Any cursory glance at the search results for “house-sitting” will reveal a load of accolades about the benefits of the concept. As part of the constantly growing sharing economy, it stands tall on a mountain of feel-good stories shared by both house-sitters and homeowners. Stories about happy pets who continue to stay in their homes, tended by happy travelers while the home and pet owners fulfill their own desires to vacation in exotic places.
One of the biggest accolades of house-sitting is getting to travel for “free”. While it is true that house-sitting does provide a great relief from accommodation costs while traveling, there are still other costs that exist, and that should be considered before you accept any house-sit.
COST #1 - The websites
There are a lot of house-sitting websites to match homeowners with potential house-sitters, and several covering different niche locations and/or types of animals needing care.
None of the housesitting websites are free, but they certainly aren’t very expensive unless you subscribe to all of them. The cost of a yearly Nomador subscription is just over $7 per month, and that is after a free discovery option that covers the first three applications.
Once you factor in the money saved on a single night of hotel, you’ll find the cost is easily worth it.
COST #2 - Travel to your destination
This is probably the biggest cost associated with house-sitting. Travel isn’t cheap, as everybody knows. If it were, more people would probably do it!
This should be top of mind when you see a perfect weeklong house-sit in Bali, especially if you are currently on the other side of the world. The luster of free accommodation may begin to take on a duller hue when you realize it would cost several thousand dollars to get to the destination and then to get out again for your next house sit.
COST #3 - Exploring (& Transportation)
One huge perk of house-sitting is getting to know the region around your house-sit, especially if it is new to you! But all of that potential exploring certainly costs money.
The best way to experience a culture is through its cuisine, so you’ll probably want to try a few restaurants, take a food tour, or expand to visit a local art museum or gallery.
Many house-sits are in very beautiful locations, so hiking is always an option, but you’ll need to get to the park and maybe pay for the entrance fee.
If the homeowner hasn’t given you use of their car, you’ll need to rent one, but either way, there is the cost of petrol to consider, all of which can add up quite quickly.
COST #4 – Utilities
Some homeowners stipulate that you need to pay for electricity, heating or water usage while caring for their home and pets. This can be quite expensive depending on what type of fuel they use, the time of year, and the size and age of the house.
Many house-sitters avoid sits like these for more than just financial reasons, feeling that keeping the lights and heat on part of the basic cost of having a home, but this is up to personal preference.
COST #5 – Your time
House-sitting is an exchange of your time and energy for “free” accommodation and loving care of pets. House-sitting isn’t a vacation for you, although much of your existence mirrors that of a tourist.
Think about how many hours a day you’ll be caring for chickens or horses or walking the dog. Your time is valuable, and it’s important to consider it when weighing the costs of house-sitting. A lot of your time will be used ensuring the pets are being taken care of, the house is in excellent condition and things are returned as-is or better than when the homeowner left you in charge.
COST #6 – Animal care
Normally a homeowner will ensure they have enough pet food (and treats!) to cover the duration of the sit, but you may find yourself at the pet store buying these items yourself if they miscalculated.
The same can be said for emergency pet services – the homeowner should have made prior arrangements for payment of vet fees, but if they don’t, you’ll have to cover it yourself, which can be quite expensive, and you may not get reimbursed until after the sit ends.
If this would be an issue, know that it is best practice to discuss these things upfront with the homeowner so you aren’t left a few hundred dollars short for any long period of time.
COST #7 – Breakage
Accidents happen all the time – a broken mug, a magnet falls from the fridge and shatters, or you may happen to fry a blender. Whatever the accident, it is best to contact the owner immediately and inform them and offer to replace or fix the broken item.
Quite often the item may not be of significant import to the homeowner, and they may not ask to be reimbursed, but every house sitter should be prepared for the hidden cost of breakage.
COST #8 – Replacing what you've used
Nobody wants to come home from a vacation to find the house completely devoid of anything edible, so it’s best to keep note of the things you polished off so that you can replace it.
Quite often a homeowner will instruct you to eat anything perishable in the fridge, but staple items should be replaced.
Many house-sitters in Europe travel by car, and are able to bring more food with them from sit to sit, but if you travel more lightly, you’ll wind up buying kitchen staples that may not be present in the house – things like your favorite spices – over and over again.
COST #9 –Homeowner gift
A gift for the homeowner at the end of a house sit is not an absolute necessity, nor is it ever asked for, but it sure is a nice thing to do. This gift certainly doesn’t have to be big or expensive, and quite often it is most meaningful when it is for the pets or made or cooked by you and left in the fridge for their return. Of course, many people are quite satisfied with coming home to a happy and well-tended home and pets, but it’s this extra little thoughtful touch that may just earn you an extra star on your review, and get you invited back again and again.
There are a great many benefits to house sitting, and you’ll encounter them with even the briefest of searches. After the pets themselves, one of the greatest benefits is that there is no charge for your accommodation. But as we’ve seen, there are a handful of costs you should consider before taking the leap into house-sitting!