times like Christmas and the summer holidays can be good times to start as well. Many top sitters get booked out quite far in advance. Since there’s a lot more demand at these times, you’ve got more chance of helping someone out.
Basically, don’t necessarily look for the perfect house sit the first time you apply. Look for what you have a good chance of getting because great reviews are what will help you secure a dream sit (or 10!) in the future.
Securing Your First House Sitting Opportunity without Experience
Your first house sitting job is the start of your house sitting journey. Once you’re up and running it’s much easier to get your next house sit.
But the first one can be a bit more challenging. Because you have no reviews, some people get nervous about being the first one to test you out.
I talked above about the types of sits to go for where you’re more likely to get the job even if you’re just starting out.
When there’s a lot of competition, you need to do everything you can to stand out against others.
After you have a few good reviews from sits, they’ll do the advertising for you. Until then, you need to create a profile that instils trust. Here are my tips for a great house sitter profile.
Before you get reviews, people you know can usually write a reference for you. It’s basically a character reference, so try and get someone relevant and/or who can write about the things a pet owner might want to know about.
If the house sitting website you sign up for offers any type of enhanced verification like a background check, I’d take it. Not everyone will bother, but at the beginning, it’s just another trust mark on your side.
Add Video as Well as Photos
Photos are great to show you with your own pets or caring for family/friends’ animals. But the most impactful thing I added to my profile in the beginning was a video.
Don’t make it long; no one wants to hear your whole life story. But 1 – 3 minutes about why you want to become a house sitter and what experience you have can really help people feel like they know you.
Every house sit is basically done on trust. So the more comfortable you can make pet owners feel, the more house sitting opportunities will come your way.
Don’t Lie About Experience
Sometimes, being a pet lover isn’t enough, and owners are looking for someone with specific experience. Don’t apply unless you have that.
If a listing looks perfect but wants someone with experience of injecting a diabetic cat, it’s not a good idea to apply and think you’ll be able to blag it. Remember, you want rave reviews, not complaints.
List Special Skills
On the other hand, if you do have previous experience with specific pet-care skills, then absolutely highlight them both in your profile and when you apply. That could be things like having experience of:
- dealing with nervous strays
- dealing with large dog breeds
- multiple dog households
- giving medication like tablets, inhalers or injections
- cleaning out horses’ hooves
Personalise Your Application Message
When you apply, send a personalised message for each sit.
Show that you’re interested in the animals by referencing them by name and briefly talk about any experience you have relevant to the listing. You can say why you like the look of their sit and why you’d like to be accepted.
Again, you’re trying to build trust and rapport.
Top Tip – Set Up Alerts
On some sites, you can set up alerts for the places you’re interested in. TrustedHousesitters do this now, and it’s worth doing if you have a specific place in mind.
In the past, sitters could keep applying for house sitting opportunities until the owner paused applications. I’d often see listings with over 50 applicants for popular places like London.
Now, the listings automatically pause after five people have applied. If the owners reject any of these, new people can apply until it reaches five again.
The way to catch listings when they go live is through alerts on the app. You can set up a whole country like Greece or just a specific city like Athens.
Tips to Get Great Reviews
Here are some house sitter tips you can use to stand out once you start getting some sits and reviews. Remember you want to get a whole load of 5 -star reviews so you can pick and choose your favourite sits and secure the perfect opportunity each time.
To be honest, if you just do what you say you’ll do, you’re already ahead of some people. I didn’t really think about it until I stopped being a nomad and started creating listings for my own apartment and pets.
But reading through reviews of applicants, I can see that some haven’t fulfilled the basics of what previous listings asked of them.
Given the calls I’ve had with some applicants, I’d say a lot of people don’t read the listings properly, either. So do what you committed to, and you’re already a step ahead.
Have Good Communication
I had a sitter who was quite hard to get a response from them. It can be a little disconcerting when you’re in another country and don’t hear back from someone within 24 hours.
At the time, the sitter had told me they were ill, so it was all a bit worrying whether they, my home and my beloved animals were ok.
You don’t have to reply to messages instantly but respond in a timely manner.
At the start of each sit, I usually ask how frequently the owner wanted updates. Some people want frequent pictures and updates. For longer sits, weekly can be enough.
Obviously, if something happens in the meantime or the cat does something particularly cute, I’ll contact the owner.
Overall, the owners just want to feel reassured. Letting them know what’s going on will leave them with a good impression of you.
People seem to like that I let them know I’ve arrived safely and that the pets are happy. (Often, I collect the keys before the sit starts or use one hidden under the flower pot when I get there.)
At the end, I’m usually gone before the owners are back. So when I leave, I send them an update to let them know how I’ve left things and anything else they need to know. So keep people informed.
Add Thoughtful Touches
I know some sitters leave thank you cards and little gifts like flowers or chocolates. I’ve never done that, but I’ve found owners just as grateful to come home to a clean and tidy house.
Always leave the house as you found it. (People always comment that I leave the place cleaner than it was when I left. I don’t usually.
I think they’re just used to it being a bit lived in, and they forget they had a mad cleaning frenzy before my arrival. So I just put it back how I found it but it’s tidier than what they normally walk into.)
It sounds pretty basic, but again, now that I have pet sitters in my home, I see that it’s not necessarily standard.
Another thing people are grateful for is me stripping the bed and putting the towels by the machine.
As a rule, I don’t make up the bed for the owners, but I’ve done it twice. The owners were coming back late from China and Australia, respectively. I thought if that were me, I’d want to be able to crawl straight into bed and not fight with a king-sized fitted sheet first.
So things like that or ways of being considerate to the pet when I leave before the owners return are always appreciated and commented on.
How to Become a House Sitter for International House Sits
Becoming an international house sitter is a wonderful way to see the world. I think it’s nice to have a local base and contact with someone who can help you navigate a new country. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, you can save a lot of money by staying for free in someone’s home.
Before you open up your house sitting search to the whole world, there are a few things to consider.
Owners will likely want to see your travel documents before confirming you. You can apply before you book flights. But to seal the deal, it’s fair for the owners to want to see proof that you’ll make it to the country.
As well as flight tickets, make sure you know what else is required in terms of visas or other requirements (like an ETIAS waiver). You don’t want to have to let someone down and prevent them from going on their own trip because you weren’t organised with yours.
If you’re applying to international sites you should also check the travel costs at the time. I’ve had people from abroad apply to sit for my cats here in Greece, thinking flights were less than they were.
Flights to Athens can be really cheap from the UK and other European countries. But at times, they can be much higher. I had people apply and then ghost me because they realised the transport costs wouldn’t justify a weekend stay.
It’s best to check first and then bow out before you get too far along the process if it isn’t feasible for you.
Who Is Suited to House Sitting?
House sitting is good for people who love animals. Other qualities that will help include being:
- able to use initiative and make decisions
- clean and tidy
- a good communicator
Other than that, lots of different types of people enjoy house sitting. For example:
- retired singles and couples
- solo travellers, couples or families travelling the world
- digital nomads
- 9-5 workers who want an alternative holiday abroad
What Are the Disadvantages of House Sitting?
There are many things I love about house sitting. But there are some things you need to consider too.
Lack of Flexibility
This varies from sit to sit, and I always try and find the easiest sits possible. (Think one cat who’s fed once per day, has a cat flat and doesn’t use a tray.) That’s because I’m normally working, and the responsibilities are on top of other things I’m doing.
But even with simple sits, I still have to factor in time to do the things I’m there to do before heading out the door. There are lots of benefits to staying in someone’s home, but it’s not quite as flexible as staying in a hotel on holiday with no considerations but your own.
If you take on a sit with additional duties or maintenance services or dogs that can only be left for a few hours, then be realistic about how much time (or how many hours in one stretch) you’ll realistically have to get out and sightsee.
Maybe you’re staying in a lovely big house with gardens, and you just want to stay in and relax with your time.
In that case, having things to do to pass the day can be good. But think realistically about what you want to get out of your trip. Imagine what your sit will look like day-to-day before accepting.
Getting Used to a New Place
We can do so much with our lives because some things are on autopilot. When you house sit, everything requires thought.
Like when I was working in London and doing lots of sits in the city. I was constantly having to work out the best route to work instead of it just being automatic. That’s life as a nomad anyway, but it’s something to consider if you’re just embarking on the lifestyle.
Things Might Not Be As You Expected
I’ve always been pretty lucky and had good experiences. There are only two sits where things didn’t really work out as I thought.
One place was filthy, and I had to spend a day cleaning. I was there for three weeks, though, so in the end, it was ok.
The other was that the owner came back early. They’re not supposed to do that, but since I was in the guest bedroom and could stay until the end of my planned dates, I didn’t really feel I could say anything. But I found it really awkward.
Another thing I noticed is that people generally underestimate how far things like tube stations are on foot.
Usually, that was for sits outside of central London, where owners mostly drove everywhere. Sometimes it made my commute much longer than I’d anticipated when I’d confirmed.
You never really know for sure how something’s going to be until you arrive. Obviously, you can read the listing well, look at the images posted and read previous reviews. And over time, you get used to asking questions about things that are important to you.
But unless things are awful and you need to get the site to step in, you have to see it through for the time you’ve committed.
What to Know About Housesitting in Greece
You can find a great opportunity to housesit in Greece and see the sights. Have a look through some of TrustedHousesitters. Even if there’s nothing live this second, you can see all previous listings that are either completed or currently reviewing applications for upcoming dates.
Lots of Cats
One thing I wanted to mention is that you might find that for the cat listings, they often show big numbers of cats, like 6 – 25. Don’t necessarily be put off by that.
Six cats in a house might sound like a lot. But chances are they were strays and still live partly outside. Similarly, if you see huge numbers, it’s probably an outdoor colony that the owner feeds once or twice a day.
The responsibility for you isn’t necessarily more than a normal sit. In fact, it might be less. So don’t dismiss these types of sit and take a moment to read what’s actually involved.
Winter on the Islands
A long house sit on a Greek island can be idyllic. But your experience in winter will be much different than in summer. Usually, island winter sits will usually mention this in their listing and ensure you are aware.
Overall I’ve enjoyed being on the islands in the winter but ask about what the situation is for heating and hot water. See this post about Mykonos over the winter to have an idea of what I’m talking about.
House Sitting FAQs
Do I Get Paid to House Sit?
If you book a sit through a site like Nomador, then it’s not classed as professional house sitting. Your pay comes in the form of free accommodation. (Unless the host decides to leave you a tip.)
Professional house sitters do charge a daily/nightly fee to stay over. If you look for sits through something like the Happy Pets of Athens Facebook group I mentioned, you can advertise your fee and get a paid gig.
Can I Take My Own Pets?
This varies from sit to sit and usually applies to dog owners. Never assume that you can. Some listings specifically say their dog is good with others, and sitters with dogs are welcome to apply.
Others will specifically say the opposite. If it’s not mentioned, then definitely check whether you can.
Do House Sitters Pay Utilities?
As a rule, no, they don’t. Having said that, I have seen some very long-term house sit listings ask that applicants do pay for their own utilities.
It’s up to you whether you choose to go for a sit like that. Make sure you’re clear from the start what the costs are likely to be. Confirm in writing what you’re responsible for. And if it were me, I’d ask to see copies of previous bills.
Unless the sit is really special, I probably wouldn’t go for one where I had to pay. There are lots of options out there, and you could find something similar that’s free.
Do House Sitters Stay Overnight?
Yes, they live in the house as if it were their own home for the duration of the sit.
Can I have House Guests at House Sits?
This is another thing to check with the owner. If you just want to have a friend round for tea, then I’m sure it’s fine.
If you want to have a guest to stay overnight or your partner to do the sit with you, it’s important to check with the owners first.