Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Housesitting In My Home Town – A Way To Keep The Travel Feel Alive

Since I have returned home from my Summer in Toronto last August I have managed to housesit all around Melbourne, which has provided me with the freedom of not committing to a particular area, nor lock me into a lease. It also means I have not had to accumulate furniture and other “stuff” again, and I am all but a pocket of savings and a plane ticket away from travel again!

I started out doing this as a way to wait out the process of gaining ongoing work, and deciding what suburb to live in. But as I continue working as a locum and given that I have managed to string many of these housesitting gigs together, I can’t imagine joining the rental market again anytime soon.

Many of these housesitting assignments have been through posting my availability on Facebook and a friend of mine has been going away. This had me covered for several months, as unsurprisingly I have many friends who also travel a fair bit. Using their annual leave in one hit means that I have had one month stints at a few places. Then, as the word spreads that this is what I am doing, I have been connected to friends of friends, who were also seeking a housesitter for their time away.

Then, to add to my search of this very different way of life - which was initially just a cool idea, and is now becoming my adopted way of living - I signed up to House Carers. This site allows people to post their housesitting needs, and assignments range from a week or so, to several months. I have applied for a few, and completed one through the ad and interview process, where I looked after chickens and guinea pigs for a month in a beautiful well-off suburb of Melbourne. I have just interviewed for another, to care for a couple of precious inside cats.

The reassurance of having someone in your home while you are away means that you know what you are returning to (provided you have screened your housesitter, I guess!). No surprise burst water pipes or break-ins to deal with when you arrive home over-tired and straight off a long haul flight. Collecting the mail is also a bonus of having a housesitter, which means there is no tell-tale signs of absence – the fact that someone is coming and going from your home can deter any would-be burglars. I have stayed somewhere with priceless artworks, so having someone home whilst the homeowners were away was a helpful security option. Of course, the pet care is the other main element to housesitting. I have taken care of dogs at a couple of housesitting gigs now, which has included feeding, walking, and general company for the pup. One interview I went to for an advertised assignment explained that she had investigated the option of using a kennel to take care of her dog whilst she was away, but the costs for this was going to be around $1000 for her dog. Ouch!

The arrangement is usually an exchange of services – the homeowner or renter allows me somewhere to stay, and in exchange I take care of their animals, water their garden and collect their mail, and be a presence in their home in their absence. To date, I have not been required to contribute to bills even though I have offered, and I have not been paid to stay (which many people who hear about what I am doing always seem to ask!).

The more I do this, the more references I have to provide for my next gig. A range of people who can verify that I have housesat for them, and cared for their beloved pets, and this helps enormously with applying for an advertised assignment on a website like House Carers. When applying to such an advert, my advice is to focus on what you can offer the person needing someone to look after their home and furry or scaly family members, any experience you may have that matches their needs, and enough about yourself for them to get a feel for whether they could have you live in their house while they are away.

I wouldn’t actually be able to do this without a safety net for the gaps between housesitting gigs, and I am blessed to be able to camp out in one of my best mate’s spare room when this happens. It’s actually really lovely to have these breaks of familiarity in the middle of staying in strangers' homes, and I really appreciate such support.

This style of living is not for everyone, with the constant movement, and living out of my backpack. And the uncertainty of where I will be living in the next few months. It means that I don’t have a lot of range and variety when it comes to work clothes, based on what I have in my backpack, but really what does that matter at the end of the day?! I am saving loads, with my eyes on my next travel plans; I am also getting to explore new neighbourhoods of Melbourne which I would never have otherwise had the chance to. I am avoiding the rent trap, and am feeling like a traveller in my own city!

The real dream would be extending this way of living to housesitting around the world, as a new accommodation option when travelling! House Carers has so many assignments advertised every day, from all corners of the world. Endless possibilities!

By all means, drop me a line if you need a housesitter! Or if you dream about the same freedom, join the House Carers website for a small fee and check out some of the potential assignments that could give you a holiday option near or far from home!

I have included some affiliate links within this post, whereby if you decided to join House Carers, you would help me with the costs of my next membership. I have been drafting this post, and collection of places and pet pictures for many months though, and the experiences are real!


  1. Good for you! I'm British but now permanently based in southern Spain. We love to travel and usually take on house-sits in Australia and New Zealand for 3-4 months each year between the end of November and March. Most people we housesit for also leave us a vehicle to drive around in, too. We've made so many new friends through housesitting.

    It really is the BEST of both worlds for everyone involved!

    Happy travels :)

    1. What a great way to travel!
      I have had the use of a car once, too. Was awesome! Part of the role was to shift the car from one side of the street to the other every couple of days, to meet with parking regs/street sweeper times, so it was win/win.
      It's such a great option!

  2. Housesitting sounds pretty ideal, especially for those who like to travel.


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