Everyone deserves a holiday.  One of life’s pleasures is being able to look forward to a break from work, a change of routine and the opportunity to relax.  While it should be a priority for everyone, booking a holiday is often the first thing to be cancelled when budgets are tight.  But what if I told you it is possible to holiday for free? 

House sitting is a cost effective way to stay in accommodation not your own while exploring new towns and cities.  Essentially you are looking after someone else’s home while they are on holidays.  As a house sitter it is your responsibility to keep the house looking lived in (lights on at night, car in the garage, empty letterbox) while the owners are away as a way to deter potential break ins as well as keep the garden and pets looked after.  Home owners can relax and enjoy their holiday knowing their home is safe and sound.  And you get a holiday of your own as you explore somewhere new and live it up in someone else’s pad.

Housesitting can suit anyone depending on the length of stay.  For short term positions such as a weekend or up to a week, housesitting can suit young families and those with office jobs.  Long term housesitting stints (more than a week) will suit people who don’t have pets, children attending school or a regular job they have to attend in person.  Housesitting is well suited to digital nomads (people running their own remote/online service based business without a fixed abode), grey nomads (travelling retirees) or people who work from home and don’t have to show up at the office too regularly.  It also suits anyone who has the freedom and flexibility to travel. Some people live full time as a house sitter and avoid paying rent or a mortgage and travel from place to place, letting housesitting opportunities dictate their next stop as they explore a chosen region.

How to get a job as a house sitter?

Register Online

In most cases, unless you have a personal arrangement with someone you know, in order to access housesitting jobs you will have to join an online house sitting platform and pay an annual membership or registration fee.  There are many different housesitting websites so research the platform that best suits you.  Registering usually attracts a fee and an application process.   Once your application is complete you are added to the list of house sitters in that community.  You then can apply for housesitting jobs listed on these sites as well as create a profile for home owners to contact you. Your profile will list the areas in which you are available to house sit and can includes previous experience and availability. 

Other Costs to consider

You’ll need to factor in travel costs to the location of the house you’ll be looking after, as well as factor in potential missed paid work opportunities as a result of not being home.  You’ll also be liable for any damages to the property if any occur, so obviously take extra care of the home while you are the custodian.  Ultimately you are receiving free accommodation in exchange for your time and attentiveness in someone’s home.   It’s different to a money exchange but it is still an exchange and one to take seriously. 


There are many benefits of housesitting.  You ultimately get to have a weekend (or a couple of weeks) away for free.  It might sound like the easiest job ever, but ultimately you are being contracted to take complete care of a property and its contents for an agreed period.  It’s not something to take lightly, so treat the house and contents with extra special care.  You risk being black listed or even sued if you abuse your privileges or fail to uphold your end of the agreement. 

Be Prepared

You will need to communicate with the home owner before they leave for their vacation and exchange contact details.  Get the details of an emergency contact the home owner knows personally and who lives locally.  Do they have a spare key in case you lock yourself out of the house?  Collate a list of all the tasks you are expected to complete while the owners are away, essentially it’s your agreed contract while housesitting.  You will need to leave the property in the same condition you found it, or better.

Mail and Security

If housesitting for longer than a weekend you will be expected to collect mail and keep it unopened somewhere obvious for the homeowners to find when they return.  You’ll also have to keep the home secure at all times.  Investigate the home owner’s security routine and ensure you know alarm codes and have access to keys for padlocks and windows etc.  Putting bins out on time and bringing them in once emptied is not only hygienic and helpful for the home owners, but also advertises to passers-by that the house is occupied, so is an added security measure. 

Garden and Indoor Plants

No one wants to go away on holidays only to find half dead plants on their arrival.  If house sitting for more than a couple of days you will be expected to water indoor plants.  Most houseplants only require a weekly watering.  Before you water them, check the soil around the plant.  If already moist, it won’t yet need a water.  If the potting mix is dry and crumbly, they will appreciate a drink.  If there is a garden you should also give the garden a water for longer stays.  Research the local council’s water rules and water the garden at approved times.   If housesitting for an extended period (over a month) you may be expected to mow the lawn, but that will depend on your individual agreement with the home owner.   

Pet sitting

Home owners often decide to apply for a house sitter purely so their precious pooch or cuddly cat isn’t left alone.  Animal hotels and boarding kennels are costly, cause stress for pets and can be a breeding ground for illness.  A live in guest who can take care of their pet for free is often more appealing for pet owners.

Animal lovers can apply only for pet sitting jobs, these are also housesitting jobs but include the responsibility of taking care of pets too.  You will have to feed the animals, ensuring fresh water is put out daily, socialise with them and dogs need daily walks.  Find out the pet’s feeding and activity routine so you can give the pet consistency.  Some animals play up when their owners are away which may lead to pooping / peeing inside or anxious behaviour, so be prepared to clean up after them and work to gain their trust.   The upside is you have a furry companion to keep you company while you enjoy your home away from home.  Ensure you have local vet details handy in case of emergencies and administer any medication on schedule if required.

For the Home Owners

If you have pets or a nice house you’d like taken care of whenever you go away, hiring a house or pet sitter is a great way to keep your animals safe and your home secure. 

Where to Apply

There are a number of platforms available where you can apply as either a house sitter, pet sitter or as someone looking for either.  Whether you want to house sit in a nearby town or go interstate or abroad, housesitting platforms offer it all.  Most of these platforms also include a review system to encourage high integrity and excellent communication between both parties, so once you’ve housesat a few times, the reviews can help secure future jobs.  Here are a couple of housesitting websites to explore if you want to find out more:

https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/ pay an annual membership to list your home or list yourself as a house sitter.  This platform also offers a free 24/7 vet help line as well as access to jobs all around the world. 

https://mindahome.com.au/ offers free listings for home owners and a yearly membership of $69 per year to access the Australia wide posted jobs. 

https://www.happyhousesitters.com.au/ Offers membership for as little as $4.80 per month (for an 18 month membership) and free registration for pet owners.  This platform gives members access to a network of house sitters and home owners which has been operating now for 20 years. 

If you’ve been putting off a vacation due to limited funds, why not consider housesitting?  Seek out jobs in places you’ve been wanting to visit anyway, jobs are listed everywhere from seaside towns to capital cities.  Apply for jobs that appeal and if you’re selected you can pack your bags and go!  It’s a feel good way to get away and it definitely won’t break the budget. 

 Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur.  She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.  



09 April 2024