Is a Housesitting Membership Worth the Money?

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If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  That’s normally what I believe, but I bought into the housesitting hype anyway.  You get to stay somewhere for free in exchange for playing with puppies.  That’s a dream come true for a travel (and dog) lover like me.

Since perusing opportunity listings is free, I started checking a few housesitting websites every once in awhile, looking for new listings.  I knew it was a pipedream to think a housesit would magically line up with my pre-existing travel plans, but with a few openings in my calendar for “extra” travel, I was looking for a dream getaway.

housesitting house sitting
Photo by Jan Tik via Wikimedia

Immediately, I was disappointed.  In what should be entirely obvious, housesitting listings are where people live, which doesn’t mean it necessarily lines up with where you want to travel.  Two weeks in Tulsa?  Well, I’d love two or three days, but probably not that long.  A four-day weekend in Long Island?  Well, I don’t want to spend half my time commuting into the boroughs of New York City.

Finally…yes!  A week in Boulder, CO.  That’s perfect…except it’s between Christmas and New Year’s, when I want to see my family (and they probably want to see theirs).  A week in Barcelona?  Even better…except it’s last-minute and the airfare there is outrageous without advance notice.  Every bit I saved on accommodations would go straight into funding a flight there!

That’s not to say there aren’t any good locations: I saw lots of housesits in Mexico, but many of them were for 3-4 weeks.  I saw great options in New Zealand, but if I traveled that far, I’d want to explore the whole country, not stay put in a single place for 10 days.  And I saw the ultimate flat in Montreal, except the owner had precise instructions for providing cat medication/injections every 3 hours so it would be hard to get out and do anything.

Clearly I had unrealistic expectations for housesitting, but I kept looking anyway.

unrealistic expectations housesitting

Eventually, I hit the jackpot: a great location and lovely home, enough notice to get there without breaking the bank, dates I was available, and a reasonable amount of pet care and yardwork.  Not only that, but I found two other housesitting listings I was semi-interested in.  It was time to make a profile and send off some inquiries!  In order to do so, you had to buy a housesitting membership at a cost of about $50.  That’s a small price to pay for a free place to stay, so I was all in.

But even still, housesitting was too good to be true.  The dream gig I found ended up inviting a local housesitter who they had met in person.  The second gig wanted an insane number of references.  And the third option, after sending a reasonable number of references and holding Skype interviews, said she didn’t trust me to show up.

I’m not saying that housesitting is a scam.  There are real homeowners looking for help while they’re traveling and there are real (presumably responsible) housesitters like me looking to help out in exchange for a place to stay.  If you’re looking to stay in one spot for 3-4 weeks, you’d have a lot more options than me, making it great for “nomads”.  As someone who just wanted an extra vacation, you’ll probably find it a challenge.

In the end, I lost about $50 and hours of my time between searching/applying, so in the future, I’ll apply that effort toward saving money (or frankly, earning money) to buy accommodations more directly.

In theory, housesitting is the perfect solution to solving your travel budget woes. Get a free place to stay in exchange for bringing in the mail, watering plants, and playing with pets! But before you can apply for a gig, you'll have to pay a membership fee. Is it worth it and what's the catch? (It's not as straightforward as you may think!)

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Have you ever tried housesitting?  What was your experience?

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15 thoughts on “Is a Housesitting Membership Worth the Money?”

  1. I housesit on a regular basis — some locally here in Virginia, but often out-of-state. I love it! It’s not a great option if you can’t be flexible or want to venture away from your home-base for long periods of time. But, for me, it works wonderfully. I work from home (most of the time) and take my work with me, then explore the town when I’m free. This month, I spent a week just outside of Charleston, SC, and am currently pet sitting locally in a gorgeous waterfront home where I saw dolphins swimming by on my first day! I highly recommend it. On most of those websites, gigs are changing daily so just because a few gigs don’t work out, does not mean that others won’t!

    1. @Megan, I think you actually bring up a good point — housesits seem to be great for people who are primarily working and secondarily exploring. However, if you’re trying to use it as a vacation base, I had a LOT of trouble finding something that would work in my plans, even with 12 months of membership and intermittent searching.

    1. @Scott, On the contrary, I think you are precisely the person who would benefit from housesitting… but again, in your scenario, you’re working the majority of the time and exploring in free time rather than “vacationing” 90% of the week.

  2. Housesitting is interesting and I know many folks who have done it and are still doing it but for long term sits (Constant Ramblers). They work from laptops or are retired. It seems to work best in Europe (there are a lot in the UK). I follow a few Twitter accounts to get notices and have read a horrifying story by Jeannie Mack of her first time in Amsterdam
    Sorry you had this tough go at it – I think it does work out but my friends said they went through a few agencies before they found one they liked

    1. @Suzanne, The conclusion I’ve come to is that housesitting seems best as an option for a temporary residence while working rather than accommodations while traveling (since you’re typically more limited on where you can stay, when you can go, etc.). I’ve ready many happy reports of people like Constant Ramblers where they are primarily working while housesitting. Thanks for sharing Jeannie’s story though…a good point of consideration regardless of your reason for housesitting.

      For other people, here’s the link:

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience! It does sound awesome but there are just so many hoops to jump through. Good to know ahead of time though before I tried it!

  4. Thanks for a good review on who it could work for and who it probably won’t work for. Sounds like I’ll stick with the short term airbnb type accommodations. Sure I have to pay but I have had great luck and it’s usually cheaper than a hotel.

  5. This is something I have always wanted to look into doing. For me it would be a great way to travel, thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. I never really knew that this was a thing that you could apply for and do! If you could make it work it would be amazing.

  7. Just the other day a friend of mine was speaking on this topic, I had never heard of housesitting until she mentioned it. Now your post have piqued my interest even more about learning , I know she go through an agency. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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