How do you like the idea of six weeks chilling out in the Sierra foothills of California, on 5 acres of beautiful rural land? Or how about a month on a ranch in Kamuela, Hawaii? Or maybe two weeks near Boulder, Colorado, in a house surrounded by national forest and close to great fishing, canoeing and hiking?
These are all places featured recently on house sitting websites, and therefore all places you could be staying in for free (or even getting paid to stay in) if you have the flexibility to sign up as a house sitter.
Every year, thousands of wealthy homeowners have to leave their beautiful, furnished, well-appointed homes, sometimes for a two week vacation, sometimes for a twelve month work posting overseas, often for something in between. And a lot of them don't want to leave their houses empty, their mailboxes overflowing , and their answer machines filling up with messages.
Most house sitting services will charge potential sitters a modest annual fee to join ($20-$30). That allows you to create a profile advertising your services, view advertisements placed by homeowners, and access their contact details. Homeowners will specify exactly what's required of you, which could be anything from watering the house plants and feeding the fish through to walking dogs and mowing the lawn.
Some homeowners will offer payment for your services, but some will expect you to take care of their house and pets in return for free accommodation. Generally speaking the more work involved the more likely there will be a cash fee involved, and obviously, location matters. House sitting the beach house in Malibu with one well-trained Chihuahua is likely to be more competitive than the log cabin in rural North Dakota with the barnyard full of farm animals - although you could argue the latter would be more of an adventure!
Who does house sitting suit? Ideally you will be...
Someone with flexibility. House sitting assignments might be for a month, six weeks, six months or a year, and even if they pay, it may not be enough to live on. It's certainly possible to use house sitting services to find free accommodation for your annual two week vacation, but some people base their whole lifestyle around it. The types of people who take on long-term house sits include: freelancers, online entrepreneurs, seasonal workers, students, retirees, teachers and university professors, and long term travelers with some money behind them (and/or skills to supplement their income). It is possible to sign up and just specify the dates you're available, but the more flexible you can be about dates and length of stay, the more opportunities you'll find.
A pet-free animal lover. It's definitely useful to be an animal lover as a major reason many people want a house sitter is so they don't have put precious pets in kennels, especially if they're going away for a long time. For the same reason, however, it's best not to have pets yourself. Most owners (and pets) won't want other animals in the house.
Single or a couple. Many people are happy to have either a single person or a couple house sit for them, but you might find it a challenge to find someone who's happy to accept a family with kids.
Responsible (and able to prove it). Many homeowners want references. If this is your first sit ask if a general character reference might be acceptable, or consider trying to get your first house sit through friends and acquaintances, and then ask them for a reference.
Find house sitting opportunities at these websites: