One of the challenges of Filipino travelers aside from the tedious visa requirements is the terrible exchange rate of the Philippine Peso to other currencies-- especially now where 1 USD reached sky high of more or less 50 Php (not to mention the transaction fee!). Haay. Don’t we all wish traveling is for free?? Sabi nila walang libre sa mundo but let me tell you now-- that’s not true!
What if I tell you that it is possible to get your accommodations for free while you travel? And it might not just be any accommodation, you guys. It could be a lake house in Wisconsin or a log cabin at the French Alps. You could also stay at a cozy boathouse in Amsterdam or a 5-bedroom cliffside mansion in Cape Town. Yes madlang people, there’s this thing called house-sitting where you can get accommodations for free and I’ll tell you more about it here! :)
What is house-sitting?
As per Wikipedia, House-sitting is the practice whereby a person leaving their house for a period of time entrusts it to one or more "house-sitters", who by a mutual agreement are entitled to live or stay there temporarily, either in paid positions or rent-free, in exchange for assuming any combination of responsibilities, such as taking care of the homeowner's pets, performing general maintenance (including pools, lawns, air-conditioning systems etc.), keeping trespassers off the property, readdressing the mail, and in general, making sure that everything runs smoothly just as if the owner was at home.
How long does it usually take?
It could take as long as 1 year to as short as over the weekend.
What are the tasks of the house-sitter?
A house-sitter is expected to do the following while the owners are away:
1) Take care of the house- This includes cleaning it and taking care of everything inside of it including their appliances, furniture, keys and their valuables.
2) Maintain the lawn/plants- The house-sitter is expected to water the plants and trim them if necessary. If the house has a lawn, the house-sitter must at least trim the grass too (trust me, the owners wouldn’t want to come home to a jungle).
3) Maintain the car- If the owner is leaving a car behind, he/she can ask you to use the car once in a while too, especially if they’ll be gone for months.
4) Take care of their pets- Feeding them is mandatory (do I even need to say this? haha). Bathing and taking their fur babies out for a walk is highly encouraged too. (it’s not always furbabies, btw. It could be farm animals)
5) Clean the pool- If the homeowner has a pool, then you need to clean and maintain it. That’s more work for you but you don’t have to do it everyday so it’s easy breezy.
6) Keep trespassers out of the property- No, you can’t invite your friends to come over unless the owner allows you to. But really, would you risk that? The house is your responsibility and if something goes wrong or something gets lost, then you’re in big trouble. So this is highly discouraged even the owner agrees.
7) Keep the owner posted- It is the house-sitter’s responsibility to update the owner of everything that happens inside the house. Did he receive a package? Did the aircon break? Is the dog sick? Did someone break in? He needs to know everything and he needs to know the truth so if anything happens (be it good or bad) just inform him so he’ll know what steps to take.
8) Keep emergency numbers- Housesitting is a big responsibility and problems can always arise so make sure to have a list of emergency contact numbers that you can call in case anything unpleasant happens.
What can I get in exchange for house-sitting?
You can stay in their house free of charge! Well, it’s not entirely free since you’ll be rendering some service but the good thing is you’re going to save a lot by not having to shed out any accommodation expense :) Sometimes when the owner has a pet, he can give you a minimal fee to take care of it. When he has a car and when he’s traveling long term, he could also allow you to use it once in a while. Sounds like a good deal, right?? :)
Why would I do this for free?
I understand that some do this as a profession but the concept of house-sitting is to really let people travel freely-- and this concept applies both to homeowners and house-sitters. Homeowners can enjoy traveling without having to think about their properties and pets left behind while house-sitters can enjoy the following perks:
1. Discover new places
House-sitting is open to over 150 countries and it could be your next destination :)
2. Save A LOT on your travel cost
Accommodations take up a huge fraction of our traveling expense. Through house-sitting, this expense could be minimized and sometimes totally eliminated :)
3. You’ll never get bored
It happens at times that a specific place will bore you.. But that isn’t most likely to happen when you do house-sitting because you have a house to manage and maybe lovely pets to take care of.
4. You’ll get to live like a local
You can live in cottages, mansions, nipa huts, you name it-- and these houses can never be found on booking websites.
5. You can relax and unwind
Some people do this as a profession and they said it really feels like they had an early retirement. Whether it’s for the weekend or for one whole year, you can definitely have your well-deserved R&R.
I’m interested! Where can I find house-sitting gigs?
Check out these house-sitting websites where they connect house owners to house-sitters:
Trusted House Sitters- The annual fee is 119 USD. A little pricey I know but this company has proven itself to be worthy over the years. They are the largest house-sitting website as of now. They do I.D. verifications and conduct a background check on house-sitters (so more homeowners trust them) and they have a Veterinary Advice Line which is open to all members if they have any questions regarding pet care. I think it’s really worth it and THIS IS WHAT I RECOMMEND.
Mind My House- With this website, house-sitters pay the lowest annual fee of 20 USD.
Nomador- If you just want to try things out and you’re not seriously considering it, then I suggest you try this website. They have a Discovery Option which allows you to submit 3 applications for free! If you’re applying for more, then you have to pay 35 USD per quarter or 89 USD per year.
Luxury House Sitting- For 25 USD, you can create your profile and apply for assignments instantly.
Tips On How To Land On A House-sitting Gig
1) Ask around. The best way to find a house to keep is through your connections. Ask your friends especially those who love to travel and you could end up with your house-sitting gig easily.
2) First, go local. Try asking your friends who live in provinces first and you might just get a retreat in Coron, Baguio, Sagada, Cebu, or anywhere in our beautiful country. The Philippines is a haven and having to travel around (and get free accommodations) is a privilege :)
3) Create a nice profile. If you’re signing up at house-sitting websites, then you should create a profile which would make you look interesting. Put a nice photo and highlight your strengths. Do you speak 5 languages? Do you have a pet pig? Have you traveled 50 countries? Go ahead and say it and the house owner could just go on and on reading your profile which will eventually make them want to meet you in person :)
4) UPLOAD REFERENCES!- Caps lock para intense because I couldn’t stress this out more. House-sitting is a job which needs trust and respect and there’s no better way to prove that you are trustworthy than the people you have worked with before-- be it your company employer, previous homeowner if you ever tried house-sitting before, your landlord, or anyone who can attest to how good and trustworthy person you are :)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT HOUSESITTING:
1) Do some homeowners pay for the flights too?
No. Take note that these homeowners can always get a local or a neighbor who can do it for them so I doubt if they will even consider paying for a foreign house-sitter’s flight.
2) Who pays for the house maintenance and/or the pet’s food?
It’s the homeowner.
3) Can I ask them to pay me for taking care of their pets?
Yes, you can discuss it but always remember that there are some people is willing to do it for free so if you ask for it, you’ll get a lesser chance of getting picked for the job.
4) Who pays for the utilities while I house-sit?
It is usually the homeowner.
5) Is there a written contract for this?
Homeowners are encouraged to draft a contract and house-sitters are encouraged to read it before signing to protect each interest.
6) What if the property was damaged?
A homeowners’ insurance policy would usually provide cover regarding any accidental damage to a property. Although it is advised that homeowners check this with their insurance provider.
7) Do I need a visa to house sit?
It’s important to remember that it is the house-sitter’s responsibility to organize his/her own travel arrangements including ensuring that he/she is legally able to enter and house sit in a country. Every country has its own set of laws so make sure you do your research, ask the homeowner, and be fully informed before applying.
You can read my articles and guides on Visa Applications around the world here.