How to Become a House Sitter in Australia: 11 Easy Steps for Free Rent
Learning how to become a house sitter in Australia can allow you to travel all over the country, provide you with the opportunity to stay in luxurious accommodation you otherwise would not be able to afford on a backpacker budget, and ultimately you will never have to pay for accommodation on your travels again! With the right strategies, house sitting could easily save you over $10,000AUD per year on rent.
Living rent-free whilst house sitting in Australia in exchange for pet care or house maintenance is a game-changer if you wish to travel long term on a visa such as a Working Holiday Visa.
However, this way of travel isn’t just for long term backpackers; opportunities for house-sitting can range from a few days to up to a year. So no matter how long you are travelling for, you can find a house-sitting job that works for you.
What is House Sitting in Australia?
House sitting in Australia is when a homeowner arranges for a house sitter to reside in their home whilst they are away from the property, usually on holiday or on business trips. The main purpose of a house sitter is to provide care to pets in the comfort of their surroundings, all whilst keeping the house secure and occupied while the owner is away.
During your time house sitting you will not only be required to provide pet care but often you will be required to perform basic duties such as watering plants, mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool and generally making sure the home is clean and tidy.
In return for the above, the house sitter will be allowed to reside in the property rent-free with use of the facilities such as Wi-Fi, washing machines, utensils etc.
House Sitting Vs. Pet Sitting in Australia
Some people do want you to house sit for the sole reason of occupying their house whilst they are away on holiday, usually for security reasons. These usually come with minor duties such as mowing the lawn.
I would say however, these opportunities can be few and far between. It is far more common in Australia for someone wanting a house-sitter to care for their pet.
On the opposite end of the scale, I have seen house sitting jobs advertised where the owner lives on a farm and would like a house sitter to look after the chickens and cows whilst they are away. This would be more challenging than looking after a dog, so it depends on what your limits are and what kind of experience you hope to get out of it.
Keep in mind that house sitting is an exchange for free accommodation and it is not normally a paid position.
Why Become a House Sitter?
By learning how to become a house sitter in Australia you will encounter so many benefits that will make you wonder why you never travelled this way before! The benefits of house sitting in Australia go far beyond the savings you will reap on accommodation. The house sitting community is full of like-minded travellers and backpackers. You will make lifelong friends with both homeowners and pets. It is a great way of travelling for many reasons:
The ability to travel more slowly
Spending only a few days in each city on the typical tourist trail is one way to see the world and travel around Australia, but taking on a house sitting job will allow your travels to take a different path. You’ll be able to catch your breath, unpack your bags and make your coffee just the way you like it. Then at the end of the day, you’ll get to cuddle up with a pet. It’s the ultimate home from home experience and well, a more comfortable way of travelling if you enjoy a slower pace.
Save even more money!
Not only is there huge savings to be had on accommodation, but by staying in someone else’s home you will have access to kitchen utensils so you can cook your own food. Food is the second biggest expense whilst travelling, but eating most of your meals at home will half the cost. Having the option of saving money on your travels can make a big difference to your experience; you will be able to do more activities and travel for longer. Of course, you’ll want to eat out occasionally, just be sure to fit this in with the pet’s schedule.
Exploring like a local, not a tourist.
It can be difficult to immerse yourself in Australian culture when you are staying in hostels with other backpackers all the time. House sitting enables you to get to know the owner before you start and hopefully find out some local knowledge about the area you are sitting in.
Test out a new place before moving.
If you are considering relocating, finding a house sitting opportunity in the desired location can be an excellent way of getting a feel for the town before signing off on living there.
So, if rent-free accommodation, cuddly pets and the aforementioned benefits appeal to you, read the below to find out how to become a house-sitter in Australia in 11 easy steps.
How To Become a House Sitter in Australia: 11 Easy Steps
Step 1: Have a Genuine Love for Pets
To become a house sitter in Australia and be successful you must have a genuine love for animals. As previously mentioned the majority of house sitting assignments are focused on pets. Usually cats and dogs, but it’s common in Australia to see cows, horses, chickens and rabbits listed as pet-sitting opportunities.
For the owner, putting pets into kennels or “pet accommodation” can not only be expensive but also highly distressing for some animals. Therefore, increasingly owners are opting for a house sitter to come care for their beloved pets in the comfort of their surroundings.
As a house sitter, you will need to care for the animals as if they were your own. They will already have a structured routine and you will have to fit around this. This will keep them happy, calm and hopefully lessen the anxiety of being apart from their owner.
Step 2: Get Your House Sitting References Together
Becoming a house sitter in Australia means building a high level of trust between yourself and the homeowner. The most important thing that homeowners will require is your references, after all, you will be a stranger to them and they need to know you are trustworthy and reliable before hiring you.
The golden standard is references from other house sitting experiences. If you have no previous house sitting experience when you begin your house-sitting journey in Australia, you will want to obtain character references that come from high-quality sources who can vouch for you; previous employers and previous landlords are a good place to start. If you are struggling to find references, think about community groups you are a member of, previous Airbnb references or even dog walking references.
Good references will lead you to your first house sitting job in Australia and another good reference! Eventually, these references will stack up and homeowners will be highly interested in working with you and the whole searching for house sitting jobs becomes easier. These references normally sit on the house sitting website you sign up to and will make you highly desirable.
Step 3: Obtain a Criminal Record Check
Frequently, house sitters will state on their profile that they have up-to-date police checks, and on some house sitting websites it is a requirement to have them. It is also a great backup if you don’t have any references.
As you will be living in someone else’s home, often with valuable items, a police check will give the homeowner peace of mind that you are a trustworthy person. It is good practice to send your police check at the time of application, as this sets you off on the right foot straight away.
It is fairly simple and inexpensive to obtain a criminal record police check from your local government. Each county varies but will have a similar process in place. If you have lived in Australia for over a year, you should get an Australian Federal Police Check by going to their website.
Step 4: Complete a Pet First-Aid Course
As previously mentioned, to become a house sitter in Australia you need to have a genuine love for pets. Completing a pet first aid course shows homeowners that you are serious about looking after their pet. It will also reassure them that you will have the skills to deal with situations where pet emergencies arise.
Generally, you can find a local pet first aid course costing around $100. Attending this one day course could potentially save a pet’s life. Having a pet first-aid certificate and a police criminal background check will ensure you look professional.
Once you have completed the course, don’t forget to add it to your house sitting profile.
Step 5: Sign Up With a House Sitting Website in Australia: The Best House Sitting Website in Australia.
The number one question we get on how to become a house sitter in Australia is – what is the best house sitting website in Australia?
There are so many house-sitting websites to choose from in Australia and sites that offer worldwide house sitting opportunities. For house sitting in Australia, I recommend Aussie House Sitters. When I arrived in Sydney I got almost 6 months worth of work back-to-back lined up immediately, which saved me 6 months worth of rent!
Whilst there are other houses sitting or pet-sitting websites, Aussie House Sitter was consistently good. When you start looking on more worldwide websites the competition gets so big that we never really heard back from any of our applications.
You will need to pay a sign-up fee to be on Aussie House Sitters, but to be honest, it is completely worth it when you think of all the money you will save on rent.
You can join websites for paid house sitting opportunities such as Madpaws and it is completely free to join. As a house-sitter you will charge a fee to the homeowner and Madpaws takes a cut and provides you with insurance.
They also offer services such as dog walking, dog grooming and pet daycare.
Madpaws works differently in the sense that you need to live locally and so not ideal for travellers, as homeowners will search for sitters in their area. It also ranks house sitters by reviews and therefore it takes a long time to climb up the page and get noticed. Paid house sitting tends to work better for those with previous experience and those who live locally in Australia.
Step 6: What to Write on Your House-Sitting Profile
This is your face to homeowners, and if your profile is well written, up-to-date and sells yourself in the best light you may have homeowners contacting you directly rather than posting their house sitting job on the public boards.
Think of all the qualities a homeowner would want to look after their pet and home and add these to your profile if they are true for you – things such as trustworthiness, reliable and an animal lover. Where possible you will want to back up these claims with evidence as pretty much everyone says they are trustworthy however, if you can explain it is because you have house-sat before or you had a job where people depended upon you then you are more likely to stand out.
Mention your professions or if you study and how much time you will be able to spend in their home. People who have dogs will most likely prefer someone who only works part-time or from home whereas cats need less attention and so this probably would matter too much.
I started by introducing myself as a professional who works from home. I instantly explained that I have references and police checks on hand for whenever they are needed. I explained how I loved animals and how I got into house-sitting. I briefly explained my travelling history and the numerous Airbnb’s I had stayed in, which highlights that you are comfortable in other peoples homes.
There are basic things to include on your profile:
- Clear photos of yourself smiling, even better if you have a pet in your picture. You want to avoid uploading pictures of yourself on a night out clutching a bottle of wine or pouting in selfies – this is not a dating profile. The typical person sourcing a house-sitter are women over 40, so think about the type of person they want looking after their pet and home!
When you land your first house-sit it is a great idea to video yourself caring for the pet. Video content does really well on house-sitting websites because owners can really get a feel of what you are like around animals.
- Experience as a house sitter or being able to demonstrate you know how to look after a house.
- Your experience with and love for pets (and all living things!). As most house-sits involve pet care of some kind, you will want to illustrate your ability to care for animals. Most houses will have plants that need watered, so if you’re into plant care that’s definitely a bonus worth mentioning.
- Special skills such as speaking a foreign language or being handy with tools are sought after so be sure to mention this in your profile.
- Be honest, be yourself! It is not completely necessary to have special additional skills. Your personality, trustworthiness and reliability will stand you in good stead to become a house-sitter.
- Show enthusiasm, lots of it! Make house-sitting about more than simply saving on rent! Are you a home-bird? Do you miss your own pets? Be passionate about your reasons to become a housesitter.
Above all else, highlight the fact you are kind, genuine and trustworthy. A warm personality will go a long way in house sitting in Australia.
Step 7: Write an Interesting Introductory Message
When you apply to house sitting jobs, you will be prompted to send a message alongside your application. It’s similar when you apply for a job and you’re asked for a “cover letter”.
You should read the job you are applying to carefully and base your message around this. For example, if the advert mentions they have a labrador puppy, mention that you are a hard worker and have the patience to deal with a demanding puppy. If you can see from photos that they have a big garden or a pool, let them know that you are energetic and equipped to carry out these tasks. Whatever you do, do not send out generic messages. You want to let the homeowner know that you took time to read and consider their advertisement.
Be mindful that the homeowner may get a huge amount of applications and therefore I would recommend keeping your message short and to the point.
I would end the message by telling them you would love to meet them and their pets in person or, meet on Skype if they are not local.
Step 8: Choosing Suitable House Sitting Opportunities in Australia
If you are using websites such as Aussie House Sitters to look for house-sitting opportunities in Australia, your next step will be to look for suitable house-sits.
My best advice is to set up house sitting notifications/ email alerts so when an advert that matches your criteria is posted you are first to know about it. Desirable house-sits generate a wealth of attention and you will want to apply as soon as it is posted to increase your chances of success.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of adverts online which have already been allocated to a house-sitter yet, the advert has not been removed which is frustrating. To avoid this problem, I would adjust my search by the adverts most recently added and only apply to the ones uploaded within the last 3-4 days.
Another great tip when becoming a house sitter in Australia is to apply to rural house-sits or very short house-sits. Less desirable areas such as those outwith cities can be great for your first house-sit as you will have less competition. Short house-sits generally have less competition and these can be a great way of gaining references which will lead you onto longer house-sits in the long term.
Before applying, make sure you determine the exact location of the house before committing. I applied to many jobs that were listed as being in a city however, they ended up being a 30+ minute drive from the nearest city. Some rural house-sits would require you to have your own transport.
Step 9: Expect an Interview (or Ask For One): Get All The Information About Your House Sit
If the homeowner doesn’t ask for one, I highly recommend that you do! It’s important not to get swept away in the excitement of living in a lovely house for free and focus on the job at hand.
Ask lots of questions, no matter how small; leave nothing left unknown. Questions such as what the pets normal routine is, where they like to sleep, can they be left alone, do they have any particular health needs or quirks? For example, if the pet limps but you don’t know this and the owner forgets to mention this, you could be in a real panic thinking the animal needs to go to the vet when in fact this is not a new ailment.
Be sure to ask general questions too, such as how the Wi-Fi connection is, if you can leave the property overnight to explore a nearby town and if there are any rules to staying in the house.
You don’t want to turn up on the first day of the house-sit and discover that there are lots of rules that are not a good fit for you. Similarly, if you work remotely and need access to the internet you don’t want to find out that the Wi-Fi is poor.
Always trust your gut, it is perfectly okay to turn down a house-sitting job if the vibe isn’t right for you.
Step 10: Looking After the Pet
When you move into your house sitting job in Australia, be mindful that the pet will not know you and therefore will be apprehensive and depressed that their owner has gone away. Speaking from experience, this usually lasts a few hours and then the pet comes around to the idea of having a new companion for a short while.
Try to spend as much time with the pet as possible in the first few days to gain trust and put them at ease. Sticking with the pets usual routine as much as possible will help the pet’s anxiety immensely. If the dog gets walked every morning at 6 am, you should aim to walk the dog at this time. Whilst this may be daunting at first, it will become a refreshing part of your morning routine! I found that in Sydney especially, this was actually a really social time to walk your dog!
All pets will have different personalities; some may like attention whilst others don’t like to be touched at all. It’s important to respect that this is the pet’s home and you should follow their lead.
Step 11: How to Be A Good House Sitter in Australia: Update and Communicate
There is no question about it, house sitting in Australia is a job to be taken seriously. Sure most of the time you will be able to kick back and relax, but there will be times when you will have to work for it.
Doing an excellent job each time will mean you get good references and a better chance of gaining house-sits.
Firstly, show-up. You’ve made a commitment and it is important to respect that. The homeowner has important travel plans and they are counting on you to look after their house and care for their pets.
When you arrive at the house, treat it with the utmost respect. As a rule, my motto is to return the house to the homeowner in better condition than when I got it. Wash the bedsheets, vacuum the house. After all, there is nothing better than returning to a clean and tidy house after being away!
Before the homeowner leaves, be sure to come up with a communication schedule whilst they are away. Some owners will want daily photos or Skype calls. Others will want an update only in emergencies. You want to show the homeowner that their pet is having fun and well taken care of.
Be prepared to deal with emergency situations, such as dogs running away or the kitchen flooding. It is inevitable that bad things will sometimes happen but how you deal with these situations will make or break your house-sit. Have emergency contact details at hand and most importantly be honest with the owners about any situations that arise.
It is always surprising that more people don’t know about, or take advantage of the opportunities that house sitting presents. Learning how to become a house sitter in Australia is about so much more than saving money on rent, but the ability to live like a local in parts of Australia that you would have otherwise missed. Whether your travelling to Australia for 12 day or 12 months, I hope these 11 easy steps on How to become a house sitter in Australia will open up a whole new world of both budget and luxury travel for you.
House sitting has become our favourite way to travel around Australia, and it could be yours too!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do house sitters get paid in Australia?
Generally, you do not get paid to be a house sitter. House sitting and pet sitting is a mutual agreement between the house sitter and the homeowner. You are provided with free accommodation in return for providing care to the homeowner’s pets and looking after their home.
There are, however, sites such as Madpaws where you will find paid opportunities to house-sit, pet-sit dog walk and more.
How far in advance do I need to look for a house-sitting job?
Securing a house sitting job in Australia can take some time, especially if this is your first house sitting job. The timescale can be dependent upon your needs, for example, if you want a long term house to sit you may have to look for longer, as commonly listed opportunities are 2-4 weeks long.
The process can take as long as finding a house to rent so it’s important to at least set up your profile in advance so you are ready to start searching for a house sit in Australia.
When is the best time to house-sit in Australia?
The best time to find house-sitting opportunities in Australia is around the Christmas period as this is the middle of summer in Australia. School holidays mean that families can go for longer holidays and so house sitters are in high demand.