Most digital nomads stick to three tried-and-tested options when it comes to finding a place to stay overseas. In short, they either find a hostel (normally just for a few days after arriving), treat themselves to a hotel for a short stint, or rent a short/long-term flat. However, what most wandering online workers don’t know, is that there is a very lucrative (and sometimes pretty luxurious) fourth option available - house-sitting.
If you’re a digital nomad then you have three great reasons to find out more about this under-the-radar accommodation option. Simply put, house-sitting enables you to travel the world, feel ‘at home’ AND live like a local. “Ah”, but you may say, “Renting a flat lets me do that.” Perhaps, but you’ll have to pay for the pleasure. House-sitting will cost you nothing.
That’s right; house-sitting enables you to stay overseas in a fully-furnished flat or house in a residential neighbourhood, often with Internet, TV and other perks included, without costing you a bean in rent. And what do you have to do in return? Well, at the most, you’ll simply have to look after a few pets and just ensure the property as a whole remains safe and secure.
...I can almost hear you rubbing your hands together...
So what’s the score I hear you ask? How does one go about getting a house-sitting gig?
Well, there are generally five hoops you need to jump through first:
Step 1: Register with some reputable house-sitting websites
The first thing you need to do is sign up to some websites that are known to have a good track record in this still somewhat niche industry. The following three are all good options as they are well established and offer house-sits all around the world.
Housecarers.com is a particularly good option for anyone who is looking to house-sit properties in Europe (although American and Canadian properties are featuring more and more recently). The sign-up fee is a mere USD$20 per year - one of the cheapest currently available.
Another great site to start off with as it posts numerous new house-sitting gigs every day. In general, Mindmyhouse.com tends to focus on properties in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, although house-sitting opportunities from elsewhere in the world feature too. Sign-up fee is USD$50 per year.
This site is well known for its offerings across the UK and Europe, although it has made concerted efforts recently to branch out to Australasia and the Americas. The Trustedhousesitters site has lots of bells and whistles and therefore is one of the most user-friendly house-sitting resources available. This is reflected in the price of its sign-up fee, which is USD$60.
Suffice to say, you should include as much detail as possible in your profile and upload a picture of you that makes you seem like a nice, sensible type of person (which, of course, you are). If you have experience of looking after properties or caring for pets then be sure to reference it.
Step 2: Set up email alerts
Make sure your account settings are such that you will receive an email summary every time a new house-sitting assignment becomes available (this may be automatic but check anyway). Obviously, being able to see alerts flash-up while you are working on your netbook will help to ensure you can be one of the first to apply when a suitable opportunity arises.
Step 3: Get in quick
Of course, you won’t be the only one to have your email alert settings on. Indeed, you can be pretty sure that, at the very same time as the ‘Hawaii beach bungalow’ alert sends you spinning toward the ‘CLICK HERE if you’re interested’ link, hundreds of other people will be doing exactly the same thing. If you’re interested, then don’t delay; register an interest there and then, that way you can be fairly sure your details will be somewhere near to the top of the pile. This can be vital as homeowners posting assignments (especially those in Hawaii) tend to get deluged with applications, so, they are far more likely to pay greater attention to the first applications they scrutinize, than they will to those further down the list.
Step 4: Get homeowners nodding
If a homeowner likes the cut of your jib (and your photo) then they will add you to their shortlist and ask you to send more information (normally of the ‘Why should we trust you’ variety). When replying, be sure to mention specific snippets of information that will make them nod their head when they read it. For example, if you say that you have experience of looking after the same breed of cat that the homewoners have, then they will nod; if you mention that you have house-sitted a property in the same country or similar climate, then they will nod. If you can get a homeowner to feel like you are on a similar wavelength, then half the battle will be won.
Step 5: Send your references off without being prompted
It is common for shortlisted house-sitting applicants to tack a polite, ‘References available on request,’ onto the end of their follow-up application. This is all well and good, but if you really want to be proactive (which homeowners in a hurry will appreciate) then do yourself a favour and fire off some references along with your follow-up application. As well a showing you have confidence in your skills and experience, it will also enable homeowners to get in touch with your references while they’re still sifting through other shortlisted candidates’ follow-ups.
Step 6: Savour your victory
That moment when you land your first house-sitting gig feels like a momentous victory. Out of all the people they could have chosen, this trusting person, on the other side of the world has decided you are the best individual for the job – and that feels good. Be sure to reply to their decision swiftly and sincerely and reassure them that you will go out of your way to do an excellent job of looking after their property.
All you need to do now is follow the instructions they give you, make a note of any special requests they may make (there will be a few; there always are) and confirm your travel arrangements and meeting times.
Once that’s all done, you can look forward to spending some time in a fully-furnished property with all mod-cons without having to spend a penny on rent.
Just don’t tell every other backpacker or digital nomad you know about it..!
Have you ever used house-sitting websites to help fund your travels around the world? You have! We’d love to hear about it, so please take a moment to share your experiences with us in the comments box below...