Please introduce yourself ?
I’m James. I’ve spent the past three years travelling with my partner within Europe. To fund our travels we’ve worked remotely for those three years.
During this time I’ve done a lot of house sitting (looking after other people’s homes while they were away). The most interesting of which was probably looking after a farm of 18 alpacas and 7 cats in the French countryside.
Are you living alone or with your family?
I live and travel with my partner, Jemma.
How old are you now (and family?)
Both my partner and I are (very) late 20s. We have no children.
In which country and city are you living now?
Currently I’m in Edinburgh, a city I’ve lived in before for several years where I’m taking some time off in between house sits and other travel arrangements. I’ll be house sitting in Portugal in November.
When did you come up with the idea of house sitting?
Around four years ago we decided we wanted to leave Edinburgh and go travelling. We had both started freelancing and decided that we wanted to travel and work remotely and were looking for a way to make this possible.
I’m not sure how we came across the idea of house sitting but as soon as we did we realized this was definitely one way of making our idea feasible. We signed up to a couple of websites (Trusted Housesitters, Housecarers and Mind My House) and began applying for house sits. Trusted Housesitters was especially fruitful and through it we were able to line up nine months of house sits back-to-back.
How do you deal with a visa or a work permit?
To date we’ve only house sat in Europe and being Europeans, there haven’t been any issues. We don’t charge to house sit anyway and so that makes things considerably less complicated.
I have heard of some house sitters having problems when they travel to areas where they need to declare the purpose of their visit. A lot of people tend to just say they’re visiting friends, which is bending the truth slightly but it certainly makes things less complicated. Even though the house sitters aren’t charging for their services, some border officials have seen it as paid work as they’re getting their accommodation in exchange and have turned them away for not having the right visa.
This is rare but it does happen from time to time.
How about medical insurance before you go somewhere?
When you visit another country within the EU (as an EU citizen), you’re entitled to emergency health care. Up until now we’ve just relied on this and crossed our fingers.
If we were to house sit further afield, I would definitely take out travel insurance. World Nomads have been recommended to us by several other house sitters, but it isn’t something I’ve researched in great detail yet.
How do most house sitters make their living or are they just doing it for a vacation?
It varies. I think house sitting tends to attract more of the long-term travelers than people who house sit just for a vacation.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it takes a bit of time to get set up as a house sitter. You need to sign up for a house sitting website, fill out a profile, get references, get a police background check.
If you only go on vacation once a year, this is a lot of effort to go to.
Secondly, long-term travelers are able to take on more house sits which means they get more references, which means they get more house sits. Vacationers probably end up getting squeezed out slightly.
Do you speak any other languages and do you think it’s important to speak the local language?
I have spent time studying French, Spanish and German. I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying I speak those languages but I can get by. Learning and speaking another language enriches the travel experience and I try to get to grasps with the language wherever I am staying.
Unless something goes wrong, being fluent in the language isn’t essential. You’ll just need a few words and phrases to do your shopping and go to the restaurant.
If something does go wrong though, for example if something breaks and you need to speak to a serviceman, it definitely makes a big difference.
Do you have other plans for the future?
We’re currently planning a trip to Central America. House sitting hasn’t taken off as much in South and Central America as it has in Europe, Australia and the US, so we’ll probably mix it up with a few Airbnbs as well.
What do you think is your favorite house sit so far and why?
One of our favourite house sits ended up being one we took on in Edinburgh, just before we left.
The owners were relaxed and there were only cats to look after so the workload was fairly minimal. Considering we already lived in Edinburgh, it wasn’t in the most exciting location for us but it was a really nice apartment and very easy going so that surprisingly ended up being a favourite.
What would you never do as a house sitter?
We’re better at reading in between the lines of house sitting adverts these days. In the past we took on house sits which ended up being so much work that it was almost a part of full time job. There was one house sit in particular where I had to mow a three acre lawn, chop wood, sell the owner’s car…it just became too much.
I tend to look for house sits that are roughly an hour a day of work. There are exceptions of course, particularly if the house sit is in what would be a very expensive location to rent (London for example) or I just like the sound of it.
What are the positive and negative aspects of living in house sitting situation?
Free rent is an obvious positive. We also enjoy looking after pets as being perpetual travelers, it’s difficult for us to have any of our own.
One of the downsides of house sitting
Do you have any tips for our readers about house sitting?
I have a book of them and a number of copies to give away. If anyone would like a copy, just reply in the comments or contact me through housesittingguide.com.
Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about house sitting?
I would recommend taking a look at housesittingguide.com, and in particular our guide to the various house sitting websites. We’re constantly growing the site, adding new blog posts and interviews with other house sitters as well. Hopefully it’ll become a useful resource for anyone thinking of becoming a house sitter.
Anything else anyone should do if planning to housesit?
House sitting is great. It’s a cheap way to travel and a fun way to travel as well. But, and this is a big but, it is a lot of work as well. Building up a house sitting profile, applying for house sits, communicating with homeowners…all of this takes time.
If you’re just looking for a cheap way to travel, I’d probably recommend considering an alternative. But if you like pets and like meeting new people, there is no other way to travel.
Connect with James & Jemma:
Housesittingguide.com was started in 2015 to answer some of the most common (and not so common) questions prospective sitters had about house sitting, from the basics of how house sitting works to deeper thoughts into what makes a great house sitter.
James has been featured on a number of house sitting, travel and pet sites including Vetweek, Jetsetcitizen and fivedollartraveller. The site draws upon his understanding of the house sitting industry and experience house sitting as well as the insights that come from his fellow house sitters.