Pay Nothing for Your Accommodation While You Travel the World

Do you want to travel and sample different retirement lifestyles, but have a limited budget? Housesitting may be your answer. Our first housesit was 20 months ago. Since then we have lived rent-free in Tuscan farmhouses, French vineyards, Spanish casitas, English heritage homes, luxury Costa Rican villas, and a jungle retreat in Belize.

In exchange for looking after the house, garden, pets, and pool, my husband Michael and I have saved around $24,000 in accommodation costs.

Whether you want a dream vacation or to sample a retirement destination, the trick to being successful is to stand out from the crowd. Competition is fierce, with many homeowners receiving 20 to 60 responses to their “housesitter needed” advertisements.

Here’s how you can join this group of savvy travelers and score the best housesitting gigs around the world. First, register on at least one housesitter site. These online sites allow you to build a “profile.” Your profile allows the homeowner to understand who you are and why you can be trusted enough to be invited into their home.

We thought about our profile as a sales page. Good marketing addresses the fears and frustrations of the client and provides the solution or benefit. Put yourself in the shoes of homeowners who are considering handing over their largest single investment (their home) to strangers.

Incorporate these benefits into your profile. Successful profiles include:

  • Your personal story

  • The benefits you provide the homeowner

  • Photographs of you, your home, and garden

  • Excellent character references (very important if you have no prior housesitting experience)

  • Glowing endorsements from previous housesitting clients

Once your profile is in place, set your countries of interest and your “alerts”—that is, the notifications—via email when a homeowner posts a housesitter-needed advertisement that fits your criteria. Simply follow the site’s prompts.

Set your alerts for instant notification of new postings. This is how we got our next housesit—three weeks in St. Lucia. The notification came in while we were online. We responded immediately and within eight hours we had received a response from the homeowner and received confirmation that we were their chosen sitters. In this case, luck played a part, as we were the first to respond and we already had plans to be in the Caribbean at that time, making us desirable candidates.

Before you click “send,” check for spelling and grammar mistakes. If you are sloppy with your spelling, does that mean you are sloppy around someone else’s house?

One more tip… Ignore the advice your mother gave you: Talk to strangers and have a business card to give them. A chance meeting over coffee last year led to an offer of one month in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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