Free Sleeps: House sitting
Get a free place to stay for weeks or even months anywhere in the world in exchange for maybe walking the dog
I once lived for a year in a lovely old Victorian house that wasn't mine. The house was near a large park in a leafy corner of Philadelphia. It had two-foot-deep oak windowsills, a working fireplace, and three bedrooms (I converted one into an office).
I didn't pay a mortgage. I didn't pay rent.
It cost me precisely $0—zero, zilch, nada, bupkiss.
No, I wasn't a house guest, or a deadbeat roommate, or a squatter.
The owner of the house was a college professor spending a year teaching abroad, and while she was gone she merely wanted someone to look after the house—and the cat that she swore didn't actually belong to her or live at the house (it just came in twice daily for its food, used the litter box, usually slept inside, and expected to be taken to the vet for its shots—it didn't live there, though).
House-sitting is a great way to get a free place to stay—though there are some caveats.
- Not that many house-sitting opportunities are available in any one place (at any given time, an agency might have only a few hundred houses, scattered around the world, that need sitting), and due to the nature of this business they are constantly changing. However, as long as your travel dreams are wide and your plans are flexible, you can strike gold, from farmhouses in Italy to flats in London to houses near the beach in Florida.
- Most house-sitting gigs tend to be for somewhat longer stays—a month, a season, or even a year—but there are also plenty of options for just a week or two.
- Most of those who want house sitters are actually really looking for pet-sitters/plant-waterers. No biggie—though if you have a problem with cats or dogs, the number of listings you can apply for will plummet.
How to find house-sitting opportunities
There are now several sites devoted to pairing people who need house sitters with those willing to water the plants and feed the dog in exchange for free lodging.
Here are the four companies I found that provide some variation of this service, each in a slightly different manner and some more comprehensively than others. Some require membership fees—but since they let you search for homes before joining, you could find the perfect match before paying the fee.
You can't be too picky about precisely where you want to be, but so long as your criteria for a free place to stay is as vague as "somewhere in Italy," you'll have plenty of options:
At press time, listed 1,786 house sits, ranging from a farm in Tuscany to a three-bedroom house in Queens, New York. You could stay in the countryside of northwest France or a beach community in Nothern California, a country cottage in Derbyshire, England or a small town in Australia's Barossa Valley wine region.
Fee: $49 for 3 months; $64 for 6 months; $79 per year.
Mind My House (www.mindmyhouse.com)
House Carers (www.housecarers.com)
It's a newsletter, not an online database, with around 120 listings per bi-monthly issue. As you can tell from the name, many are for caretaking or staff positions rather than simple house-sitting. Still, lots of intriguing opportunities.
Fee: $29.95 per year for a subscriber-based newsletter.
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